Thursday, August 21, 2014

5 Tips for Easing the Big Kid Bed Transition

I mentioned in an earlier post that we had recently made the transition from crib to big kid bed. Before this happened, I did a lot of reading on the interwebs looking for ideas to make the transition easier, I asked for advice from several people, and I did a lot of thinking about what I thought would make it work for my little girl (who turned two just a couple of days before we brought in the bed). Let me make it very clear that I am not professing to be an expert, and that I also know that every kid's experience with this is going to be SO different, just like every kid's sleeping habits are different. However, there are a few things that I think really helped make our transition a relatively easy one (so far - knock on wood) so I'm sharing them in the hopes that the next parent looking for ideas finds them helpful. Ready, go.

  • Have a good bedtime routine in place before you make the jump. Although our routine has evolved a bit to fit the needs of a growing person, the basic structure is pretty set and predictable, which I think makes changes easier. 90% of the time there's a bath, then we do jammies, we turn out the big light and turn on the softer lamp, we read some stories, then we turn out the light and CB knows it's time for bed. She tries to stall by asking for extra songs now, but she doesn't put up much of a fuss because it's SO predictable. I don't think it matters what you do as long as it's comforting and helps your kids feel that bedtime is coming. When we switched beds, everything else stayed the same, and I was amazed when that first night she just laid down and asked for a song like always. 
  • Talk it up. We read a book about a big kid beds for a month before the bed ever showed up. We pointed them out when we saw them on TV or in friends' houses. A couple of weeks before we brought in the bed I took her to Target and let her picked out her own big girl sheets, and then we talked about them a LOT and how fun it would be to sleep on her "horsie sheets" when she got her big girl bed. (This idea was partly suggested by the book we read and partly by my mom, who suggested making it a big deal around her birthday - getting her new sheets and a fun quilt as part of the exciting birthday newness - and I could tell that this would be something that would appeal to CB.) When the bed appeared and the new sheets went on it, she knew exactly what was happening and was pretty excited about it. 
  • Make sure the room is baby-proofed. The hardest part for us was the fact that the big girl bed meant freedom to roam the room. We ended up just embracing that a little at nap time and letting her know that if she wasn't sleepy yet she could play quietly for a few minutes before she went to sleep. (I was skeptical about this, but it totally worked, and since eventually I'd like her to still have quiet time after she gives up naps, it would have been okay either way.) This is fine as long as you know there's nothing they can get into unsupervised in their room - and I don't just mean making sure the plugs are covered. We may have accidentally left some crayons in her room during nap time one day and had to scrub some pretty artwork out of her new rug. Whoops. (Washable crayons for the win, though.) This may also involve figuring out how to keep the child in the room if they are constantly breaking out - flipping the door handle backwards so you can lock them in or getting on of those childproof door handle covers.
  • Give it time. I got a little freaked out when my little girl wouldn't stay in bed for nap time at first, because she'd taken a long time to go down for naps in her crib, and I was pretty sure that had only worked because she finally wore herself out and got bored. We ended up putting her back in the crib for nap time a few times because it just wasn't going to work in the bed - and then suddenly it did. I'm sure this will be different for everyone, but staying calm about it, making adjustments (we pushed back nap time an hour or so to make sure she was good and tired) and just insisting that this wasn't going to be the end of naps worked for us - eventually.
  • Regressions happen. A couple of weeks after everything felt very settled, suddenly my little girl was out of her bed and out of her room every five minutes. It usually lasted about 20 minutes at bedtime but it might mean she didn't get a nap at all. We had to get one of those childproof door handles and do some sleep retraining (after trying to make it work without for about a week) and it took lots of patience, but it's working again - for now. I'm sure there will be good days and bad days for naps, but for us, there always have been, so I'm just grateful for the ones that happen. 

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