4 Signs Your Toddler Is Ready to Switch to a Big-Kid Bed

Find out the signs your child is ready for a toddler bed and the ones that signal to wait a bit longer.

Published April 3, 2023
Two fathers watching toddler son playing in bed

Getting a big-kid bed is a big milestone for a toddler! It's a step towards independence. However, the age range for this transition spans from as young as 18 months all the way up to three years old, and in some cases even older.

So how do you know when your little one is mature enough to make this move? We detail key signs your child is ready for a toddler bed as well as others that signal they might need a little more time.

Signs Your Child Is Ready for a Toddler Bed

Determining when to switch to a toddler bed depends on a number of factors, all of which will vary from child to child. Here are four major signs parents need to watch out for.

Your Toddler Is Too Tall

The American Academy of Pediatrics has only one clear guideline for transitioning a child out of their crib: "When he is 35 inches (89 cm) tall, or when the height of the side rail is less than three-quarters of his height (approximately nipple level)," they need to find another bed. Thus, if your crib is at the lowest setting and your child is towering over that top rail, it is time to transition to a toddler bed.

Your Toddler Is Climbing Out

No matter what their height may be, if a toddler has enough determination, they can overcome virtually any obstacle. This includes those safety rails that are designed to keep them inside the crib space. Has your child has attempted to scale this barrier? Have they successfully made it to the other side? If either of these instances have occurred, parents need to switch to a toddler bed.

Need to Know

Crib tents and netting are accessories designed to prevent kids from climbing out. Yet these products are controversial and many consider them unsafe. Consumer Reports advises parents avoid these products as they have been associated with multiple injuries, entrapment, and even the death of a toddler.

Your Toddler Is Potty Training

Toddler in potty training

If you're planning on ditching the diapers, then the crib is going to create a very big obstacle! Your little one will need access to their potty and since you are encouraging them to get up and go when they need to, then you could be inadvertently promoting climbing out of their crib in the process. This is an obvious safety issue, so this is another sign that your toddler is ready for a toddler bed.

Quick Tip

Too many big changes at once can be problematic. If you want to potty train, it's best to wait and transition your toddler to their big-kid bed first. Once they are comfortable in their new sleeping space, then take the plunge into toilet training.

Your Toddler Is Asking for a Toddler Bed

Most parents with more than one child will notice this sign. Big brother or sister has a cool big-kid bed, so they want one too. If they are asking and they are reaching the maximum height for using their crib, start the process! This gives you time to transition slowly, baby proof their room, and make sure that everyone is comfortable with the move.

Things that you can start doing before making the actual move include:

  • Buy their toddler bed and put it in their room. Let the excitement of this item fade before making the transition.
  • Read about moving to a big-kid bed. Books like Big Enough for a Bed (Sesame Street) and Big Bed for Giraffe (Hello Genius) can get them more excited about the move and understand the process better.
  • Let your 18+ month old sleep with a small blanket in their crib. This can help them get used to sleeping with bedding.
  • For children two years and older, add a toddler pillow to their crib space. This can also get them accustomed to their upcoming sleeping arrangements.

3 Signs Your Toddler Is Not Ready for a Bed

Jumping into the deep end too soon can be a recipe for disaster. It can also cause some parents to bring the crib back into rotation. Avoid having to transition twice by keeping these things in mind.

Your Toddler Is Younger Than 18 Months

There's no set age range for transitioning a child to a big-kid bed, but parents should wait until when their child is at least a year and a half old before making this move. Before then, the concept of staying in their bed can be hard to understand, which can make sleep difficult for everyone.

Your Toddler Is Content in Their Crib

Cribs are a safe space to sleep. They are also familiar, which provides your toddler with a sense of security. If they seem perfectly content in this sleeping space, then let them enjoy it. There's no need to rush them out.

Need to Know

The one exception to this rule is when your toddler can't stretch out without hitting the sides of the crib. This means that they are too tall, which raises a safety concern. Even if your child has never attempted to climb out of bed, it's not worth risking it.

Your Toddler Would Have to Overcome Physical Challenges

If your child has physical or developmental challenges that would make it difficult for them to get into and out of their toddler bed unassisted, then they need to stay in their crib for a while longer. However, if they are exhibiting signs of readiness, make a point to speak with their pediatrician, physical therapist, or occupational therapist about working on preparing them for this change.

A New Sibling Isn't a Sign That Your Toddler Is Ready

While having the crib that you already own available for baby brother or sister would be convenient, it's not a sign of readiness. In fact, rushing your child out of their comfort zone for this sole reason will likely wreak havoc on everyone's sleep schedules. When you consider the fact that you will be greatly lacking on sleep very soon, buying another crib is a small price to pay.

Transition to the Toddler Bed When Your Child Is Ready

It can be challenging to figure when to make the switch to a toddler bed, but with a few tips and staying in tune with your child, you can do it at the right time. Remember that every child is different. Some will be mature enough for early independence, while others may need a little more time to leave the proverbial nest.

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4 Signs Your Toddler Is Ready to Switch to a Big-Kid Bed