big boy bed transition two point O: why it works well to switch early

DanO and I are limit testers. We have an hour before we’re leaving for small group? Let’s see if we can get the cement board down in the mudroom! Our kids are starting to play independently and we have free time? Let’s look into investment properties. It’s 6:30pm? Let’s take apart the youngest’s crib and put him in a big boy bed tonight!

And so we did.

With OBoy we were so intentional about the Big Boy Bed switch that I even opened up the floor to advice and made an infographic about it. We let him have a role in the bed construction and we were cautious to teach him that the bed is a calm place for sleeping.

This time around, the boys were jumping and squealing on the bed before DanO and I had pulled apart the last crib pieces. Ah, second children.

It wasn’t completely spontaneous of us to do the bed switch on Monday night. OBrother had climbed out of his crib last week after nap and speaking from experience with OBoy, that is the beginning of the end. We also had been planning on getting him out of his crib around this age (18 months) because this worked so well for us before.

At only one and a half years old, both of our boys have made an almost seamless transition to sleeping in a big-boy bed.

In OBoy’s case, we wanted to make the crib-to-bed transition with some cushion for when the new baby (now OBrother) was coming, so we had outside motivation to do what many consider an ‘young’ or early switch. But it worked so well! So, so well. There was one night when he ended up falling asleep on the floor and we moved him to the bed. There was one other night where he showed up at our bedside at 2am and scared the ever-loving crap out of us. And that was about it. I remember 8 months later when OBoy was at the heights of 2 year old defiance (notably an important stage where toddlers are forming their self-awareness and learning how they interact with the world around them), the thought occurred to me: If we had switched him at this age it would have been an all-out war.

To me, 18 months old is that sweet spot where they are old enough to climb in and out of the bed (with a little step) and old enough to understand when you say ‘no’ to them, but not (in both our boys’ cases, at least) actively testing boundaries and standing their defiant little ground.

So our practice was a little different this time, but the theory informing it was the same. We like the early transition. Neither of us are fans of delaying the inevitable, so while I understand the notion of keeping the crib around into the early pre-school years if the child is not a climber, our personalities are such that if it’s gotta happen sometime, we’d rather just do it now. Which has paid off beautifully.


A few quick notes about the state of their bedroom that make it possible for us to do this:

We don’t keep toys in there. None. Zero. Once in a great while, someone will make it upstairs before bed with a toy, but we always have it ‘sleep’ in the hallway outside their room.

We are strict about staying in bed before sleeping. From the time the boys are laid down in their beds, prayed over, and kissed goodnight until the time that they wake up in the morning, they are to stay in their beds. Glaring exception: if OBoy needs to use the potty he can come out of his room and get us. We have a video monitor (and an old house where you can hear every footstep) to help us enforce this.

Books are a very, very big yes.  There are two baskets full of books available to them to read and play with in the morning. As time went on, OBoy’s fine motor skills developed and his desire to rip books to shreds waned so we began allowing paper paged books in their room overnight. Now that OBrother is on the loose, I have sorted out and kept only board books in their room.

Their dresser drawers are “kid friendly”. The entire contents of their dresser (which is also a changing table) is safe for them. Clothes, blankets, towels, cloth diapers, and pacifiers. Not even so much as diaper cream lives in their dresser (learned that one the hard, greasy way). So worst case, if they destroy the thing, they will not find anything dangerous.

Yesterday when we watched the boys on the video monitor, snuggling together in the morning in OBrother’s bed, my heart was so warmed and thankful. The transition for OBoy was exciting and monumental, but there’s something about this switch that is huge for their brother-to-brother relationship. They have always shared a room, but now they have equal access to it. I am excited to watch their relationship and friendship grow as the result of this.

brothers' bed collage.jpg

(To answer your question: Yes. Yes, we snuck into the boys’ room, turned up the light a bit, and snapped pictures of them sleeping the first night OBrother spent in his new bed. Sorry I’m not sorry.)

33 Responses to “big boy bed transition two point O: why it works well to switch early”

  1. Joanna

    This is so cute. Our girls don’t share a room but I think we are close. I put Hannah in her bed last night as a safe place during a screaming tantrum so I could get a moment of silence. When Clint went back in to get her she was no longer IN her crib. SO. We lowered it to the very bottom (it was on the middle one) and I will spend the next few weeks getting dressers attached to the wall and general baby proofing so we can turn the crib into the toddler bed. I suspect it will be done by the time she is 18 months.

    M was in a daybed with a rail at 18 months in prep for Hannah. She had two bad nights and then was perfect. So perfect in fact that she never got out of it. Even in the mornings. Even when we took the rail off (even though with the rail, there was still room for her to get off if she scooted to the foot of the bed.

