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Transitioning your child to a big kid bed can be stressful for both you and your child. There is no one method, or any set rules on how to manage the adjustment. Making a mountain of this milestone will help both you and your child to successfully navigate this change.
Goodbye Party/Hello Party
Many children become very attached to their cribs in the same way that they do with their pacifiers or blankies. A great way to ease the transition from cribs to big kid beds is a goodbye/hello party. This is especially helpful if you are going to be setting up the crib for a new baby brother or sister. Create a countdown chart where you mark off days each morning, counting down the days until the special event. This builds their excitement and anticipation. On the day of, throw the cribs a goodbye party and the new beds a hello party. Get some balloons from the dollar store and celebrate with some cake and/or other treats. This puts the whole transition in a really happy and exciting light for your child, while at the same time providing closure and finality.
I use books to explain a lot of transitions or new adventures to my kids. There is a book for every situation that your child may experience in their life, whether it be travel, using the potty, divorce, or in this case transitioning to a big kid bed. A few weeks before, wrap the book with wrapping paper and present it to your children. Once they unwrap it make sure that you read it a few times a day until the big event. This sparks conversation about what is coming next, but it also helps to get them excited. On the day of the big transition, bring them into their room and read the book to them again while you sit together on the new beds. This will help them process their thoughts, now that the big kid bed is real, and help them understand. A few titles that I like are Big Enough for a Bed by Apple Jordan and Your Own Big Bed by Rita M. Bergstein.
Placement and Comfort Items
When at all possible make sure that you position the big kid beds in the same manner as you had the cribs. I know that this can be difficult, with room sizes and shapes, but it is important. Kids grow just as attached to sleeping on a certain side of the room and in a certain direction as they do their comfort items. When I moved my twins into big kid beds I repositioned the placement of the beds as well as all of the furniture. They were really upset. They kept telling me that it was all wrong. At first I thought that they were just upset over their cribs being gone and the new beds put in their place. It took a single sleepless night to realize that I needed to reposition everything in order for them to be comfortable again. There we were hurriedly removing wall mounts for bookcases and dressers and repositioning all of the furniture at 4 am. Let’s just say I learned my lesson the hard way. Everything was fine after that.
Just because your child is big enough for a big kid bed, does not mean that they are ready to let go of comfort items like their turtle night light, their lullaby machine, their bear, or their blanket. Make sure to include these items in the new space. The only thing that should be changing in the room is their bed.
Expect that naptime and bedtime may be different
With a big kid bed comes big kid freedom. A crib is a contained area, where a big kid bed allows your kids to move around and get in and out of bed. When my oldest transitioned from his crib I had a really hard time at first with him getting out of bed and playing or just getting out of bed for any reason. For some reasons I was locked on the belief that he had to stay there the whole time, in the same position, just like his crib. It took me awhile to stop going into his room a hundred times a day, to put him back in his bed and tell him to stay in. I realized that without my intervention he would often make his way back to his bed and go to sleep. Other times he would fall asleep on the floor with his blanket in one hand and a toy he was playing with in the other. When I would go in and intervene it would take him awhile to settle down again, and it would likely keep him awake even longer. If I just left him to his own devices he would fall asleep on his own. . .eventually. My best advice would be to not stress over this; Doing so will cause more havoc than it will help.
Take your child shopping and let them pick out a new pillow, sheet set or room decor. One of my twins is obsessed with all things Thomas the Train. He will do anything in order to get something that has Thomas on it. Allowing him to pick out a set of Thomas sheets for his bed made him not only excited to sleep in it, but territorial of his bed and space. Once those sheets went on, it was his bed and no one else’s. My oldest son skipped the sheet section entirely and decided that he wanted some glow in the dark Star Wars decals on the wall above his bed and some glow in the dark stars on his ceiling. He could only see the stars while lying in bed so it didn’t take any convincing to get him in and tucked in quickly.
Transitioning your child to a big kid bed can be difficult. No one likes change, not even adults. Celebrate this moment with a little fanfare and help both you and your child transition to this new stage of development. Doing this will save you a lot of sleepless nights and days and help facilitate a happy and seamless transition.
Destiny Effertz is a stay at home mom to 3 boys under 5. Prior to having children she worked as a paralegal in a large civil litigation firm. Now she uses those research and organizational skills formulating new pie recipes and planning family vacations.
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