Sleep Expert


March 6, 2024 Article written by Jenna Wilson

About Jenna and Little Dreams Consulting

Jenna Wilson set up the multi award winning Little Dreams Consulting 8 years ago, following ten years working as a solicitor in Childcare Law. She has trained with Sleep Sense™ and The Sleep Charity (UK) and has attended a multitude of courses with the NSPCC and The Lullaby Trust. Little Dreams offer an antenatal package to educate parents about newborn sleep early, so that they don’t need help to solve developed sleep issues later. Please do get in touch to find out more!

The little Dreams Consulting family is growing and is looking for franchisees across the UK to join their successful team of sleep experts. To find out more, pop them an email at for a (no obligation) chat.

How do I transition my toddler from a cot to a bed?

We talk to lots of parents about when, and how, to transition their toddler to a ‘big kid’ bed.

Moving your little one to a big bed can be a big deal and, often, parents we speak to want to know two things: when and how!

Our main concern is always your little ones’ safety so, if they are jumping out of their cot, unsafely, then we may need to think about a bed. If not, however, we would suggest waiting until they are 2 ½ - 3 years old at least…even if you need the cot for a new sibling!

Below are our top tips for transitioning your little one to a bed:

If your toddler is not sleeping independently:

Our answer to the question of “when” is likely to be “not now” if your little one does not have great sleep skills. We would suggest you try to teach your little one their independent sleep skills before transitioning to a bed…you will have nighttime visitors much more if they do not know how to sleep well!

There is absolutely no rush to get your toddler out of their cot into a bed, I have never heard anyone say “I wish we’d moved them to a big bed earlier” (in fact most of the time, it is the opposite).

The reason we need to ensure they are sleeping well first, is because if your toddler is learning these skills, there will be a period of adjustment as they learn to fall asleep independently and this can take a little getting used to. During this time, it is comforting for your little one to have a familiar place to sleep, i.e. their bedroom, their sheets, favourite sleep toy and their cot. Ideally, we want everything to be the same until they are able to fall asleep on their own. You can introduce a duvet and pillow as a first step to the transition if you want to feel like you are doing something – and the home washable Night Lark Coverless Duvets are thoughtfully created with a built in cover, these are a great idea for any nighttime leaks whilst potty training. Their waterproof sheets really work, and our little ones love their duvets and prints (yes, we use them)!

Moving to a big bed is going to be much easier if your little one is already sleeping through the night. Also, a toddler who is well rested and able to fall asleep independently is far less likely to get out of their bed and leave their room (or even bed) at night, which is usually the biggest issue parents find when they move their little ones out of the cot.

If your toddler has independent sleep skills or those who need to move into a bed for safety:

Step one

Starting with bedtime, at the risk of stating the obvious, if you’re struggling to sleep well in the heat and are wearing pyjamas in bed, sleeping naked is probably among the first things you should try. The only part of your body this might not apply to is your feet. When it’s hot, you might want to experiment with sleeping with or without socks on and see which feels most comfortable.

Step two

When it’s time to choose a new bed, make sure your toddler gets to have some input into which bed and bedding they get. Asking which bed they prefer (between your shortlist), which colour sheets they like will not only ensure you buy something they like – it will also help them feel a sense of ownership over their new bed, which can work wonders in easing the transition. 

A bed guard can be really helpful, to give your little one a visual cue of where they should sleep and might help prevent them getting in and out when they feel like it.

Step three

When it comes to their first night in their new bed it is important that you keep everything else the same. Don’t be tempted to change your little one’s routine, including what they have for dinner etc, or introduce anything new that night, like changing the room around etc. This transition is a big change for your little one, so try to keep any additional changes to a minimum.

Dealing with their reactions

Once you’ve settled your little one into their new bed for the first time, you may find they either adapt really well to their new bed and don’t test the rules at all OR they start leaving their room, playing with their toys, or calling for you to come back in several times a night. This can happen on the first night or even a few weeks later, when you think they have settled well.

If your toddler responds really well to their bed that’s great and you have successfully managed the transition. If, however, they are being a rascal adopt a consistent approach to dealing with it. You could consider a consequence, tell them what it is and what it will be if they do it again, and make sure you follow through on that consequence if, and when, they do.

You may well have already discovered a consequence that works for your toddler, and if so, I strongly suggest you keep that in place. Remember, it’s best not to change anything except for the bed, so when it comes to managing behaviour, just keep doing whatever you’ve been doing until now.

You can also consider a reward chart for settling well and staying in bed all night. A way for your little one to know what time morning is, will be vital and an immediate reward is also advised (toddlers can’t save up stickers for a few days to work towards a big reward).

Making a change like this isn’t always easy, but if you follow this advice, it can be quite straightforward. Remember: manage expectations, keep things low-key, maintain a consistent routine and follow through with all consequences – and before you know it your little one will be happily sleeping in their big bed.

Photo credit @thisparkerlife

March 06, 2024 — Jenna Wilson