Moving your toddler to their first big bed

Moving from a cot to their new big bed is a milestone in your toddler’s life. Some are excited about the transition, whilst others find it all a bit daunting. Make moving to their first big bed easy for your toddler with these simple tips.
Moving your toddler to their first big bed is quite a milestone in their life. Some are excited about the transition, whilst others find it all a bit daunting.

Children are generally ready to move from a cot to a bed around 2 to 3 years old. However it really depends when your child is ready, whether they are too big for their cot or whether circumstances such as the arrival of sibling dictate.

9 Tips on moving your toddler to a big bed

Make moving to their first big bed easy with these simple tips:

1. Make moving to a big bed a big deal

Get your little one excited and talking about their new ‘big kids’ bed a few weeks before the move so that they get used to the idea.

Involve them in the process as much as possible:
  • show them images of potential beds you might buy
  • take them shopping with you and let them help pick out a bed
  • maybe get them to choose some new bedding or a toy to take to bed with them.
  • Make their new bed a fun place they want to be.

2. Toddler-friendly beds

There are lots of beds to choose from, so shop around and do some research beforehand to find a bed that’s suitable for your toddler and your budget.

If it’s not too late, you might want to consider buying a cot bed for your baby before they arrive.

Cot beds allow you to take the sides off the cot and turn it into a little ‘big bed’ later on, before your toddler moves to a full-size bed.

This not only extends the use of the cot, but can help make the transition to a proper bed slightly easier.

You might want to opt for a first bed that’s low to the ground and isn’t as overwhelming as moving straight to a full-height big bed.

As well as being toddler-friendly, you might want to choose a bed that’s also comfortable for adults too. Despite your best efforts, you or your partner may end up spending the night in your little one's bed for one reason or another, so a comfortable mattress that can support your weight too will be very beneficial.

3. Timing your move from a cot to a big bed

When transitioning your toddler from a cot to a bed, it’s important to get the timing right as even the smallest change to their routine can be confusing and unsettling.

Try to avoid moving them into a bed at the same time as other life changes such as moving house, starting childcare or the arrival of a sibling.

If possible try to move them at least 2-3 months beforehand to help reduce any feelings of displacement.

4. Early stages of being in a big bed

If you’re worried that your toddler won’t cope with sleeping in a big bed straight away, you could always put them down for a few daytime naps in the new bed before they sleep in it for a night.

That way they’ll get used to it and feel more settled when they go to bed at night.

5. Keep some things consistent

To help ease the transition from a cot to a bed, put the new bed in the same place as the cot was if you can.

That way your toddler won’t be dealing with a change of bed, a change of room or view from their regular sleeping position.

Remove the cot from their room completely so that there is no confusion about where they should sleep or a need for your toddler to want to go back to sleeping in it.

6. Bed guards

Bed guards are a good gentle way of reassuring little ones who have moved from the four-sided safety of a cot into a single bed.

You can remove the guards once you think they are used to their bed and not likely to roll out.

Another option is to put pillows, cushions or a mattress on the floor next to their bed in the early stages, so if your little one does fall out they are less likely to hurt themselves.

7. Don’t change their bedtime routine

Your toddler’s got a lot to deal with moving to a new bed, so try to keep everything else the same, especially their bedtime routine.

If this routine worked well before then it will continue to work well even with the new bed thrown into the mix.

8. Prepare for a few sleepless nights

It may take your toddler a while to adjust to their new bed as it’s a big change for them. So expect some hurdles and get ready for a few disturbed nights!

Some children cry, whilst others shout out or become aggressive or frantic when they transition to a big bed and keep trying to escape.

If you can, make the transition over a weekend, that way you can get some extra rest yourself if need be.

Be understanding and help your little one love their new bed by investing time into helping them settle.

Reward their efforts when they stay in their new bed and tell them just how proud you are.

9. The new bedtime routine

It’s important to stay calm and consistent to help your little one learn quickly that they need to stay in their new big bed.

Avoid sounding angry or frustrated when they get out of bed as this can make them feel anxious and make it harder for them to sleep at night. Reassure them that you are nearby and that you will see them in the morning.

Now that your toddler doesn’t have cot bars to keep them in bed, there’s a chance that they will start making appearances in your bedroom in the middle of night. If this happens, calmly take them back to their bed and gently remind them that it’s still bedtime.

Prepare yourself for 20 or more trips on the first few nights! The less attention your give them (no cuddles or picking them up), the fewer times they will get up in future.

If your little one is constantly getting out of bed, reward them when they stay in their and sleep through the night with sticker charts, extra bedtime stories, a trip to the park or beach etc.

Another option is to put a stair gate across their bedroom door to stop them wandering around the house and into your room at night, or potentially falling down stairs or hurting themselves in the dark.

Shutting your toddler’s door may work in some instances, but a closed door is likely to cause distress and your little one may want to spend even less time in their room.

So that they are not completely in the dark when they go to bed you could try using glow in the dark stars on their wall or ceiling, a night light or keeping the hallway light on with their door slightly ajar.

Avoid missing day sleeps or stretching out bedtime in the hope that your toddler will settle more easily. Instead they are likely to become over-tired and over stimulated, making the whole process much harder for both of you.

It's important to start as you mean to go on, otherwise you’ll find it incredibly hard to keep them in their room in future.

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