Moving to a big bed, away from the safety and security of the cot, can be a time of mixed emotions for your child. Because of this, he needs your help in making it a success.
There's no set time when your child should start sleeping in a bed instead of in a cot, but you'll probably consider it when he's around two years old (give or take a few months).
Pick a time when he's settled and comfortable and no other big changes are taking place. It wouldn't be ideal to move him straight after the arrival of a new baby in the house. If he felt vulnerable, he might view the transfer as a punishment rather than a bonus.
Your child will spend a lot of time in bed, so it needs to be comfy and safe. To make the transition smooth check out our 10 steps to making the move to the big bed below.
10 steps to the big bed
1. Prepare the way.
Talk about the move before it happens and approach the topic of moving from his cot carefully. Suggest that now he's a big boy he needs a big bed, just like a grown-up. Make sure you look happy about it when you say this so he knows you have a positive attitude to the change. Let your child lie on your bed, and encourage him to go under the covers on his own. This will prepare him emotionally for the transition.
2. Do it together
Get your child involved. If you are buying a new bed for him, once he's used to the idea of having a big bed, take him with you when you go to choose it. Make it a special treat for him and have fun on the day choosing his new bed and bed covers with great care. Make sure he's involved in decision-making. If you intend to use a bed that belonged to an older sibling, make a big fuss of cleaning it an preparing it for him. He'll feel more motivated if he's involved in these activities.
3. Changing rooms
The bed is probably larger than his cot and takes up more space, so changing to the new bed is also a good time to rearrange the bedroom in other small ways, such as moving a bookcase or hanging new curtains. Don't overdo the changes; however, as too many could unsettle him. He'll be very excited just watching the bed arrive and being assembled. If the room is big enough, you could leave the cot and bed in it, so he can sleep in the cot but become more accustomed to the idea of the bed.
4. Make him safe
Check safety and security. He's used to the support of the cot sides so he'll expect to roll against a strong, solid side-rail. In his sleep, he may roll off the bed. Make sure he has a small side rail with legs that slide under the mattress to prevent him falling out. Ensure it's securely attached to the bed. If the bed isn't against a wall, put one of these rails on either side. Show your child that the safety rails keeps him safe.
5. Easy does it
Surround him with familiar items. Sleeping in this new bed will seem strange to your child. If it helps, make the transition smoother by giving him some of the bed covers from his cot to use in his big bed. He might want his familiar cot blanket spread over the new covers, or he may prefer his old pillow and pillowcase instead of the new one you bought for him. Let him have them. These familiar props may be what he needs to feel comfortable.
6. Take your time
Pick the first night with care. Be prepared to stay in the room with your child the first few nights, reading a book as he falls asleep. He may want you to do this for the first week or so until he feels secure enough to fall asleep in his new bed on his own. Give him time to adjust. Don't be surprised if, 10 minutes after he's been put into the new bed, he climbs out and returns to his cot. This often happens and it's nothting to be concerned about. If you're in the room when he does this, gently lead him back to the new bed, give him lots of reassuring cuddles and stay in the room with him for a while. Be prepared to repeat this process again and again until he settles in his big bed. Your persistence will pay off within two or three weeks at most.
7. Stay firm
If he protests, stay calm. He may start crying as he pleads to be allowed to return to his cot, saying that he hates his big bed. Reassure him that he'll be safe and comfortable there. Point out that he'll soon get used to it and remind him that it's not all that different from his cot if he's using some of the same bedding anyway. Part of this may stem from him being tired and cranky, so take it with a grain of salt. Surround him in the new bed with as many cuddly toys as he wants. Your aim should be to make the big, new bed more attractive and comfortable for him to spend the whole night in.
8. Boost his confidence
Praise successes. No matter how unsettled he is when he first tries to rest in the new bed, he'll eventually fall asleep in it. When he wakes up in the morning after sleeping the whole night through, give him a big hug and let him see how pleased you are with his achievement. He'll feel very proud of himself, and your praise will make him more positive about the change. Every small success boosts your child's self-confidence further, making it easier for him to fall asleep on his own the next night.
9. One last step
Say goodbye to the cot for good. Once he's comfortable in his new bed, put the cot away in your garage or, if you don't intend having more children, give it to friends. Unless you're expecting baby visitors, there isn't much point in leaving it indefinitely in your child's room, but let him know in advance that it will be going. Some children like to help dismantle their cot and watch it being taken out of the room.
10. And finally…
Your child may prefer the cot to be removed in his absence. Don't ask him what you should do - decide for yourself what's best for him and then carry it out. He may not even notice that the cot has gone because he's become so used to his new big bed by this time.
Other points to consider:
• Strike a balance between a small bed that he'll soon grow out of and a huge one, in which he could feel lost.
• If you're buying a bed, go to a reputable shop or bedding store. Ask for confirmation that the bed, mattress and cover meet all current health and safety standards. If your child has allergies, ask about non-allergenic bedding and pillows.
• Think very carefully if you're considering bunks, as they're not designed for young children. Never let young children sleep in a top bunk, as they may roll off in the night. Top bunks must have safety rails.