Welcome to toddlerhood! It officially starts at baby’s first birthday, but few parents have the courage to replace the crib with a toddler bed that early. There’s no need to, anyway. Your child may be pulling himself up with help from the rails, but he’s perfectly secure in the sleepspace he’s always known—for now. In the months that follow, though, he may suddenly be on the verge of breaking out of it like a little ninja. This (among many other signs) is reason to start thinking about toddler beds. Read on to learn more about getting the timing right, what to consider before you buy and our picks for the best toddler beds.
When Should Kids Transition into Toddler Beds?
There’s no hard-and-fast rule as to when to switch to toddler beds, but most families are ready anywhere between 18 months and age 4. To figure out if the time is right for you to shop for toddler beds, ask yourself:
• Do you have an escape artist? If she keeps launching herself out of the crib, a toddler bed could keep her from hurting herself.
• Is a new baby on the way? Many kids get evicted from the crib when it’s needed for a sibling. It’s okay. Spin it as a fun step to becoming a big kid.
• Does your toddler share a bedroom with an older sibling? If your toddler is your youngest and you’ve got a bigger kid who’s ready to sleep in a top bunk, it might be a good time to think about toddler bunk beds and free up some space.
• Is your toddler an early riser? And you’re craving more sleep? If you have a gate across the bedroom door and a totally childproofed nursery, your toddler may enjoy the freedom of entertaining himself for a little while before he demands that you wake up.
• Are you deep into potty training? If your toddler is fairly well day-trained and now you’re hoping she’ll make night or morning visits to the potty on her own, it’s time to shop for toddler beds.
What to Know Before Shopping for Toddler Beds
Before you get your HGTV on and start transforming the nursery into a big-kid room, consider the following:
• Toddler bed size. “What size is a toddler bed?” is a common question. Toddler beds actually have the same footprint cribs. That means toddler beds dimensions are roughly 31 inches by 56 inches—which means (good news!) your crib mattress works for your toddler bed too!
• Most cribs convert to toddler beds. You may need a conversion kit (sold separately), but for some models all you need to do is remove a side. (See “Best Crib to Toddler Bed,” below.)
• You’re a few years away from a twin bed. Your child will probably be too tall for the toddler bed by age 6, because remember, it’s the same size as a crib. (You’ll get a few years of use out of a toddler bed, but we don’t blame you for zeroing in on cheaper models!)
Best Toddler Beds: Our Picks
While you may already have a certain design in mind, you toddler will too. And as you may have already noticed, toddlers are passionate people! So even if two years ago you were all about the mid-century modern crib, you just might end up being the owner of a Frozen toddler bed this time around. That said, we’ve offered a dreamy mix of the best toddler beds: some, designed to appeal solely to the under-6 crowd; others, more sophisticated—but all thoughtfully constructed. Take a look. Who knows? You and your toddler might actually agree on the same one.
Best Toddler Bunk Beds
Your toddler can only sleep on the bottom for now, but an older sibling who’s 6 or older can sleep up top. My own children slept in IKEA’s Svarta metal bunk bed at Grandma’s, and I can vouch for the sturdy construction. What’s more, the minimalist design helps a small space feel open. (Note that bunk beds are twin size, so you can’t recycle the crib mattress in this case).
Buy it: IKEA Svarta Bunk Bed, $169, Ikea.com
Best Toddler Bed Tent (With Bed)
Kids love having a toddler bed tent, and we’re all for it. After all, if your child is happy and snug in an enclosed sleep space, he won’t be watching you like a hawk as you try to sneak out of the room after his bedtime story. These tents are typically sold separately from the bed, but if your little boy loves Cars (or even just cars), consider this Cars Toddler Bed. It features Lightning McQueen and includes its own bigger-than-usual bed tent. This two-for-one deal is primarily plastic, so it’s super lightweight too.
Buy it: Disney Pixar’s Cars the Movie Toddler Bed by Delta, $90, Toysrus.com
Best Toddler Car Bed
Here’s another one of the best toddler beds for fans of vehicles. This Little Tikes Jeep Toddler Bed is one of the most fun toddler beds around—complete with working headlights that double as reading lamps.
