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Too Many Big Moves at Once for This Toddler?

Too Many Big Moves at Once?

By Amalah

Hi Amy!

I’m looking at the next six months and starting to freak out a little. My son is two and a half, and right on the cusp of two pretty big transitions – switching from a crib to a bed, and starting to potty train. So, why am I freaking out? Because my husband just got transferred at work; we’re moving to a different state in three weeks; the housing market is both crummy AND expensive at our destination and we don’t have permanent housing yet; therefore, we’ll probably be crashing with different family members for about a month while we look for a reasonable place to rent or buy. To top it all off, we’re expecting our second child in July. How in the world can I manage all this upheaval for my son so that I’m setting him up for success instead of failure, frustration, and regression?

The first and most pressing issue is the move from crib to bed. He’s mostly happy in his crib – he’s never tried to escape (beyond the normal toddler nap-resisting shenanigans), and he loves to snuggle up against the crib walls. Normally, I’d just keep him in the crib until after we move, and then as his sibling’s due date drew closer I’d make the transition. But here’s where things get tricky. We’re moving back to our home state at the end of this month, smack in between my parents and my in-laws – about a 2.5 hour drive from either. My sister lives about 30 minutes from my husband’s new work site. My husband’s schedule will be three long days on and four days off, so he suggested that while we’re looking for housing, my son and I could just visit with relatives for a week here and a week there, and he can crash with my sis and then join us on his days off. In many ways, this would be great – we’ve lived a day’s drive from my entire family for the last ten years, so I’m really excited to see more of them. The problem is, the sleeping arrangements are not ideal at any of these places. My parents have a crib set up at their house, but my mom watches my niece during the day, and she’ll be using the crib during my son’s nap time. My sister’s kids are a little older, so they just got rid of their crib, and my in-laws never got one. Ultimately, we’d be stuck with either disassembling and reassembling our crib over and over, or using a pack & play for up to a month. The pack & play would certainly be more convenient, but my son is a big kid – he’s already on the upper end of the growth charts for THREE year olds, and he’s just too long and too heavy to sleep comfortably and safely in a pack & play for any real length of time. We’ve managed with it for short visits – one or two nights, then back home to our crib. But I just don’t feel good about cramming my kid into a pack & play for a month when he’s clearly too big for it. I’ve looked for portable cribs or toddler travel beds – but so far, the porta-cribs all seem too small, and the toddler beds are just that – beds. Amy, where am I going to put this kid?!?

The other question is potty training. He’ll turn three right around my due date in July, and I’d like to have him in preschool this fall, so I know I need to start the process sometime in the not-too-distant future. I have enough sense to know that it’s not a good idea to even attempt it until we are permanently settled, which will hopefully be by March. But the question I have is this: is it even worth it to attempt to potty train him so close to his sibling’s arrival? From everything I’ve heard, a new baby is a recipe for major potty regressions. Between that, the move, and the crib to bed switch, would I just be overloading him? Should I wait until after the baby comes, or am I just way over-thinking this?

Please help me manage my life, Amy, because right now my sh*t is all kinds of bananas.


Okay, okay. BREATHE. This is going to be okay. This might not all be the most peaceful, stress-free period of your life but it’s going to be okay.

Sleeping Arrangements

First, let’s tackle the sleeping arrangements. Let’s run through your temp housing options:

Parents’ House: Has crib, but is occupied at nap times by niece (age not specified). Could your NIECE spend her naps in the pack-n-play, if she’s still within the recommended height/weight limits?

(Note that according to Graco, their pack-n-play is only for children under 35 inches in height and who weigh less than 30 pounds. If your son is as big as you say, he’s probably over those limits. Thus the pack-n-play probably isn’t even an option at this point, from both a comfort and safety perspective.)

Sister & In-Laws’ house: No crib.

But are there…beds?

See, here’s the thing: There is NO rule or law or even real recommendation that there MUST be some specialized extra step in between the crib and a “real” bed. You don’t need a toddler bed. At all. Only one of my children slept in a toddler bed and while it was adorable and all, it was ultimately a waste of money, given the tiny window of time he used it. I also had a Very Big Toddler, and the mattress (from Ikea) was slightly longer than a crib mattress — as you’ve probably noted, most toddler beds simply use crib mattresses — but he still outgrew it quickly. We upgraded our bed from a full to a king and gave him that full-size bed not long after his third birthday.

