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 is it Time to Transition?
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, and if they are potty training.
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 go to a big kid bed.
If your child is regularly escaping their crib, 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. Toddler beds are the same mattress size as cribs, so your child will feel comfortable and have familiar bedding, but are only generally six inches from the ground, making falls a lot less hazardous.
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!
Another major consideration is your child’s potty training schedule. If your toddler is doing well with potty training during the day and recognizes when they need to go, that’s a major sign they are ready for a toddler bed, which will allow them 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.
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 31? x 56?, 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.
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 Material
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.
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.