Buying Guide – How to Shop for a Toddler Bed
To help you find the right toddler bed for your growing child, we’ll go over what to consider before going in search of the perfect fit for your family’s needs.
When Should Children Transition to a Toddler Bed?
Children can be ready to transition to a toddler bed anywhere from one to four years old. The best way to determine whether it’s time to make the change is to look at a few specific factors, such as if your child is regularly climbing out of the crib, how early they like to wake up, if they are potty training and if your child shows interest in moving to a “big-kid” bed.
Best Transition Age
Most commonly, children switch from a crib to a toddler bed when they’re between 18 months and three years old. Toddlerhood technically starts at a baby’s first birthday, but that is often too young to switch to a toddler bed.
If your child is regularly escaping their crib, that is a good indicator they might be ready to make the transition. Falling out of cribs can be dangerous and often results in cuts, scrapes, bruises, and other injuries. If your toddler’s chest is above the crib railing when standing, it’s a good time to consider making the switch to a toddler bed. At that height, climbing out of the crib is significantly easier, adding to the likelihood the child will make an attempt to escape in the night. If your toddler isn’t chest-height with the top of the crib rail but can put a leg over the railing, even if they haven’t climbed out yet, they are big enough to make the transition to a toddler bed.
Toddler Bed Features
Toddler beds for boys and girls are the same mattress size as cribs easing the transition from the crib. This means your child will feel comfortable and have familiar bedding, but will only be about six inches from the ground, making inevitable escapes and their associated falls less hazardous.
Toddler beds often come with short rails on either or both sides. Toddler-bed railings are often about half the length of the bed and work as a transition from a crib to a traditional bed. The rails ensure your child won’t roll out of bed. Since they’re not the full length of the bed, your child can still get in and out of bed autonomously. Most toddler beds with rails are removable so once you child is ready, they can easily be taken off.
Another interesting factor to consider is if your child is an early riser. In a crib, a child has nothing to play with and will cry for a parent to let them out. In a toddler bed, your child can have access to the toys and books in their room and may be able to play quietly for a while before waking you up. Many parents have said a baby gate at the toddler’s doorway is a great way to corral them while still giving their little one some independence in the morning – and allowing you to get some extra shut-eye.
Other Transition Considerations
Another major consideration is your child’s potty training schedule. If your toddler is doing well with potty training during the day and has begun to recognize when they need to use the restroom, that’s a major sign they are ready for a toddler bed, which will allow them the independence to get up and go to the bathroom at night.
Other things to consider may be whether you have another baby on the way and need the crib again or if your toddler is sharing a room with a sibling and may want bunk beds or a “big kid” bed like their sibling. The Consumer Product Safety Commission recommends children under six use only the bottom bunk. A toddler-bed railing can be installed onto the bottom bunk bed to make sure your child is safe from rolling out of the new bed. Toddler’s should be discouraged from playing on the bunk bed or climbing to the top bunk.
If your toddler shows interest in transitioning to a big girl or boy bed, they could move to a twin bed with a toddler bed railing installed to keep from rolling off the side. A twin bed will be higher off the ground than a toddler bed so the railing provides extra safety for your toddler.
When switching to a toddler bed it’s best to keep the rest of the room’s environment the same and put the new toddler bed in the same position as the crib so the room remains familiar to your toddler. Additionally, it can be helpful to keep the crib in the room and use it for sleeping but use the new toddler bed for naps and pre-bedtime wind down activities like reading. Maintaining a consistent bedtime routine will help the child feel secure even if the transition to a toddler bed is difficult.
What to Consider When Shopping For a Toddler Bed
When shopping for a toddler bed, there are a few specific things to look for.
Toddler beds are the same footprint as a crib, about 31W” x 56L”, and can be made from materials like metal, wood, particle board, and plastic. Some also have fabric attached, such as a canopy or tent.
If you are looking for longevity and ultimate sturdiness, metal and wood are the two best options. Wood often costs a bit more but will last longer and fit any decor; it’s the most recommended construction material for toddler beds because of its sturdiness, versatility, and resilience. Metal beds are typically more lightweight and are often easier to assemble.
