It’s another milestone that’ll test your patience, but transitioning from crib to bed doesn’t have to be that daunting.

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Having sleep-trained their son William since he was 7 months to sleep through the night, Catherine Chan, 34, and Victor Tan, 38, have pretty much forgotten what sleep deprivation feels like as the enjoy 12 hours of sleep every night.

However, they are now facing a dilemma with their almost 2½-year-old son ― because William has gotten so used to a bedtime routine that sees him sleeping independently in his crib, Chan isn’t quite sure how or when to transition her son to a big-boy bed.

She notes, “He hasn’t shown any interest in trying to climb out of his bed ― I think he rather enjoys the cosy feeling of his crib!”

Chan knows that at some point they will have to make the transition, but they’re afraid that if they do it too soon, it might raise the spectre of bedtime battles. “However if we wait too long, he might get used to sleeping in a crib, which makes the transition even harder,” Tan says.

Before you make the transition…

While most kids begin moving to a toddler bed sometime between the ages of 2½ and 3 years, there’s really no hard and fast rule on when the best time is, experts say. It may sound natural to you because you’ve been doing it for years, but sleeping in a big bed is a huge milestone for your mini-me and can result in a whole host of new night-time behaviour.

Don’t schedule his move to a big bed together with other major milestones, such as potty training, starting preschool, moving to a new house or the arrival of a sibling.

Since the new bed won’t have any railings, your sweetie is bound to savour and test his new-found freedom. He could start getting out of bed multiple times and even wander around at night when everyone is asleep, which is unsafe for him. Not sure how to go about falling asleep in a new bed can also cause your kiddo to feel insecure, increasing his neediness, which might ― shudder ― bring him right back into your bed!

Don’t schedule his move to a big bed together with other major milestones, such as potty training, starting preschool, moving to a new house or the arrival of a sibling. If junior can’t handle all that pressure, it could backfire on you ― he might end up being extra difficult and clingy. Also, if you’re moving him to make space for a new arrival, he might feel abandoned and he could end up resenting his sibling. If you do need to free up the crib for a new baby, make the bed transition at least eight weeks before the arrival of the latest addition to the household. Otherwise, get another crib for the newborn.

Also, keep in mind that if the transition is resulting in a lot of challenges and meltdowns, it’s wise to take a step back and start at a later date. Some kids are just not mentally ready for such a big step, even if, age-wise, they are meant to be. If your once great sleeper is suddenly taking a long time to drop off or is constantly getting out of bed at odd times during the night, then you may have to re-evaluate if he’s really ready. Just make sure you don’t punish him for it, or call him a baby for returning to the crib, even though he’s taking a developmental step back.

Signs that’ll show that your sweetie is ready to make the big move…

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One big sign that your toddler is NOT ready

One of the most common mistakes parents make is moving a very young child, usually just past a year old, to a big bed because he tries to climb out of his crib.

Experts say it’s normal for young kids to try to climb out of their crib, but if you use this as a reason to move them to a less-restrictive bed, it will only encourage them to jump out of the bed more often. If you have a little escape artist, use a sleep sack to prevent him from lifting his legs over the crib. If he’s figured out how to undress himself, get sleep sacks that zip from the back.

You can also keep a camera in his room ― when you do see him attempting his big escape, go in and use a firm “no” each time to signal to him that he shouldn’t be doing it. Do it consistently, so that he’ll get the idea.

Signs your tot is ready to sleep in a toddler bed

It’s not enough to use age to figure out if your little fella is ready for his own bed. All kids reach milestones at different phases, so what worked for your friend’s child may not necessarily work for yours. Let your little one lead the way ― decode signs that he’s ready…

1) Able to understand “imaginary” boundaries
Crib railings are a clear boundary, so is junior able to comprehend that he’s supposed to stay put when the big bed doesn’t have any? It takes a certain amount of cognitive development for your child to understand imaginary boundaries. See if he applies the same concept to other activities that require imaginary boundaries. “We knew Liam might be ready for a big bed when he started understanding that he had to look for any moving cars before walking into a carpark and standing a few feet away from the lift until it opens,” says mum Cynthia Pereira.

Whatever the scenario, once your sweetie starts dissing his sacred snooze space, it might be time for an upgrade.

2) Enjoys coming into your bed
Nothing more fun than a lazy loll in the family bed with all the kiddos on weekend mornings. So, if your kewpie starts asking for his own bolster, pillow and blanket and enjoys using them when he’s in your bed, then it might be time for a transition.

3) Disliking his crib
He might cry or fuss when you put him in the crib or talk about how his friends in school or a cousin has a cool race-car bed that he covets. Whatever the scenario, once your sweetie starts dissing his sacred snooze space, it might be time for an upgrade.

4) The crib is getting too snug
No clearer sign than this, for sure! If junior is literally outgrowing his crib and has to contort his body into uncomfortable-looking positions in order to fit, it’s a sure-fire sign that you should be shopping for a new bed.

Four ways to ease your young ’un into his new big bed, coming right up!

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Making a successful transition

Once you’ve decided that the time is right, manage your expectations. The transition won’t happen overnight, so keep in mind that entire thing is process and get set to lose some shut-eye. Here are simple ways to kick it off:

Decide on the bed You have many choices. Some parents may decide to just place a mattress on the floor, to prevent junior from rolling off the bed. Some may not want to invest in a new bed, lest junior doesn’t take to it, while others will be eager to spring for the trendiest one in the hope that their little one is more likely to sleep on it if it looks attractive it is. And since many cribs these days actually transform into a toddler bed, check it has this feature before you buy. You might also want to invest in one with a guardrail to prevent your peewee from falling out (and waking up in the process).

Let junior help It’s good to get your kiddo involved ― whether it’s picking out the new bed or accessories like pillows and bedsheets ― so that the transition doesn’t seem too alien to him. Joan Lim, 36, did just that when she moved her elder son, Jaden, at age 4, to a big-boy bed “He picked out his favourite super-hero bed sheets and a night light for the room,” she says. If time and money permit, you may even want to spruce up junior’s room. Get him to help you paint the walls and personalise it with his favourite stickers or accessories.

Since the bed is something new, sticking to the status quo for the rest of junior’s bedtime schedule will help him adapt better.

Keep everything else consistent If you’ve always depended on a bedtime routine ― bath, book and a drink of water ― to get your cutie off to bed (kudos, by the way!), then continue doing so. Little ones thrive on knowing what’s about to happen as it gives them a sense of security. And it’s the reason why everything goes haywire when a spanner is thrown into the works (aka their normal routine). Since the bed is something new, sticking to the status quo for the rest of junior’s bedtime schedule will help him adapt better.

Expect “off” nights Just because he slept in his new bed the first night doesn’t mean he will the following night. Yes, the bright red race-car bed might be really fun for the first few days, but once the novelty wears off, you might find your wee one snuggled up to you with his feet on your face at 2am ( how did he get there?!). The most effective thing you can do in such a scenario is to be consistent, experts say. Gently, but firmly, take him back to him bed and tell him that’s where he has to sleep for the night. Don’t leave him alone if he starts to cry, but don’t end up lying there while he dozes off either. You’re just starting a different kind of dependency.

Whether your wee one warms up to his new bed instantly or takes a while, it’s important for you to know that he’s taking a big step forward in his development. Give him as much love, support and patience as you can in his journey towards being a more independent individual. Once he’s mastered it, he will feel a real sense of pride and accomplishment ― and it will be so worth it!

Photos: iStock

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