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Is It Time to Ditch the Crib?

Is It Time to Ditch the Crib?

By Amalah

Hi Amy!

This question is not drama-filled or anything, but our son turns two in a few weeks and still sleeps in a pack-n-play (because it’s the only thing that fits in his room, a walk in closet in our 1-bedroom apartment. So New York, I know…) He loves playing in it during the day but is very good about lying down and going to sleep for naps and at night and only tries to climb in during playtime. We recently acquired a toddler bed that miracle of miracles will fit the small space. But when do we make the transition? There’s no real “need” to do it–we’re not having another baby and he hasn’t climbed out yet. But I worry that he seems cramped in there and, honestly, are a little excited about letting him have a “real” bed (he sleeps on a cot at school already and they say he’s good about it). Anyway, should we just defer our excitement til later and keep him in his crib forever? I know Ike was still in his crib after he was 2…is your general advice to stay with that as long as you can? Is your advice different for a 2-year old sleeping in a pack-n-play??


Oh, HOORAY. A question with absolutely no drama AND absolutely no real right/wrong answer. Nobody will yell at me! Thanks for the softball, friend.

I really have no “general advice” regarding toddler bed transitions because it’s totally different for every kid — and every household/real estate situation. If there’s another baby on the way and you need the crib, punt that firstborn out a few months before and feel no guilt. They will be fine. If there’s nobody waiting in line for the crib and your toddler isn’t climbing/falling out (or if you simply have come to depend on the extra confinement time in the morning), keep ’em in the crib for as long as you want. They will also be fine.

And finally: If you have a new bed and are kinda excited to try it out, by all means, try it out. You can always go back to the crib if your kid turns into a regular Pop-Up Nighttime Explorer (testing both your patience and your child-proofing efforts), or if he just seems to sleep better/longer with the old setup.

We only went the true “toddler bed” route once, with our firstborn. Toddler beds are kind of a racket for anybody with a full-sized crib, since they don’t actually offer a child much extra room — the mattresses are usually the same size as a crib. We bought one at Ikea that was a little longer but not wider, and Noah still slept curled up tight against the wall, taking up the smallest swath of bed real estate possible. I got annoyed by the need for specially-sized sheets that I could only buy at Ikea and we donated it not long after.

For a kid in a Pack ‘n Play, however, a toddler bed will be more of an upgrade, especially since Pack ‘n Play “mattresses” aren’t really all that supportive. (Or are they? Have they improved over the years? We’ve been using the same model we purchased back in 2005, so I am ignorant of any great design leaps forward in the Pack ‘n Play universe.) On the other hand, our “he looks kinda cramped” can actually be a young toddler’s “I feel cozy and safe.” On the other, other hand, Pack ‘n Plays have a height limit of 35 inches, or once the child can climb out (whichever comes first). It doesn’t sound like he’s doing that quite yet, but don’t discount that danger just because he’s closer to the ground — a Pack ‘n Play can tip over during climb-out attempts, resulting in a scary/nasty faceplant. If you’re concerned that he’s close to trying, err on the side of caution and switch him to the bed.

Ezra (and eventually Ike) skipped the toddler bed and went straight to a “real” bed, with a removable guardrail in place at first.

And yeah, you read that right. Ike, who will be three years old in less than three months, is still in the crib. I KNOW, I KNOW. Noah and Ezra both made the transition shortly after turning two, and I never really intended to keep Ike in the crib so long, but here we are. He gets the occasional “sleepover” in his brothers’ room — our bunk beds are a twin-over-full style, so there’s more than enough room for Ezra and Ike on the bottom bunk — but sadly these sleepovers have mostly revealed that moving Ike permanently out of the crib will be a HUGE PAIN IN THE ASS. In the crib, he’ll sleep in until almost 9 a.m. on the weekends. On our busy chaotic weekdays, the crib lets us get everybody else ready (including ourselves) before dealing with our family’s neediest, most helpless member. Naps are dang near four hours long. He’s never, ever climbed out, or even attempted to.

