How to transition your toddler to a big bed.

It’s exciting and rewarding when your child reaches any kind of milestone, whether it’s a physical milestone like learning to walk or a speech language milestone like baby’s first word. Another important milestone is a little less understood but it’s  just as important, and this is your child’s move towards independence with daily tasks and activities. Just like other milestones, when this occurs depends on neurological or cognitive development and readiness.

Children are like sponges; they learn by example and constantly soak up new information without consciously even being aware of it. You, as the parent, naturally and often subconsciously, offer learning opportunities for your child every minute of the day. You are the constant in your child’s daily life so of course you are their best role model and teacher; even a nine-month-old baby will watch and copy what his or her parent’s do. They learn quickly and efficiently as their brains are developing at a rapid rate.

Our kids are ready to learn a new skill when that skill aligns with their neurological ability to understand and apply the skill to a new situation. They will be ready when they are ready developmentally and not before. Unfortunately, this can be where our best intentions can come unstuck because in our haste to witness our children mastering something new, we can have unrealistic expectations of them, especially around the idea of independence. This rings true for parents with children of any age ranging from babies, to school age and even teenage children! Whatever age your child is, when the situation presents itself around an opportunity for you to allow them some independence, you should always begin with the question ‘is my child neurologically and developmentally ready?’

So what about moving from a cot to a big bed? My best piece of advice is to keep your child in a cot as close to three years of age as you can, no matter what the circumstances, with the one exception to this being if your child was climbing out of the cot, in which case it would not be safe. The reason for keeping them in the cot for as long as possible is that under about three years, children are usually not developmentally ready for this new level of independence because they have limited impulse control. If they are put into a big bed before they are ready, it’s an unfair expectation for us to ask them to stay in their bed because the natural impulse for them is to hop out and come to you for your company, which inevitably makes staying in bed a losing battle.

If you think your toddler is ready for the big move, use this checklist to help you get started

✔ Ensure your child is developmentally ready and has some level of impulse control
✔ Spend a few days talking to your child about what is to come
✔ Make bedtime a positive experience by using role-play to demonstrate the new bedtime process
✔ Have clear boundaries around bedtime and be consistent
✔ Allow your child some choice as to how the bed and room looks and feels as this gives your child some control over the situation
✔ Establish a bedtime routine if you haven’t already
✔ Consider white noise, a night light and toddler clock
✔ Make sure your child’s room is safe
✔ Avoid making the transition during other major times of transition like starting daycare, moving house or welcoming a new baby
✔ Expect some sleep upsets for the first couple of nights so be patient
as your child adjusts

Need some help and support with transiting your child to a big bed?


Are you ready for more sleep?


Click here to request a free 15 minute call to discuss your needs.