First, your newborn baby moved out of your bed and into a crib. After what seemed like minutes, it’s already time to upgrade to the next step—a toddler bed. If this is your first baby, you may not have even heard of a toddler bed until you realized you needed one.
Why do you need to make the switch? Cribs are tall, light, and narrow; as your baby grows, the crib can feel uncomfortable as they can’t leave the tall crib on their own. Upgrading straight to a twin bed is a bad idea for your little one because they can fall off easily and twin beds aren’t meant to be used for unsupervised toddlers.
A toddler bed is the perfect medium. But how do you know what to look for in a toddler bed? The key points are different than what you need to pay attention to when shopping for a twin or queen bed. Safety, comfort, size, height, and design are just a few of the factors discussed in this article.
What Is a Toddler Bed?
Let’s start with the basics. As previously mentioned, a toddler bed is the next step up from a crib. It features the same safe design with railings on the sides to prevent your child from rolling off the bed, but has the look of a standard bed. The railings aren’t as tall as ones cribs have, and they don’t always cover the entire perimeter of the bed frame; often they only block exposed sides. This means your little one is able to get out of the bed if they need to without your help, but are still protected from falling while they sleep. The hard edges of toddler beds are also rounded instead of sharp for safety.
In terms of what mattress you will need, most toddler beds use the same mattress size as cribs, so you can keep using your existing mattress. You won’t need to purchase a mattress for your new bed.
You may be wondering when it’s time to make the switch to a new bed. There isn’t one definite answer; each baby develops at different rates and some may prefer to sleep in a crib longer than others. However, if your baby reaches around 35 inches in height, it may be time to start considering making the switch. Some doctors recommend that you wait until your toddler reaches the three-year mark to switch to a toddler bed (unless they are developing faster and seem mentally ready).
Some signs of readiness to watch out for is that you find your toddler trying to climb out of the crib (sometimes successfully), or that they are swinging their legs along the sides. However, just because they keep trying to leave the crib does not mean you need to switch them to a toddler bed if they’re not ready; you may just need to add more safety reinforcements until they are a little bit older. The most important thing is to trust your gut. If you feel perfectly safe letting your toddler sleep overnight unsupervised, then they may be ready to switch to a more comfortable, free big kid bed.
Priority One: Safety in a Toddler Bed
Choosing a safe toddler bed should be your number one priority, as the purpose of a toddler bed is to protect your child from any harm at night while they sleep unsupervised. A good toddler bed should arrive with multiple safety features.
Toddler Beds We Love
Most standard bed sizes, like a queen bed or twin bed, can support a variety of bed frame designs. These include the common sharp-edged bed frame. However, toddler beds should not have any sharp edges. It is easy for a child to bump their head on a sharp corner, which can cause a concussion or other head injury. Always search for a toddler bed with rounded, smooth corners.
If a toddler bed doesn’t have guardrails, it’s probably unsafe to even call it one. Some toddler beds have adjustable guardrails; some go around the entire bed while some only cover half; some leave a small opening on one side, etc. You can pick your bed based on how tall you want the guardrails and how easy you want it to be for your toddler to leave the bed. You will likely need to install them yourself. Ensure that they are installed properly to avoid your child falling in between the bed and guardrails or the child falling off due to poor security.
Remember—you’ve got a toddler! Chances are they’ll spend quite a bit of time jumping up and down on their new bed, pulling and pushing on things, or running around on it. Toddler beds are small and have a maximum weight limit, so you need to be sure that you are purchasing a sturdy option that won’t break down if your child jumps a lot. Read customer reviews and pay attention to materials and the structure of your bed to determine if the bed is a sturdy option.
In addition to ensuring your toddler bed is sturdy, equipped with guardrails, and has smooth corners, making a safe transition to a toddler bed will help you rest assured that your kids won’t tumble out of bed. Consider getting a small nightlight. Even just a small light source can give the room the right amount of dim illumination to help your toddler see if they ever need to get out of bed at night.
Now that they have the entire bedroom to themselves, you should take extra care to babyproof the room. If you haven’t already done so, cover any electrical outlets that are not being used. Securely close cupboards and cabinets. If you want to be extra safe, you can get a video or audio baby monitor so you can check on your toddler while they are in the room alone.
Toddler Bed Materials
The material of a toddler bed frame affects its price, durability, and design. The main three materials include wood, plastic, and metal. Wood is a versatile, durable, and safe option. It is generally more affordable than metal, and arrives in a wide variety of painted colors and beam designs. Solid wood is the best, and oak and pine wood are popular for beds. Metal is the strongest and most durable, but also the most expensive. You’ll find metal in daybeds and some bunkbeds. Metal beds have less versatility in terms of design, so you’ll likely be limited to neutral colors and simple barred designs.
The other common material is plastic, which is cheap, colorful, and easy to find. You might find plastic toddler beds in the shapes of cars, ships, princess castles, or with your child’s favorite characters. Although they are easy to assemble and clean, they aren’t as durable and may break easily. Many plastics contain chemicals, so keep this in mind when choosing a plastic toddler bed.
Toddler Beds for Travel
Something else to consider is travel. You don’t want to be on a trip without having a space for your toddler to sleep safely, and having them sleep next to you may not work out since they take naps and may need more hours of sleep than you do.
For these reasons, if you are someone who travels a lot, you might consider getting a portable toddler bed. Travel toddler beds are typically inflatable or pop-up, and use bumpers instead of guardrails for easy storage and convenience. They are very lightweight and can fit easily in any part of a hotel room. This means you won’t need to pay for a larger or family-sized room.
