Two Ways to Convert a Crib to a Toddler Bed

Escape artist on your hands?

Emily Polash
Written by Emily Polash Updated on September 20th, 2021

It’s usually pretty clear when your child is ready to transition to a bed. As in, they keep flinging their body onto the floor and appearing during your Netflix and snacks time. While it can be a difficult transition, getting their big kid bed ready to go is the first step to a slightly less eventful bedtime routine.

There are two different ways to turn a crib into a toddler bed, and which one you use depends on the type of crib that you have. If you have a convertible crib, check out our first section. If you have a traditional crib, check out our second section for a simple DIY hack.

Transitioning a convertible crib

For transitioning a convertible crib to a toddler bed, we’ve outlined the basic steps below. You will want to consult the manual for your specific crib, but many parents have found that the instructions for conversion tend to be sparse. You will need an Allen wrench or screwdriver. 

Step 1: Remove the mattress and any items from the crib, as well as any pieces of furniture that might get in your way.

Step 2: Unscrew the four bolts that hold the front rail of the crib in place. The bolts are typically located on the outside of the crib posts, and you only want to remove the slatted piece, not the legs.

Step 3: Make sure the crib springs are on the lowest level before proceeding.

Step 4: Attach the guardrail to the front of the crib to prevent your toddler from falling. The toddler rail likely came with the crib when you purchased it, or you may have to purchase a separate conversion kit. The guardrail may require screws, brackets, or the same bolts that you used for the rail.

Step 5: Replace the mattress, and make sure to put the front rail in a safe place if you plan to reuse or sell your crib. If you don’t need to use the bolts for the guardrail, put them in a plastic baggie and tape them to the rail.


some convertible cribs require you to add an extra rail beneath the guardrail or to remove an existing rail and install it higher so that it’s flush with the guardrail. Check out the video below to see what we’re talking about.

DIY with a universal guardrail

Step 1: Remove the mattress and any items from the crib, as well as any pieces of furniture that might get in your way.

Step 2: Use an Allen wrench to take off the front rail, removing the four bolts. The bolts are usually located on the side of the crib posts.

Step 3: Make sure the crib springs are on the lowest level before proceeding.

Step 4: Follow the instructions for the universal guardrail that you purchased. This usually involves loosening the strap to fit underneath the mattress and then placing the mattress over the metal brackets that keep the rail in place. You can also purchase wooden guardrails, which are secured with bolts or screws.

Step 5: Make sure that the guardrail feels safe and secure and would stop your toddler from falling out of the bed. Store the front rail and bolts in a safe place.

Tip: Do not overtighten bolts and screws; doing so can crack the wood around the bolt.


When should I convert the crib to a toddler bed?

Each child is different, but most parents make the transition somewhere between 15 months and a little over 3 years old. Most switch to a bed when their child begins climbing out or outgrows the crib. You may need the crib for a younger sibling, or find that your child sleeps better in a bed.

How long can my toddler use a toddler bed?

Until it no longer fits, which is usually around age 4 or 5, or 50 pounds. If your toddler is already over 3 by the time they’re ready for a bed, it may make sense for you to go straight for the twin bed. If you choose a twin bed, you will likely want a guardrail to prevent any falls.

Why use a toddler bed?

Toddler beds are certainly not a necessity. You can make the transition to a full bed if that works better for you, although there are a few perks to a toddler bed. They’re closer to the ground, take up less space in a room, and are a bit cozier for your little one. Many people also purchase the three-in-one or four-in-cribs to get more than a year or two of use out of it.

Does my toddler need a guardrail?

It seems like it would be easier to just remove the front rail of the crib, but it may cause more wake-ups in the long run. Most toddlers are used to moving around in their crib without any fear of falling out, and installing a guardrail helps prevent them from falling out of their bed multiple times a night.

Tips for the transition

So you’ve transitioned the crib, but what about the child? Here’s how to actually get them to stay in that cool new bed.

  • Before you settle them in for the night, make sure to childproof very well. They will have free reign, at night, for the first time. Prepare accordingly! Think windows, doors, and gating off unsafe rooms or stairs.
  • While you don’t want to make any additional big changes, you may have to move some toys to the living area or playroom to prevent them from playing all night. 
  • If they make a habit of wandering or coming out of their room, you can use a baby gate for their door. However, if they knew how to climb out of their crib, this may not do much to deter them.
  • Stick to your regular bedtime routine.
  • Choose a “good” time. This isn’t always possible, especially if your child turned into Houdini overnight, but do your best to make this transition when there aren’t a lot of other changes going on in your child’s life.
  • Try sprucing it up. Maybe they get new sheets, a cool stuffed animal, a big boy pillow, or a fancy night light. Personally, I’m not above bribery for a good night’s sleep.
  • Talk it up, read books about it, watch the episode where their favorite character gets their own bed. Isn’t this the coolest ever? 
  • Stay consistent. This transition often takes time and a lot of patience, which can be hard to come by at the end of the day. Keep it straightforward, walking them back to their bed each time they wander. If they need a little incentive, consider a sticker chart with little prizes for a good bedtime. 

Wrapping up

When it comes time to transition your toddler from a crib to a bed, make it fun and exciting, and do your best to stay patient. Whether you’ve got a convertible crib or a regular one, there are easy ways to extend the life of your crib. This can save space and keep your toddler closer to the ground while they adjust to their new bed.

Emily Polash
Written by Emily Polash Updated on September 20th, 2021