Q. When is the best time to transition a child to a toddler bed?
A. "We don't like to do it before 21/2," says Jennifer Waldburger, a social worker and co-author of "The Sleepeasy Solution" book and DVD. That's because a child needs two qualities: enough language to understand the rules and expectations of bedtime, and impulse control. "Once you're in a bed, you have a lot of freedom to get up and down," Waldburger says. But make the change earlier if your child is climbing out of the crib or is too big for it.
Ideally, skip the toddler bed and transition to a regular twin box spring and mattress placed on the floor, Waldburger recommends. Push it into a corner so it's closed off on one long wall and one short one. Then, place a safety rail on the other long side. Let your toddler pick fun new sheets to put on it. Get him a new stuffed bear or dog to sleep with. Take the crib down and put it away. "Don't give them a choice, it's too confusing for them," Waldburger says.
Don't call the bed a "big boy" or "big girl" bed. Kids that age are vacillating between baby and big kid and it could add to their stress. Simply call it a "new bed." And don't transition during other life changes such as the arrival of a new baby, potty training or a move to a new house.