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8 Tips for the Crib to Bed Transition

Updated: Nov 6, 2023

This one is on the horizon at my house... I figured it's the perfect time to write about it and share our plan.

For the record, I'm planning to do exactly as I advise my clients as we make this transition with my son in the next few weeks. From his crib to a bed. I might be tearing up as I type this - what happened to my baby?!

He's now 3 years and 2 months old as we speak, and is outgrowing his crib. He recently had a growth spurt and it's time for us to make this transition. These reasons, along with any crib jumping (although there are ways to try to nip that), are valid reasons to move from the crib to a bed.


Again, here are the reasons you might consider it:

  1. They're climbing or jumping out and you've exhausted all measures to keep them in safely.

  2. They've reached the height limit for the crib, per the crib manufacturer.

  3. They're older than 3-years-old and have the self-regulation to actually stay in their bed.

Got that?? Good!

So, here are my tips for making the crib to bed transition as smooth as possible:

1. Help your child learn the skill of independent sleep before leaving the crib behind.

If your child isn't yet an independent sleeper and you take away the physical boundaries of a crib, I'm here to tell you that things are about to get a lot more difficult.

Teaching your child to sleep independently before you give them a bit more freedom is going to help set them up for success. So, yes, in some cases this might mean you need to sleep train.

Trust me, it's a lot easier to help your child learn this skill while they're still in their crib. If you don't have the luxury of sleep training with a crib (because of any of the 3 reasons listed above) it is still possible to sleep train, but will likely take a bit longer as your child learns their new boundaries and expectations around bedtime and sleep.

2. Implement the use of a toddler clock before leaving the crib behind.

Start cueing your child that certain colors or sounds on their light (or numbers on their clock) mean different things when it comes to sleep.

For example, we use the Hatch Rest clock and sound machine with both of our boys.

  • yellow light = bedtime routine

  • red light + white noise = time for kisses, cuddles, prayers, and time to get in bed

  • no light + white noise = time for sleep!

  • rainbow light + birds chirping = it's okay to be awake, quietly playing in your room until mom or dad comes to get you (or green light comes on = it's okay to come out of your room)

We already use some of these cues, so when he's in a bed that won't also be new for him, helping to make the transition a bit easier.

3. Talk about the transition with your child A LOT before it happens.

In general, children thrive when they know what to expect.

We've been talking about moving him to a bed for a while now, but haven't pulled the trigger. We've even asked his opinion. I mean, this boy LOVES HIS CRIB, and until recently, he wanted nothing to do with a big bed.

Now that he's warmed up to the idea, and even excited about it, we will talk more about our expectations for this new freedom before it even gets set up.

You cannot foreshadow enough when it comes to changes for your child.


I know you probably already have outlet covers on and cords out of reach, but now it's time to make sure all the furniture is anchored to the walls as well. Put safety gates in place if needed so that your child isn't roaming the house unmonitored in the middle of the night.

5. Include your child in the process of picking out the bed and bedding.

Having your child take ownership in this process is key in getting them "on board" with the idea of leaving their crib behind and getting excited about a new, big-kid bed!

Children always do better when they have choices and feel somewhat in control of their life. Offering choices with their bed (within reason!) and bedding should be no different.

I'm willing to bet that Bram will probably pick out some bedding with cars or trucks on it!

6. Maybe include your child in the process of setting up the bed.

Most kids are super into helping with any and every task. This is no different, and again, will help them take ownership of this new transition.

7. Write a social story that features your child and goes over all your sleep expectations.

Okay, this is probably the best tip of all. A social story is basically a story written (or told with photos) specifically for your child that highlights a process - in this case, the new bedtime routine and expectations with the new bed.

So, the day we get everything ready (it's best if you can have this done in advance), I will snap some photos of Bram acting out his bedtime routine with his new bed. There will be photos of...

  • cleaning up toys from the day

  • the yellow light

  • getting washed up in the bathroom

  • putting on pajamas

  • brushing teeth

  • reading books (on his new bed!)

  • the red light

  • giving cuddles, hugs, and kisses

  • saying prayers

  • light off

  • rainbow light on/green light on

  • waving good morning with a big smile

I'll probably just print them and put them in a photo album from the dollar store. Then, before every naptime and bedtime, we will go through the "story" together and talk about the expectations of bedtime and nighttime. We will do this prior to every sleep until it's a newly solidified skill. Then it'll be added to the bookshelf and will be optional.

8. Possibly use a reward chart for a few days/weeks until they get the hang of it.

I honestly don't *think* I'll have to use a reward chart with Bram - he loves to sleep, is a very good listener, and doesn't really test my boundaries in this area at all. His brother, however, is probably going to be a different story!

If you think your child is going to need one (IYKYK), start with it right away. Choose a highly desirable reward for preferred behaviors.

Reward charts can be phased out over time, but remember positive reinforcement yields positive results - it's a great way to implement and reinforce any new behavior. Snag our free bedtime reward chart for toddlers and preschoolers here!

Wish us luck!

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