Transitioning our daughter to a big girl best can be really stressful on little kids. In hindsight, I don’t think it was very stressful or worrisome to our daughter, Haddie – it was stressful for us, the parents. Kids are really adaptable, and we need to give them more credit on what they can handle.
We’ve only transitioned a kid from a crib to a big bed once, but here are some tips that have really helped us out along the way.
Tip 1: Wait until your kid is ready
We transitioned Haddie to a “Big Girl Bed” when she was about 2 and a half years old. Around the time she was 2 years old, she figured out how to climb out of her crib – luckily for us, she was always too scared to do it when we were not around, so we didn’t have to deal with midnight surprise visitors in our bedroom.
When Haddie was about 2 and a half years old, and her friends were moving out of their cribs, she started to ask for it more and more. Every night she started asking to sleep in her “big girl bed” – in fact, she also started asking to sleep in a bunkbed, although she had no clue what it was.
She was ready!
Tip 2: Get the child involved in picking out their bed
Once we knew Haddie was “ready”, we started talking with her about what she wanted, and we ran with it. She wanted “cozy”, “pink”, and “unicorns”. So, that’s what we got her.
Tip 3: Don’t Overhype
One mistake we made was OVER hyping the transition. We really got her pumped up. We talked a lot about it with her, maybe even too much. We talked about her friends and cousins in big girl beds. We talked about how much fun they are. We just didn’t stop. In retrospect, we should have talked about it, but not hyped it. We hyped it, and that might have made her a bit more nervous and uncomfortable when her big day arrived.
Tip 4: Be Safe
My sister in law, who’s done this three times, had an extra pair of side railings for us. At first, I thought this was a bit overkill. But, it’s not. While Haddie doesn’t move much at night, there are times where I see her rolling to the side of the bed and get caught by the railings. No doubt, these have saved her from many times of falling out of the bed.
Tip 5: Be consistent with a routine
We’ve made some mistakes around this one, and we are now really paying for it.
The first few nights that I put Haddie to sleep, I couldn’t get out of her room until 11pm. She just didn’t understand the process of this new bedtime. I would read her a few stories, then try to turn off the dimmed lights, and leave the room (much like I would at bedtime with a crib). But, she resisted, wanting more and more books and the light back on, and if I tried to leave, she would just follow me out of the room. I was aggravated, but it wasn’t her fault – she just didn’t understand how bedtime is supposed to work. Bedtime was literally a 3.5 hour routine. After consulting some of my office-mates, a great idea was suggested:
Set a timer for 10 minutes for reading books, then when the timer goes off, so do the lights.
This timer trick worked wonders. The first night I did it, I was out of her room in 20 minutes. That said, we are currently stuck in a routine where I have to stay in bed with Haddie until she falls asleep. With the 10 minute timer, this could be 20 minutes or it could be an hour, which leads to my next tip.
Tip 6: Transition to a Big Girl Bed around the time you are dropping naps
Napping can be a bedtime killer. If Haddie isn’t tired, she isn’t going to sleep. We find on days where Haddies does nap, bedtime is really difficult, and she sometimes she wont fall asleep until 10pm or so (typically she is sleeping around 8:15pm). Even a 15 minute cat-nap can really ruin bedtime.
That said, of course, if she is tired we let her take a cat-nap, and deal with the consequences at bedtime.
All in all, we are so happy with how the transition has progressed. Moving out of a crib is a process, not a one day event. It takes a lot of mental planning, especially for the adults. Just come up with a plan, and try to stick to it. While I am stuck in Haddie’s bed until she falls asleep, at least we are not stuck in a routine where she is sleeping the night in our bed! If I figure out how to get out of her bedroom while she is still awake, I’ll let you know!