A friend from college is expecting her second child, and emailed me to ask some pointers about transitioning her toddler to a “big kid” bed. This reminded me I had intended to write this post awhile back, and before I forget what we did with our first when the time came.
Here is a pic of our oldest, napping comfortably in her new, little – big girl bed, so you an see where this journey ends up!
My firstborn was just two when her sister arrived, so we knew we had to transition her from her crib to a bed sooner than some do. I also wanted to tackle this transition prior to the baby coming, even though the baby wouldn’t be sleeping in the crib for a few months after being born. I didn’t want my oldest to feel as if the baby was taking her place in her bed, just after making an impact on our family dynamic; so we chose to move her out of her crib at 22 months. This would give us enough time to get our oldest used to a bed, and have the crib vacant for awhile before baby #2 needed it. I was dreading the change though. SO many had warned me what happens when a toddler has the freedom to get out of their bed on their own. “Keep them in their crib as long as you can!” They lamented.
To our surprise, the transition went rather smoothly. I think a lot of this is simply because of the personality of my oldest daughter; not necessarily everything we did, and I’m scared that we will get what’s coming to us when our littlest moves into a big girl bed in due time! Here’s hoping that we have the same success.
To begin, we started with nap time in the big girl bed. And big bed it was. We weren’t sure what kind of bedroom furniture we would want long term for her, and we had a queen size guest bed, so we simply put the mattress and box spring on the floor. It was handy since I was pregnant and could lay comfortably in bed with my daughter at naps and bedtime, or lay there during playtime too! Naps didn’t start of so easily, as I ended up holding her, in tears, fighting sleep, and then she would eventually just konk out. I only did this for a little bit and then realized that if I just left her she would eventually fall asleep on her own. We told her that little kids stay in their beds, just like they stay in their cribs, and that’s that. We didn’t mention the negative, don’t get out of bed, rather, we STAY in bed. We got lucky, because she never got out, she would simply lay in bed and call for us. It wasn’t till recently that she began actually getting out of bed. We also put up a baby gate at her door so that if she did get out, she was at least confined to her room. I had visions of her passing out in front of the baby gate, but fortunately, they were not reality. Again, this was part luck, because I know many friends who did not have the same experience when they moved their toddlers to a regular bed. And it took them a few rough days/nights, but eventually they had success, or sleeping kids, wherever they did end up sleeping. Starting off with naps as practice seemed to work well for a few weeks, and then we moved on to big girl bed at bedtime too. Eventually we also removed the baby gate too. Although, the gate was nice to confine her to her room for other purposes too – playtime in a safe space if I had to be away from her for a short time, and also for time away/time out in her room, as she was unable to get out of her room.
I was also worried about her waking up early and getting us all up at the crack of dawn, but she slept till her normal 6:30-7am (sometimes even later!) wake up time, and still does. I have a friend whose daughter has a special clock/light that sits next to her bed and the light goes on when it is okay to get out of bed in the morning, and she said this works great at keeping her in bed till a decent hour. I have another friend who put a timer on her daughter’s lamp and much the same, the light goes on as a signal that it is okay to get up out of bed, but before that, time to stay in bed, even just laying there awake.
We also tried not to change anything about our bedtime routine now that she was in a regular bed, although we did receive a Twilight Turtle that projected stars onto her ceiling, and used it as a special “big kid” nightlight. It really is super cool, and the stars go off after 45 minutes. Even I am comforted by gazing up at the blue stars adorning her bedroom ceiling and walls at night. If she wakes in the middle of the night she will ask for the stars on to help her fall back asleep.
I should also mention that we did purchase a regular comforter, sheets, and pillows for the bed. She rarely uses the pillow, but it is nice to have two big size pillows for leaning against when we read bedtime stories; and she often kicks off her blankets, but I go in there and cover her up before bed and most nights she stays covered. 🙂 I might even suggest letting your little one pick out some sheets or comforter as part of the process of moving to a bed. I’ll admit, I didn’t want a themed or character comforter for our oldest because I was afraid her interest might move on to a new favorite friend in a month’s time, as it often does, but I did let her choose the color, and at the time yellow was her favorite, so a yellow comforter it was.
We recently decided that we are going to move both girls into one room and that meant we now needed to replace my daughter’s queen size big girl bed with a twin. It was hard to call her twin a big girl bed, being that it was smaller than her original big girl bed, but this time we got a nice wood bed frame, and it feels more like a big kid bed to her because Mommy and Daddy also have a bed frame . I was afraid she would fall out of the twin sized bed, especially since she slept side-ways on her queen, but so far, so good. And if she did fall, it’s barely a foot off the floor, since it’s just the bed frame and mattress. A friend had a good suggestion for a cost-effective bed barrier though – get one of those cheap, foam, pool noodles and place it under the fitted sheet at the edge, it will act as a bumper, just in case. I’ll keep that in my tool box for when we transition or youngest to a twin, as I don’t think she’ll get to practice on a queen size bed first!
And last, the mattress. I spent hours researching an organic, eco-friendly, healthy crib mattress for my girls’ crib, and if possible I wanted to keep some of those features in the big girl bed. When we used the queen bed mattress we knew it was temporary, but the twin we will have for at least the next ten years. I started looking into organic twin mattresses, and boy, they cost a lot! I also talked to my friend who did mounds of research when getting a big girl bed for her daughter and she had some helpful finds. There is a company that specializes in natural mattress and they are local for us in the bay area, and she found them VERY helpful – The Natural Mattress Store. They carried only one children’s mattress, but it was a good one. She also found that Naturepedic makes an organic mattress available online or at some stores, but not one that was in stock on the store floor to actually sleep on. I had a hard time buying a bed I couldn’t try out, as did she. I also came across a company, located in Berkeley, European Sleepworks, and they specialize in natural mattresses as well, not which are completely organic, but are made without the use of flame retardants and chemicals. They carry two children’s mattresses, and for us, the price was a huge factor in our choice to purchase theirs. It was very economical, and since we could visit the store, we could lay on it before we bought. It was firm, but nice. The salesman also gave us a good idea for a an organic mattress protector. Get a nice, wool (wool is naturally water repellant) and then lay two beach towels on top of it for extra absorbency, apparently the towels will absorb most of the fluid and add some cushion too. Just like the wool puddle pad we have for the crib, we got a similar mattress protector for the twin, and the towel trick. We will have to see how it works, and thankfully, so far we haven’t had to test it out.
What tips did you use for your little ones as they reached the milestone of getting a big kid bed?