Just as kids grow out of clothes and shoes and toys, they also grow out of their beds. Getting the right bed—at the right time—can mean the difference between a full night’s sleep (for you and your child) and teary bedtime negotiations. Assess your family’s needs and your child’s personality to figure out which bed size, type and style will work best in your home.
Once your child can climb out of her crib, it’s time for the big kid’s bed. But a twin or full-size bed can overwhelm a toddler who has grown accustomed to a secure, cocoon-like environment. Choose from toddler (also called junior) beds, expandable beds or twin beds with modifications for fidgety young sleepers.
Toddlers roll out of beds, so safety modifications are needed to secure your child. Some parents place a twin bed on the floor or on a box spring with pillows beside the bed. Toddler beds sit low and come with bedrails. You can also purchase bedrails for any size bed from child equipment stores. Avoid bed frames with sharp edges.
You may choose the shorter toddler bed to fit in a smaller space until your family can move into a larger home. Measure your child’s room or the sleeping space in your home to determine your family’s needs.
Will you or your child have guests? Some folks choose to skip the toddler bed and go straight to a twin or full-size (also called double) so that out-of-towners can use the child’s room. Think about how versatile you need a bed to be.
Themed children’s beds, like car- or boat-shaped beds, can set their imaginations soaring. Think about the decor in your child’s room and how it will work just a couple of years from now.
Toddler beds run approximately 5 feet long, while twin and full-size beds measure about 6 feet long. Many cribs convert into toddler beds, and any toddler bed uses a crib-length mattress. Your child will grow out of it by 5 or 6 years old. You may want to skip the interim step of a toddler bed and go straight to a twin or double bed. Some stores, like Ikea, offer expandable beds that extend from toddler to full-length.
Most toddler beds come with bed rails that run one-third to one-half the length of the bed. Bed rails can be purchased from child equipment stores like OneStepAhead.com. If you choose a bunk or loft bed, make sure the bed rail rises at least 5 inches above the top of the mattress.
Basic bed frames come in steel or wood and usually have brackets for attaching a headboard. Other frames feature head- and footboards built onto the frame, and the decorative features may also come in plastic. Sturdy wooden or metal frames hold up best.
Just because kids are resilient doesn’t mean they don’t need as supportive a mattress as you do. Innerspring mattresses work best for a growing body. Foam mattresses may be too soft and may get uncomfortably hot. Flotation (or water) beds also won’t support your child’s spine and will require an electric heater and extra care.
Your child’s bed can serve more than one function. Loft beds offer play or study areas below. Some beds feature storage. Bunk beds or trundle beds, which feature attached or freestanding cots that pop out from underneath, can accommodate guests.
Sure, it’s your child’s bed, but don’t forget about out-of-towners—or story time. Toddler beds have a weight limit, so if your child likes for you to climb into bed for bedtime stories, a twin or full-size bed might improve the experience. If you lack a guest room, a trundle bed (or bunk beds for visitors with a sense of humor) can put up two guests more comfortably, while your more flexible child enjoys an adventurous night on an air mattress or in a tent in the living room.
You always longed for a Ferrari red racecar bed. Now you can give this treat to your child, but should you? Themed beds that seem more like a play area than a place for sleeping could over-stimulate a child at bedtime. Still, playful beds can conjure great dreams, if your child can handle the distraction. Canopy or four-poster beds evoke knight’s tales. Boat-shaped beds can send your child on dreamy sea-faring adventures.
Size up your child’s room and your home before you head out. Is your linen closet or the toy chest overflowing? Then maybe you need drawers on your child’s bed. Are you about to add a new baby? Then maybe a loft bed will provide more space. Think about your needs today and just a couple of years from now.
Simple wooden- or metal-framed beds can be outfitted with Barney sheets this year and Barbie sheets the next. Think about how you can customize your bed to reflect your growing and ever-changing child’s style and interests. A canopy bed (if you have the room) may fulfill a little girl’s princess fantasy as well a teenage girl’s desire for sophistication. A rough and tumble kid may like the idea of living like a seafarer in tight quarters, with a bed that serves double as a dresser with a classic nautical theme. Some kids love bunk beds, which can be uncoupled as they grow older. You can also purchase cool fort-like tents for a bed, which can delight a 5-year-old and be removed when she turns 10.
Some children feel vulnerable in big new beds, but you can help them feel proud of their “big kid” achievement. Bring your child with you to pick out his new bed. Include them in the entire process and explain the ways in which his choice can affect the whole family. Encourage your child to show off his new bed. But don’t be surprised if excitement turns to tears at bedtime. Support your child through the transition, which might last fifteen minute one night or could last a few weeks. Eventually, he’ll adjust. After all, he won’t be a little kid forever. (Sigh.)