It’s natural for parents to make sure their kids are safe (and feel safe) when they go through their nightly routine, tuck them into bed, and turn out the lights.
Until that is, they wake up before you do, climb over the side of the crib and wander around on their own, at risk of all sorts of accidents.
When you wake up and glance at the baby monitor to see an empty crib, no matter how prepared you think you are, you won’t be ready for it. They grow up super-fast and you need to react fast.
Thanks to savvy crib makers, you don’t need to wait until a new toddler bed arrives to put some safety steps in place.
If you’re starting to think about the transition before your little one actually does climb out of their crib, lowering the mattress to the lowest setting is a good first step. It’s best to do this when s/he can sit up. That way, if they do manage the climb over the rail, it’s not so far down. On the floor beside their crib, place something soft like a rug, or a spare quilt if you have one.
How to Know Your Little One’s Ready To Go From a Crib to a Toddler Bed
Pediatrician, Michael Dickson, a former President of the Canadian Pediatric Society advises parents that kids between the ages of two and three years old develop the ability to move more. That’s the ages they’ll tend to be able to pull themselves over and out of the crib.
In our case, our oldest son was on the lower end of that scale, vaulting the crib walls at age two. A good bit of advice Shelley Frost shares on WorkingMother.com is that when they reach about 35 inches in height, it’s time to ditch the crib!
At 3 feet, they’ll have no problem climbing.
Key points on knowing when it’s time to transition from the crib to a big-kid bed…
- Between the ages of two and three years old
- By height – make the transition before they grow to three feet in height.
The Types of Toddler Beds to Choose From
There’s generally three options of beds suited for toddlers.
- The Cot Bed / Toddler Bed
- Traditional Single Bed
- Convertible Bunk Beds
A toddler bed is ideal because it’s lower to the ground, has side rails on it so your kid can get out of the bed easily, so they’ll be able to get out to find the toilet when they’re potty trained without any hassle.
An added advantage to the cot bed is that it still has that same size of crib mattress. The advantage here is it can help your kid feel a similar level of security when they go to bed as they won’t be in this big huge single bed that’s completely unfamiliar.
The smaller size crib mattress is the same thing that can make it disadvantageous because they’ll grow out of it in a couple of years, so you’ll eventually need to buy a single bed anyway.
A single bed is going to be higher off the floor and there’s no rails. So, for safe-proofing the bed, you’d need to buy bed rails, or guard rails as they’re sometimes called. They’re secured in place under the mattress and give the same level of protection toddler beds give – prevents your kid from rolling over and falling out of the bed. Yet, they can easily get out when they’re awake. As mentioned, they’re higher off the ground.
The convertible bunk beds, you might be surprised to see. There’s a couple of reasons these are mentioned.
- For parents with twins – you need two single beds. Convertible bunk beds just mean you can have two single beds, with the option to bunk them together later when the twins get older.
- If there’s a brother/sister on the way. Convertible bunk beds are handy for families living in a two-bedroom property when the kids have to share the room.
Setting Up Your Child’s Toddler Bed with Safety in Mind
Lever handles or door knob safety covers can be put on the room door, however, these are best used for where you really need it. Locking your kid in their room until you let them out can be on the extreme side of things, given you could just as easily install a baby gate.
Door knob covers have their place. One place in a toddler’s room is on closet doors. Not the bedroom door. Around the house on interior doors to your kitchen, bathroom, basement or anywhere else in your home that needs child-proofed.
For the bedroom door, a safety gate will get the job done. You can also install wall protectors for the baby gates to prevent any damage to your wood and give the gate a better grip to the surface.
Kids will climb. You may have already found that out if they’ve already climbed out of the crib.
This is what you don’t want to happen (Word of Caution: Distressing Viewing).
Prevent furniture toppling by securing all heavy objects that could topple when enough weight is put on it by securing them with furniture wall straps.
See Ikea’s Guide: Secure It for the right types of hardware to fasten down furniture with.
Windows in your kid’s room ought to be toddler-proofed even if you are on a single story property because no parent wants to discover their kids roaming the street when you thought they were sleeping soundly. For upstairs, definitely install some type of window security aid.
Options to child-proof windows are:
- Window wedges
- Window gates/window bars (similar to a baby gate, but for a window)
- Mesh guards (like above, but not made of metal)
Don’t neglect the window dressings. Safest is to install cordless blinds. Depending when you’re reading this – corded blinds may already be banned for sale in America, due to posing too high a risk to child safety.
As you’ll have discovered, at toddler age, they’re notoriously curious. Do not underestimate their smartness. They will watch what you’re doing in and around the home.
Socket plugs can give you the placebo effect of safety. Until, you find your kid has figured out by watching you remove the plug to get the vacuum going or to disconnect a dehumidifier to empty it. They will learn from you. A safer option for electrical sockets in toddler rooms is self-closing safety plates for electrical sockets as they’re secured in place and can’t be pulled out.
One last piece of advice on safety in toddlers’ rooms is to put toys that they should only play with under supervision out of reach.
Because a Lot Can Go Wrong
Toddlers have curious minds and like to find out “what would happen if” but they haven’t had the life experiences to know that if they do something, the consequences could be painful. It’s why they’ll take more risks.
