Toddler Beds: How to Choose the Right One for Your Child

Filed under: Toddlers Preschoolers, Health & Safety: Babies, Feeding & Sleeping

toddler beds

Consider adding rails when setting up your child's toddler bed. Credit: Getty Images

Finding the right time to move your child out of the confines of a crib and into a toddler bed depends on a variety of factors, but if you do it right, everyone will get a good night's sleep.

The big move often happens when baby number two is on the way, says Dr. Paul Horowitz. That might be OK, as long as your child is 18 months old or older, and can safely get into and out of the new bed on his or her own, says the Valencia, Calif.-based pediatrician with Discovery Pediatrics.

A key issue in determining whether your child is ready for a big bed is the height of the new bed. The closer to the ground, the better, Horowitz says.

It also helps to make bedtime a regular routine with the goal of getting your child to sleep. Beds should be for sleeping, not playing, and a child needs to know to remain in bed unless they have to use the bathroom.

"A lot of families try to make beds or bedtime more entertaining than it should be," Horowitz cautions.

Other experts recommend waiting until the child is much older to transition to a toddler bed. Jodi Mindell, author of "Sleeping Through the Night," (Harper Collins, 2005) tells ParentDish she strongly recommends waiting until as close to age 3 as possible.

"It takes a lot of behavioral control to stay within those imaginary boundaries," she says. "There also has to be a cognitive understanding of the boundaries."

Even with a new baby on the way, Mindell says there's no immediate need to move the older child to a big bed. For several months at least, newborns can sleep in a bassinet and don't need a crib. Consider borrowing a crib if your child is not ready to make the move.

There are a variety of toddler bed options available, and finding the right one depends on a number of factors. Some parents may chose a toddler bed that uses the same mattress as the crib -- familiar crib sheets can provide comfort during the transition for your child. Some of these beds are closer to the ground than a traditional bed.

Parents who are moving their child to a traditional twin bed should consider not using a bed frame until the child is older, or should use removable railings for any child under 5, because they can easily fall out of bed.

"You need railings no matter what, because kids fracture their collar bone falling out of bed," Mindell says. Even if you think your child never moves while sleeping, put up railings anyway, she says.

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AdviceMama Says:
Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.