Toddler Bed Alternative: Twin Bed and Guardrails
If you have a spare twin bed lying around, or don’t want to switch to a twin bed soon after purchasing a toddler bed to save money, you can go directly from a crib to a twin bed. This change may be shocking for some toddlers, so you may want to wait a bit longer until making the switch.
This alternative to a toddler bed is just using a normal twin bed mattress and bed frame but installing removable guardrails on the side that you can purchase anywhere. Most of these will clip to the side of the bed frame. Guardrails come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and materials. Some are soft and made of foam material. Others are mesh fabric on top of a metal pole structure, and still others are wooden with beams.
If you don’t like the idea of installing a clip-on guardrail, you can also get a bumper that you place under a fitted sheet which will raise the sides of the bed to prevent your child from rolling off. Then, once your child is ready to sleep without guardrails, you can simply remove the extra support and you don’t need to purchase another bed as they get older.
Toddler Bed Pros and Cons
Toddler beds are a great idea to help a rapidly growing toddler ease into sleeping in a normal-sized bed. Some pros include price, safety, and design. But toddler beds also have some cons. Let’s take a look at the good and the bad.
First, the pros. Toddler beds are small, thus much more affordable than purchasing a twin bedframe. They also use the same size mattress as the one in your crib, so you don’t need to spend money on a new mattress. The price range for a toddler bed frame is between $50 and $200. Definitely a deal!
Additionally, these beds are specifically made to keep your toddler safe, while a twin bed or queen bed is not. You can rest assured that smooth edges and guardrails will prevent your child from rolling off or hurting themselves while still giving them the freedom to get out of bed after a nap.
Last but not least, there are plenty of fun designs to pick from. You can get anything from a rocket-shaped to a princess-castle-themed toddler bed, or choose a minimalist pastel color wooden frame to match the theme of your toddler’s room.
The cons to a toddler bed are few but still worthy of consideration. Note that the weight limit is generally 50 pounds no matter how sturdy a toddler bed may be, so you can’t cuddle next to your toddler on the bed because of the weight max. Toddler beds are built low to the ground to make it easy for your child to get out of bed safely, but this may also result in them jumping out of the bed. In terms of durability, the reason toddler beds can be very cheap is due to their material. Many use plastic which isn’t particularly strong for a bed frame.
Toddler Bed Mattress and Bedding
As mentioned previously, a toddler bed will use a crib mattress. This is the same size mattress from your baby’s crib so you won’t need to purchase another unless you want to. This makes the standard toddler mattress size 27 1/4 inches by 51 5/8 inches.
Toddlers can be both deep sleepers and light sleepers—sometimes they might seem to wake up at anything! Many kids are sensitive to sensory input and changing the sleep environment of your toddler can entirely change the amount that they sleep. This is why it may be tempting to spurge on a seemingly high-end memory foam mattress for your little one. However, this is a bad idea—memory foam mattresses can be harmful to toddlers and babies. This is because it takes slightly more effort to switch positions once the mattress is “sunk in” to the sleeper’s current position. For young kids, this can be too difficult due to their light weight and smaller frame. This means they become locked in to a single position that is uncomfortable to them and may keep them up at night.
You should, however, consider a mattress protector. A mattress protector is different than a mattress pad because a pad is for comfort while a protector is mainly for protecting the mattress from bedwetting and spills by absorption before it hits the mattress. But be careful—some materials in mattress protectors or toppers are not safe for toddlers. Do not use a memory foam mattress protector for a baby. Also, avoid PVC or vinyl; these materials can have harmful health effects that can prevent proper development. Suitable materials for a toddler waterproof mattress pad include wool and polyurethane.
As for bedding, you can use the same bedding you used for your crib. If you want to purchase something new, search for crib-sized bedding sets.
Delta Children Toddler Bed
If you’re sold on the idea of a toddler bed, where do you start your search? The Delta Children toddler bed is a popular choice among parents and may be the perfect toddler bed to take a look at if you are unsure where to start. Delta Children sells safe and durable toddler beds through their website or a variety of popular retailers. They have convertible crib beds, beds with character designs, canopies, and more all at affordable prices for new and seasoned parents alike.
Their safety standard is tested at four times the impact of the federal standard for a toddler bed. All their products are also tested for heavy metals, which can be especially dangerous for kids and are secretly present in a lot of materials. They also offer a standard crib mattress that is certified Greenguard gold, meaning it is sustainable and has a very low amount of chemicals. All of Delta’s products are non-toxic, keeping children’s health in mind and making their products one of the best toddler bed options.
Now you’ve done your research and are ready to begin your search for a new bed. To sum it all up, a toddler bed is the next step up from a crib. They both use the same mattress and bedding, but a toddler bed has a different height and look. They are much lower to the ground and only have guard rails covering the part of the bed your toddler will sleep against, but the rest is left open for them to get up and step out of bed as they wish. They arrive in wood, plastic, and metal finishes. You can find them in all sorts of shapes and designs like cars, convertible crib to toddler, ships, castles, and minimalist styles.
You might have already explored some of the stylistic options—so what else is there to look for? A good toddler bed, such as the Delta Children toddler bed, will prioritize safety. Ensure your bed has guardrails, smooth corners, and is durable. Avoid mattress toppers and memory foam mattresses made of toxic or dangerous materials, and babyproof the rest of the bedroom to prevent accidents. If you don’t want to spend on a toddler bed but your child is outgrowing a crib, you can try the alternative: a twin bed, but with guardrails. For this you’ll need a twin mattress, removable guardrails or bumpers, and a twin bedframe and bedding to mimic the design of a toddler bed.
Whatever option you choose, congratulations! Your baby is growing up and is ready for the next step toward becoming a big boy or girl.