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How to move a toddler from cot to bed

Toddler girl transition from cot to big bedThere are many reasons for moving a toddler from a cot to a ‘big bed’ –  a new baby, safety concerns, toilet training – and usually a toddler can make the transition any time after the age of 15-18 months onwards.

There are of course, circumstances that would require moving a toddler to a bed earlier, but in general, at this age a toddler’s brain is developed enough to be able to understand and process instruction.

Moving a toddler from a cot to a bed

3 reasons to move from a cot to a bed

  1. Child has outgrown the cot. Moving your toddler to a ‘big bed’ tends to happen when parents feel their child has outgrown the cot. 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.
  2. Safety is yet another good reason for moving to a bed. When a child tries to climb out of the cot, you cannot leave him alone within the confines of a cot. It may not be the right age, but the alternative is better than an injury. You want to ensure your child is in a safe and comfortable sleeping environment.
  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, here are a few safety guidelines to follow:

  • Use a guard or rail around the bed frame initially to prevent from rolling off during the night.
  • 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 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.
  • Also, keep curtain/blind cords that could cause strangulation injuries, away and out of reach.
  • 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.

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 etc to come and see the new ‘Big Boy/Girl Bed’.
  • If your child has a comforter or bedtime toy, 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 and arrange the bedding and toys as they please to feel more comfortable and secure.
  • 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 its 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. Be certain to reward at the time of any good behaviour, like when getting into the bed themselves.
  • 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 your comforter in the child’s bed so it’s ready and waiting
  5. Make sure that the room is safe
  6. Make sure the outdoor area is safe as your toddler will be able to get out of the bed

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3 comments so far -

  1. 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.

  2. 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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