This year has been (and continues to be) full of transitions for my little boy. In January, at 18 months, he entered our church’s nursery program, allowing us to go to our Sunday School meetings without him. He also left the only house he ever knew to move into the basement of my parents’ house. In May, he was able to have his Dad be home all day with him when Justin’s department got laid off. In June, he got a new Uncle. In July, he turned 2, and a week later, we moved to Texas. We have also been transitioning him off a bottle (success before we moved), and pacies only for naptime/bedtime (success). But, since we have a new baby coming in January, we had to two more transitions to make: potty training and transitioning to a toddler bed.
We are currently beginning potty training–wish us luck! And thankfully, we have easily, quickly, successfully transitioned Rhys from his crib to a toddler bed. Three weeks after moving to Texas! What a transition! We are so grateful Rhys seamlessly made the transition and I wanted to share some tips that might help your toddlers make the transition without trouble.
Involve Them in the Transition
For a few days, we led up to the transition. We told Rhys that he would soon sleep in a big boy bed rather than his crib. We took him to Wal-Mart to choose some big boy sheets: he choose PAW Patrol (he loves that show). Then, we had him “help” us set up the bed. We actually only took half a step to a toddler bed. I strongly suggest that if your crib can transition to a toddler bed, you do that first rather than giving them a whole new bed. This way, there is still some continuity and familiarity with their sleeping space. Rhys knows this is still his bed, but one side of the crib is off, so it is now a big boy bed. We will eventually get him a real toddler bed once we transition our 2nd child to the crib…quite some time away. We had him “help” with the Allen wrenches to take it apart. He loves helping his dad with tools, and we let him know that he was making his own big boy bed. We also had him watch as I put the new sheets on.
Have a Steadfast Bedtime Routine
Since we had moved, we really didn’t have a real bedtime routine for Rhys anymore. It used to be cuddles and rocking with his Grandma while drinking milk and watching whatever we were…but we couldn’t do that anymore. Once we made the toddler bed, we decided to create a new routine to go with it and we did it every night. We had him drink his milk while we read stories to him before bedtime. Then, in bed, we make sure he has a pillow, a blanket, his Daniel Tiger doll, and his music machine on. We sing 3 songs, then say prayers. We praise him for the things he did well that day and let him know what we will be doing the next day. We kiss him and say Good night.
Make it as Friendly as Possible
We make sure Rhys has his familiar dolls, blankets, and pacies ready in bed for him. Rhys recently began to be scared of the dark. So, we made sure that his music machine, which projected stars on the ceiling, always had battery power. We also bought some nightlights–one for his room, and one for our living area to guide him to our room just in case he got out of bed in the middle of the night. For the first week, we also kept the door open as he fell asleep so he could see us on the couch, and we could make sure he stayed in his bed (which he did). After he got used to falling asleep in his toddler bed, we began to close the door as normal. In the morning, we always praised him for doing a good job sleeping in his big boy bed.
Sometimes, even a compromise is required. To remove the temptation of getting out of bed and playing with toys, we allow him to take one toy into bed with him. He chooses it and cuddles or quietly plays with it until he falls asleep. We haven’t had issues with him getting out of bed to grab a toy.
Answer Quickly and Eventually Go Back to Ferberizing
Toddler beds are new and different than cribs. For Rhys, he loved cuddling right up to the front corner of the crib–right up against the front bars. We were worried about him falling out. And, the first few nights, he did fall out a few times. When he did fall out, we quickly came in the room, gave him a hug and a kiss, put him back in bed, and sang him one more song before leaving. Sometimes, he would cry out because he dropped a pacy or a toy. We have been lucky enough that Rhys doesn’t believe he can get out of bed, so we go in and pick up his dropped pacy or doll. Eventually, they will get better at not dropping things or falling out. Then, you can go back to your normal Ferberizing or sleep training method that you had previously employed with the crib.
Simultaneously Train for When to Wake Up
Rhys began waking up around 6 am and wanting to get out of bed. We’d pull him in with us, but he’d wiggle and want to wake up. So, we decided to stop doing that. When he woke up in the morning, if it was before 6:30, we would explain to him that it was still night-time and he needed to go back to sleep. We’d make sure he’d have his pacy, his doll, his blanket, and his music machine on. Sometimes, all it took was to get him a sippy cup of water to have in bed with him. Rhys doesn’t get out of bed in the morning–he will yell for us to come get him like he did when he was in his crib. He’s been sleeping in a toddler bed for almost three months, and only recently has he gotten out of bed and opened the door in the morning. If the lights are still off, he’ll close the door and go back to bed.
Sometimes, all you need is luck
We were lucky to have Rhys completely used to sleeping in a toddler bed within a week. After almost three months of sleeping in a toddler bed, only the past week as he gotten enough gumption to sneak out to grab a toy–and even then, he’ll grab it and bring it back to bed. Rhys hasn’t fallen out since that first week. If he drops a pacy or a toy, he’ll reach down and grab it. He checks in the morning if it is time to get up. He’s never come into our room in the middle of the night. I can count on one hand the amount of times we’ve had to let him cry a bit to sleep since mid-July. Sometimes, all you need is luck, and we’ve definitely had that with Rhys’s transition.
How have you transitioned your kids to toddler beds? What was your experience like?