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How to move a toddler from cot to bed

Toddler moving from cot to big bedThe safest place for a toddler to sleep is in a cot but there comes a time when they must make the move from the cot to a ‘big bed’.

There are many social and practical reasons for moving a toddler out of their cot—the arrival of a new baby, the onset of toilet training—but the key factor is safety. According to the Red Nose ‘Cot to Bed Safety’ advice, a toddler who is attempting to climb out of a cot (and looks like they might soon succeed) is no longer safe there.

This usually happens between 2 years and 3.5 years of age but sometimes as early as 18 months.

Moving a toddler from a cot to a bed

3 reasons to move from a cot to a bed

  1. Safety is the main reason for moving to a bed. When a child tries to climb out of the cot, you cannot leave them alone within the confines of a cot. It may not be when you were expecting to make the transition, but the alternative is better than an injury. You want to ensure your child is in a safe and comfortable sleeping environment.
  2. In some cases the arrival of another child is a good reason to make move. In this instance, it is wise to make the switch at least 6-8 weeks before the arrival of a newborn sibling, to avoid your toddler seeing their cot being taken over by another.
  3. Lastly, toilet training is also a good time to transition to a bed, as you will want to enable your toddler to get to the toilet quickly and easily when necessary.

Safety considerations when moving from cot to bed

When transitioning from a cot to a bed, it is important to do so safely and in line with the Red Nose Cot to Bed Safety advice, which includes the following:

  • Consider using a toddler bed or a mattress on the floor to begin with. As they are closer to the ground there is a lesser risk of injury from falling out of bed. Your child may feel safer closer at a lower height also.
  • Make sure the bed or mattress is firm and placed away from the wall to prevent children falling and suffocating in between the bed/mattress and wall.
  • Use a guard or rail around the bed frame initially to prevent from rolling off during the night. Do not place toys against the rails as these pose a suffocation risk. Make sure the rails are properly fitted and are fitted tightly against the mattress so there are no gaps.
  • Make sure there are no hazards on the floor where a child might land if they fall out of the bed.
  • Once in a big bed, a child is free to get out of the bed and move around the room, so it’s important to make sure the room (and the rest of the house) is safety checked throughout.
  • If in an upper story or floor, ensure the windows have safety locks on them and to only allow them to be opened a little way. We do not want a gap that is big enough for your child to crawl through.
  • Keep any electrical items and heaters out of the room, to prevent inquisitive fingers and hands wandering.
  • For outside of the room, install safety gates for stairways, so that a child cannot fall down the stairs if stumbling around drowsy and in the dark.
  • Keep curtain/blind cords, which can cause strangulation injuries, away and out of reach.

Tips for making the transition easier

When changing from cot to bed, it is a good idea to take your child with you to choose the bed, and allow then to help you select their own sheets and covers. Making a big fuss about their new bed will help them to feel excited about this change.

Here are some other ways to help make the transition easier:

  • Ask other family members, grandparents, friends to come and see the new ‘big bed’.
  • If your child has a comforter, keep this in the new bed, ready and waiting for your child to hop in too. Some kids, however, may simply be ready and eager to have a bed, without needing any fuss at all.
  • To help your little one settle into their new environment let them know how proud and happy you are of them sleeping in their very own big bed. It’s a big step towards growing bigger. Be excited about the new bed and getting it all set up and ready. Spread your enthusiasm and encourage their intrigue and excitement and involve them in setting up their new bed. You could even have a celebration of their first night in a big bed with a special meal. Keep them feeling like the move to a big bed is something special and that they are special too for making the move.
  • It can be an unsettling time when making a change such as this, and so it’s important to continue with or initiate a good sleep time routine for a successful transition into a bed. Ensure there is quiet time before getting into bed. Keeping stimulating items away and clearing away the toys, leaves the bedroom as a place for rest and peace. Encourage your child to get into bed themselves.
  • It can help also to use some of the same bedding and sheets as on the cot. Usually a cot can be turned into a bed by removal of the rails, and this allows some things to remain familiar throughout making a change. Pillows however pose a risk of suffocation, so keep them away until at least age two.
  • After a bedtime story say goodnight and let your little one know that it is time to sleep. Stay positive and firm about saying good night. Be happy and upbeat about sleeping in their new bed. Positive reinforcements, like stickers to let them know how proud you are of them sleeping in their big bed first thing in the morning, will help to encourage more of this behaviour.
  • So once getting into a new bed is resolved, staying in bed through the night may well be the next challenge. If this occurs, it is important to maintain quiet and ‘boring’ during sleep hours. If your child leaves the bedroom, escort them back to their bed quietly and immediately, firmly but gently. It might be required to do this repeatedly if they leave the room multiple times, but soon enough, and by telling them it “it’s sleep time, see you in the morning” each time, they will realise that night-time is for sleeping in their own bed.

