Transitioning to a Big-Kid Bed

January 17, 2017
Transitioning to a Big-Kid Bed

The transition to a new and BIG bed is an important milestone. 

Below are some tips for caregivers


  • Start with a well-rested kid!
    • During the transition, kids can lose some sleep.  Therefore, it is best to start with a full tank!
  • Read & Tell Stories
    • A few suggested titles include: My Own Big Bed by Anna Grossnickle Hines, Your Own Big Bed by Rita Bergstein, Big Enough for a Bed by Apple Jordan (Elmo)
    • Talk about kids he or she knows who already sleep in a big-kid bed (and how much fun that is)
  • One at a Time
    • Avoid making this transition at the same time as other major events (like the start of school).  Having 4-6 weeks between big changes helps children to adjust more smoothly.
  • Stay in Place
    • If possible, position the new big-kid bed where the crib used to be.  Children can be resistant to change and sometimes the new view can be a challenge.
  • Give a Job
    • Help involve your child in some aspect of the big bed process.  Giving them a choice about the bed color, sheet design, pillows or location helps to make them feel in control.
    • Let your child decide when to move.  Once the bed arrives, don’t take apart the crib right away.  Ask your child when they are ready to make the switch (if possible) and allow them to choose the timing.
  • Get Cozy
    • Having stuffed animals, favorite blankets, pillows, etc. makes the new bed feel more cozy – similar to the crib.  Encourage your child to help fill the bed with items that make them feel right at home.
  • Go Over the Rules – These are personal to your family, but here are some suggestions
    1. Keep your body in the big-kid bed
    2. Call for a grown-up (whoever gets them), when they want to get out of the bed.
    3. Be positive when reinforcing the rules, “And just like with your crib, you keep your body in your big girl bed until mommy, daddy, (any caregiver), comes to get you when you are awake. We need to keep your body safe, and also we will be so excited to see you in your big-girl bed when we come to get you!”
  • Practice
    • Before your child sleeps in the crib, practice what will happen if he or she wakes up.  “Let’s pretend you are getting in your big-boy bed now to go to sleep, just for fun!  Mommy will give you a big kiss, (whatever your routine is) and then say; “Goodnight sweet boy, and then I will close the door and come back when I hear you call for me in the morning.”  “Then, when I come in to get you in the morning, I will be so excited to say, Good morning!  Look at you in your big boy bed! Way to keep your body in your own bed until I came in. You’re such a big boy now!”  This will help to understand what’s going to happen and to feel excited about being capable of following through with your instructions and making you so happy to see your child in their own bed.
  • Take Some Extra Time
    • For the first couple of nights, you can expect needing to provide a few extra hugs, extra stories and extra tickles to help your child fall asleep.  This is fine as long as you restrict it to the first few days.
    • To allow time for this, start nap or bedtime earlier when you first make the move.
  • Stay with It
    • If your child continues to ask for you after several visits or is getting worked up, try to stay calm and positive.  For example, you can say something like, “Mommy is tired and we both need to sleep, so I am going to say good night now, and I am not going to come back in, so that we can both go to sleep in our big-girl beds and then I can come in when you call in the morning, and see you.”   Then make your exit and calmly remind your child of the big-kid bed rule: “You must keep your body in the bed, and wait for a grown-up to get you out of it, just like you did in the crib.”