Moving from the cot to the big bed

cot transition

“When should I move my toddler from the cot to a bed? Is there an ideal time?” This is a question I get asked A LOT! Parents do get excited, naturally, about moving their little one to the next stage, from cot to big bed. But how do you know when is the right time? What are the things you need to consider? The answer is that there is a right time and rushing this transition can lead to erratic bedtimes, broken sleep, nap protesting and early mornings. None of which sounds very appealing, am I right? So here’s what you need to know… In a nutshell, aim to delay this transition for as long as possible. Toddlers have absolutely no impulse control and moving them into a big bed too early can be a recipe for disaster. I generally recommend waiting until 3 years of age when they will be better at staying in bed. Often parents will move their toddler to a big bed if they are expecting another baby. They feel that they are being organised and freeing up the cot in readiness for baby number two. This often means that toddlers are moved when they are still very young. In this scenario often parents forget that the cot provides a physical barrier for their toddler. When we take away that physical barrier, they are not mature enough, nor can we expect them to be, to stay in their beds. Once they work out that they can easily get out and come and chat to you, believe me, they will! And I mean at any time of the night, for all different reasons. So, don’t rush it….. A couple of other things to consider I recommend you keep using a sleeping bag for your toddler for as long as possible. Sleeping bags make it harder for a toddler to try and climb out and are a great deterrent. Also, it is important to remember that not all cots are the same. Some of them, on their lowest level, are not very low at all! This can mean that the usability timeframe of the cot is shorter because your growing toddler will be able to easily climb out of it sooner than you would ideally like. In these situations I recommend getting a bit handy and actually removing the slats and dropping the cot mattress right down and putting it on the floor. Yes, it may look a little silly, but it can buy you six months more cot time, especially with a tall toddler. Reasons for moving your child to a bed It might be time for your child to move to a bed if:

  • Your child has started climbing out of the cot. Anytime you see your little one trying to get that leg over the top railing, you’ve got a climber on your hands and for safety reasons you need to move them.
  • Your toddler has begun toilet training and you want them to be able to walk easily to the toilet.
  • You have a new baby who needs the cot.
  • You’ve been co-sleeping and have decided to move your child out of your bed and into their own bed.

Bedroom Safety  Another important consideration is that once you move your toddler to their big bed, they will be able to get out of bed anytime, wander around their bedroom and do anything they want. Therefore it's super important to make their bedroom safe. A safety check of the bedroom will help to prevent accidents. For example:

  • Install safety locks on windows, and make sure that they don’t open wide enough for your toddler to be able to climb out.
  • Make sure all curtain and blind cords are safe and attached to a wall and keep hanging mobiles out of your child’s reach.Use powerpoint covers. Ensure electrical appliances like heaters meet Australian safety standards.
  • Bookshelves or any heavy furniture that a child could easily pull down onto themselves needs to be attached to the wall with brackets.
  • Keep choking hazards and anything poisonous out of the bedroom – for example, massage oil, medicines, cleaning fluids or small objects like batteries and coins.
  • Take away anything your child could climb on, like chairs and ladders.
  • Think about installing a safety gate in the doorway of your child’s room. Or you could shut the door at night, as long as you can still hear them. Otherwise you’ll need to make sure the rest of the house is safe for your child as well, in case they get up during the night.

Settling into the new bed Moving your child from a cot to a bed is exciting. You can foster this sense of excitement by making it a positive time for them. Tell tell them how proud of them you are and remind them that they are now such a big girl/boy and ready for their big bed! Letting them help set up the big bed is always a fun way to get them invested in the change. Allow them to help select the new doona cover and pillow etc (take them shopping with you to pick it out) and perhaps let them have one of their blankets from their cot to take over as well. Many big beds will need to have a safety rail for a while, just to stop your child falling out of bed. If this is something you are concerned about, just switch them to a mattress on the floor for a few months so at least if they roll off the mattress they will not hurt themselves. Ultimately children feel happier if they are allowed to be involved in the move, and are encouraged to be proud of this exciting transition. It’s a fun step towards your child being a big kid! Enjoy this exciting new chapter!


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