In the bed, however…he’s up at 5 freaking a.m. He’s in our room, pushing on our eyelids. He’s flushing things down the toilet. He’s going downstairs and trying to scale chairs to get at the Cheerios. IT’S AWFUL AND I HATE IT. I can’t lock their room because his brothers need to get out, he tries to climb over baby gates (or just stands there and screams at them), he completely ignores the “stay in bed until the clock changes color” rule, and thus the easiest solution has been to just stick with the crib.

(My first pediatrician was a fan of keeping toddlers in cribs for as long as humanly possible for all of these exact reasons. So I keep reminding myself of that.)

Now that he’s potty-trained, I can’t put it off any longer. His naps are getting cut short because he’s waking up to “go” and he gets upset if I don’t retrieve him in time to make to the bathroom. I think he’s close to ditching the nighttime diaper as well, provided we just give the poor child access to a toilet.

So I guess that’s one more check in the “pro” column for you: Make the transition because you want to, and because you’re excited about the next big-kid milestone, rather than waiting so long you’re only doing it because you absolutely have to, kicking and screaming all the way.

Published March 17, 2014. Last updated March 17, 2014.
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 [email protected].

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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  • Katie R

    March 17, 2014 at 3:30 pm

    I have been working through the switch to a toddler bed in my head for several weeks. We are expecting our second baby about a week after our son turns two. I have to do some shuffling around before he has room for a toddler bed but he sleeps 12 to 13 hours a night in a crib and naps around three hours every day. Do I really want to ruin a good thing for the baby who won’t even use the crib (he/she will be in a cosleeper in our room for a few months) right away? My plan is to move both the toddler bed and crib into our son’s big boy room and work with a gradual change over the summer. He is very active and loves to explore so I can only imagine what will happen when there are no walls holding him in!

  • Kaela

    March 17, 2014 at 3:57 pm

    My 3.5 year old (who has always been huge for his age) slept in a crib, then we moved and he got a twin bed at 2, then we moved again and he got down graded to a toddler bed at 3, where he still sleeps now. Through all our many moves across the country he’s slept for extended periods in a pack n play, all very happily. We had a couple weeks of bed time troubles (getting out of bed early, etc.) with the crib and the big boy bed transition, but that’s it. Don’t over think it! Give it a try for a few weeks and see what he thinks, good luck! (I do totally agree with Amy that a crib mattress will probably be an improvement support wise over the pack n play.)

  • kimm

    March 17, 2014 at 5:22 pm

    We went from crib to twin bed matress with no boxsprings or bedframe, lots of pillows around it. Then had the boxsprings but still no bedframe, he’s just now 3. He was starting to climb out of crib,& he is so tall, would have had barely enough room on toddler bed. It was a big change since he could get out but he goes to sleep with one of us there, &rarely gets up at night. His little sister will probably be the tricky one though.

  • Lisa

    March 17, 2014 at 11:43 pm

    Our daughter turns 2 in May and just learned to climb out of her crib a couple of weeks ago.  She’s been climbing out a pack n’ play since January or so.  We decided to cover all of our bases, and we did some baby proofing in her room and in the hallway outside of her room (she’s gated into her room, but could probably figure out how to climb that gate) and we dug out our old sleepsacks, which thankfully still fit.  She cannot climb out while wearing a sleepsack, so it’s buying us a bit of time– but for when she does escape we know she’s in a safe space.  I’m definitely not mentally prepared for the switch to a toddler bed (but she’s my tiny baybeee!).  Let us know how it goes.

    • Kate

      March 25, 2014 at 12:11 am

      Lucky!  It only took my 27 month old daughter 3 days to figure out how to climb out of her crib while wearing a sleepsack.

  • Susan

    March 18, 2014 at 12:46 am

    HA. hahahahahahaha. My 4 year old still sleeps in her crib. STILL. She can climb out of it, but just doesn’t. She says she feels safer in there because of the four sides and she still fits so we just roll with it.

