When a child makes the move from a crib to a bed, there are a number of safety issues to consider. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends moving your child to a toddler bed once he has grown to be 35 inches tall. Your child should be sleeping well in a toddler bed before making the next move to a twin, bunk or full-size bed.
A child’s bed should allow for easy climbing. Toddler beds must a simple design and sit low to the floor. There should be no cutouts in either the headboard or footboard. Whether your child is transitioning from a crib to a toddler bed or from a toddler bed to bigger bed, select a style with a sturdy construction and rounded edges. There should be no sharp points or hardware protruding from the headboard and footboard. When assembling the bed, position slats no more than 2-3/8 inches apart. If a bed is designed with corner posts, the posts should not extend more than 1/16 inch above the headboard and footboard. Parents must also remember that a child graduating from a toddler bed is going from a bed low in height to a higher, regular size bed of another design.
Purchase the mattress at the same time you buy your child’s bed. That way you can be sure that you get the right mattress size. If a mattress fits the bed too short, there may be gaps where a child can get entrapped between the mattress and the footboard or headboard. While bunk beds can save space, the top of a bunk bed mattress should be at least five inches below the upper edge of the guardrails. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission also warns that a mattress and/or foundation resting only on the ledges of the bed frame can fall and injure or kill a young child. Additional supports such as wooden slats, metal strips or cross wires should be securely fastened to the ledges of bunk beds using screws or bolts.
Measure your child’s bed so that you can purchase safety rails that are the correct size. Rails which are too short will not protect your child from falling out of bed. In fact, safety rails that do not fit a child’s bed properly can pose a safety risk in themselves. While most bed rails are appropriate for different size beds, there should be at least a 9-inch space between each end of the bed rail and the headboard and footboard.
Bed rails are designed to protect children who are between 2 and 5 years old from falling out of bed. Younger children who have not yet developed the ability to climb in and out of an adult bed without help can become trapped in the bed rail or between the rail and the bed. If your child is a toddler, you will want rails that attach to the top of the mattress. This helps to protect your child from getting caught between the bed and the safety rails. For older children who are transitioning to an adult-size bed, use rails that attach to the side of the mattress.
Where to Position the Bed
Position your child’s bed away from windows, electrical outlets and other safety hazards. Never put a child’s bed where she can reach the cords of a window shade. Childproof the room in case your little one has a habit of getting out of bed during the night. Install electrical outlet safety covers and secure tall dressers to the wall. Dr. Lynn Wegner, a pediatric developmental behavioral health specialist, also suggests placing a safety gate at the bedroom door to prevent a child from wandering at night.
Make the floor near your child’s bed safe by install soft flooring such as rubber tiles, area rugs or carpeting to help lessen the risk of injury if your child rolls off the bed onto the floor. Check the floor area each night to make sure that all your child’s toys are picked up and not laying on the floor near the bed. Place something soft on the floor next to the bed to cushion any falls.
Don’t use bunk beds until your child is old enough to understand how to sleep in the beds safely. A child should be at least 6 years old before being permitted to sleep on the top bunk. Check to see that the bunk bed does not have a gap larger than 3 1/2 inches between the guardrails and bed frame. A larger gap poses the risk of a child getting caught between the rails and frame. Choose a bunk bed with a ladder that can be safely and permanently attached to the bed rather than a ladder that your child can move around the room.