Wondering if it’s possible to start transitioning to a 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 was convincing him to sleep in the bed after the bedtime routine. Next came the predictable middle-of-the-night wake-up, from drawn-out cries 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 it reminded me why many parents wonder if transitioning to a toddler bed at 18 months is even possible.
However challenging the transition may be, you likely have good reasons to do so, like:
- 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 eventually outgrows the one he’s in.
- He has climbed out of the crib or has shown signs that he wants to. A big kid bed could help avoid falls and injuries.
- You want him to start sleeping in his own room instead of yours, and a toddler bed could be his new sleeping arrangement.
- You’re moving to a new home, and wonder if you should buy a big bed instead of lugging his old crib.
- You genuinely think he can 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 a 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 might keep getting out of 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 have to wait until he’s older to transition to a bigger bed. Take a look at these tips to make the switch smoother:
1. Practice at nap time
Several parents have found that transitioning to a 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.
Lastly, reward his progress with plenty of praise. The positive reinforcement can help him continue sleeping in a bed, even if it’s different from what he’s used to.
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2. Childproof the room
Now that your 18-month-old can roam the room, make sure to childproof the environment. Bolt furniture to the walls and cover electrical outlets. Secure chests of drawers and closets with childproof latches, and wind lamp or blind cords together so they’re out of reach.
You might also want to add a nightlight so she can see better in the dark. Not only can it ease anxieties about the dark, but a nightlight can also decrease the chances of her tripping or bumping into things.
Lastly, clear the room of unnecessary or distracting items. Store toys in their proper places and remove any loud gadgets that aren’t conducive to a good night of sleep. Stick to soft, comfort toys like special blankets and stuffed animals.
3. 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 do, or you might opt for a toddler or twin bed. If so, install a barrier to the bed, making sure to get the right one for the type of bed you have. Here are a few options:
- A crib rail that attaches to convertible cribs
- Foam bumpers that work with a toddler bed
- A bedrail that attaches to a standard twin bed
4. 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 crib mattress sheet
- Light sheet
- Fitted mattress protector
- Toddler pillowcase
- Thick blanket (tip: a weighted blanket like this one can feel soothing and comforting)
5. Keep your toddler safely in the room
Perhaps one of the biggest concerns you might have is what to do when your 18-month-old opens the bedroom door.
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 need to keep him safely in the room. Plus, keeping him in the room also prevents him from getting out multiple times a night.
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. Safety gates can keep him contained in his room (you might even want to put one on the top of the stairs for extra precaution).
And of course, just as you likely did when he was in the crib, strategically check in on him every few minutes. This can reassure him that you’re still here and that he’s perfectly safe in his own bed.
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 newborn baby 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 can 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 a 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.
Transitioning to a new bed and welcoming a new sibling are two major life changes that might overwhelm him. Space these milestones apart so the whole family can adjust to each one.
And 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 a 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.
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, he 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 still be easy peasy.
Get more tips:
- 9 Steps to a Smooth Crib to Toddler Bed Transition
- How to Stop Your Toddler Climbing Out of the Crib
- What to Do When Your Toddler Wakes Up Crying Every Morning
- “At What Age…?” Baby Development Milestones You Don’t Always Hear About
- 8 Tips for a Smooth Toddler Bed Transition
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