By Raising Children Network
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Toddler tucked into bed

Moving to a big bed is an exciting step for your child – but there’s no hurry. Here are some tips to help your child make the move, when you’re both ready.

Most children move from a cot to a regular bed sometime between 2 and 3½ years. But there’s no hurry. There are even one or two advantages to leaving children in a cot if they’re happy there. Sometimes the shift to a bed brings a few new bedtime battles, and you might want to choose when you deal with these.

Children younger than two can become trapped between an big bed and the wall. This could cause suffocation, so it’s safer to wait until children are over two before moving them to a big bed.

Some reasons for moving to a big bed

  • Your child might have started climbing out of the cot.
  • If your child is toilet training, you might want your child to be able to get to the toilet easily during the night.
  • You might have a new baby who needs the cot.
  • You might have decided to move your child out of your bed and into a big bed.

If you’re moving your child into a big bed to free the cot for a new baby, try to move your child either a few months before the baby is born or when the baby is a couple of months old. This way your child won’t feel that the move is because of the new baby, which could cause resentment towards your child’s new brother or sister.

Making the bedroom safe

When children move from a cot into a big bed, they can also get out of bed more easily. This means they can do whatever they want in their bedrooms.

A safety check of the bedroom will help to prevent accidents. Things to check include:

  • windows that open to the outside – if your child’s bedroom is on an upper level, climbing out could cause a serious injury. Install safety locks so the window can be opened only a little, and make sure the gap is not big enough for your child to climb through
  • curtain and blind cords – these could strangle your child
  • electrical appliances and heaters
  • stairways – you can fit child-safety guards so your child doesn’t fall down the stairs in the dark or when drowsy.

Helping your child settle in

Here are some tips for making a successful transition from cot to bed.

  • Tell your child how proud you are. After all, moving into a bed is an exciting step towards being an independent grown-up!
  • Tell your child all about the plans to set up the new bed – and make sure he knows it’ll be fun!
  • You could get your child to help you set up the new bed. If it seems like a fun idea, take her shopping to choose the bed or bedding. Let her watch while you move the furniture in the bedroom. Children feel happier if they’ve had a say in the move too.
  • Why not throw a big-bed party and celebrate the move to the big bed?

Using a new ‘big bed’ routine

Moving your child into a big bed can be unsettling. A new bedtime routine might ease the transition.

  • Have ‘quiet time’ before bed. Pack away toys and prepare the bedroom as a place of quiet rest, rather than somewhere exciting.
  • Encourage your child to climb into bed if possible. Also, when children can pull up their own bedcovers and arrange soft toys and pillows the way they want, they sometimes feel more settled. Pillows are still dangerous for children under two, as they’re a suffocation risk.
  • Let your child take a blanket from the old cot – this might help him feel more secure and comfortable.
  • Say goodnight. Tell your child what you expect and what’s going to happen next. Say something clear and positive like, ‘It’s time to go to sleep – see you in the morning!’ This can make bedtime seem less scary.

Dealing with coming out of the bedroom

  • Immediately help your child back to bed.
  • Say, ‘It’s time to go to bed – see you in the morning’. Then leave the room.
  • Repeat this process until your child stays in bed or settles.
Read our article on calling out and getting out of bed for more tips if getting out of bed becomes a consistent habit.
  • Last updated or reviewed 24-02-2010