From Crib to Bed – Making the Transition

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin

Photo credit (

Making the transition from crib to bed can be an exciting journey, but perhaps one that has a lot of “unknowns.”  Today, I want to give you my top recommendations so that the transition to the new bed is a smooth and successful one for everyone!

Identify if your child is ready to transition

There is no exact age when a child should be put into a regular bed.  Typically, I recommend parents wait until their child is around 3 years old.  That may sound old, but it’s for good reason.  At this age, kids have a better understanding of the rules and boundaries and hopefully your child’s sleep skills are good.

Ask yourself these questions before making the transition:

– Is my child well rested?

– Is my child sleeping through the night?

– Is my child independent going to sleep (not reliant on you in any way)?

– Is my child old enough (at least 3 years old)?

– Does my child have a solid routine leading up to bedtime?

If you answered yes to all the above questions, then you’re good to go!  If not, then there might be some things to work on first before making the transition. 

If your child relies on you in any way to get to sleep (feeding, rocking, cradling, patting, etc.), and they have a hard time getting back to sleep without it, wait to transition. 

I’ve seen far too many times parents make the switch to the bed too quickly thinking it would solve the bedtime woes.  In reality, it just makes things worse.  Your kid can leave their bed and room much more easily now!  My recommendation would be to get your child sleeping more independently and sleeping well before making the switch.

Prepare your child for the switch

In all my years of working with kids with special needs, I can tell you one thing: they do not do well with surprises!  It’s important that before making this move from the crib, they should know that they’re going to be getting a new bed, when it’s going to happen (put a date on the calendar!), and let them know the day the switch happens.  Bonus: make a social story to show your child what’s going to happen.  You can learn more about those here.

Kids who have any kind of disability do great when they know exactly what to expect.  They look to you for this security!  Make sure to do this in a positive way, but don’t go overboard either – you don’t want to put a lot of pressure on your child’s shoulders, either.

Make sure your child’s room is set up for a great night’s rest

This step is key – don’t change too much, but give your child choices where you can.  Put your child’s bed exactly where the crib was, and keep everything else the way it is.  You might want to double check that the room is nice and dark and cool, too.  This makes going to sleep a bit easier.

Make your child a part of the new bed experience – let them chose a new set of sheets, new pillow, and maybe even the new lovey/stuffed animal.  This allows them to associate those things as truly theirs – they have ownership of it and know what those things are!

Handle bedtime the exact same way every night

So, you’ve gone through the questions, got the new bed, prepared your child, and they have their first night in the new bed.  Great work!  Now, there are 3 possibilities from this point forward:

– Your child stayed in bed, loved their bed, and it was business as usual.  Woo hoo!

– First couple weeks or so went great, and then not so great.  Your child with special needs is now getting out of bed a lot, making visits to mommy and daddy, playing with toys, etc.

– Your child did the activities in the second point right off the bat Night 1.

If your child has been “toeing the line” since making the switch, it’s your job to make sure that the boundary is set, and you are consistent in implementing this

And, your child will certainly push that boundary (ask for water, come visit, etc.), but it’s your job to stay super, super consistent.  As soon as there is wiggle room, the boundaries are no longer clear and they’ll keep moving backwards.

If you’re working on this and your child is successful, then it’s REALLY IMPORTANT to acknowledge when they’ve done great!  That first morning they don’t come visit you, stay in their room, etc. make sure to give them a special reward the next day.  If your child sees that you’re happy with what they’ve done, they’ll keep doing it 😉

Need help getting your child with a disability sleeping great and on their own? Or, have you made the transition to the “big kid” bed and need guidance? Contact us to get your questions answered!