Finally, they’re getting that little bit bigger, big enough to charge around the house painting the dog and hiding the TV remote, so maybe now you’ve started to relax about the night-time hours. Things should be okay from now on, right? But wait… Aarghh! When are you going to put them in a big kid’s bed?
So comes another potentially traumatic chapter in the night-time saga of raising your child. When does the cot become something that holds them back, becomes dangerous, even? And when you do come to put them in a ‘real’ bed, how do you know they are ready for the worrying amount of night-time freedom this will bestow upon them?
Frustratingly, the best answer is that every child is different. But, broadly speaking, this could happen anywhere from about 18 months to 3 years.
A good marker to think about making the change is when they become able to climb out of the cot. It could be tempting to go searching for a cot with higher sides – an ‘Alcatraz’ of toddler jails, though adding water as a means of preventing escape is definitely not on. This, however, is only really postponing the inevitable.
Seriously, though, a child able to climb out of their cot is a nasty accident waiting to happen, so this is a good time to give them something a bit lower to fall out of. There are those who would say that you should keep your child in a cot as long as possible, but if they are not scaling the sides by the age of three, it’s best to just move them anyway. There may be other circumstances that prompt going up to a big bed, other than purely the child’s ability to escape the cot. Some change, for instance, like moving house – or, even, just moving rooms – might make sense.
That said, it is important to make the transition in the best way possible, to make it as comfortable and stress-free for your child as you can. So it’s probably a judgement call as to whether moving them at a time of change will cause it to be more stressful, or not.
There are differing opinions out there on whether the move should be gradual or swift, whether it should be a ‘big deal’, or not, and you as the parent know your child best. One thing that is generally agreed upon is trying to buy a bed that is as low to the ground as possible. This has benefits which could be called both ‘psychological’ and ‘physical’.
It might be nice to buy the bed a while before the move. Let the child be aware of the bed’s presence, maybe they could take some naps there to try it out. But do be as positive as possible, do not let your (understandable) worries transfer onto your child. After all, you’re not the one who has to sleep in the thing.
Above all, though: This is super, super important, and I’m sure you’ve already thought of it but, heck, let’s just say it anyway… Make their new environment as safe as possible. They will have potential new freedom at a time when you will be less able to monitor them. A stair gate across the door is an obvious one, but look at the room and see what other hazards are now accessible to them. For more information on that, you can read our other blog article on accidents in the home and how you prevent them.