My other two children went straight from the crib to a full-sized mattress & box spring, the lower bunk of our bunk bed. For the first couple weeks, I attached a removable safety guard bar (available at Amazon or in the safety section of the big box baby stores) and put some blankets on the floor. Yes, there was a lot of getting in and out and escaping and some missed naps, but you’re going to do the same thing with a toddler bed. And again, when you’re talking about a Very Big Toddler, I double down on the advice that a small in-between toddler bed or porto-crib will be a ridiculous waste of money, especially if you’re going to spend at least a month in transition, hauling it around from house to house. (And assembling and disassembling a full-sized crib once a week or so? Then loading it in a car and dragging it inside and setting it up again? WHILE PREGNANT? Girl. No.)

If there isn’t a spare bed for him, you can simply opt for a mattress on the floor, in whatever size you choose. It can just be something inflatable and easy to take from place to place. At my in-laws’ house, there’s only one twin bed (beyond a full bed for my husband and I), and now that my children are all out of the crib, we use two twin-sized inflatable mattresses for our younger sons. They roll off, we roll ’em back on.

Yes, he’s happy in his crib and you weren’t planning to move him for a few more months. But hey, sometimes life forces us to change the schedule. There’s nothing to be gained by beating yourself up over things you just can’t change or avoid right now. And 2.5 is a perfectly acceptable, reasonable age to make the switch, and I’m betting that when he arrives at a house without a crib, it will be more of an “out of sight, out of mind” thing for him. It’s an adventure! Here’s where you sleep at Grandma’s house, at Auntie’s house, at Nana’s house. If you’re really concerned about the lack of consistency, get the inflatable bed. Get it now, before you move and introduce it to him. He’ll probably LOVE watching you inflate it and think it’s a fun, special thing. Be prepared to stay next to him and read lots of books until he’s used to the idea of actually SLEEPING there, but hopefully he’ll catch on quickly. (If there’s an Actual Bed for him at each place, start trying out naps in your bed at home, or take his crib mattress out and see if he’ll sleep on that.)

The reality is, toddlers are much more resilient than we often give them credit for. He might get a little clingy, act out at times, and naps might go to hell (which would happen WHENEVER you made the switch to bedtime freedom, horrible freedom), but he’ll make it through this temporary upheaval just fine in the end.

Potty Training

As for potty training: I wouldn’t push it, personally, but I also wouldn’t let the possibility of a sibling regression stop me from introducing the concept once you’re settled. I potty trained both of my first two right before the next baby was born. We weren’t 100% “done” either time and there were some slips and accidents — but I wouldn’t say it was all that different training my youngest, who had similar “regressions” with no new sibling in sight. So…meh. If he’s crazy resistant, let it go. If he’s intrigued and interested, go for it. And once you’re done with the housing search, turn your attention to preschools — so you can know for sure if the potty training is even a set-in-stone requirement for a 3 year old! Some schools totally don’t expect it, and will let peer pressure help the process along.

Above all, just remember to give him lots of positive attention and love. Lots of familiar toys and transitional items. Don’t feel like you need to constantly explain what’s going on and why (WHOOSH over the head) — just offer reassurance that you and Daddy are still Here, and will be with him when you go There, no matter what.

About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch


Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Ama...

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it’s pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.

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  • Kerry

    January 23, 2015 at 2:13 pm

    I would focus less on the bed and more on making sure the houses that you’ll be staying in have a nice safe room where you’re comfortable with your son being without supervision..shelves are secured to walls, no secret stash of dangerous objects in a low cupboard, etc. My daughter is 2.5, and she has a very nice bed of her own, and we just recently got her to actually sleep in it instead of the nest of blankets that she would build herself on the floor. She’s also really into sleeping bags, to the point that she climbs inside her pillowcase to pretend it is one. Maybe a really cool sleeping bag would give you/your son the sense of continuity you want between all the places you might end up sleeping?

  • Sara

    January 23, 2015 at 2:26 pm

    You could also consider a “twin” pack & play which is about 6 inches longer, and 7 inches wider, than the regular pack and play, as a stopgap.  

