Moving your toddler from the crib to his own bed can be quite overwhelming for both you and your child. He may feel uneasy sleeping in a bed without those four slatted walls. At the same time, you worry that your child might get out of bed and wander around in the middle of the night!
Cribs are indeed safe havens, but there comes a time when babies have to take that meaningful step toward growing up. In most cases, this also means giving your child his own room. Some parents, however, feel their child should still stay with them in the same room, although in a separate bed. Whatever you decide, make this big change smooth and easy for your child.
The right time When is the right time to make the crib-to-bed switch? According to Paula A. Alonzo, M.D., a pediatrician at The Medical City, the best time is when she has outgrown her crib or when she’s literally climbing out of it. That’s a long fall from the top of the crib and she could get seriously hurt. “It’s dangerous when your child tries to climb out and no one is watching. Everybody thinks it’s safe in the crib,” Alonzo says.
Make it safe For starters, make sure your child’s bed is as safe as his crib. This means tough and thorough childproofing! Make his bed -- and consequently, his bedroom -- a place where he feels safe, especially at night. Here are some suggestions:
1. Put up a guardrail for extra security. Falling off the bed in the middle of the night can be scary and dangerous. Some kids don’t just stay in one place while they sleep. It’s better to be safe, Alonzo says.
2. Check bed and other furnishings for stability. Opt for low beds, advises Alonzo. Bunk beds can be used later on when the kids are older. Make sure the bed is not in danger of collapsing. Check the joints from time to time for loose screws.
3. Choose the right place for the bed. Position it safely away from windows, wall lamps, air conditioning units, and curtains. Don’t put the bed near anything that could topple over it.
4. Cover electrical outlets. Kids like sticking their fingers in them! Children are very curious, says Alonzo, so better cover those outlets.
5. Sort out toys. Toddlers also like putting things in their mouth. Remove any toy or small object that could be a choking hazard. As a rule of thumb, put away anything that can fit into the cardboard roll of a toilet paper.
6. Install childproof latch on closet doors. Kids can reach into closets or cabinets and may tinker with things they’re not supposed to touch.
7. If possible, have your child's room near yours. This is especially helpful in case of an emergency, or on those instances your child has a bad dream and needs comfort.
Make it easy An abrupt transition to an unfamiliar bed can be difficult for a toddler accustomed to the safety and security of his crib. Even more if he is transferred to a new room! Moving into a new bed or room can be a gradual undertaking. Here’s what you can do:
1. Let him pick out his own bed. Alonzo says getting him involved is always an effective way to make a kid understand. Take him with you when you shop for his bed. Guide him and let him know what he can and cannot choose. Picking a bed sheet with his favorite print or character designs can help, too. This will make him get excited to sleep in his own bed in no time.
2. Take it slow. “Talk to him and explain why you are doing this,” Alonzo says. The move can’t happen in a snap. It’s understandable why letting go of the crib may be difficult for your toddler. Don’t get exasperated if your child continues to cry incessantly. Give him reassurance that everything will be okay. He will get used to it, eventually.
3. Take turns tucking him in. An extra story and a tender song during bedtime can do wonders. Both parents should be involved. Alonzo suggests, “Be prepared to stay in his room for at least an extra 30 minutes the first night, before his crying subsides. Also make sure that when he starts to cry again, you’ll be there in an instant.”
4. Nightlights are important. The brighter, the better! It keeps the so-called “monsters under the bed” at bay. “Somehow children feel more secure when the light is on. Give them something to hug, like a favorite stuffed animal,” Alonzo says. Keeping the door a bit ajar will make your toddler feel safe, too.
Keep in mind that it will help to be very patient, firm, calm, and determined. These characteristics will aid in developing the skills that you will need to help him cope. In due time, he will get used to the new setup and may learn to enjoy hiw newfound independence.