Moms, I’m sure you’ve seen those YouTube videos of ingenious toddlers
scaling the bars of their cots in gymnastic bids for freedom. Adorable as these
pint-sized Houdinis may be, once a toddler gets the hang of flying the coop,
it’s time to deal with yet another childhood milestone: the move to a big bed.
Even if your toddler hasn’t yet risked
a nasty fall in his or her quest to ‘escape’, a big bed might still be
necessary if the cot is becoming too small, is needed for a new baby, or is
preventing a toilet-training toddler from getting up to go to the loo.
While there are no hard and fast
rules on this, most toddlers make the move to their own beds any time between
18 months and three and a half years.
With a little preparation, you can minimise the tears that often ensue … both your toddler’s and yours. Our friends at Protect-A-Bed, South Africa’s leading mattress protector brand, share a few tips to help you get through
Choosing the right time Plan to move your toddler to the big bed during a stable time in your family life. Moving to a new bed can be very stressful for both you and your toddler, so it’s best not to make the move during periods of upheaval, such as starting nursery school, when you’re going back to work, or when you or your child is sick.
If your toddler is leaving the cot
because of a new baby, it’s best to make the move at least six weeks before or
a few months after the birth, so that she doesn’t feel as if she’s being booted
out by baby.
Preparing the new nest If your child is old enough, create excitement around the change by going shopping together for new bed linen or a new soft toy to share the big bed. Create a sense of continuity by moving over some familiar items from the cot, such as a favourite blanket or teddy, or reposition a much-loved cot mobile over the new bed.
It’s also imperative to invest in a
mattress protector to ensure easy cleaning after inevitable nappy leaks and toilet-training
accidents, and to prevent staining of the new mattress. (Remember that unlike a
foam cot mattress, you can’t wash a bed mattress.)
Choose a mattress protector that’s super absorbent, with a waterproof layer that won’t crinkle noisily every time your toddler shifts. It’s also a good idea to invest in two mattress protectors, so there’s always a spare on hand so that middle-of-the-night linen changes can be dealt with quickly and calmly.
Safety steps Now that the new bed’s taken care of, it’s time to prepare the rest of the house. Your toddler will no longer be confined to the safety of the cot, so reassess your home for potential dangers.
If the new bed has no sides, you
can install bed rails, or place cushions, pillows, or folded duvets and
blankets onto the floor beside the bed to soften any night-time rolling
To stop your toddler coming to any
harm while wandering about unsupervised, install a baby gate across the bedroom
door, and ensure stairs are barricaded. (Check that your toddler can’t use his
cot-climbing skills on these gates.)
Check that all plug points are
covered, tidy up electrical cords and wind up blind cords that could be a
If there are items of furniture
which your toddler could pull over, such as book and toy shelves, secure these
to the wall with brackets.
Check that windows, especially
upstairs windows, can’t be opened wide enough for your toddler to fall out.
It’s D-Day You’ve prepared the new bed, secured your house, and talked up the change until even the family dog is vibrating with excitement. All that’s left now is to make the switch.
Some children are quite happy to
wave goodbye to their cot and never look back, moving in one jump from cot to
Others cope better if allowed to move
over in stages. Consider starting with daytime naps in the big bed, sleeping in
the cot only at night. Or have your toddler spend a few nights sleeping on the
cot mattress on the floor beside the bed before making the final move.
Whichever route you choose, stick to
your toddler’s usual bedtime routine to lessen the upheaval.
Coping with the fallout Despite your best attempts to make the move an exciting and positive one, your toddler may still struggle to adjust. Moving from the security of their familiar cot can be extremely stressful for little ones, no matter how excited they might have been about that new Frozen duvet cover or Buzz Lightyear bed.
Whether it’s true distress at being
in a new bed, or simply the novelty of being able to hop out of bed whenever
they choose, many toddlers struggle to stay put and will initially get up
repeatedly. Here are two methods that can be used to keep your toddler in bed.
The first is to immediately return your toddler
to bed, making as little fuss as possible. Preferably don’t even talk to your
child, and definitely don’t get angry; any response from Mom and Dad – be it
positive or negative – simply rewards the behaviour. Be prepared to have your
patience sorely tried, as you will likely have to return your toddler to bed
twenty, thirty, even a hundred times in an