    In fact, she still rarely gets up. We do keep a few toys in her room. Books, her dolls and some special toys like her dress up clothes, viewfinder, etc. Stuff that we don’t want Hannah to destroy.

    Hannah is so very different. She’s a climber, limit tester and adventurer. I have a feeling we’ll have to put rubber on her walls, a mattress on the floor and hope for the best ;-).

  2. Tiffany @MomNom

    This is so cute, I love brothers! Ava is STILL in a crib. Clearly, the husband and I fall into the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” camp. LOL. She has never attemped to climb out and she LOVES her bed and sleeps like a champ…so we’re just running with it. I suspect we won’t let her get to 5 in a crib though. LOL. In the hard knocks of Kingergarten that might not help her establish herself as uber cool, ya know? LOL.

  3. Moriah

    I love this! We still have our kids caged in cribs, but I look forward to the day we can transition them to beds. For now, the cribs are safer because of our living situation, but this makes me so excited for when they can have the freedom to get in and out of bed. Don’t you just love watching them share a room?! We get to hear the funniest conversations every night over the monitor while they are falling asleep together.

  4. Jess

    Oh my I want those comforters where did you get them? We also believe in a n early transition into a big boy bed. It truly is a blessing

    • AllisonO

      They are Pottery Barn Kids Madras pattern. I cringe saying that because they are literally the only PB items in our entire house and I bought them on sale partially with a giftcard. We’re normally too cheap for PB, but MAN I love those quilts and am glad we swung it.

      • Kelly @ Love Well

        Just to second Allison: We have 6 PBK quilts in our house, the only things I’ve ever bought from The House of Pottery Barn. They are super durable. Worth the money. (But if you can get them on sale – bonus!)

        • AllisonO

          Yes. One of my first statements after putting one on OBoy’s bed “Wow. You do get what you pay for.” (says the woman with Ikea bedding everywhere else). These are definitely good quality.

  5. Emily H.

    I have been reading your blog since your first boy was born and I have learned so much! I cannot believe it hasn’t dawned on me yet that keeping toys out of the room is a brilliant idea. I love that you store their toys and books outside their rooms which would leave their room for napping and sleeping. Brilliant! We have a loft next to our future baby’s room and I suppose I could turn that into a play area and keep the bedroom simplistic and cute as you have. I love your outlook and parenting skills.


    A reader, or friend whom you just haven’t met yet!

  6. Elizabeth

    Lol some kids aren’t born testing boundaries? ;) I swear at less than a year, j would look at us to see if we were watching and then do something he knew not to do and then make a satisfied face. Maybe our next one will be more like the o boys! So cute that they snuggle!

    • Joanna

      That’s my Hannah. Madison was so easy going, never tested boundaries, always listened, etc, etc.

      Hannah is a firecracker. She crosses the line like it’s her job. I wouldn’t have it any other way but oh my it gives me heart attacks when I walk into a room to find her ON THE TABLE. lol

      • AllisonO

        Our OBrother is more strong willed at this age than OBoy was (see: OMYWORD THE TANTRUMS) but so far it’s working for us even still. And Joanna! YES. The table thing! I went upstairs to get the laundry one day, came down to OBrother sitting on the dining room table chewing on some crayons. That kid.

        • Kacia

          oh my goodness – am I doomed that my first born is like that!? What will number two be like? OY.

  7. Mo

    LOVE this post! We did the same thing, switched our 18mo son to a new room and big boy bed several months before baby #2 arrived (and that baby slept in our room in a bassinet for 3 months, before the crib became hers) so he had totally forgotten about that room being his, and that crib being his. It worked perfectly! I suspect we’ll do something similar with our second one in the spring once she is around 18mo. I totally agree with all your reasons why it is the perfect age. Our first wasn’t a climber at all, but we knew we needed the crib for the next one. This time around, its the opposite, not 3rd baby on the way yet, and she is a climber!
    Glad it has worked out so smoothly for you, and thanks for sharing all this advice!

  8. Sarah P.

    Love it! We have 3 year old and one year old (tomorrow!) little girls. They currently sleep in their own rooms, but whenever God sees fit for baby #3 to start growing in my belly, the girls will be sharing a room. I’m nervous about this! I would love some advice about having your young kids share a room. What has worked well for you? Was the adjustment difficult for the boys? I’m mostly concerned about how nap time will work. Our 1 year old naps 2 solid hours in the afternoon. Our 3 year old has “quiet play time” in her room. She is allowed to get out of bed and play quietly, read books, etc. I’d say she falls asleep about 60% of the time and regardless, that chill time is good for both of us. I don’t want to give up the baby’s nap time when they share a room, but I can’t expect big sister to be silent and still the whole time. Any tips?

