While there is no ‘right’ age for moving your child into his or her own big kid bed, there does come a point where it’s simply necessary for one reason or another. The appropriate time is different for each family, depending on their sleeping arrangements and what’s comfortable for the family and the child.
Timing is Everything. Moving into a big kid bed is a big transition for a young child. While exciting, it can also be scary and overwhelming. The move has to happen when everything else in the child’s life is consistent. Do not do it if the child is experiencing another major change at the same time. If he/she is potty training, weaning from nursing or a bottle, or starting school or daycare, wait until the child is comfortable with that transition first. If the move to the bed is coming because a new baby is expected, do the move months before the baby comes.
Continue with your bedtime routine. If you don’t have a routine, now is the time to set one up. For ideas on what this routine should include, you can see Bed-Time Tips for your Child.
Let your child be involved in the process. When a child is involved, it gives him ownership over the situation and allows him to feel that he is part of the decision. This can mean letting him pick out the bed, the comforter or a pillow cover and perhaps a stuffed animal to keep on the bed to snuggle with.
Talk about it. Start the big kid bed conversation a couple of weeks before the actual move. Start talking about other family members or friends who sleep in big kid beds. Get some children books, such as Your Own Big Bed and A Bed of Your Own to read together.
Expect that it will take some time. Chances are that your child won’t just go into his new bed and sleep through the night right away and that’s okay. Give him positive encouragement just for staying in it however long he does, even if it’s only a minute. Then remind the child he has to stay in his own bed. It make take a week or two before he/she is comfortable enough to stay put.
Stay with your child. You want your child to feel safe. The first few nights, get in bed and cuddle until he/she falls asleep. Then gently walk away once the child is asleep. If he/she wakes, go back in and cuddle. After a few days, if you decide that cuddling is not to be part of the bedtime routine, you can stay by the door to reassure your child you are still there, spending less time at the door each night.