Transitioning Your Child From Cot To ‘Big’ Bed

Transitioning your child from their cot to a ‘big’ toddler bed is a significant milestone for both them and you. As with all milestones, there are going to be challenges ahead but believe me, you will get through it.

Here are my guidelines on how to make this transition as painless as possible.

When is the right time to make the transition?

  1. When they can climb out of their cot. None of my 4 children ever climbed out of their cot but I know plenty who have. Once they’ve successfully scaled the heights, landed on the other side and proudly presented themselves to you at the sitting room door any parents knows something needs to change!
  2. A new sibling is imminent – I suggest you make the transition at least 6 weeks before the new arrival is due. The last thing you want is your little one feeling pushed out of their cot by the new baby.
  3. Holiday is looming – you really don’t want to have to pay for a separate cot/travel cot. Perhaps Grandma just doesn’t have one.
  4. Getting too big for their cot. Around 2–3 yrs seems the right sort of age to make the transition from cot to toddler bed. As you don’t want the ‘transitioning milestone’ at the same time as the ‘dry at night’ milestone then this seems about the right age.

What preparations do I need to make?

  1. Begin by talking about it with your little one. Point out friends/relatives who have moved into their own ‘big bed’. Reading a book which depicts the transition as a fun, positive experience is a great idea.
  2. Let them choose their new bed and/or bed linen with you. For many children the move to a big bed marks the move from a grobag to a pillow/duvet. Choosing their own Thomas or Peppa, pirates or fairies duvet cover is very exciting.
  3. Make sure the sleeping environment is safe. As toddlers become more adventurous they can get up to all sorts of mischief given a little freedom. Windows must be safely locked closed or only slightly open. Make sure there are no loose curtain cords or anything they can choke on. Only the bare minimum of electrical appliances should be present and stairs are secured. You might want to consider screwing bookcases to the wall as my youngest liked nothing better than a little ‘mountaineering’ up her bookcase!

What to expect on the first nights in the toddler bed.

The big day has arrived, the bedroom is ready and you’ve had your dinner early (as you know you are going to be up and down those stairs a few times). Most importantly you are feeling calm and patient.

  1. Make sure your toddler is familiar with the new bed and has spent some happy time in there during the day. Why not try role-playing putting a favourite teddy to bed a few times. 
  2. Go through the usual pre-bed routine. When it comes to climbing into bed just keep to the usual routine as if nothing is really any different. You may want to sit at the top of the stairs for a while just in case of tears.
  3. If there are real tears then gentle comforting and quiet words should help. Remember to keep it as low-key and boring as possible. After all it is time for sleep.
  4. If your toddler just can’t seem to fall asleep, you might consider letting them take books (not toys) to bed with them. Perhaps listening to some stories/lullabies on a tape/CD player/iPod might help.  A night light can also be reassuring. It offers them some visibility if they do get up without disturbing them falling asleep.
  5. Expect your child to fall out, although not all do, and have a plan if it should happen repeatedly. Foam bed guards are very affordable if you wanted to have one ‘just I case’ but there are many other bed guards to choose from.
  6. My eldest was a real ‘wanderer’. For the first few nights we were putting him back many times. My youngest was fine to begin with and then got the bedtime fidgets. Each child is different and this can be a very challenging time. You will get there even if it takes every ounce of patience and understanding you have.

Remember that transitioning your child from a cot to ‘big’ bed is a milestone in your life too and just one of many that you will tackle together as your baby grows up.