Every baby is different and develops at their own pace. Some are snugglers, who love the comfort and security of their cot. Others are adventurers, who like to climb, explore, and can’t be contained. But as a parent, you’ll instinctively know when your little one is ready to make the transition out of their cot and into a proper bed.
In our case, we did it when our eldest Teddy was around two.
He’d managed to climb out of his cot a few times before. Always after he woke up in the morning or at the end of a nap. But after falling and hurting himself on more than one occasion, it didn’t become a regular thing.
Then all of a sudden, out of nowhere, something changed. He dropped his afternoon snooze and started climbing out of his cot every nap time and every bed time, without fail. To play with his toys, run around his room, or climb onto his changing table and switch on the light. Just generally getting up to no good. All part of the baby to toddler transition we were expecting, but hoping to delay as long as possible.
But once a toddler gets that adventurous streak, there’s no turning back. For their own safety, it’s time to make the big transition from cot to bed.
It wasn’t easy. And required careful planning and a lot of patience. But after around a month, he’s now properly settled in his big boy bed and loves it more than anything.
So, to help out any other parents who are entering this stage, I thought I’d share our tips for how we did it. Plus, because every baby is different, I’ve also included a load of other ideas and recommendations that other parents gave us when we started the transition. Hope you find it useful!
If, like us, you’re doing the transition from cot to bed once your toddler is around two, then they’re old enough to say goodbye to their baby sleeping bags and move onto a more grown up pillow and duvet combo.
So, before you upend their sleeping arrangements completely, I’d strongly recommend getting them used to sleeping with the pillow and duvet first.
Make it exciting. Tell them how this is something special only big boys and girls get. Talk about it during the day (not just at bedtime). Show them how to get comfy and tuck themselves in. They’ll very quickly get with the programme and it will make the next transition much smoother.
Choosing the right bed and mattress
If you have a cot with removable bars, then obviously you just remove the side panel and, voila. You have a safe cot bed!
But if your toddler is already outgrowing it. Or, like us, you need to use their old cot for your next baby, then it’s time to invest in a proper bed and mattress for your toddler. If so, there are a few things to consider:
Avoid divan beds – they’re generally too high off the ground, so hard for toddlers to climb back into bed once they climb off it.
I wouldn’t bother buying a special low-to-the-ground ‘toddler bed’ either. They’ll soon grow out of it, so it’s much better to invest in a proper adult bed that they can have for years to come.
We bought this lovely old sleigh bed on eBay – it’s lower to the ground than a divan (so Teddy can climb in and out of it easily) and it has enough space underneath for storage boxes to keep his winter wardrobe.
And make sure you buy a new mattress rather than reusing an old one you might already have. Old/well-loved mattresses can sag in the middle (especially if adults have slept on it previously) which could be dangerous for little people.
We were given one from Simba, the online mattress retailer, which has been perfect. Firm yet comfy, with a responsive memory foam topper and not too thick, so easy for a toddler to climb back into bed after a little explore. Plus, like all Simba mattresses you get free delivery and a 100 night sleep trial, so you can return it no problem if you decide it’s not quite right.
And finally, if you’re in the market for one, you can get £75 off the price by using my discount link here! (Affiliate link)
Getting through the ‘floor phase’
Once we moved Teddy out of his cot, we expected him to take advantage of his new found freedom to play with his toys or read his books, when he really should be going to sleep.
We assumed though that after having his fun, he would go back to his comfy mattress and teddies when he got tired. But this didn’t happen! Instead, he would kneel down at the foot of his bedroom door, curl up into a ball and go to sleep face-planted on the carpet! On one occasion, he even put his changing mat on the floor and slept on that instead!
We thought this was all really odd but after asking other parents on Instagram, it turns out it’s just a phase and is completely normal!
So long as they are safe and comfortable enough to fall asleep, there’s nothing to worry about.
Just quietly go into their room, and move them back into their bed. And if they wake up, don’t let on that they are doing anything strange or wrong (it’s more likely to encourage the behaviour rather than prevent it).
In a few weeks, the novelty will wear off, they’ll realise that their bed is far more comfortable and the floor sleeping will stop.
Repetition, repetition, repetition
It’s totally normal for a toddler to test the boundaries once you change their usual bedtime routine. So, by all means, let them explore their room a little after you put them down (just make sure it’s safe for them to play safely on their own).
But if you notice that your toddler is spending ages out of bed after you’ve put them down, either running around causing havoc or just playing, it’s time to bring out your inner Supernanny.
Don’t burst into their room and crossly order them back into bed. Just enter calmly, without saying a word. Lead them back to their bed and get them to climb back in themselves. Then tuck them in and leave. The key thing here is not to talk or scold them. Just calmly lead them back to where they should be.
If you have a baby camera, keep an eye on what they do next. If you don’t, just listen by the door for the inevitable thump when they get out of bed again.
If so, just repeat the steps above, calmly entering their room, without engaging, and leading them back to bed. It may take a while before they get the message, but it will get through to them eventually.
Rolling out of bed
If your toddler is an active sleeper, then there’s always a risk that they might fall out of bed and hurt themselves in the middle of the night. Obviously not an ideal situation, but one that can be easily avoided by installing a guard rail on the side of their bed.
You can get ones that attach to the bed frame itself, or more portable versions that slide under the mattress in a kind of L shape. Either way, they won’t stop an adventurous toddler from climbing out, but they should prevent any unwanted bumps in the night.
Alternative idea: Put a beanbag or some soft cushions by the side of the bed to protect their fall in case they roll out in the middle of the night. Also acts as a little nest for them to sleep on if they can’t find their way back into bed in the dark.
Escaping the bedroom altogether
We didn’t have this problem ourselves, as luckily the latch to Teddy’s bedroom door is out of reach. But if their door handle is within toddler reaching distance, you may occasionally find they make a run for it, venture downstairs to find you or come into your room in the middle of the night.
To combat this, a lot of parents recommended installing a baby gate on your toddler’s door frame. It won’t stop them opening their door. And if you have a real climber on your hands, they may still escape occasionally. But it will act as an extra obstacle, which will eventually discourage them from leaving their room.
Waking up ridiculously early
Thankfully our Teddy is a pretty late riser (usually), but if your toddler is prone to waking up ridiculously early, there are a couple of things that other parents have recommended, to encourage early risers to stay in bed for longer each morning…
Introduce the ‘Sleep Fairy’ – a magical creature who leaves little treats outside their bedroom door every time they stay in bed until mummy or daddy collect them in the morning!
Get a Groclock – a clever (and highly recommended) sleep training device, which uses images of stars and the sun to communicate ‘sleep’ and ‘wake-up’ time. When the Groclock is blue and the stars are showing, it means they have to stay in bed. But when the Groclock turns yellow and the sun comes up, they can get up to play! We don’t have one ourselves but everyone who has one swears by them.
And that’s it!
If you’re just getting to this toddler transition stage now, I hope you find these tips useful. Just remember, it’ll probably take a few weeks for everything to settle down, but they’ll soon realise a bed is far more comfortable for the night than the floor!
And if you have any questions, or even other tips or recommendations for transitioning a toddler from a cot to a bed, do let us know in the comments section below.