Transition to Toddler Beds

Just like I hoped my kids would be late walkers, I also hoped they would sleep in a crib until they were four. Okay, maybe not four but three would be nice. It's just so much easier when they're contained, especially where two are concerned. They can't physically bother each other, climb on each other, encourage the other one to run around the room with them.

Each climbed out of the crib once, on different occasions, around 18 months. I wasn't concerned and luckily it didn't happen again until after they were two. I've heard this from lots of parents actually, but many are so worried about them getting hurt climbing out of the crib, that they move them at the first sign of it, which is often early on. But those who wait, often buy themselves another six months or even a year. I was going to take my chances.

Around 27 months, they both started climbing out. Not every day/night and not multiple times, but it was happening and I figured the end of cribs was near but was still willing to prolong it if I could. I had watched each of them climb out and they flipped around and came down feet first so I really wasn't too worried about them getting hurt. I put up a sign on the door reminding them to stay in bed -- George is very into signs and I thought that may work with him, and it did, somewhat. I also used bribery -- 'if you stay in your crib, you'll get a surprise from Dad in the morning' (he had conveniently ordered 2 fire trucks for them), and then later, 'you can play with the fire trucks tomorrow if you stay in your bed'. We always followed through -- if they didn't stay in bed, the quoted toy would be put away from the next day.

This all worked somewhat well, some nights they would climb out once or twice (at bedtime/not during the night and often when they woke up in the morning, they'd walk into our room), others they wouldn't. As they neared 28 months, it was clear that George wouldn't be staying in the crib anymore. After three nights of his climbing out repeatedly, including at naps, we decided that we needed to convert the cribs. I ordered the door monkey and decided when it arrived, we'd install it and do their bed conversion on the same night. It was scheduled to arrive Monday. On Sunday night, William fell out of his crib, somewhat hard and had a nasty rug burn on his nose. Yes, definitely time to move them out of the cribs. Unfortunately while the door monkey arrived on time, it didn't fit our non-standard doors so the first night was a mess. They'd get out of their toddler bed and run out of the room, over and over and over again. My dad was able to make it work by adding a piece of wood to our door frame and that made a huge difference.

Looking back over my notes from the last month, I'd conclude that we're in an okay place. It never got as bad as it could have -- it wasn't like they were crying for hours or running around like crazy -- but it still has it's ups and downs.

Week One:
  • Waking up well after 7am most mornings (later than their sun clock comes on, which is at 6:50am).
  • Taking a lot longer to fall asleep for naps, especially G. There were days he would go down at 3:45 when we knew we'd wake him up at 4pm. I used to take him out of the room if he didn't fall asleep by a certain point so he wouldn't wake W, but I needed him to learn that even if he wasn't going to sleep, this was a quiet time and he wouldn't be taken out of the room
  • Asleep just before 9 the majority of the nights, which really was only about 30-45 minutes later than when they normally fall asleep, but we were still actively involved at this point -- talking to them through the door, singing, eventually going back in, etc.
Week Two:
  • Calling us to come get them right around 6:50 each morning.
  • Naps improved. G going down earlier and napping most days.
  • Asleep by 8:20-8:30 almost every night.
Week Three:
  • Up around 6:50 most mornings, earlier once or twice
  • W still taking at least half an hour to fall asleep, G falling asleep by 2:30 or so most days, occasionally earlier.
  • Most nights by 8:30, but a couple of 9 o'clock nights.
Week Four:
  • The last couple of days, W has been waking up before 6:50 sun clock. Other days he's made it.
  • Naps are hit or miss. I think G has missed 3 naps in the last week, meaning I tried to put him down but he never rested and I eventually took him out after 3pm -- I'm now okay doing this as I feel like he knows it's his time to rest... even if he doesn't do it.
  • Hit or miss here too, we had been doing so well, but they've required more attention a few of the nights. 

One issue we're trying to figure out is that some days it takes W forever to fall asleep, like over an hour. G is telling me he's tired, but we've tested and know it definitely does not work to bring G into the room before W is asleep. On days W isn't asleep until 2:30 or later, it means G isn't falling asleep until at least 3pm. I read to him to try to have him ready, but then have to read at least one more book in the room to help transition and G just needs some time to fall asleep.

As far as staying in the toddler bed, it was really the first week or so that we dealt with them getting out of their bed, running into the closet and taking out clothes, or worst of all, sticking their face through the 2-inch opening and shouting, 'Mama, WHERE are YOU??'. They mostly do okay staying in their bed, and really the door monkey made a difference as getting out of their bed was really the first step in trying to get out of the room. W likes to read sitting on the floor, with his book on his bed, especially at naptime. G likes to climb on W's bed to open the shutters on the window over his bed, which is really our biggest issue. Some days it includes jumping on W's bed, stepping on him, etc. We've been lucky and W's slept through most of it, but I still stay within earshot until I am confident G has settled down. For the first two weeks or so, bribery was big and 'if they stayed in their bed' they'd get a new book, get to play with a toy that was 'new' (or hadn't been seen in a while), etc. It worked more often than not, but not always. It got to the point where it was matter-of-fact and they'd say, 'I can't have my fire truck today, try again tomorrow'... Now I realize it's rare that we need to remind them to stay in their bed, that part of the battle seems to have settled down, now if we can just get them to fall asleep a bit quicker. But really, as long as I am 'off duty' when I say good night and shut their door, I'm fine with them being awake a bit longer. It's just much harder when we still have a half an hour of talking to them through the door, dealing with requests for milk and potty, etc.