  • Alison

    January 23, 2015 at 2:41 pm

    I have a 2.5 year old who’s been a terrible sleeper most of his life, and we too are expecting another. I thought the transition to a real bed would be difficult and disastrous. But we made the transition after a full month of travel and crashing with family, during which we had our kiddo in a travel crib that was much too small and easily escapable. We had a few escapes and rough nights of sleep on the road, but mostly (astonishingly) kiddo slept well. I think having a consistent bed made a big difference. And when we came home we just swapped out the old crib for a real bed upon arrival. It’s been seamless! I can’t quite believe it. We moved right on to potty training after new bed night #3 even though we’d planned to wait longer. That’s going more slowly, but so much better than when we made a brief attempt a few months earlier.

    We do have an hour-long bedtime routine: bath, books, lights-out, quiet snuggles. It’s necessary for our little insomniac, but I think it also smoothed the transition–and gives us built-in one-on-one time even in the midst of family madness. Kiddo LOVES that we can now snuggle together in the new bed after lights-out.

    All that to say: sometimes the stuff that seems like it’s going to be really difficult just isn’t (the reverse is true too, of course, alas). Especially if you can find a way to make it fun. I echo the travel bed advice (inflatables and cots seem to be the cheapest tot options) for your roadtrip, but most of all I echo the reassurance. Happy travels, and here’s hoping this is a great new adventure for you all.

  • Olivia

    January 23, 2015 at 3:01 pm

    We had a very similar experience recently. We moved in October had a new baby in November and my elder son turned three in December. I think Amy’s advice is great except for the part about not explaining things. I constantly explained what was going on to my son and it really helped him with the transition. He got very excited about our new house, and the baby in my belly and the baby himself when he arrived. I highly recommend the book “babies don’t eat pizza” which you’d think would bd over a toddlers head but it wasn’t! My son still recites lines from it, explaining things to me about the baby. As for potty training, I wish I had trained him. I took advice not to (he’d just regress anyway!) but I wish I hadn’t because now he’s defiant about not trying the potty and I feel like we missed our window of interested-ness. Good luck!

  • BB

    January 23, 2015 at 3:23 pm

    I second the comment about having a consistent bed.  I opted for one of  those folding toddler cots  for my little guy when we are on the road and no matter where we are that is his bed. I’d had it with lugging the pack and play by the 18 month mark so  I made the switch then and it’s been great for long and short trips. It is low to the ground so if he rolls out he wont get hurt and you can set it up in about 3 seconds flat.

  • Amie

    January 23, 2015 at 3:27 pm

    We moved cross-country, into temporary housing for a month, then to a permanent home, when my daughter was 2.5 and I was 7 months pregnant. One thing that really helped was writing a social story. We made a little book (just printed on a regular printer), that explained in very simple terms what was going to happen, and we added some pictures. We’ve been here almost a year and she still loves to read her “Moving to California” book. Inflatable mattress is a good idea–we use this one for trips to Grandma’s house: Bringing the bed with you from place to place might help keep a sense of continuity for him. We waited to potty train until a few months after the baby was born–she was 34 months by then–and it took a whopping four days. She still has 1-2 accidents per week, but I wouldn’t stress about it too much, it can be done, and quickly, at this age because they understand so much. It will be okay! Sucky for a while, but totally doable.

    • Hp

      January 23, 2015 at 4:36 pm

      I second this bed.  My 2.5 year old son loves it–he calls it his boat bed.  I also have slept in it (pregnant!) and agree it is comfortable.

  • Claire

    January 23, 2015 at 3:53 pm

    No real useful advice – never had to deal with the traveling scenario.

    However, putting your kid into a bed doesn’t automatically mean they will promptly escape. My son went into a toddler bed (but it’s actually pretty big – much bigger than a cot, he’s a big 3 and still has plenty of growing room) at 20 months (a month after his sister arrived) and he has never once gotten out of it until we come and get him out of his bed. Even during full on naptime protests he just sits in his bed and shouts and screams. Maybe we just got super lucky with him! Aforementioned sister is nearly 18 months and should be making the transition soon, but somehow I don’t see her being quite so good at staying in bed!

