When to move your toddler from a cot to a bed

First of all, this is not something that you need to rush! Please don’t try the big bed because you are expecting a baby soon. It is much better to buy or borrow a second cot than be faced with problems that have popped up because you tried things a bit too early. We really want to hold off until 2.5-3 years of age if possible as this is when your child will have much better impulse control and will be more likely to STAY in bed!
Please note that sometimes we do need to move from a cot to a bed earlier if there are safety issues, like your wee monkey climbing out repeatedly. If you do have to move to a bed earlier than planned, you may have problems with keeping them in bed and it is best to strip the bedroom of anything that they could climb, pull or play with – the room may look a bit naked for a few months! And you may find that they fall asleep on the floor but keep replacing them in bed and they will eventually stay there by themselves. To prepare for the move, try to get your child involved with the set up. This creates a sense of ownership for them that will help them to be more accepting of the change. They could help with things like:
  • Moving the bed in and where it will go
  • Choosing a duvet cover
  • Putting the new sheets on the bed
You can try some role play with a favourite toy – say goodnight and pop the toy into the big bed before leaving the room so that the toy can sleep. Talk with your child outside of the room about how clever the toy is to be sleeping in the big bed, how good they are at staying in bed and being quiet. You could mention how clever they are and what a big boy or girl the toy is or I think they really like the big bed! You can then wake the toy up and shower it in praise for staying in bed, lying down etc and mention how great the big bed is. To prevent falls, there are a number of different options. You can pop a pool noodle under the fitted sheet to create a lip on the edge of the bed or some pillows under the edge of the mattress so that there is an incline. You can also put a mattress on the floor in case they fall out. There are safety bars available to buy that attach to the bed if needed. If your child does fall out, don’t make a big deal of it. Just keep things calm, maybe offer a cuddle if they are a little upset or surprised and then pop them back into bed. The calmer you are, then the calmer and more accepting they will be so lead by example. If your child comes out of the room by themselves and things start to turn into a game of cat and mouse, then take them back to bed with little or no talking. We really want to avoid the chance for excuses, arguments or games and we want to keep stimulation low. They are clever wee things and some will try anything to get your attention or some sort of interaction! Make sure you have clear boundaries, that they know the expectations and be consistent. Even if you have to take them back to bed 100 times, hang in there and this should decrease over a few nights. Read Tips for Tackling Toddler Sleep for more suggestions and advice. And if things really start to fall apart, then we have lots of behavioural techniques and settling strategies available that we can tailor to your child. Just give me a call or visit

Samantha Krukerink
Certified infant and child sleep consultant

Ph: 021 129 0129

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