The Great Toddler Bed Debate

updated Oct 19, 2022
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One of the enduring debates among our readers is whether to transition a child from their crib to a toddler-size bed or go straight to a twin bed (or bigger). It’s a decision most parents will make at one time or another, and there is a multitude of competing factors to consider.

This debate has come up time and again on Apartment Therapy, with hundreds of comments on the topic. To make your decision easier, I’ve distilled reader feedback into the primary pros and cons for each course of action.

If your crib converts to a toddler bed (as many these days do), that seems to be the first post-crib choice of many parents. But if yours doesn’t, you don’t have a crib, or you now need the crib for a second child, you will probably be deciding between using a toddler bed (typically in the 50″ – 60″ inch range) or a twin bed (typically around 80″).

Let’s look at some of the reasons some parents like toddler beds, starting with perhaps the best argument in favor of toddler beds: their small size. Many parents choose them because they:

• Fit in smaller rooms
• Leave more floorspace for play

(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

I was inclined to skip the toddler bed altogether until we moved into our current (amazing in every other way) apartment. The nursery is so, so, so small. And now with baby #2 on the way, there is no way we could fit a twin bed and a crib in there. Heck, even the toddler bed will be a squeeze.

We debated for a long time, and ultimately went with toddler beds, for which I am so grateful, because we’ve since moved twice, and neither place would have fit multiple twin beds.

I have a toddler bed for my 3-year-old but it is a space issue more than anything else. If I had the space I would go with a twin. My sis-in-law put both her kids directly into double beds. Again it is more about the space in the room.

My daughter has been sleeping in the Ikea Vikare (a toddler bed that can be extended to a narrow full-length bed) for two years now. She’s four and I expect we won’t have to extend it for another year or so. The toddler size beds allow for some much needed play space in their tiny room.

We lived in a really small apt, so keeping my son in a toddler bed freed up some space in that room for me to have some office space. It was safe and sturdy, and I paid $8 for it second-hand. He slept on it for 2 1/2 years.

I love having my kids in toddler beds because it makes it much easier to fit everything they need into a shared room. I can see plenty of reasons why a toddler bed is worth the money even if you could move straight from crib to twin bed.

I got lucky and “Grandma” made my son a toddler bed. It looks great and it fits the crib mattress and is not too big in his room full of toys.

I just think kids have too much furniture/toys and need a place to play (out of the living room). So a twin would not work for us.

With the toddler bed, we were able to fit more stuff in and still give my daughter a nice little space to sit on the rug and read or play or whatever.

I got a toddler bed off Craigslist for around 20 bucks, and we love it! The smaller size is something I want to take advantage of until my son doesn’t fit. His room is not exactly small, but the smaller bed leaves a lot more room for play.

A must have? No, but a great idea for those who don’t have a ton of extra space.

(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

Another reason some parents opt for small toddler-size beds is they feel they are more cozy for young children and potentially easier to transition to from a crib.

I don’t regret buying a toddler bed. My daughter finally moved into it at 2.5 and she loves it because the sides are high and she feels safe.

We actually went ahead and bought a toddler bed…The biggest consideration is HOW your child sleeps – my son loves to be surrounded – he wanted the rails all around and sleeps comfortably that way. Just putting a small temporary rail on a big bed was not the answer. This was.

Guess we’re in the minority…we have a toddler bed and really, really like it. We were in a very small space when our first child outgrew his crib, so we bought [a toddler bed] and it worked very well with our space limitations. Our son slept in it from age 2 to 4.5 — easy to get in and out of, no rolling out or falling, and a cozy feel.

My almost 4-year-old sleeps in a crib sized toddler bed and loves the coziness of it. I like that it is low since she has fallen out of it even with sides that come half way down the side of the bed. She is a VERY active sleeper

(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

One parent noted that she thought changing the bedding of a toddler bed was easier and she could continue to use her crib bedding:

We went back and forth on the toddler bed thing and ended up getting one for our son…the toddler bed has been great because it is sooo much easier to change the sheet and mattress pad on a small little toddler bed than a twin bed. Our son has been pretty good at potty training and we’ll go weeks without an accident then have 2 back to back. In a 3:00 am stupor it’s a lot less stress to have a quick bed change. Our son was really attached to his crib bedding and it had a lot of good use left in it. So the toddler bed allowed us to maximize that purchase.

