There are many ways to help your child make the transition from crib to bed. When deciding which way is best, you will want to consider your child's personality and the size and configuration of his bedroom.
No matter which path you choose, be patient! Do your best to make it a pleasant experience for your little one. Keep in mind that such big steps toward growth sometimes happen in spurts, and your child may be excited to welcome change one day but wary of it the next.
Maintain the important parts of your nightly routine and help your child develop a positive, happy association with their new bed, since she'll be sleeping there for many years to come.
Here are some possible options for creating your own plan:
1. Big-kid bed hoopla
Some kids enjoy a big, splashy event. They love being involved in choosing a new bed and linens and helping to set it up. They get excited about an official Big Kid Bed Day. If this defines your child, go ahead and throw a party. Decorate the room, wrap a few bedtime-related presents (like books or a stuffed animal).
No matter how exciting this all may be, remember that when the actual first night of sleeping there arrives your child may suddenly be nervous. So provide extra loving attention and reassurance and help your child enjoy the experience without expecting him/her to suddenly transform into a big kid overnight.
2. The one-step-at-a-time switcheroo
A slow introduction to this change is to take the crib mattress out of the crib and place it in exactly the same place as the crib—but on the floor. This gives your child the security of seeing almost exactly the same view of the room as they're accustomed to. Place temporary guard rails around the sides to create a similar feeling of enclosure as the crib provided.
Use all the same bedding and crib toys as your child has been used to.
This is a mid-step between the crib and a real bed. After your child is used to this arrangement you can replace the crib mattress with a bigger mattress. The next step is to add the box springs, and finally, the bed frame—keeping the guard rails up until you're confident that your child is safe from falling out of bed.
3. The gradual introduction
Plenty of children like to gradually work up to the idea of making this big change and would respond best if they can test it out a little bit at a time. If you think this describes your child's way of thinking, then set up the new bed in the same room with the crib. Start off by allowing your child to play on the bed, and see if they're interested in napping there. Perhaps do your bedtime reading or nightly massage in the new bed. All of this will help your child get used to the new bed over time. Eventually you can suggest that they'll sleep there all night and see how they respond.
What if they hate it?
Parenting is filled with both big and little decisions and parents can't always predict the future. There will be times when what seemed like the right decision, turns out to be wrong. Sleep is such a volatile issue, and there are so many sleep and bedtime-related problems that parents have to deal with. My perspective is to avoid an issue if you can.
If you've made the change from crib to bed and given it a fair effort, but your child suddenly begins to have many more night-wakings, doesn't fall asleep easily, or cries for his crib, then, if possible, go ahead and let him go back to his familiar source of comfort.
This isn't a failure on anyone's part, just a change that your child wasn't quite ready for. If you've planned to use the crib for a new sibling, see if you can come up with an alternative solution, such as putting your newborn into a cradle or portable crib for a while, or even borrowing or buying a second crib.
Making it permanent
No matter how well the adjustment goes, there are bound to be new sleep issues that crop up. Some may be in conjunction with the change but others may appear at this time just as a coincidence. Take each sleep issue individually and apply solutions to any that arise. It's all part of being a parent.
When you are patient and supportive, and allow your child to make a change to a big-kid bed on his own timetable, you'll find this to be a wonderful milestone in your child's exciting and ever changing growth and development.