Time for a Toddler Bed? How to Know and What to Buy

sesame street toddler bedMy son is only 18 months, but he’s a bit of a giant. The last time I tried sticking him in a crib, he looked like something out of “Honey, I Shrunk the Furniture” and, well, I felt kind of guilty. So back in the bed with us -- for more kicking, shoving, squashing. Maybe when he’s 2 I’ll sleep again.

Because! Drum roll please ...

He’ll be getting his very own grown-up toddler bed. When it comes to big transitional products for my kid, I’m the kind of girl who likes to stake out Buy Buy Baby and obsess over Consumer Reports way in advance. Here’s what I found out. 


A toddler bed is really just a smaller version of a twin bed made especially for children between the ages of 2 and 3. It's low to the ground and you can still use your crib mattress, plus they have bed rails that are about 2 inches above the top of the mattress. Bear in mind, those rails will not prevent your son or daughter from falling out of the bed. They function more as visual reminders of their limitations. I’m told this method works until they reach the age of 13.

Another option is going straight for a twin- or full-size bed and adding portable bed rails, which really could suffice until they reach their teen years. But if you’re anything like me, you want your tot to get in a few good Dora years before graduating to truly grown-up furniture. They’ll only be in their toddler beds until they’re around 5 years old (or up to 50 pounds). Make the most of it.

To summarize, Consumer Reports has the following advice on what to look for in a toddler bed:

  • “Look for [one] with a smooth finish, sturdy construction, rounded edges, and hardware that doesn't protrude.” Sounds logical, doesn’t it?
  • “Buy the bed and mattress together so that you can be sure the mattress is the right fit. A mattress that's too short can cause gaps between itself and the foot- or headboard, which can entrap a child.” Yikes, we don’t want that to happen!  
  • “If you decide to buy a twin- or full-size bed, the bed rail should be placed firmly against the mattress when it is in use, in order to prevent the child from becoming entrapped between the rail and mattress.” There’s that word again: entrapment.
  • For both the portable rail and toddler bed options, “look for the Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association (JPMA) certification sticker somewhere on the rail or on its packaging.”

Now here comes the fun part, shopping! I found some goodies from Da Vinci ($89) and Walmart ($59), and more sophisticated finds from Pottery Barn Kids ($249) and Storkcraft ($199).

Alas, we're a few months away from making the investment ourselves, but a girl can daydream. 


Image via Walmart.com

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