When should I move my toddler into a bed?

Sleep Success: 19 months to 4 years

Moving your toddler from cot to bed can feel like a daunting prospect, but it needn’t be. Follow our tips to make it easier on both of you.

When is the right time to move them? First and foremost, we need to think about safety. If your little one has learned how to climb out of their cot, it is probably time to move them out. I do prefer to leave them in their cots as long as possible, but once the cot becomes a safety risk it’s time for change.

Are they still using a sleeping bag? If not, then it can be a good option to start using one which will limit their ability to climb over the side of the cot. If your little one is otherwise happy I would leave them in their cot until they are too big for it. There is really no rush to move them into a bed. 

If you are planning the move from cot to bed in the hope it is going to improve sleep, I would hold off. Work on sleep first, and move them later. Their new found freedom can really throw a spanner in the works for some. 

Moving them into a bed can cause your toddler to test boundaries so it is good to do it at an age where you can explain the process to them, telling them what is going on and what is expected of them. 

I don’t advice moving to a bed before two years of age at the earliest, unless you have safety concerns from climbing. Ideally, we hold out for as long as your little one is comfortable in their cot for,. Some stay there happily until they are 3 years old. The older they are when they move to a bed, the smoother the transition can be. They have a greater understanding of the change that is happening and are more likely to stay in their bed when it is sleep time than younger children with less developed impulse control.  

Some families plan to move their toddler to a bed as they need the cot for a new baby – I would think carefully about this. Is it really essential and does the baby need the cot right now? Too much change at once can be disruptive. Let them get used to the idea of a new baby first. I would do it a couple of months before baby arrives, or a few months afterwards, once they have got used to a new family dynamic. 

How can you approach the transition?

1. Keep everything as ‘samey’ as possible. Same bedtime routine, even the same position for the bed as the cot was in before. Give them their usual comforter or teddy.  

2. Secure the room – make sure anything that is a potential hazard has been moved or is out of reach. Lamps, medicine, roller blinds etc. It might be time to think about a stair gate if you don’t already have one. It doesn’t necessarily need to be on their door but perhaps to the top of the stairs, or so that they can’t access the bathroom.

3. Duvets – you can introduce these in advance so that their bedding is familiar. I also like to encourage them to pull it up themselves, as they are likely to kick it off when they aren’t used to it.

4. bedtime boundaries – if your little one is used to falling asleep independently then try to stick to your normal bedtime goodnight routine. If they get out of bed then stay super calm and consistent in your approach. Return them to bed with minimal fuss and say goodnight. Of course, if you usually sit with your child, you can continue to do so. If it feels like it’s turning into a bit of a game, I would consider thinking about a sleep strategy to work on this. 

Bear in mind that their new bed might be higher or feel very open compared to their cot, so you might want to consider using a foam wedge or bed guard to stop them rolling out. You can choose not to use a barrier and simply ensure the floor around the bed is clear and safe, you can even pile cushions there if you are worried, they might roll out of bed.  

The key to a smooth transition is staying cool, calm and consistent. 

If you are struggling with your little one’s sleep do check out our online courses and free resources.

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