  • carole

    January 23, 2015 at 6:09 pm

    I have a 32mo. with second child due beginning of April. I also had 3 goals to conquer pre-baby. Attempt at potty training, transition crib to bed, and get rid of pacifiers she still uses at sleep.I didn’t really know what order would be best but she sort of decided it for me. Last month she was asking to be changed after every pee and I was annoyed at wasting so many diapers. So I started with that. She got the hang of it after few days but still has poop accidents at daycare 1-2x week. We are eliminating sleep pacifiers next week because a recent visit to the dentist convinced me her overbite is getting out of control. I have most anxiety about the pacifier elimination. We will do toddler bed last. The baby and her will share a room at some point and I only have room for crib and toddler bed. My plan is to put the toddler bed with the crib and let her choose her sleep method. I just don’t want to take apart crib and get used to space that will just go away in few months. 

    We also have talked about all these things for months. We talked about getting rid of diapers and the exciting treats that we planned would happen when she trained. We have talked about no more binkies because they hurt our teeth and we need to send them to babies to use. And she is really excited about all the bedding and new stuffed animals that will accompany her big girl bed.

  • Kai

    January 23, 2015 at 7:26 pm

    We’ve had houseguests that used a small kid’s tent with a sleeping pad for their 3 yr old. Kiddo LOVED it and it didn’t occur to her that she could get herself out and wander in the night.

    • Coco

      January 27, 2015 at 2:27 pm

      What a great idea!

  • Kim

    January 23, 2015 at 11:13 pm

    We did the mattress on the floor with my oldest.  First we put her crib mattress down, and then when we could we moved hereinto a twin.  She’s a tall girl – I think we put her into her twin at 3, and then bought bunk beds at 4. She slept in the top pretty quickly after that, because she wanted to and it felt safe enough to me (and it was.)
    So you could start getting yours ready by doing nothing more than putting the mattress down right now, although that would mean hauling a mattress different places. Personally, I like the look of that cot – I have bad luck with inflatables and leaks.  But that’s just me.
    I will add that with my second, we threw all our precious no-cosleeping,crib-only rules in favor of “whatever gets the most people the most sleep.”  My youngest never liked her crib, and she was in the bottom bunk by 18 months. She rolled off  far fewer times than her sister, although she has fallen from the ladder of her bunk bed (goofing around, and she was fine.) So there’s that, too – if there are extra twin beds in the houses you’ll be staying, buy a bed guard or a pool noodle and he’ll be fine.(Honestly, falling out of most beds is inconvenient, not dangerous.)

  • traci

    January 24, 2015 at 1:23 pm

    A few options: joovy room2 is square shaped (much bigger) and doesn’t have a weight limit like pack’n’plays. This would be a good idea if any of the places you would be staying would not have a toddler safe room that you could just throw a baby gate up to create a safe sleeping space. If you will have safe places then you can seriously go as simple as blankets or a sleeping bag on the floor (kids don’t mind) or get a camping mat b/c then you can get further use out of it down the road. A mattress on the floor is a great way to transition to a regular bed as it gives them a safe way to practice sleeping in a specific space without walls. He’ll be ready to go straight into a regular bed after his adventure!

  • Corinne

    January 26, 2015 at 11:10 am

    I don’t want to terrify you, just to prepare you for the possibility of everything going to hell and offer some suggestions. 

    We moved with our three year old to a new state.  We also stopped nursing right around that time. And we tried to start potty training. The move was followed up by several trips to visit family for about a week at a time (for a total of about 3 weeks). 

    This confused the ever-living fuck out of my kid. And he acted out. And protested. And defiantly peed on the floor. And hit, and bit, and kicked, and screamed. And stopped sleeping entirely (I think the last time I got to spend a whole night in bed by myself since the move in July was either when I was out of state and away from him for two nights). 

    This shocked us. We expected him to be fine. Kids are resilient. It’s a fun adventure!

    So things that have helped and I wish I had done earlier:
    Get your medical professionals lined up as soon as possible. We’re just now getting into see a counselor that specializes in kids to help us deal with these issues.  If we had his insurance and pediatrician set up before the move, or as soon as we moved, we would have had a system in place to get help sooner

    Don’t blame your kid if he does freak out. He’s not being a jerk or making things harder on purpose, just his whole world has been flipped upside down and he may or may not deal with that well. Being calm and having lots of strategies to deal with behavioral issues that are not punishment can help.