Another parent has an aversion to twin beds and used a toddler bed as a transition to a full-size bed:

We decided to go with a toddler bed and hopefully skip the twin bed! I absolutely hate twin beds. (They’re more expensive than toddler beds and we’d have to buy a mattress and boxspring)! We have a mattress for the toddler bed and we bought the toddler bed used. So hopefully when my little guy grows out of this bed we can put him in a full bed (which we already have)…and he can use the full bed until he’s an adult. And our second son can also use the toddler bed when he’s ready.

(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

In many different posts over the years, many, many readers took strong stances against toddler beds and argued to skip the toddler bed and go straight to a twin. Some of their arguments were:

• financial – toddler beds are a waste of money
• longevity – toddler beds are used for too short of a time
• comfort – kids will sleep better in bigger beds

Toddler beds are like dry clean only baby clothes – expensive and useful only for a short term. We used a hand-me-down twin with the box spring removed and bought a small removable rail, which was used for about 2 months. After the first child turned 3, we added the box spring.

SKIP the toddler bed. Such a waste of money. Both my kids went from crib to twin/full with no problem. Put one side against a wall and/or add pillows or big stuffed toys on open side(s). They may fall out a few times the first few nights, but they figure things out pretty quick. It’s silly to spend a lot on a crib they use 2-3 years max only to spend more on a “mini” bed & bedding they’ll outgrow quick and then to buy another bed & bedding a year or two later.

[Toddler beds are] totally unnecessary. Go straight to a twin bed you can ship them off to college with.

We went straight to the twin bed with a rail when my daughter was 20 months. It took about a week to convince her it was awesome but ever since she loves her bed and does just great in it. I think the toddler bed is unnecessary and am glad we went straight to the twin bed.

Completely and totally unnecessary piece of furniture. It does not make sense to me to go from crib, to crib mattress on frame (aka toddler bed.) A twin sized bed is not too big, I repeat, not too big, nor too high for a 2-year-old who is transitioning out of his crib (or out of your bed.)

To each their own, and I generally try not to pass judgement, but for the most part toddler beds just seem like a stop gap and given their short time span of usage almost disposable.

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We went right to a twin from the crib and are really happy we did it this way…My thinking is that it seems a bit silly to buy a toddler bed. If you have the kind of crib that converts, then it makes sense. But to purchase a whole new piece only for a short time doesn’t make a lot of sense to me. On the other hand, you can get them pretty cheaply, so it’s not too outrageous.

We hesitated with a toddler bed, our little guy’s very tall… and i t just seemed another thing we’d be replacing in no time at all…. the twin is not going anywhere anytime soon.

Seriously. Just get a twin bed…Toddler beds are the biggest waste of money. I don’t recall them existing until about 10 years ago. Totally unnecessary and just an excuse to sell you more crap you don’t need.

We got a cheap toddler bed from IKEA in the hopes that we could transition him to that, and I now totally wish that we had just bought a regular twin bed or maybe even a full instead. One of us almost always ends up lying down in there with him and that dinky hard toddler mattress leaves much to be desired!

While toddler bed advocates sing the virtues of beds not taking up space in a room, twin bed devotees praise the benefits of having a big bed – and those benefits extend to parents, too: more room for sleeping (more comfortable) and room for parents during storytime or to comfort at night.

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The best thing in the world is a twin bed for a three year old – they get sick and need help sleeping for a series of days, and like magic there is room for you.

If you have the space, I’d always opt for a real twin (or bigger) bed. We went from cribs to twins and our kids sleep well. Plus, no one has mentioned too that often times you want to crawl into bed with them, after a scary dream or to get them off to sleep when they’re sick, etc. and you can’t do that in a toddler bed.

A big bed makes a good play space, too, and one that parent and child can cuddle in together.

Depends a lot on size and temperament. My son was very large and we kept him in a toddler bed until 3. He looked like it fit. But (annoying) as soon as we switched to an adult he started sleeping SO MUCH BETTER. Clearly the old bed wasn’t big enough.

I have done both options – a toddler bed first and putting them directly into a twin bed (I have 5 kids). The toddler bed seems like a bit of a waste to me. My kids grew out of the toddler bed way too quickly. Plus, they move around quite a bit and the toddler bed didn’t provide enough room for them to move around, which would end up waking them up at night.

(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

Some notes on longevity: We asked readers last year at what age their child outgrew their toddler bed. The majority said at three years old, although the next most popular answer was five. So, it depends on the size of the bed, the size of your kid and your kid’s preferences. Many parents also mentioned getting a cheap toddler bed secondhand or using them for multiple children which gave the beds an overall longer lifespan.

