The age at which a child transitions from a crib to a big bed is up to the parents. Some start as early as 12 months, others wait until much later. I have found that 2 years old is a good time, mostly because there were other babies on the way who would be requiring the crib! Don’t wait until a new baby has been born to suddenly make this big transition – have it all organized and any kinks worked out well in advance. A cushion of time also prevents any resentment associated with the baby taking MY crib.
If your child is already trained to obedience during the day and will stay to play where you tell him, then you shouldn’t have too many hassles with him getting out of bed when he shouldn’t. On the other hand, if your child will not obey you during the day or stay where he is told, then it’s very likely that he will not obey you at bedtime or in the morning either. Work on obedience training first by implementing blanket times, highchair times, and playpen times during the day while everyone is much more able to deal with disobedience in a calm and consistent manner. Be aware that almost all children will test your resolve a couple of times just to see what will happen. So be prepared and have appropriate strategies for dealing with the child who gets out of bed when he shouldn’t – the FIRST time it happens.
Consider what you want the morning routine to look like.
* Will he be allowed to get out of bed on his own?
* Can she independently turn on a light and read books or access a few toys from a basket next to the bed?
* What is your goal for a morning routine that suits you now and in the future as well?
While our children were still in a crib, we put a book and a stuffed animal or a few small toys at the end of the crib after they had gone to sleep. As soon as we heard the first peep in the morning, we would dash in and say, “Good job for staying quiet! Now read and play quietly until we come and get you.” Initially they were left for very short times so that they could be successful and praised for their quiet time. This time was increased as they became used to the routine. We wanted this time to be quiet as there were other siblings whom we didn’t want woken up. It also prepared them to eventually share a bedroom with another sibling. After this training was in place, we stopped going in to remind them as they were able to start reading and playing quietly themselves.
As the children got closer to the move to their big beds, we transitioned to books only in the crib, rather than toys. (This also leads to a lifelong love of books which is something we wanted to cultivate in our family.) Once the change to a big bed was made, the exact same morning routine was used and we found that they never really thought of getting up and wandering about in the morning as they already knew what they were expected to do.
Parents will often ask how the child knows it’s time to start reading, particularly those whose children’s bedrooms are completely dark in the morning. Some strategies are:
- Soft music alarm, bunny clock, or color change clock that signals when it is time to get up
- Mom or Dad comes in every morning to say it’s time to get up
- Pin a paper clock next to their own analogue clock with the hands at the time they are allowed to rise.
- Tape over the minute numbers on a digital clock and write the number the hour must match before he may turn on the light
It’s nice to build some excitement around the big move to his new bed. Maybe he can come shopping for his new big boy sheets and pillow and help choose between the appropriate selections you’ve picked out. We were able to have the bed all set up in his new room a couple of weeks before he was “allowed” to sleep in it. By the time we were ready for him to move, he was practically begging to be able to go in it. Each time he asked we’d recite all the rules and say he had to wait until he was responsible enough, big enough, etc. to which he would eagerly say, “I will, I can, I won’t get out of bed!” and on and on until we finally said the grand day had arrived.
If your child is a very mobile sleeper, a bed rail may be a good idea or you may want to put the mattress on the floor. Most of our children moved around a lot in the crib but in a bed pressed themselves up against the wall and stayed there. One of our daughters, on the other hand, fell out of bed, so we used a bed rail for about 6 months. Another trick to keep a child from falling out of bed is to tuck a large towel or pool noodle under the mattress to tilt it towards the wall. Also, putting the top sheet on sideways so children are securely tucked in seems to stop them from rolling towards the outer edge. (Children’s feet don’t go anywhere near the bottom of the bed anyway.)
All in all, the key to a smooth transition from crib to bed is in the daytime training and consistent parenting throughout the entire day, not just at bedtime. Usually children love the idea of a big bed and with a little training and preparation, so will you!
Angela Pascoe is a Christian wife and homeschooling mother of 9 who seeks to live and raise her family, alongside her husband, to the glory of God. She and her family live in Australia. Her first introduction to GFI was as a classroom teacher. After seeing how good the material was, she and her husband took classes in preparation for their own children and spent so much time telling other parents about it that they decided it was time to start facilitating classes officially. They have been running several classes a year for over 10 years. Angela leads a GEMS group with a bunch of wonderful mums and enjoys being a Contact Mum.