  9. Jamie

    My son is 15 months and I’ve been VERY apprehensive about transitioning him to a bed in the coming months. He’s such a climber and I know it won’t be long until the switch becomes inevitable. My mind is totally at ease now. While I’m sure we’ll have hurdles of our own, your tips are so helpful and I am most certainly bookmarking the post to reference again in a few months.

  10. Kelly @ Love Well

    We switched Kieran to a big boy bed this very week. He is much more of a boundary tester, but that’s OK. We just keep putting him back in his bed and telling him to stay there. (As you said, once they can crawl out of their crib, that jig is up anyway.) He is THRILLED with his bed, and while he’s falling out every night right now (another normal step in our experience) he’s also doing great with the transition.

    It’s a good move.

  11. Becky

    I love all of the guidelines you have set up for your boys! We have another one on the way and our kids will also be sharing a room, you give me hope!

    One thing I’m wondering and want to (kindly, gently) remind everyone if you switch your kids young and especially if they are climbers…please PLEASE fasten the dressers, bookshelves, etc. to the wall. Maybe you already have done this, but I’ve heard of too many very sad and scary stories of furniture falling on kids to not say something. I hope I’m not being pushy :)

    • Joanna

      yes, such a good point. It is on our agenda for Hannah’s room now. The toy room and Madison’s room are done but the nursery has always been an off limits zone (no toys or playing back there) so now we have to fasten all of her furniture to the walls.

  12. Jessica

    Since the kids stay in their beds overnight, obviously they are completely night-weaned – I would have to assume that since you are putting them in the beds awake that the youngest isn’t nursing at bed time anymore? Or does it not put him to sleep?
    My DS is 11 months old and nurses to sleep every night, if he doesn’t fall asleep nursing then we put him in his crib but he usually cries for a few minutes. So I try really hard to let him fall asleep nursing so he’s not traumatized by bed time. He has never fallen asleep on his own for me, somehow he napped for the nanny (but he usually fell asleep while getting a bottle), and he naps at school (but I’m pretty sure they let him cry…)
    I’m worried in addition to the other problems with babies crying at night he’s just becoming scared of the bed. How did you get your kids to fall asleep on their own in the bed?

  13. Arianne

    we do no toys in the room too! my boys are/were too boundary pushin to switch early, but i plan to give this a try with Riv when the time comes.

  14. Steph

    At what age did they start sharing a room? Didn’t OBrother ever wake up OBoy with his crying? My boys are 2.5 years and 4 months. At some point I want them to share a room, but I don’t know how it would work. The baby would keep my toddler up all night with his crying!

    • AllisonO

      Hey Steph! To answer your questions, the boys joined up for nighttime sleep when OBrother was 8ish weeks and OBoy was not quite two. There have only been a few times in the last year and a few months that they have actually woken each other up (think: vomiting 3 year old) and really, there were eleven million times that night time antics did not wake the other brother. Namely, OBrother was waking up to nurse in the night until he was 16 months old. Overall, I have been very impressed with how resilient children are – even at night with sharing a room. I wrote a post with more details here: http://omyfamilyblog.com/2011/11/yes-my-baby-boys-share-a-bedroom/

  15. Kacia

    Okay – is it weird that I started crying when I saw the pics of them both snoozing in their big boy beds?

    Makes me so nervous to switch Harlow to a bed…i think it’s more my fear than it not going smoothly – she’s just growing up too fast. cliche – I know. but true.


  16. Mairs

    My boys are 18 months and 6 weeks and they will be sharing a room soon, which has me very nervous. Any tips? My 18 month old is about to sleep in a toddler bed but we keep delaying it because we know he won’t stay in it! We just need to bit the bullet, do it and hope for the best!

  17. Corrina

    I agree so whole-heartedly! We transitioned our kids early too–straight to a twin–and it went so well! And yes–when they get to the defiant age, they still stay in bed b/c they were trained to so young. In fact, with all my kids we got to a point where they would call us from their bed to get up–well past age 3, and we’d yell back “just get up yourself”!

  18. melissa

    I love your blog! how do you get them to stay in bed!!? we moved all our kiddos early too but the staying in the bed part is throwing me with my 2nd .. who is a girl…. and takes FOR.EV.ER to fall asleep.. i blame in on her girly brain:) so she is in and out and in and out and it drives me crazy..

  19. Julie S.

    I think this is awesome! We moved Brayden the night before he turned 2 and had no issues whatsoever. Kenley will no doubt be a TOTALLY different story. :)


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