Keep Your Baby in a Crib Until Age Three

by | Sep 7, 2023 | bedtime routine, bumps in the road, Toddler Sleep Tips, transitions | 0 comments

Transitioning from a crib to a toddler bed is a significant milestone in a child’s life, and parents often wonder when the right time to make this change is. While there’s no one-size-fits-all answer, many experts and parents recommend waiting until a child is around 3 years old before making the switch. In this article, we’ll explore the reasons why delaying the transition to a toddler bed until the age of 3 can be a wise choice for both your child’s development and your peace of mind.


  1. Safety First:

One of the primary reasons for waiting until a child is 3 years old to transition to a toddler bed is safety. At this age, most children have developed the physical and cognitive skills necessary to understand and follow basic safety rules. They are less likely to fall out of bed or engage in risky behaviors that can lead to accidents.


  1. Cognitive Development:

Around the age of 3, children’s cognitive development has advanced significantly. They are better at understanding cause and effect, which means they can grasp the consequences of their actions. This increased understanding can help them stay in their bed and follow bedtime routines more effectively.


  1. Sleep Independence:

By age 3, many children have developed a sense of independence, which includes the ability to put themselves to sleep and self-soothe when they wake up in the middle of the night. This newfound independence can make the transition to a toddler bed smoother, as children may be more comfortable sleeping alone.


  1. Reduced Disruption:

Transitioning to a toddler bed can be a big change for a child. Waiting until they are 3 years old can reduce the disruption to their sleep routine. This stability in their bedtime environment can lead to better sleep quality and a more restful night for both children and parents.


  1. Communication Skills:

At 3 years old, children typically have better communication skills, which can make it easier for them to express their feelings and concerns about the transition. This open dialogue can help parents address any fears or anxieties their child may have, making the process less stressful.


  1. Avoiding Regression:

Some children experience sleep regression when transitioning to a toddler bed too early. They may become less willing to sleep in their new bed or have more frequent nighttime awakenings. Waiting until age 3 can reduce the likelihood of such regression, as children are generally more adaptable and secure in their routines.


I get asked a lot about how to handle toddlers younger than age 3 who can climb out of the crib.  Parents want to know if this skill indicates that it is time to make the transition?  The answer is NO!


First, I suggest physically deterring your little one from climbing out of the crib.  You can do this by putting your little one in a sleep sack, dropping the crib mattress all the way to the floor, and turning the crib so the higher side of the crib is facing out and the lower side is facing the wall (this doesn’t apply to all crib styles).


Next, you need to teach your toddler that they are not allowed to climb out of the crib (even though they are physically capable).  This part takes time and patience…


My suggestion is to lay on the floor in your toddler’s room.  You are there to be the crib climbing police.  You are not there to sing, talk, rub backs etc… this is all business.  


If your little one starts to climb out of the crib you firmly say “no climb” and assume your position on the floor.  You may need to do this more than 100 times on the first few nights as well as at nap time. 


The next part involves the use of an “ok to wake clock” or a hatch light.  These lights are very helpful for this age and indicate to your child when they are allowed out of the crib.


Be sure to read my blog about social stories, because that will be a big help during this very tricky sleep “re-training”.


You will want to do some practice role playing.  Have the clock change to the wake up color and ask your toddler to call for you when the light changes.  


Your job is to get  to your little one’s room and get them out of the crib very quickly.


Remember to pair that with lots of clapping and praise.  You want waking up without climbing out of the crib to be associated with happiness


This phase can be very daunting and it may seem easier to just move your toddler to an open bed.  I assure you (with a lot of experience) that moving to an open bed will be much more difficult and will pose many more problems than taking a week to “reset” your toddler’s sleep habits and teach them that they are not allowed to climb out of the crib.


Transitioning to a toddler bed is a significant step in a child’s development, and timing matters. Waiting until a child is around 3 years old can offer several benefits, including enhanced safety, cognitive development, sleep independence, reduced disruption, improved communication, and a decreased likelihood of sleep regression. Ultimately, the decision should be based on your child’s individual readiness, but delaying the transition until age 3 is a well-supported and wise choice for many families.


Still have questions? Drop them in them in the comments below.  I’ll try to get back to you quickly.

Your Sleep Bestie,


AM Smiles is a highly effective baby sleep coaching service designed for busy families.

I help you harness the power of sleep training to improve the spirits and lives of you and your family through proper rest. I’d love to talk to you about your little one and help you get back to living life well rested! ❤️