Moving on up! How to transfer your child from a cot to big bed

Kinderling News & Features

It's a huge moment when your little one graduates from a cot to a big boy / girl's bed. But it can be tricky too - especially now bub's no longer behind bars! 

Mums Rennah and Michelle both recently contacted Kinderling Helpline to ask our resident expert Chris Minogue for tips on transferring. The author of Bringing Baby Home shares her insights on making the big move. 

1. The right time to upsize

Every child is different, but Chris says toddlers are usually ready from around two-and-a-half years old. That's because their cognitive understanding and development is better, plus they're keen to be a bit more grown up!

To assist with the move, Chris also recommends removing old items, like sleeping bags and dummies. “My theory is that when they move from cot to bed, you get rid of all the baby things,” she says. "[That way], we're telling the child 'we're now going into our big boy/girl bed'."

2. Maintain your routine 

Moving may be a big change for your little one, but Chris says it's key to keep your own bedtime rituals the same.

“I literally set up the bed next to the cot, take them out and put them in the bed, and I don’t change what I do in terms of the routine,” she says. "If you give them a kiss and a cuddle in the cot, give them a kiss and cuddle and then put them into the bed."

Create the same environment, then say 'if you need mummy or daddy, just call out'. The next step is to walk out. 

“For most children, they just make that adjustment and there’s no problem,” Chris says. 

Watch Kinderling Helpline:

3. If they do get up, use repetition, not negotiation

Of course now they can get up whenever they please, which can be frustrating for parents.

"After about a week, they realise they can get off the bed!" says Chris. “Try not to negotiate, just say it’s time for bed and put them back."

For the first few nights, you might have to do this a lot, but Chris is confident the message will get through.

4. Still escaping? Try this trick

If you’ve tried step three to no avail, a clever tactic is to get a baby porta-cot out and place it right next to the bed.

"If you've tried the in-out, in-out a few times, I say 'if you get off the bed, I’m going to put you in the baby cot. I actually use the word 'baby cot', because you can see the smart two-and-a-year-old go 'well, I'm not a baby, I'm not going in that cot.'"

If they do get off the bed, follow through and put them in the cot for that sleep so next time they understand. 

5. As a final resort, consider a child-proof gate

If nothing else has worked and your toddler is running rampant when you’d like them to be sleeping, Chris suggests putting a child-proof gate on their door to keep them safe and not wandering around at night.  

“[It's] the last thing I do for a very disruptive child," advises Chris. "That way, you can hear them and see them but they can’t run up and down the house."

She adds: "I don’t often have to use that if I’ve started the right way. We've set the limits around going to bed, we've had our story-kiss-cuddle, [put them] into bed, left the room and created the same environment [as before]. Nine times out of ten this works perfectly.” 

Check out Chris' book Bringing Baby Home on the Pan McMillan website.