    Take care of yourself. Kids can tell if you’re freaked out about what’s going on and will respond accordingly. So if you’re stressed or depressed or just so exhausted that you can’t even, it will be so much harder to help your child deal with the move.

    Be prepared for your son to be really really clingy. Try to let him have that reassurance if you can (I know, pregnancy, touching).

    Enlist help! Literally, anyone who offers to help, take them up on it!

    If you’re still reading: Thoughts on housing – is it at all possible for you and your son to stay in your previous state for a few more weeks while your husband finds and arranges housing for the family? That could make things a little less frantic, if it’s a possibility.

    Thoughts on the bed situation: If you could just bring your crib mattress and use that on the floor for your son at your in-laws, that might work okay. You’re probably going to want your son in with you in your room anyway, so wandering shouldn’t be a problem. Quite honestly, if your husband is going to be away for several days at a time, it’s likely that your son will end up sleeping with you anyway. Let him nap in a big bed at your mom’s, which is good practice for moving up to a big bed.  

    Good luck! You will get through this. It may totally suck, but you will get through it, and ultimately everyone will be okay.  

  • sarabean

    January 26, 2015 at 8:48 pm

    I second the tent suggestion. I think we have a KidCo one or something like that. Easy to set up, inflatable mattress, easy to keep lovies/special blankets inside, can zip up part of the way to still feel “secure” like a crib, can start using it at home occasionally so he can get used to it, his “bed” will be the same, even if every place is different.

    I have no potty training advice, except, if he isn’t ready, don’t push. Daughter 1 trained shortly after age 2, Daughter 2 “finished” training the week before preschool started. She wouldn’t even entertain the whole potty concept until well after her 3rd birthday. Sigh. Good luck!

  • MR

    January 27, 2015 at 1:28 pm

    This is the one suggestion that I haven’t seen anyone mention – you don’t potty train your kid at a specific age. You potty train them when they show interest. If your kid is overwhelmed by the move and everything, he won’t be interested in the potty. It is really as simple as that. So, wait until he is really wanting to do the potty. If that’s before the move, he is less likely to regress, because he really wants to use the potty. And, if it isn’t until after the move, that’s fine too. Because it is WAY easier to potty train a kid who WANTS to use the potty. I tried way to early with my first and it was a mess. With my second, we waited until she was insistent that she wanted to use the potty, and it was such a smoother transition. GL!

  • Erin

    January 28, 2015 at 2:43 am

    So, within six months, during 2013, I had a baby, transitioned my 2.5 year old to a big boy bed, potty trained him after baby was born and moved to the other side of the country.
    I have been where you are!!  It will all work out!

    I was afraid of the potty training regression and didn’t feel like I wanted to potty train twice, so I waited until after I had the baby.  Maybe when baby was a month, we started potty training my son.  It gave him an incredible amount of attention and he did really, really well.

    As for the transitioning to the big kid bed from the crib – my son also never tried to climb out of the crib.  But – we had an end date and he needed to be OUT.  So, we took him shopping with us to pick out a new bed.  He didn’t get to pick out one himself, but he got to see all the cool options.  Maybe take your son shopping to look at big kid beds and get him super excited about it.  And then when you are bouncing back and forth between houses, use that time to  get him used to the new beds and when you find a place to settle, you’ll have a great new (or new-to-him) bed that is just like all the other cool beds at the store.
    When we moved, our furniture was not going to be at our new residence for two weeks.  So we got a toddler-sized blow up bed and he thought it was AMAZING!  And my son is generally a pretty cautious dude – not a big fan of change.  So, a blow up toddler bed may be another option.  They don’t take a lot of room, they are easy to blow up, and they take crib-sized sheets.

    Good luck with all the upcoming changes and remember that it will all work out 🙂

  • Helen

    February 5, 2015 at 10:54 pm

    we visit the UK every two years with our two, staying up to five weeks each time, moving around A LOT. When the kids were tiny our friends and relatives borrowed pack-and-plays but once they were too big for that they ended up sleeping in all sorts of different places – on the floor, in adult sized beds. sofa beds, in my mother-in-law’s queen bed with her… and it has all been FINE. And my daughter is not an easy, stress free kid, either… she can drive us crazy when there’s a lot of upheaval going on… but there’s never been a bed problem we couldn’t solve on the fly.