When and how to transition a toddler from a cot to a bed
Speak to any parent and there will be an anecdote concerning the bedtime routine. Whether it’s about your little one stalling their sleep by asking what they’re up to tomorrow, venturing to the toilet a thousand times a night or telling you the exact reasons as to why they don’t need forty winks, we’ve all got a story to tell.
And while parents navigate the trials and tribulations of night-time antics, there is a lot to think about in terms of helping your child with their development. One area of which concerns when it’s time to move your toddler from their cosy cot to a ‘big bed’.
Our software training and development coordinator, Charlotte Woods, and early years sleep consultant, Jo Taylor, recently discussed what they believe is the key to a smooth sleep-fuelled transition…
As a busy parent your mind will be constantly whirring with information about potty training, food for brain development, messy play ideas, and more. And amidst the 2am online searches on ‘how to help your toddler – and you – get some sleep’, you’ll no doubt have questioned, when is the right time for your little one to graduate from a cot to a bed.
In truth, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all answer. However, the good news is it comes down to confidence. So, if you’re feeling like your child is on their way, the secret to readiness is to prepare in advance.
By looking out for certain cues and signs, and understand whereabouts you are in the journey too, you can help to determine when the perfect opportunity is to help your little one’s transition. For example:
- Might they need to use the toilet at night?
- Are they attempting to climb out the cot?
- Is the cot required for a new sibling?
- Do you feel they are emotionally and physically ready?
Once you have decided that the time is fast approaching, start to put some fundamental steps into place to prepare for this exciting stage of development. It’s about building up and instilling confidence in your child – much like you would if you’re teaching them to swim or potty train. In the same way, apply those principles, provide them with security so they can process the changes and prepare effectively for the ‘move’ in a stress-free way.
Six tips for a successful cot-to-bed transition
- Think about sleep habits
Make sure they can self-soothe and keep sleep prompts consistent – such as white noise, a comforter or familiar song.
- Create a safe environment
Check your child’s bedroom for anything unsafe. Ensure windows can’t be opened or climbed out of and consider using a stairgate.
- Establish a bedtime routine
Maintain what works, such as a short bath, stories, and cuddles – these all help to make the experience more familiar.
- Communicate changes positively
Talk to your child in age-appropriate language and use books such as: Princess Polly’s ‘My Big Girl Bed’ and Pirate Pete’s ‘My Big Boy Bed’.
- Prepare the sleep space
Get your toddler involved – from choosing covers together to personalising their bedframes with stickers. Think about photos of loved ones and a night light, too.
- Pre-empt bedtime requests
Making their favourite meal before bed or introducing water in a beaker on the bedside table – these all help to settle. If they need nappy or pyjama changes too, have everything ready so you can handle with minimum fuss.
What expectations you should set for your toddler… and yourself
This is an exciting phase in your little one’s development, and by reminding them that they’re going to be sleeping in a big bed – and that you’re looking forward to seeing how well they can do it by themselves – gives them a sense of responsibility.
If your child is more sensitive, it’s vital to use a positive, upbeat tone of voice that will help to convey belief too because they’re looking to you for reassurance. If you’re confident they can do it, they hopefully will be too!
Throughout the transition, the main thing is to be consistent. If your child decides to ‘exploit’ their new-found freedom, gently take them by the hand and return them to bed. We know this can be difficult when you’re on your tenth trip back to their room, but maintaining the message that it’s important they try to stay in their own bed and sleep, can really pay dividends for you both.