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How to Use a Single Bed for a Small Child

Your kiddo's grown so fast, and he's already geared up for the big transition from his crib to a bed just like yours. Help make the transition easier for him — and take a few safety precautions along the way — to make the big-boy bed a big success.

Crib-to-Bed Transition

There is no "perfect" age for your child to make the transition from a crib to a bed; this generally takes place sometime between 1 1/2 and 3 years of age, but the particular time depends on a variety of considerations. If your kid seems entirely content in his crib, there may be no reason to rush the transition to a single bed. A bed makes it easier for your youngster to get up and out of bed at night, potentially wandering around without supervision. However, if your child is too active or trying to climb out of the crib on her own, now may be the time to consider the "big-girl" bed. If you can lower the mattress in the crib to eliminate her ability to climb out, you may be able to postpone the transition. It may take a little time for your youngster to get used to the transition, but you can make it easier: Instead of replacing all of the bedding, let her continue to use the same crib blanket to hang on to something familiar advises Jennifer Bright Reich, co-author of "The Mommy MD Guide to the Toddler Years."

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Safety Rails

Toddler beds have become a popular choice for the transition from crib to bed. However, this type of bed can only be used until a child reaches about 5 years of age, meaning you'll have to invest in another bed a few years down the road. These beds often come with side guardrails built into the structure to help keep a child safe. If you'd rather skip the toddler bed and go straight to the single bed, there's no reason you can't keep your youngster safe in the single bed. You can pick up a pair of safety guard rails to help to prevent your child from falling off either side. However, it's vital to read the instructions and follow the recommended installation and use manual properly. It is possible for a child to become trapped in between the bed and the rail when used improperly according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. Furthermore, the Commission explains that these rails should never be used for children under 2 years of age.


If you have the time and budget available, you can transform your youngster's single bed into a cozy space for sleeping and play. Some young children do not like the wide-open space provided by a larger bed in comparison to their crib — they're used to the cozy confines of the smaller space. If you're up to a remodel, you can build out the wall in your child's room and turn the bed into a “secret hideaway" or a cozy — but large — cubbyhole. Because you'll want to ensure the bed and the room renovation are as safe as possible, it's best to obtain the services of a professional contractor to make the modifications. When the transformation is complete, you can introduce your youngster to the new fairy's cubbyhole or the pirate's secret escape.

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Pillow Considerations

When you're helping your child make the transition from a crib to a single bed, you may be tempted to pile up the pillows to make the larger space feel cozy. However, all of these pillows can present a serious hazard to a sleeping child. “Parents should wait until their child is at least 2 years of age," according to Debra Holtzman, child safety and health expert, and author of The Safe Baby: A Do-It-Yourself Guide to Home Safety and Health Living. She recommends that parents consult with their child's pediatrician prior to introducing a pillow to ensure there are no reasons to postpone the introduction. “Choose a firm, small pillow," emphasizes Holtzman. While the pillows are fine for a daytime decoration, they must be removed from the bed completely at naptime and bedtime to ensure your child's safety.

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