Wondering if it’s possible to start transitioning to toddler bed at 18 months? Take a look at the signs your child is ready, and the best practices to do so.
Transitioning my eldest to a toddler bed came with the inevitable tears.
The first set of course was convincing him to sleep in the bed at bedtime. Next came the predictable middle-of-the-night wake-up, starting with drawn-out cries before petering to five-second sniffles. And finally, the early wake-ups meant hearing him cry as early as 5:30 in the morning.
Let’s just say the transition wasn’t exactly easy peasy.
Thankfully he adjusted, but the experience reminded me why so many parents wonder if transitioning to toddler bed at 18 months is even possible. And the reasons are plenty:
- You’re expecting a new baby. Your toddler may be fine in a crib, but you’d rather not have to buy a second one for the baby when he’ll eventually outgrow the one he’s in.
- Your toddler has climbed out of the crib, or has shown signs he wants to. A toddler bed would help avoid falls and injuries.
- You want him to start sleeping in his own room instead of yours. A toddler bed could be his new sleeping arrangement.
- You’re moving to a new home, and wonder if you should just buy a toddler bed instead of lugging his old crib.
- You genuinely think he’ll sleep better. Many babies and toddlers resist sleeping in a crib so much that a toddler bed could be just what they need.
Transitioning to toddler bed at 18 months
Thinking about making the big switch can leave you feeling worried and anxious. You might feel guilty for the early transition, especially when your toddler is perfectly fine in the crib. Perhaps you worry whether he’ll keep getting out of the bed now that he has the freedom to do so.
And any research you’ve tried to find online only leaves you with advice catered to older kids who are more likely to understand what’s going on.
Still, that doesn’t mean you absolutely have to wait until your toddler is older to transition to a bigger bed. Take a look at these tips to make the switch smoother:
1. Childproof the room
Now that your 18-month-old can roam the room, make sure to childproof his environment. Bolt furniture to the walls, cover electrical outlets, secure drawers and closets he might pull.
You might also want to add a nightlight so he can see better in the dark. Not only will it ease anxieties about the dark, but a nightlight will also decrease the chances of your toddler tripping or bumping into things.
Speaking of which, clear his room of unnecessary or distracting items. Store toys in their proper places, and remove any loud gadgets that aren’t conducive for a good night of sleep. Stick to soft, comfort toys like special blankets and stuffed animals.
2. Attach a railing to the bed
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Young toddlers tend to move around in bed as they sleep. Prevent accidents and falls by adding a railing to the bed.
Many convertible cribs come with a rail—you simply remove one side of the crib and replace it with a rail to keep your 18-month-old in place.
However, not all convertible cribs come with a rail, or you might opt for a toddler or twin bed. If so, install a railing to the bed, making sure to get the right one for the type of bed you have. Here’s one that attaches to convertible cribs:
Here are foam bumpers that work with a toddler bed:
And here’s one that attaches to a standard twin bed:
3. Get new sheets
Worried that your 18-month-old won’t take to his new sleeping arrangement? Mark the occasion by getting new sheets! Get a set with his favorite characters, or one with new colors that differ from more muted, “baby” colors.
The set should include:
- Fitted mattress sheet
- Light sheet
- Fitted mattress protector
- Toddler pillowcase
- Thick blanket
4. Keep your toddler safely in the room
Perhaps one of the biggest concerns parents have is what to do when your 18-month-old opens the door to the room.
After all, up to this point, he was contained in the crib and had no way to open the door, much less roam the house. But now that he’s mobile, you’ll need to keep him safely in the room. Plus, keeping him in the room also prevents him from getting out multiple times a night.
Your best bet is to get doorknob covers and attach them to the door, preventing him from turning the knob and opening it. Another option is to install a baby gate to the door frame.
While this can feel like you’re “locking” him in the room, think of it as containing him in a bigger sleeping environment. In the past, you kept him in his crib with no way for him to get out—now you’re keeping him confined within his room.
And of course, just as you likely did when he was in the crib, you’ll want to strategically check in on him every few minutes. This will reassure him that you’re still here, and that he’s perfectly safe in his new bed.
5. Practice at nap time
Several parents have found that transitioning to toddler bed at 18 months was easier when they started with nap time.
This way, even if your toddler skips his nap, he would’ve only missed out on a few hours of sleep, instead of a full night. The environment is also brighter, making the time spent in the room less overwhelming. And finally, with nap time shorter than a full night of sleep, he’s reunited with you within a few hours.
If he’s cranky, hardly slept, or skipped his nap completely, adjust bedtime and put him to bed earlier in the evening.
Does your toddler wake up cranky for naps? My guide, No Cranky Naps, gives you the exact tips, strategies, and mindset shifts to finally turn those cranky naps around. Want to see if it can work for you? Join my newsletter and download a preview chapter, at no cost to you:
6. Use a monitor to check in
While you should physically check in and enter your toddler’s room during this transition, you can also rely on a monitor in the meantime.
For instance, perhaps you heard a loud thud, which would normally prompt you to enter the room (and possibly rile him up even more). But looking at a monitor might allow you to see that the loud thud was simply a book he dropped on the floor.
You can also use the monitor to see where he finally ended up falling asleep. For the first few nights, many toddlers end up sleeping on the floor or in another part of the room. You’ll be able to see—without disrupting his sleep or turning on the light—how he has fallen asleep for the night.
7. Transition to a toddler bed long before the baby arrives
If you’re like most parents, you’re transitioning to toddler bed at 18 months because you’re expecting a new baby. If so, give your toddler enough time to move to his new bed before the baby arrives.
For one thing, transitioning to a new bed and welcoming a new sibling are two major life changes that will likely overwhelm him. Space these milestones apart so the whole family can adjust to each one.
And second, moving him to a toddler bed right when the baby arrives can make it seem like his new sibling is “stealing” his crib. But if he moves to a toddler bed earlier than the baby sleeps in the crib, he’s less likely to feel resentful, or like he has been cast aside.
Transitioning to toddler bed at 18 months can be surprisingly easy and smooth, especially when you take proactive steps.
Create the right sleep environment, from childproofing the room to attaching a bed rail to getting fun, new sheets. Practice at nap time so your toddler is reunited with you within a few hours and can “dip his toes” into his new sleeping arrangement.
Use doorknob covers or baby gates to keep him safely in his room, and check in on him with a video monitor to make sure everything is okay.
And finally, if you’re transitioning to a toddler bed because of a new baby, do so with enough time. That way, your toddler doesn’t feel like the baby is taking the crib away from him.
Sure, you might find yourself dealing with bedtime tantrums or multiple middle-of-the-night wake-ups. But many toddler bed transitions—even those that happen as young as 18 months—can actually be pretty easy peasy.
Get more tips:
- 10 Things You Should Do when You Transition from Crib to Toddler Bed
- Toddler Climbing Out of the Crib? Easy Solutions to Help You
- What to Do when Your Toddler Wakes Up Crying
- “At What Age…?” Baby Development Milestones You Don’t Always Hear About
- Toddler Bed Transition: Top 7 Items You Need when Your Child Resists
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