After an especially tough night, finally asleep

 As you can see, it's not perfect, but honestly, it seems like it's just like any other month -- a couple of good weeks, an okay week and a not-so-good week. I think that's just how it goes with sleep, especially when you have two sharing a room. Honestly though, I expected it to be a lot worst. I thought it would be much later bed times with a lot of crying and trying to get out of the bedroom, and though it did feel bad that first week, it was mostly because naps had been tougher too, or at least it was taking them longer to go down, which meant I got less of a break.  My biggest dread of the transition was I was so sure G would completely drop his nap once he could so easily get in and out  of his bed. Thank goodness, that doesn't seem to be the case. Yes, I'd say every week there's a day he doesn't nap, or even several days on a bad week. It also takes him a while to fall asleep many days, but he still does nap a lot of the time and doesn't want to be woken up. He can still go to bed within a half-hour of bedtime each night so I think we're okay. I think he'd be fine to drop it as when he misses a nap he doesn't seem tired, or go to bed any earlier, he just gets sort of... crazy. hyperactive. But for now I'm happy to get any break I do. I'm sure when we drop the nap, they'll just start going down a little earlier. Here's to hoping!

Tips for the transition:
  • Get new bedding - I actually didn't do this because I figure we'll change up their room when they get twin beds which probably isn't too far off. But I did get them new digger pillowcases with their names on them so that was a nice change.
  • Appeal to what works for your kids - like the sign for G, bribery, threats, I don't know, but there are definitely different things that work for different kids.
  • Start using a tot clock before the toddler bed transition.  Though it still doesn't work every morning, overall, it's been great and given them more boundaries even when they have the freedom to get out of bed whenever.
  • Door monkey. Best purchase ever. I love that they can see out and hear you and don't feel 'locked' in, though they still can't get out.
  • Make sure everything is child-proofed in the room and then let go. If they take all the books off their shelf? Who cares. All their shirts out of the drawer? No problem. I was surprised mine haven't even gotten into much.
  • Like with any transition, talk about it in advance. Get them excited about the change, but make them feel safe and secure. 
  • Get a book about staying in bed or being in a big kid bed. We got this one and while I wouldn't say it's been a hit, they definitely like it and I love the part about counting with your eyes closed until you open them and see it's morning :)
  • Stick to your same routine as much as possible. Remind them of the next steps in the routine even as you go through it. 
  • We decided to keep them in sleep sacks. It's what they're used and at least I know they're still warm and not tossing blankets off. We'll probably do that transition when they move into twin beds.
  • Give them some freedom with what you can -- they love to pick out their sleep sack themselves and don't want to put them on until after the last book (instead of before). Fine. If they want to take 15 books into their bed, no big deal.
  • Remind them of all the things they can do instead of just saying, 'Do not climb out of your bed! Stay in your bed!'. I'd say, 'you can sing, read, play with your animals, tell a story', etc.
  • We didn't use a baby monitor very much at all and ended up selling it because we never used it after the first few months. Then I regretted not keeping it for when they moved to toddler beds so I could see what they were doing, but really, I still don't need one. The door monkey has made it so I can peek in and again, beyond the first week or so, there's really nothing too exciting to see now.
  • Decide if you want to add consequences in beyond the bribery. On some tough nights, I started saying things like, 'if you can't stay in your bed, I'll take the books away'. The key is you have to follow through. It's upsetting for them but on one night, it was the only thing that worked. I actually told them I was going to take away Sammy and Monkey, their favorite stuffed animals, because I told them that they wanted to sleep in a quiet place and they were being too loud. I told them if they didn't quiet down and rest, Sammy and Monkey would have to come and sleep in my room. That actually worked and I throw out variations of it occasionally. Yes, I've acted on it and actually taken them away, but always have turned back around and said, 'this is your last chance' and that's always worked. 

Sleeping with our favorite toys

Besides the fact that G hasn't given up his nap, the biggest surprise to me is that they haven't fallen asleep in any funny places. You see photos of kids under the chair, in the closet, etc, or with twins, often sleeping in the same bed. In the beginning I even gave them ideas, 'if you want to sleep in the closet, fine, but you have to stay in the room'. Nope, not once. My boys each sleep in their own bed and that's pretty much it. I think G has been found asleep on the floor once or maybe twice. I've heard them chatting at night as one tries to come get books on the other bed and one will say, 'not on my bed, you sleep on your bed!'. Nope, I guess I'm never gonna get the cute photo of them curled up in bed together. I guess I'm not really surprised, they never really slept with us and are very used to having their own space for sleeping.

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