Buy it: Little Tikes Jeep Wrangler Toddler Bed, $263, Walmart.com
Best Toddler Travel Bed
If you’re looking for the best toddler beds to take on the road, then KidCo’s Peapod is among the easiest travel toddler bed companions. The two-and-a-half-pound wonder folds up into a little carrying case and pops open when you’re ready to use it. My niece sleeps in one during visits to relative’s homes and considers it her own little retreat. Many parent reviewers say they even use their Peapod outdoors—for camping or trips to the beach—because it’s UV-protective.
Buy it: KidCo Peapod Toddler Bed, $70, Amazon.com
Best Toddler Loft Bed
With a toddler loft bed, you can stash things underneath it—especially appealing during the preschool years, otherwise known as The Great Toy Explosion. Loft beds are twin-size, so you’ll need a twin-size mattress, but you’ll have to get one eventually anyway, so why not now? Step 2 makes a Loft & Storage Twin Bed for both boys and girls; predictably, the only difference is the color. Buy bins to store toys and slide them into the space underneath. These USA-made toddler beds may be plastic, but they hold up to 300 pounds—far more than the average toddler bed. That means a sleepover pal or two can fit in there too!
Buy it: Step 2 Boy’s Loft & Storage Twin Bed, $300, Step2.com
Buy it: Step 2 Girl’s Loft & Storage Twin Bed, $300, Step2.com
Best Toddler Bed With Storage
Another storage option is to integrate the stash space into the design. The Dollhouse Toddler Bed is among the best toddler beds for girls who like to play house. The headboard resembles a dollhouse with windows, and the shutters actually open and close. Is your child more of a dinosaur fan? KidKraft also makes a Dinosaur Toddler Bed with storage at the foot of the bed.
Buy it: Kidkraft Dollhouse Toddler Bed, $230, Kidkraft.com
Buy it: Kidkraft Dinosaur Toddler Bed, $160, Kidkraft.com
Best Crib-to-Toddler Bed
Unlike most cribs that require a sold-separately conversion kit to turn it into a big-kid bed, IKEA cribs are easy. We especially like the Gonatt, which comes with just one extra piece. Simply attach it to your crib to make the bed sturdy when the time comes to take the front railing off. It also comes with three drawers—perfect for light blankets and linens.
Buy it: IKEA Gonatt, $199, Ikea.com
Best Toddler Bed for Under $50
Who wouldn’t want Elmo to watch over them at night? Among the cool toddler beds out there, this one is a favorite if you are 4 or under. The frame is metal and the surrounding pieces, including the headboard and footboard, are plastic. Parent reviewers agree that it’s easy to assemble, and point out that you add the Elmo stickers yourself.
Buy it: Sesame Street Elmo Toddler Bed, $45, Walmart.com
Best Rustic Toddler Bed
No need to spend extra money if great design (rather than TV show or movie graphics) is your idea of what makes the best toddler beds. DaVinci’s Sleigh Toddler Bed is crafted from sustainable pine and looks like a grown-up bed, shrunk down to toddler size. With a lovely curved headboard and footboard, it’s way more sophisticated than the toddler beds with licensed characters, but costs about the same.
Buy it: DaVinci Sleigh Toddler Bed, $75, Target.com
Best Toddler Canopy Bed
Toddler girls may have a hard time choosing among the bow-tied offerings from Delta Children’s offerings. There’s the purple-and-turquoise Disney Frozen toddler bed, sporting Elsa and the gang, but also the super-pink Disney Princess Toddler Bed, featuring a whole bunch of Disney ladies, from Cinderella to Rapunzel. For those who are more into the classics, there’s the Minnie Mouse Toddler Bed, in which Daisy makes an appearance too.
Buy it: Delta Children Disney Frozen Toddler Bed , $65, Amazon.com
Best Toddler Day Bed
Among the unique toddler beds on the market, Dream On Me’s Toddler Day Bed offers a great way to maximize space. As a bed, it has high rails on three sides plus a removable bedrail, so a lot of reviewers like it for younger toddlers. Remove that bedrail and it has a new life as a little couch—and one with handy drawers to boot!
Buy it: Dream On Me Toddler Day Bed, $143, Kohls.com
Best Modern Toddler Bed
Land of Nod’s Hampshire Toddler Bed is the chicest of all the best toddler beds. It’s made of durable solid poplar and, despite it’s grown-up looks, accommodates a crib mattress.
Buy it: Land of Nod Hampshire Toddler Bed, $399, Landofnod.com
Updated September 2017