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As a parent, you might have mixed feelings about having your toddler in a crib. You might greet the day your child manages to escape the confines of his crib with a groan, knowing that frustrating nights of trying to keep him in bed are coming. Or you might be anxious to give the crib the heave-ho or to pass it on to an impending arrival. There is no one age when a child should move to a regular bed; physical maturity, emotional maturity and your ability to keep him corralled in bed all enter into the decision.
When your young gymnast can vault over the crib in a single bound, it's obviously time to get rid of the crib, before he hurts himself. But even if he hasn't accomplished this feat, other physical signs tell you he's ready, such as the ability to put one leg over the crib side. If he's 35 inches or taller -- a height most boys attain around age 27 months and most girls by 28 months -- he's also ready for the move, in most cases. If he's tall enough that the top of the crib rail is less than three-fourths of his height, or below his nipple line, he's tall enough to climb out.
Some kids are emotionally attached to their stuff, including their bed. If you don't think so, just try to take the crib down and put it in another room for the new baby you're expecting. Don't try to take away the crib if you're already struggling with potty training and the letting go of bodily waste products or if he just started preschool. Wait until you're not in the middle of another emotional upheaval to make the move from the crib. Go slowly with the switch over if you have the room to keep both the crib and the bed up at the same time and if he's not already walking the rail like a balance beam. Transition to the bed for naps or for story time before bed before making the final move of taking the crib away altogether.
Use Reason to Confine Him
While you might not really consider your toddler's crib a prison, it serves the same purpose: It keeps him somewhere he'd sometimes rather not be. When determining the right age to remove the crib, consider whether he's old enough to understand cause and effect well enough that the threat of punishment will keep him in bed. Will a new race bed be enough incentive to keep him in it all night? A 1-year-old isn't likely to be that impressed, but a car-obsessed 3-year-old might be, especially if you warn him that leaving his new motor home in the night could mean the bed goes bye-bye.
Most kids will get out of their bed in the night at least occasionally. If you have an impulsive child who can't control himself well enough to stay safe without supervision, you'll need to find other ways of containing him. Don't put a crib tent over his crib in an effort to keep him in place once he can climb out. These products were recalled in 2012 after one death and and one serious injury from their use. Use a gate across the door or a safety handle that attaches to the outside of his bedroom door so he can't open it but you can. Strip his room down to the bare essentials to eliminate likely sources of injury, such as a dresser he can climb on. Installing a video cam can help you keep an eye on his room at night.
Suzanne Robin is a registered nurse with more than 25 years of experience in oncology, labor/delivery, neonatal intensive care, infertility and ophthalmology. She also has extensive experience working in home health with developmentally delayed or medically fragile children. Robin received her RN degree from Western Oklahoma State College. She has coauthored and edited numerous books for the Wiley "Dummies" series.