When Paul Ryan, of Thornwood, New York, discovered that his 2-year-old son, Tim, had climbed out of his crib in the middle of the night, he knew it was time for the toddler to switch to a bed. "We were just lucky he didn't hurt himself," Ryan says.
Like Tim, many kids between the ages of 2 and 3 are ready to make the move to a bed, and climbing out (or trying to) is a clear sign that it's time. "Fortunately, most kids suffer only minor bumps or bruises when they take a spill climbing out of a crib," reports Alan Kulberg, M.D., a pediatrician in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, "but you don't want to risk serious injury or have your child wandering around in a room that's not childproofed."
Even if your child still seems content in his crib, he may have outgrown it. If he's 35 inches tall or the railing reaches midchest level, he could scale the crib railing at any time -- and probably needs more room to sleep comfortably too.
Another reason many families make the switch is the imminent arrival of a new baby who's going to need a place to sleep. But while most toddlers are thrilled by the status of a big-kid bed, some may be reluctant to give up the cozy security of the crib. "It takes some time for them to feel comfortable in a less enclosed space," says Dr. Kulberg. And some kids feel ambivalent about leaving this vestige of babyhood behind. But by planning ahead and anticipating the trouble spots, you can make the transition trauma-free.