I remember moving when my daughter was about to turn 3 and buying a lot of new stuff for my place.
The question I had to ask, with her at such a crucial age, was should I buy a convertible crib or jump right into letting her use a toddler bed?
But what exactly is a toddler bed and how big are they?
A toddler bed is simply a small bed for toddlers who don’t need to sleep in a crib anymore. Usually (though not always), they have the same basic dimensions as a crib and use the same 27″ by 52″ mattress, only without the full side rails in place. There may be a half rail, a low rail, or none at all on a toddler bed.
The best time to switch your child to a toddler bed will probably be when they’re between 2 and 3 years old, can and do climb out of the crib on their own, and are ready for the responsibility of staying in bed on their own all night.
Now let’s take a bit of a closer look at pretty much everything you need to know about toddler beds!
Toddler Bed Definition & Dimensions
These days, a pretty large majority of cribs are actually called “convertible cribs.”
That just means that, when the time comes, the crib will easily convert to a toddler bed, and sometimes even into a twin or full-sized bed after that.
Most of the time, you’ll have to purchase some kind of “conversion kit,” like a half rail to replace the full side-rail that’s usually in place on the baby crib.
So with these kinds of convertible cribs, you’ll pop off the side rail and maybe some other parts of the crib and swap them out with toddler bed rails, and whala! You’ve got your toddler bed — and your kid will sleep on the same exact mattress, which is about 27″ wide by 52″ long.
Here’s what ours looks like. This is a Pottery Barn crib that converts into a toddler bed and then (sooner than I would like!) converts into a full-sized bed.
However, you can buy separate dedicated toddler beds if and when you need to that AREN’T convertible cribs.
The picture at the very top of this article is a toddler bed from IKEA that I used for a while.
When it comes to dedicated toddler beds, you’ll find a lot of variation in the size and dimensions. The one I used was a good bit wider than a standard crib mattress.
(The Busunge is the one I used and loved.)
Some advantages of separate toddler beds are that you can find more interesting designs, unique sizes, and other cool features.
The Busunge from IKEA actually extends in and out to whatever length you want it to be, though its width remains fixed at about 38 inches.
I honestly loved using both the separate toddler bed and the convertible toddler bed, but the one thing I’ll say is the convertible one didn’t last super long. Once our daughter was ready to take the rails off, it wasn’t too long before she outgrew the mattress completely (which is why we’re now shopping for full-sized mattresses and bedding).
The dedicated toddler bed was designed to lengthen as she grew, so that’s a major plus of going that route.
However, in most cases, it makes sense to buy a convertible crib from the get-go, one that will grow with your child and convert into bigger and bigger beds along the way.
Let’s just quickly run through some mattress size comparisons so you know what to expect.
Toddler mattress size vs Twin or Single mattress
Toddler: 27″ x 52″ (usually)
Twin: 38″ x 75″
(Twin is just under a foot wider and substantially longer)
Toddler mattress size vs Full or Double mattress
Toddler: 27″ x 52″
Full or Double: 54″ x 74″
(Full is about a foot and a half wider and nearly two feet longer)
Toddler mattress size vs Queen
Toddler: 27″ x 52″
Queen: 60″ x 80″
(Queen is over two feet larger in both dimensions!)
It sounds crazy, but some people swear by putting their toddlers in a queen mattress once they outgrow the crib and toddler bed.
It seems a little extreme to me, and we’ll be trying out a full size soon, but whatever works for you!
When to Switch to a Toddler Bed (3 signs it’s time)
What’s the perfect age to start using a toddler bed?
Well, there’s really no right or wrong answer.
The short version is: Whenever you feel like your child is ready!
But if that’s not helpful, here a couple of things to look for and consider:
Your kid climbs out of the crib on his own (or is capable of it)
If your toddler can stand up in the crib and quite easily swing a foot or leg over the top rail to climb out, it’s a good sign you might be ready to move on to a toddler bed.
It sounds kind of counterintuitive, right? If they’re climbing out of the crib, are they really ready for the responsibility of a big kid bed?
In reality, it comes down to safety. You’re probably better off risking them getting out of the toddler bed at night and playing in their room than you are risking them climbing over the crib and falling to the ground.
Once they’re big enough to easily climb out, it’s not really safe to continue using a crib.
It’s more convenient
For whatever reason, you might find that at some point it just makes sense to make the switch and figure everything out later.
For example, you might be moving and it might just be a good time to break down the crib and convert it.
Or you might be ready to bring a new baby into the family, who will need the crib, and you’d rather not buy a whole new crib for your toddler who will be ready for a bed soon anyway.
There’s no perfect time, no right time, and no wrong time, so if it makes sense to do it, just do it!
You feel like they’re ready
If your toddler is a pretty good listener, generally well-behaved, and does well during the bedtime routine, you’ll probably do great switching to a toddler bed.
If they’re incredibly unruly, don’t listen at all, and you worry they’ll simply run amok in their room throughout the night, well… it might not be time yet.
Having a big-kid bed is a pretty serious responsibility! It’s not so much about size, development, and age as it is trust that your child won’t abuse their newfound freedom.
Is There A Toddler Bed Age Limit?
There’s really no maximum age that it’s safe for a kid to sleep in a toddler bed.
At some point, they’ll outgrow it. You’ll know it’s happening because you’ll lay them down in bed and realize their toes and head are both almost touching the ends!
(This literally just happened to us, and it came completely out of nowhere.)
Our daughter just turned 4 and she’s about to max out the length of her toddler bed. I’ve seen other sources that say this happens around 5 years old.
But as long as they fit comfortably in the bed, it’s fine for them to continue using it!
After that, you’ll need to explore other options including:
- A twin bed
- A full sized bed
- A queen bed
Many convertible cribs will transform into one of these options after the toddler bed phase, but others won’t. You may have to buy something completely new at this stage for your toddler to sleep comfortably.
If you do have to buy a totally fresh bed, it’s really up to you what mattress size to use!
In my experience and research, it’s not that much more expensive to go for a full vs a twin, so you might as well get the bigger option and give your kid more room to grow into it.
However, if space in your home is at a premium, a twin will work just fine, too.
So that’s pretty much it. Simple, right?
A toddler bed is usually just a crib with the big side-rail taken off. In its place, you’ll usually attach a low or half rail to keep your child from rolling out while still giving them room to climb in and out on their own.
(However, there are plenty of awesome standalone toddler beds you can buy that work amazingly well.)
You’ll usually switch to a toddler bed somewhere between 2 and 3 years of age, though the exact timing depends on convenience and when you think they’re ready to handle the switch.
Let me know if you have other questions about switching to toddler beds in the comments!
Hope this helps, parents.