Plastic is widely used and easy to clean and can fit many more specific designs, such as a car bed or a character bed. Particleboard or pressboard is the cheapest and least sturdy of the materials used.
The most important factor when looking at materials is sturdiness. Make sure to give the bed a good shake and feel how it responds – kids do love to jump on beds. Also look for weight limits, as different materials will have varied maximum weight recommendations.
After sturdiness, you’ll want to focus on longevity. Your child may quickly outgrow their love of Elmo or Thomas the Tank Engine, while solid wood and metal are more versatile, especially if they also convert to full-size beds using the same headboard and footboard. Remember, your child will only be in a toddler bed for a few years.
When looking at toddler beds, safety is definitely your main concern. There are ASTM international and U.S. CPSC safety standards which govern the construction of all toddler beds and any bed you purchase should meet or exceed those standards.
On top of those, there are a few things you can look for to ensure your child’s safety, such as adjustable guardrails and the use of nontoxic materials. It is also important to look for a toddler bed with minimal small parts, which can become choking hazards if they come off the bed frame or screws come loose.
Guardrails are a must for toddler beds. Your child is coming out of an enclosed space and guardrails are not only comforting but improve safety. If the guardrails on the bed you choose are adjustable, make sure to look for any nooks or crevices small fingers could get caught in.
If your child is especially active at night and tosses and turns a lot, you may want to look for a bed with a longer guardrail to keep them from rolling out of bed.
Many toddler beds will show that they are made with non toxic materials or are free of phthalates, latex, lead, and BPA. If they are GREENGUARD Gold Certified, you know for sure there are no harmful substances. In addition, all toddler beds are required to be certified by the Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association (JPMA), which guarantees the bed either meets or exceeds federal safety standards.
Be wary of any toddler beds which do not boast non-toxic substances.
Toddlers will put anything in their mouths, so be sure there are no loose screws or protruding parts your child could get hurt on. Pointy edges are also a no-no for small kids. One thing to note with metal construction is that screws will usually loosen over time and start to come out, so check the bed regularly and tighten the screws.
Standard toddler beds fit crib mattresses, which is perfect for making the initial transition for your little one. However, kids grow very quickly and a typical toddler bed may only see 3-4 years of use before it no longer fits your child.
When investing in a toddler bed, look for versatility and adjustability. Can the mattress height be changed? Does the toddler-sized bed convert to a larger bed?
Some toddler beds can convert to an adult-sized bed with a new mattress, saving you money on a new bed frame.
In fact, some cribs are actually versatile enough to go all the way from crib to adult-sized bed. Even if they are a larger initial investment, you’ll save yourself from buying at least two more bed frames.
Price is dependent on several factors, but you should closely consider the versatility and longevity of any toddler bed before you purchase.
For example, will the bed be used for more than one child? If so, you are better off investing in a non-themed bed made of sturdier materials. Is the bed adjustable to a different configuration? If not, you may not want to pay a higher price.
The length of time the bed will be used is a big part of the price you are willing to pay.
Other Important Considerations
Remember that while a toddler bed is not required, it is an economical solution to the transition from a smaller crib to a full-size bed. Many toddlers are not ready to transition straight from a crib to a regular bed, which is higher off the ground and does not come equipped with guardrails.
Toddler bed styles: There are several different toddler bed styles. Sleigh beds are popular, but there are also vehicle and character style beds, daybeds with three full sides and a guardrail, panel-style toddler beds, which have whole panels as guardrails instead of slatted or open ones, and convertible beds, which convert from a smaller or to a larger bed later.
Comfort and support: Comfort is paramount in a toddler bed. Young children need a lot of sleep as they grow, so make sure the mattress and bedding you are using are soft and comfortable. In addition, the support level of the toddler bed may affect comfort. Check out our crib mattress buying guide for more information on mattresses which will fit your toddler’s bed.
Natural or organic materials?: If you want natural or organic materials in the construction of your child’s bed, look for metal and wood frames. In addition, you can purchase natural or organic sheets and bedding.
Return policy and warranty: When you are shopping for toddler beds, make sure to look at any warranties and return policies manufacturers offer. Just in case the bed is not what you wanted, doesn’t fit with your child’s needs, or is somehow defective, you’ll want to know your options for replacing or returning it.