If you’re a new parent, you might be wondering: what, exactly, is a toddler’s bed?
I don’t blame you! Not so long ago, I didn’t even know toddlers had special beds!
But the truth is, friends, toddler’s beds exist, and they can be surprisingly useful.
They’re designed to provide a transitional bed between a crib and a more grown-up twin-size bed.
Toddlers are living through a stage of intense change, and they aren’t always thrilled about all the shifts that come with growing up!
Anything you can do to make this phase easier for your kid will go a long way.
What Is a Toddler’s Bed?
But what is a toddler’s bed, exactly?
In the same way that a toddler is midway between a baby and a “big kid,” a toddler’s bed is halfway between a crib and a regular bed.
Most toddler’s beds are low to the ground, unlike a crib, which is elevated for easier access to the baby.
These transitional beds also feature a tall headboard and footboard reminiscent of the familiar enclosure of a crib, a resemblance which is heightened by the common wing-like barriers that help keep your toddler from falling out of bed.
It’s not quite a regular bed, but it’s not quite a crib, either.
Like your toddler, it’s somewhere in between.
Size is the Same
There’s this one strange similarity between toddler’s beds and cribs that you might not expect.
It certainly caught me by surprise!
Believe it or not, the mattress in a crib is the same size as the mattress in a toddler’s bed.
Well, none of them have an exact standard size, but they tend to be the same dimensions because the legally-mandated minimum size in the U.S. is 27 ¼ inches wide by 51 ¼ inches long for both kinds of mattress.
This means you could very easily use the mattress from your kid’s crib as the mattress for their new toddler bed!
Big money-saver, right?
Well… maybe not. See, the mattresses you’ll see in a crib need to be very firm for safety reasons.
Your toddler might be comfortable keeping their firm crib mattress, but there’s a good chance they’ll want to enjoy a softer, more pillowy mattress now that they’re old enough to have it.
Fortunately, some crib mattresses are two-sided, offering a safety-conscious crib side and a softer, comfort-focused toddler side as well!
Personally, I think this is a great way to take advantage of the same-size nature of cribs and toddler’s beds.
As long as you can find a mattress you feel secure about, I’d say go for it!
A Comfortable Transition?
Like I’ve already said, toddler’s beds are fairly similar to cribs.
This can make it easier for your kid to adjust after outgrowing the crib, since it’s a relatively familiar sleeping environment.
On the other hand, though, you’ll have to think about the temperament of your toddler.
Any kind of life change can be a stressful one, and if your little one is prone to vehemently resist change, it’s possible that no amount of familiarity will make them feel better.
If the transition between beds seems likely to be a troublesome one, you might be better off skipping the toddler bed and moving straight to a twin.
This is certainly more cost effective, since your kid will only be able to sleep in a toddler bed for a limited span of time anyway.
Plus, if your kid is a busy sleeper and might be prone to falling out of bed, you can find add-on toddler rails that will add an extra layer of safety.
The big thing to pay attention to here is your kid’s mood.
If they’re okay with changes that come in smaller, incremental steps, a toddler bed can be a great stepping-stone on the route to a big kid bed!
But, if they’re going to resist any and all change and you’d rather just get all the screaming done in one go, I’d have to recommend going straight to a twin.
Promotion or Punishment?
One more quick concern I have to bring up with regards to your child’s emotional state: are you trying to move them to a new bed because there’s a new baby on the way?
Trust me: suddenly having a younger sibling is hard on any toddler.
You can spare yourself a lot of headache by deliberately framing the transition for your kid—trying to shape the way they think about moving to a new bed.
If it’s possible, you’ll want to make them feel like they’re getting promoted, not punished.
If they’re excited to move in to a new and different bed, it’ll make your life so much easier.
We can talk all day about “terrible toddlers,” but in some ways, having a toddler is much easier than having an infant!
For one thing, part of what can make toddlers such a terror is the same thing that helps parents sleep easier at night: they have much better motor control than they did when they were younger.
This means toddlers can rescue themselves in ways infants can’t! If they find themselves face-down in a pillow, they’ll be able to roll themselves over without much fuss.
More specifically, they can handle a softer mattress and a bed without rails and still be perfectly safe.
The downside of that advanced muscle control is that toddlers aren’t quite as safe in cribs as they were earlier in life.
They’re curious little climbers, and there’s a good chance they’ll clamber up out of the crib!
A toddler bed is lower to the ground, making it possible for your kid to get up and move around the room autonomously without risking a fall.
Of course, every child is different, so what’s safe for your kid is up to you to determine.
You know them better than anyone else, so as long as you’re paying attention, you’ll be a-okay!
I hope you have a better idea of what to expect from a toddler’s bed.
Best of luck shopping, and as ever, happy sleeping!