    We tried pushing (encouraging, begging, bribing) her to move into a toddler bed when she was 2.5 and her little brother was on the way, but it didn’t work. So we sold the (ikea) toddler bed and got another (ikea) crib. I’m hoping she’ll be ready for a bed around the same time he is and they can share a bottom bunk or something. 

  • June

    March 18, 2014 at 1:46 pm

    My oldest son was doing acrobatics in his crib at 20 months so we put him into a twin bed (car bed with sides so he didn’t roll out) and it worked fine. He stayed in it at night but naps were a bit tricky for a few months because he could get out. With my younger son who is just now 20 months, I plan on keeping him in a crib uh, forever? As long as possible. It’s definitely easier, especially in the morning when he can play in there and not wreak havoc around the house.

  • Hannah

    March 18, 2014 at 4:46 pm

    I just want to know who these kids are who “play in their cribs” when they get up in the morning. All three of mine preferred the “yell loudly until mommy comes and gets me” method.

    My 26 month old is in a toddler bed now. I was really, really hoping he’d just get up! And play! With his toys! But instead he still SITS IN THE BED, yelling for mommy to come and get him. 

    • Christine

      March 18, 2014 at 5:23 pm

      I feel for ya, Hannah. My kid, too, since we switched him to a twin mattress on the floor at 18 months. It was just recently (at almost 4!) that he decided he could get out of bed on his own and then it was just to crawl into my bed in the room across the hall!

      • Jenny

        March 19, 2014 at 10:28 am

        The only time our daughter played quietly in her crib was when she removed her diaper and painted the walls, crib and herself with poop. Good times.

  • IrishCream

    March 19, 2014 at 8:39 am

    We moved my oldest into a toddler bed at 20 months, in preparation for #2’s arrival. I’d planned on a gradual transition, but from the second we got that bed set up, my daughter was all about it. Cribs were for babies. (And we bought an Ikea toddler bed, not realizing the weird sheet size. Turns out regular twin sheets fit fine if you tuck the extra fabric under the mattress.)

    My younger daughter is now almost two, and there’s no way she’s moving to a bed anytime soon. My kids share a room, so if they could both roam freely, we’d have all kinds of chaos.

  • Stephanie

    March 19, 2014 at 5:37 pm

    We moved our older daughter into a big girl bed at 2 years, 2 months. She didn’t think she could leave the bed, so she didn’t – at least not until about 2 1/2. Our younger daughter, who just turned two, can climb out of the crib unless we have her in a sleepsack, which is what we’re doing, at least for a couple more months. It will be chaos once she’s in a big girl bed, so we need a few more months to prepare.

  • tasterspoon

    March 20, 2014 at 5:27 am

    Go for it! As Amy said, you can always go back. But we use a Pack n Play on vacations and it seems terribly uncomfortable so I bet your son would be psyched. Both my kids scrunch up and take up about as much room as a pillow – so my reasons for upgrading them have always been my own, not theirs.

    We invoked the ‘convertible’ aspect of my daughter’s crib (switch out one side for a lower rail with an exit) when she was about 18 months simply because I couldn’t bend my pregnant belly over the crib railing to set her down. I also liked it because I could sit on the bed with her for stories and tucking in – the bedtime transition seemed a little simpler. She moved to a twin with railing (top half of a separated bunk bed) at about 2 1/4 when her brother outgrew his bassinet and needed the crib. Her brother has since had his crib converted to the toddler bed for the same reason (unyielding pregnant belly), but he’s rolled out the hole numerous times (he skootches down to the opening and flails out somehow).

    When my son wakes, he stands and yells for me, even though he’s perfectly capable of climbing out – he’s done that exactly once. My daughter loved the freedom of climbing in and out and never abused it (but she is not a compliant child in any other respect). I guess you just won’t know how your child reacts to the freedom till you try it. Keeping toys and activities in his room to a minimum may help reduce nighttime wandering.

    To add to the anecdotes, back in the day my husband slept in a crib until he complained to the doctor of his legs hurting and they figured out he couldn’t stretch out at night – he was 4 or 5. He and his legs are fine.