Curious to know what’s outside, they’ll climb on top of the small toy box beneath the window ledge. Up to the window they get, a cute looking butterfly hovers around and next thing, they’re reaching out to grab it. Very risky if you don’t have that window guard up. Safer is to not have anything under a window that can be used for climbing.
Did you know that about 8,000 kids visit the ER every day because of trips and falls?
If they’re lucky, it’s for a check-up and they’re only bruised, but if it’s a fall from a height, like off the top of a dresser, chances are higher that they’ll suffer a fracture.
Strapping furniture down prevents it from toppling over on top of them, but they’ll still be able to climb, risking a fall happening. Trips can happen anywhere in the home, and just as easily in the bedroom if there are toys laying around, maybe a carpet incorrectly fitted, or cables trailing across the floor.
Cable tidy systems that are used in offices can be installed if you have trailing wires, preventing them from being a hazard.
So many things can happen in the bedroom when you’re not there to watch them, so it’s best to cover every imaginable scenario to do what you can to minimize hazards. You’ll never get it 100% safe, but you will be able to minimize the severity of any accidents.
How to Monitor Your Child During the Transition
Something you’ll really want to do is keep an eye on your little one when they’re first transitioning to their new big-kid bed. Do that with a baby monitor. Thing is, there’s a few types.
- Baby motion monitors
- Sound monitors
- Video monitors
Motion monitors are really only any good for babies as the sensor goes under the mattress and alerts you when there’s no movement for around 20 seconds – depending on the model. Some models have sound to let you monitor the babies breathing and hear if they’re crying. For toddlers, these aren’t any use. Neither are sound monitors – to an extent.
With a baby sound monitor, you’re able to hear if they’re out of the bed and wandering around the room. But sound can’t tell you what they are up to. Chances are, when you hear your kid up, you’ll likely go check on them. If that’s at 2 am, you could find yourself disturbing them if they’ve maybe only reached out of the bed to get a teddy that’s been dropped.
A better option is the video monitor, even if it only has one camera. There are models with 360o rotation letting you see (provided it’s positioned in a good spot in the room) right around the room. Others can have a few cameras you can place around the room.
With a video monitor, you’ll have the screen, which is usually portable so you can put your kid to their bed for an afternoon nap, go about your business around the house and be able to keep an eye on him/her.
At night, just put it by your bedside and when you hear s/he’s up and about, look at the monitor and you’ll be able to see what they’re up to, if s/he’s needing out to go to the toilet, or maybe just content to flick through books or play with their teddy collection.
Video cameras give you the best peace of mind because you can hear and see what’s going on.
What to Expect In the Early Stages of Transitioning
A lot of attention-seeking, room-hopping, and patience-testing. You’d be surprised. If you have the time, turn the transition into an event because readiness is a huge help. Get your little one excited to make the move.
What makes it the most difficult is when you force the move because there’s a baby #2 on the way. That’s going to put up a wall of resistance because s/he’s going to feel put out instead of wanting out. It’s much easier when they’re excited to go into a big-kid bed.
If there’s resistance there, you’ll be tested. They’ll be up each night, wandering to the room door, getting frustrated that the gate is there and they can’t get out… more frustrated when you play the I can’t hear you game and then scream louder until s/he gets your attention.
Go into the transition with your eyes and ears at the ready to you make things a lot smoother for everyone in the house.
Tips for Making the Transition from Crib to Toddler Bed Easier
Toys: Mentioned earlier was about moving toys that kids should be supervised with, out of reach. There’s still going to be plenty there for them to play with and they will – because they can. Which is fine, provided it’s not the ones that get their adventurous brain cells going into hyper drive.
Those toys with batteries providing your night-terror because it triggers his/her auditory and visual stimuli need to be put away. He’ll be up until all hours with sirens going on fire engines, lights flashing, disco balls going and knocking tunes out of the push-button guitar.
Anything that’s going to turn a bedroom into a playroom, take it away or put it out of reach. They need to know that bedtime is for sleeping. It’s not playtime.
To start with, they will test your patience.
It takes persistence.
If they’re in the midst of toilet training, that’s going to become an excuse. You’ll hear Mom, Dad every 10 to 15 minutes –I need a wee! When you know fine well they don’t. Then it’ll be a drink, then it’ll be I can’t sleep. It’s too dark. Then the appeal to your softer side – I’m afraid! Which, very well, may be true so don’t ignore that.
To make things easier, something you’ll find a tremendous help is familiarity.
If you’re transitioning from a crib to a toddler bed, the mattress will be the same size. You could try to use the same mattress from the crib for a little while so it feels the same. You can do the same with the pillows and the bedding.
When you’re putting the new bed in, put it in the exact same spot as the crib was to keep the surroundings familiar.
Do you remember back when you were a kid, your room got moved around and you’d likely find yourself tossing and turning for a few nights until you got used to the new sleeping arrangements?
Toddlers are the same. They take comfort from familiar surroundings. Think of the five senses and keep as many as you can the same. Seeing the same night light they had when they were in the crib, the same lullaby or background noise they’re used to, use the same bedding and don’t change washing detergent. As much as you can keep the same, keep things the same.
The only difference to their sleeping arrangements should be the toddler bed – or the single bed with a safety rail. Nothing else. All the other changes will be within the room for safety reasons. As long as you know they’re safe and pay attention to how they behave in the first few nights, be persistent in putting them back to bed, which could be every ten minutes for over an hour on a bad night – after a short time, s/he will settle into the new routine.