One of the most common questions I hear from parents? How do I transition from a crib to a bed?
So today I want to explain how I did it with my own children and my recommendations for how to make it happen.
There are many parents and professionals that believe you should keep your child in a crib as long as humanly possible. There are even devices created to trap a child into the crib once they have figured out how to climb out. The transition to a bed is one that often comes with dread and procrastination.
However, I am of the opposite belief system. I want to gradually give my children independence as they grow. Therefore, I transitioned out of the crib as soon as possible. I transitioned my first child out of the crib at 13 months (not yet walking) and my second child at 19 months (running and jumping). Both transitions were incredibly smooth. If your child can climb up and down from a step, they might be ready to move out of the crib.
There are two primary reasons that I favor this early transition.
As children become more mobile, they start to seek autonomy. That means they need opportunities to dabble in their newfound independence. As parents, we can create safe spaces for them play and live in our homes without being under our constant microscope. The bedroom is prime real estate for this.
After children are fully mobile, they can start spending unsupervised time in their safe bedrooms. This will encourage independence and let our children experience the small bits of autonomy that they crave at this age.
As a child development nerd, I would like to bring your attention to what starts to emerge after the age of 18 to 24 months.
Opinions. The word “no”. Power struggles.
If we make the transition before this stage, we can preempt these more challenging behaviors before this window of time. If you wait until after the child enters the 2’s, you may see more boundary-pushing behaviors during the transition.
Therefore, I encourage a simple, step-down transition that starts early and gradually takes place over a period of a few years.
Step 1: The Crib
The first step in moving out of the crib is to make the bedroom completely safe. That means ensuring that the child cannot exit the room. Even if we don’t like to admit it to ourselves, the crib is a type of cage. In the first year of life, this type of sleeping space will keep children safe from environmental hazards that come into play with limited mobility. Like rolling onto a pillow and being unable to roll back over.
But after children are fully mobile, they will appreciate some more freedom to move. However, they aren’t quite ready for free reign of the house.
Step 2: The Room becomes the “Crib”
The first transition around 18 months may be to a floor bed. When you transition to a floor bed, a child can crawl in and out of the bed with ease. He will likely wander and explore the room after you put him to bed–which is great! Exploration is welcome at this age and a safe room will ensure this is acceptable behavior. Don’t demand they stay in the bed. They will quickly figure out this is the most comfortable place to sleep, even if they spend a few nights on the floor. Try not to sweat it.
I am a strong advocate for closing the door and ensuring the child cannot exit the room. When we move from a crib to a bed and leave the door open we are giving a lot of freedom all at once. By keeping the door closed, you are simply expanding the sleeping space from a small crib to a giant crib (the whole room).
Step 3: Free Reign
My oldest child was ready to have the door open and move freely in and out of the room around age 3.5. At this point, I felt safe having him unsupervised for small amounts of time in the home. Because the reality is, if a child is in a bed with the door open they can wander through the house while the parents are sleeping. My 2-year-old is still in her room with the door closed. They need to be fully ready for this responsibility.
My main concern with free reign is safety. If there was a fire in our home, I can be sure that my children would leave their room and try to wander the house to find my husband and I. I believe the best place for a child to be in the place of an emergency is exactly where I left them: so myself or emergency personnel know precisely where to find them.