We just went straight to a twin in order to save money, but honestly, both my girls are still so small and they are 5 and 4. I could definitely see them being able to fit into a toddler bed until at least 6 years old.

Our 4-year-old comfortably sleeps in a toddler bed, and I anticipate she’ll use it until age 5 or so. We have the Pkolino toddler bed, which converts to a youth chair, so it should have a long life in our household.

We went from crib to toddler bed at age 2, only because I got one for free from my sis. It ended up being a really nice transition and we were able to move her into a loft bed at age 4.

I just moved my son into a twin bed two days ago, and he just turned five! We had a good 3 years with the toddler bed, which I found at a garage sale (beautiful condition) for $25. I see a lot of them on Craigslist as well.

Well my second was born just over a year after my first and I refused to buy a second crib, so my eldest went into a toddler bed as she was just too little for a single bed. All my kids since have slept in toddler beds after their time in the crib. We bought toddler beds that could turn into twin beds, which will hopefully be handy!

(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

A common alternative for parents worried about transitioning from a crib directly to twin bed arose in many of our posts on this topic – using a mattress on the floor before using a true twin bed:

If you’re thinking your kid is ready to be out of a crib, but not sure how the bed thing is going to go, try a week of crib-mattress-on-floor. If it goes well, then get a twin bed.

I agree with those who’ve suggested skipping the toddler bed. My daughter transitioned from crib to a double bed with no problem. We started with the mattress on the floor, then moved to box spring/mattress and finally to the set with the bedframe.

In all of my info scavenging, one good alternative I saw was to put the twin mattress on the floor. That’s the route I’d go if I had to do it again. He loved the toddler bed but he was only in it 3 months. He would have loved a twin mattress on the floor just as much.

We pulled our daughter’s crib mattress onto a quilt on her bedroom floor. A couple of months later we went to a twin size mattress on the floor and then finally bought a twin frame when we got her night-waking (ahem.. sleeping) under control.

Toddler beds are a waste of space and money! Get a twin bed. Better yet, just get a twin mattress. Put the mattress on the floor. That way they can learn to sleep in a big bed (useful for if you travel) but if they fall off there is no danger. Then later on if you want to, you can buy the box spring and slip it underneath.

Then again…

The decision between the twin bed and toddler bed was difficult. We finally decided on a very inexpensive toddler bed which also doubles as a chair!… A mattress on the floor just wouldn’t work with a 100lb dog waiting for the right moment to claim it as his own.

Believe it or not, we have a few moderates in the crowd 😉 Here’s what they had to say:

I think it depends a lot on the child’s sleeping style. Both my very tall kids slept in toddler beds until they were nearly 5, but they both tend to be the scrunch-in-a-ball style of sleeper — not sprawlers unless they’re in _my_ bed.

I think the “no toddler bed” argument is getting so tiresome. Everyone is different. I thought I didn’t want one for my son and then the time came and I totally changed my mind. To each his own bed!

I think it really depends on the kid. My twins are in toddler beds and they love them…They are now in their own rooms, and my daughter’s room is tiny, so the toddler bed doesn’t take up much space and, in my opinion, looks nicer than a mattress on the floor.

There is no right answer. Just play it by ear. Different kids like different things.

To sum up, here are the pros and cons readers have given for both toddler and twin beds for young kids:

(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

I hope this helps! Here’s some recommended further reading:

• Good Questions: Montessori Floor Bed Logistics?
• Consider a floor bed
a $20 DIY Toddler Bed (by a parent who never thought she’d have a toddler bed)
• Knox’s “Yes” Room (another example of a DIY toddler bed, this one on the floor)
• Turn a Day Bed Around for a Safe Toddler Sleep Spot

(Images: 1. composite of Savannah & Isaiah’s Sunny Shared Space and Ethan & Oliver’s Shared Space 2. Sophie’s Bright Closet Room 3. Kristin Loffer Theiss/Sayer’s Big Boy Room With A Side Of Vintage 4. Tysha Carter/My Room: Sawyer & Aspen 5. Parker’s Big Boy Bedroom 5. Jaime Scott/Peyton’s Soothing Charmer 6. Jenica/Pastels with Pop for Magnolia & Boothe
MY ROOM 7. Kati/Penelope and Sabine’s Shared “Sweet” 8. Green Eyed Monster/A DIY Upholstered Floor Bed 9. Carrie McBride)