The transition from crib to bed shouldn’t come when your child is going through major changes, such as your return to work or the beginning of day care or nursery school. At these times, she’ll probably need the security of her familiar crib. If the change to a bed is planned in anticipation of a new baby, try not to wait until your baby is born to make the switch, but rather give your child a month or so to get used to sleeping in a bed.
If your child is three and you’re buying a new bed or sheets, you might want to take her shopping with you. Be careful about telling her that she’s getting a bed because she’s “big now.” Young children feel a desire and pressure to be older, and sometimes the suggestion that they should act “big” adds stress to a situation, especially if there’s a new baby in the family.
Once you have the bed, if there’s room, try putting it next to her crib so she can make a gradual switch from one to the other. Your child can begin by taking naps in the bed, and then slowly start spending nights there. If she was used to having toys in her crib, put some on her bed. After a few weeks, when she no longer needs her crib, take it down, letting her help. Or, if you’re going to use the crib for a new baby, your child might want to help you move it to the other room.
If you’re concerned about your child’s safety in a bed, buy a bed rail that will keep her from falling out. You also can put the box spring and mattress on the floor rather than on a frame so she can climb in and out of bed easily without getting hurt, and she can even jump on her bed safely this way. You might want to get your child a full-size mattress so you can cuddle up and read to her or, at times, sleep with her. Once she’s moved from a crib to a bed, don’t be surprised when she gets out of her bed in the middle of the night and comes to your room. Most young children feel safer and more comfortable sleeping in their parents’ beds.
During this time of transition, notice how she feels about the change. If she’s having a difficult time giving up her crib, slow down. Even if you planned to use the crib for a new baby, you can postpone the change by putting your newborn in a cradle or portable crib for several months. And when you do give the crib to your baby, don’t be surprised if your older child still shows an interest in playing or sleeping in it. Children notice when babies get attention and occasionally like to pretend they’re babies and go back to familiar objects and places. As long as your child doesn’t feel pressure to give up her crib before she’s ready, her transition to a bed should be smooth.