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Sleeping & Soothing

How to Move to the Big-Kid Bed

Ready to ditch the crib? Here's how to make the leap

Whether you're expecting another baby or have a future rock-climber who is scaling the crib rails in the wee hours of the night, you probably need to make the move from crib to a big kid bed. Here's help. 

Choose the right time. "Avoid changing to a big bed if you're already in the middle of a family transition like moving to a new house, trying to potty train, or welcoming a newborn," says child psychologist Lori Woodring, PhD, a mom of four in Greenwich, CT and author of the children's book My Very Exciting, Sorta Scary Big Move. Telling your big kid the baby needs her crib can put unnecessary pressure on her; instead, try to separate the events by making the switch a couple of months before or after. (The baby can always sleep in a portable crib until your big sib is ready to make the move.)

Keep the crib. It's fine to move the crib out of your kiddo's room, but wait a bit before taking it apart or giving it away. "The first attempts at sleeping in a big-kid bed can be rocky," says Jennifer Shu, MD, a mom of two in Atlanta and co-author of Heading Home With Your Newborn.

Talk it up. Kids need time to process transitions, so don't spring the news on her and then hope for the best. Discuss the upcoming change and read books about it together. 

Shop together. It can help if your child feels involved in the change. So while you'll probably pick the actual bed, let her make other decisions, such as the bedding (you can give her a choice of a few options) or what stuffed animals to bring into bed with her.

Set limits. A cup of water. A trip to the bathroom. One more kiss-and a hug. Expect all kinds of requests and more than a couple of visits from your kiddo during this transition. Be clear from the start when it comes to getting out of bed, advises Dr. Shu: "Set a rule that allows her to call for you if she needs something, but she has to stay in the bed." 

Applaud her progress. Setbacks aren't unusual so try to be patient and manage your own expectations, says Woodring. And when your child does stick to the bedtime routine or stays in the bed successfully, show her some praise. If your crib-lover needs more motivation, a sticker rewards chart where she can work to earn a surprise can help, too.