Boy sleeping in new bedThey say your first child is your guinea pig. That’s certainly true with me and my two kids (wait until you see my post on potty training!), but one thing I got mostly right with the first one was moving from a crib to a bed. I’d like to take credit for my success, but, alas, I basically did what my mother did:

1. Time it right. 

If you can, wait until your child is 3. If he’s climbing out much younger, you might want to consider a crib tent as an intermediate step, since it’s hard to reason with (or bribe!) an 18-month-old about staying in bed.

2. Talk it up. 

Call it a “big girl (or boy) bed” and let her peek at the one her older cousin or neighborhood friend sleeps in. If you’re not Martha Stewart, let your child help pick out the bedding. If you shop online, you can narrow the search beforehand.

3. Skip the toddler bed. 

Save yourself the expense of a bed he’ll use for only a couple of years and go right to a twin, or whatever bed you see him in until college. Seriously.

4. Skip the safety rail, too. 

Unless her floor is concrete, what’s the worst that can happen? She’ll fall out and hit the carpet? To soften the blow (literally!), I put the old crib mattress below and made up the difference (since the crib mattress was shorter than the bed) with couch pillows. I needed to do it only for a month or so before my kids learned not to fall out.

5. With all the money you saved skipping the toddler bed and safety rail, consider an organic or natural mattress. 

If you’re the sort who reads such things, you no doubt know about the cocktail of chemicals lurking in conventional mattresses—and that organic mattresses can be really expensive (one thing our mothers didn’t have to worry about!). I split the difference and got a “natural” mattress (made from natural latex) from a discount furniture store. It cost more than a conventional mattress but less than an organic one.

6. Now protect that expensive mattress with a waterproof pad. 

Here again, there’s no shortage of reading material about the dangers of conventional options. You can go for a wool puddle pad instead, but I’ve heard mixed reviews about their effectiveness, so be prepared to double up or use towels as an extra layer if you go that route. As an alternative, Naturepedic makes a waterproof pad that uses a non-PVC plastic.

7. Make everything crystal clear to your child. 

I thought I’d thought of everything when my son Frankie made the transition. Then, the morning his bed was to be delivered, my husband and I started breaking down the crib, and Frankie cried, “Don’t take away my crib!”

“But your big boy bed is coming today, remember?” I said.

“I know,” he replied, as if I were a complete idiot. “Put it right here. Right next to the crib.”

Apparently, I’d neglected to explain that the bed’s arrival meant the crib’s exit. Oh, well. It’s stuff like that that keeps life with kids interesting!

Have you gone through the crib-to-bed transition? Tell us about your experience in comments!