Staying positive and encouraging throughout the transition into a new big bed will go a long way in making the change an easy one for all!

Quick tips for transitioning from a cot to a bed

  1. Take your child with you to choose the bed.
  2. Let your child be involved when choosing the sheets and bedding.
  3. Bring grandparents or close friends to see the bed.
  4. Place their comforter, if they have one, in the child’s bed so it’s ready and waiting.
  5. Make sure that the room, and anywhere they can access, is safe.
  6. Maintain your bedtime routine through the transition and if children keep getting out of bed you should quickly, firmly but gently escort them back each time.

Moving a child from a cot to a bed

About Cheryl Fingleson

Cheryl has completed The Gentle Sleep Coach Program, the first and most extensive professional sleep coaching certification program available. Cheryl works with families across a range of areas, including settling ...

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3 Comments so far -
  • Eva says:

    Some really valid points here. Our middle daughter really struggled with the transition to a big girls bed, the main reason for us starting the transition was safety!! At the time I felt she was too young, as our eldest transitioned much later but safety is most important and our daughter appeared quite talented in the obstacle course that was climbing out of her cot, she and found it most amusing and fun! When it came to our third we decided to get a new cot (the other two had the same cot). We went for a cotbed, it was the perfect option as the bed was a good transition from a cot to a bed, and it was still familiar for her when we change it to the bed feature….obviously your childs temperament is a key factor too transitioning and every child transitions differently so planning can be difficult.

  • Angela says:

    We’ve had our.sons ‘big boy.red racing car.bed’ on.his.room for a few months, reading stories in it after he initially wouldn’t sleep in it, but still he won’t even have a rest in it.

    He loves the.color and teddies in.it, weve put his blankets in it, tried when well, keeping same routine etc.

    He is 2.5. Baby no 2 due 14 weeks and want a separation between the baby and our son.using the bed.

    Any suggestions?

    • Hi Angela! Thanks for your question. Tough situation. I know it doesn’t feel like it now but a lot could change in the next 14 weeks so perhaps it is just a matter of persistence. But I do understand that it is frustrating at the moment. What happens when you try to put him to sleep in the bed? Does he cry for the cot? Could you modify the cot into a toddler bed for a transition period? As in take one side off? That might help if he is scared of being in the bed without sides? Is the bed in a different room to the cot? If so, is it possible to put the bed where the cot is? Could you remove the cot so it isn’t an option – or is a less appealing option? Disassemble it or put it in a different room? Are you in a position to buy or borrow a bassinet for your newborn to give yourself a few extra months to help him make the transition? He might be easier to convince once there is a baby and he is a ‘big boy’. Hope something here helps. If not why not try posting your question on our forum. We have plenty of parents with more ideas there: https://www.bubhub.com.au/community/forums/forumdisplay.php?69-General-Sleeping-amp-Settling-Chat

      There’s a fairly recent thread on this topic too: https://www.bubhub.com.au/community/forums/showthread.php?561168-Moving-toddler-from-cot-to-bed-tips

      Hope this helps. Take care xx

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