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Learn the right time—and the best ways—to help your little one make the transition.

Saying goodbye to the crib is a milestone for toddlers. The truth is, there’s no perfect time to make the switch; kids can be ready as early as 18 months and as late as four years old. The best way to tell whether your child is up for the transition to big-kid bed is to look for these signs.

  • Your Kid Can Climb Out of the Crib. When toddlers can make like monkeys and scale the rails of the crib that previously safe space for sleep can become a hazard for falls.
  • Your Toddler Is Potty Training. A little one who is transitioning out of diapers needs easy access to the toilet as he learns to listen to his body’s signals. Tall crib rails present a big obstacle to getting to the bathroom on time.
  • Your Child Is Too Big For the Crib. When your toddler’s feet touch one end of the crib and his or her head nears the other end (something that happens even quicker than usual if you’re using a mini crib), your kid may be more comfortable moving into a twin-size or larger bed.
  • You Need the Crib for Another Baby. Practically speaking, this may be the most convenient solution. But if you have children less than two years apart, consider allowing him to stay in the crib and getting a bassinet or co-sleeper for your newborn: Many kids younger than this age simply aren’t ready to make the switch.

Once you’ve decided that the time is right to move your toddler from crib to bed, don’t be surprised if you meet some resistance from your child. Many kids make the transition with ease, but others become attached to their cribs and need a little extra support to make the move successful. These strategies can help:

• Child-Proof the Room. Toddlers love to climb and explore, so when your kid makes the jump from a contained crib to a bed, it’s crucial to ensure that the room is safe. Be sure all dressers and bookcases are anchored to the wall, cover all outlets, keep medicines locked away, and child-proof all windows.

  • Get the Toddler Excited. In the weeks before the transition, talk up his new big-kid bed: Share how exciting and grown-up it is and how much fun it will be to sleep in. You might even ask him to help pick out some new sheets so he feels like the bed is his own. If you’re excited and show him that the new bed is a positive thing, chances are he’ll get pumped up, too.

• Go Slowly. Your little one may not be ready to jump straight from crib to bed—and that’s okay. Consider moving the new bed into the room while your child is still sleeping in her crib; use it for story time before bed or encourage him or her to take her naps there. Easing your tot into using the big-kid bed will make the transition smoother for him or her.

• Expect a Two- to Three-week Transition. No matter how well you prep your toddler for the move from crib to bed, he or she will likely have a few setbacks along the way. Plan for some 3:00am wake-ups and rocky bedtime routines. The good news is that if you keep a positive attitude and continue to encourage him or her, you’ll both reap the rewards of restful sleep again soon.