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When should you remove the sides from your toddler’s cot bed?

Removing the sides from your toddler’s cot is one of those parenting decisions you may mull over for some time.

On the one hand it’s good to move them to the next stage if they’re ready, plus if they’re climbing out their cot then it’s safer for them to be in a bed.

A toddler in their cot bed with the side removed

On the other hand you may worry they could fall out of bed and/or that they will be in and out of their room all evening.

I’m not going to sugar coat it. Once those railings are off your toddler’s cot, they will be up and down a lot more at night. Plus early in the morning you may get woken up suddenly by your kid bouncing on top of you. It’s all part of the fun, right?

But it’s an important milestone to hit both for your toddler’s safety and for them gaining a little more independence.

Being able to hop in and out of bed when they need to is important for potty training too.

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What age do you take sides off a cot?

The sides of your toddler’s cot should be removed when they are age two.

If you have a particularly adventurous 18-month-old you may find yourself doing this a little earlier.

Some children will show a knack from climbing out of their cot as soon as they find the best way to do it.

Others never even bother trying.

But if your two-year-old is climbing out of their cot, the only real way to stop them doing this is to remove the sides of the cot, or move them to a single bed.

If possible you want to remove the danger before they get to the point of trying to climb out. This is because falling from the top of the bed’s railings could potentially cause them serious injury.

A study by the Sleep Medicine Journal found kids who slept in a cot until age three had better sleep. But this does not take into account the safety aspect of some kids climbing out of the cot. The study found just 34 per cent of kids were still sleeping in cribs at 24 to 30 months.

If your child is in a cot that cannot be transformed into a toddler bed, then it’s time to buy a new bed.

Should you buy a toddler bed or single bed?

If you want value for money then a single bed is the way to go as it’s a much longer-term investment. Buy a bed guard with it to keep your child from rolling out if you are concern about that.

The type of bed your two-year-old should sleep in really depends on you. A toddler bed may make the transition from a cot easier for them to get used to, plus they have less distance to fall.

There are pros and cons to both choices:

Single bed for toddlers pros

  • Buy a simple, classic design and it will last until your child is a teen and beyond.

Single bed for toddlers cons

  • Can be a long way to fall if they roll out. You can solve this by buying a bed guard to add to the side of the bed.
  • The bed frame and mattress for single size tends to be more expensive than toddler beds.

Toddler bed pros

  • Tends to closer to the ground, like a cot, which means if your child rolls out of bed they won’t hurt themselves.
  • It may be an easier transition from a cot as it doesn’t feel too big.

Toddler bed cons

  • Can seem like a waste of money. You will need to buy the bed and a mattress. Your child will only be in this bed for two to three years before they grow out of it.

Whatever you decide to do, you can take steps to make the bed and the room safe for your child.

Every parent is different so it’s really just down to your own personal preference.

If you are concerned about taking the railings away and your child potentially falling out of bed in the night then you could buy one of these bed guards which act as a buffer so stop them just so they get a chance to get used to a big kid bed.

How to choose a bed for your toddler

Whether you’re picking out a toddler bed or a single bed, there are a few features you will want to look out for. Here are some features of the bed to consider plus buyer’s tips:

  • Low to the ground. Check the bed is not too high. If you are still concerned, check if it’s possible to add a bed guard to it. There are universal bed guards you can purchase for not too much money.
  • Sturdy. Your toddler will jump on the bed, hop in and out, and generally treat it as their own personal soft play. Be sure it can handle the rough and tumble.
  • Correct sized mattress. Only use a mattress with the bed that’s designed to fit the frame exactly. You don’t want any gaps that your child could slip down.
  • Safe. If the frame is particularly ornate check for places your child may get their fingers caught. Check the finish is smooth with no jagged edges for them to hurt themselves on.
  • Fits in the room. Check you can fit the bed in a corner of the room, so your child has one side against the wall to reduce the risk of them falling out.

Toddler moved to a single bed

How to introduce your toddler to a new bed?

The best way to introduce your toddler to their new bed, or help to cope with the sides being removed, is to involve them in the entire process.

Go about it the following way:

  • Speak to your toddler first. Tell them it’s time for them to move to a big kid bed.
  • Show them pictures of the bed you’re getting for them, or if removing the railings on the cot show them what you’re doing.
  • Let them keep familiar comforters in their bed.
  • Push the bed to the wall so there’s one less side they can fall out of.
  • Clear the area around the bed of loose cables and hazards they may hurt themselves on.
  • Toddler-proof the bedroom, looking for things like blind cords.
  • Continue using your bedtime routine, or introduce one now. This simply involves a regular process you go through every evening at bedtime. Usually this means putting on PJs, cleaning teeth, reading a book, a short nursery rhyme or song and then being tucked up in bed.

There are lots of tips for introducing your toddler to a bed on this post.

When should you remove the sides from your toddler's cot bed

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Tuesday 31st of August 2021

I'm just thinking about changing a bed to a single bed or even a simple matress - Montessori style... This seems safe although is encouraging to crawl/walk around. Also - it's nice to meet parental-love fan here! I've had 3 books from Susan and the sleep training tips are amazing.

Vicky Smith

Wednesday 13th of October 2021

I think this is such a great idea as this way you know it will last!


Friday 30th of July 2021

Thanks for all the tips! I guess I will need those pretty soon. I've just finished sleep training with this amazing book I wish I've known sooner: and for now everything is perfect. But 18th month is coming...