How to Transition Twins to Big Beds

Joe Rawlinson by Joe Rawlinson - July 27, 2016

How to Transition Twins to Big Beds

How do you know your twins are ready to move out of their cribs and into a bed? They tell you.

Just how they tell you is what makes this part of twin parenting interesting. Moving twins into beds can be quite the adventure.

Your toddler twins might ask about a bed, or mention how they don’t like their crib anymore, or may even show you they can be left unsupervised safely. However, your twins might just show you by their actions. Just like our girls.

When our girls were a little past two years old, my wife and I were talking on a Sunday night when we heard a thump from the girls’ room. I went to investigate and found one of our girls standing next to her sister’s crib, talking with her.

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I put the jail breaker back in her crib and said good night. Almost as soon as I closed the door, I heard that same thump sound. I went in again and saw that the offender had a very large I’m-proud-of-myself smile on her face.

I put her back into the crib and told her to stay put.

(RELATED: Still looking for the right twin gear? See my Twin Baby Gear Essentials.)

Emergency Transition

The sudden reality that our girls could escape their cribs at any time required immediate action on our part. My wife and I quickly discussed the safety issues and our options.

Since both girls were still awake, we went into the room and took the girls’ crib mattresses out and put them on the floor. We told them they were big girls now and that they got to sleep in big girl beds.

Well, they didn’t buy it. They bounced around, played, and turned their light on and off for about an hour.

We realized our mistake and went and put them back in their cribs (after several unsuccessful interventions). We got the escape artist to stay in her crib by tying a large bed sheet over the top of the crib on each of the four corners. It was enough of a deterrent to buy us the time we needed to resolve the issue the following day.

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Big Bed Preparations

The next day was a holiday so we scrambled to get the girls ready for their official big girl beds. We got our boys’ box springs down from the attic, bought two new twin mattresses, and took the girls to the store to make a big deal out of buying new sheets and such for their big girl beds.

The girls were really excited for their new beds and redesigned bedroom. Unfortunately, they were so excited that sleep wasn’t a top priority.

(RELATED: Still looking for the right twin gear? See my Twin Baby Gear Essentials.)

We removed anything that could break from the room as a safety measure and even put child-proof knobs on the door handle on the inside of the room and on the handle to the closet so they wouldn’t escape or get into more trouble. We hoped that all the fanfare about getting big girl beds would help them settle into the routine.

First Night

We tucked the girls into bed after saying prayers and as soon as we said goodnight and closed the door, they turned into Twinadoes.

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The girls pulled all of their clothes out of their drawers, played with toys, bounced on the beds, yelled, screamed, and had a merry old time.

We went in occasionally when we heard cries of pain (typically when one had fallen off the bed), and got them tucked back into their beds. Nevertheless, they weren’t calming down even after an hour and a half.

(RELATED: Still expecting twins? Will you be having two boys, two girls, or boy/girl twins? Answer these quick questions to see what several old wives’ tales claim you’ll be having….)

So I went into the room and unscrewed the light bulbs from the overhead light and took the nightlight with me.

Without any light to guide their mischievous activities, they finally fell asleep close to 10:00 PM which was about 2.5 hours later than their normal bedtime.

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Second Night

Tuesday night we kept the night light in the room, and did the go-to-bed routine.

As soon as Mom left the room, they bounced up and started playing again. With the overhead light bulbs missing, they only had the nightlight to see with. Nevertheless, that was enough to once again empty every dresser drawer and throw all their clothes on the floor.

There was loud playing, talking, screaming, and even banging/kicking on the door and wall. We tried to ignore all the noise but it was so loud that we feared it would wake up their sleeping brothers in the other room. Unfortunately, we found that if we went into the room it seemed to reset the timer on their play and they would just continue that much longer.

As with the night before, there were some cries of pain and I’d go into the room to soothe and put the girls back in their beds.

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They must have been extra tired or perhaps they were just getting used to the routine because by 8:30 PM the room was quiet and we assumed they were on their way to Dreamland.

Third Night

On the third night, we did the bedtime routine: prayers, tuck in, songs, and left the girls in their room. They played and made noise but overall were quieter than the previous nights. Around 8:15 PM one girl started crying like something was wrong. I went into the room (which was dark) and fumbled for the night light. It was missing. The non-crying girl had it in her hands, with the light bulb in one hand and the fixture in the other hand. I put the night light back together and plugged it in. I tucked the girls back into bed and left.

Ten minutes later, I heard cries again. The room was dark and once again the nightlight thief was clutching her prize. I plugged it in behind the dressers so the girls couldn’t reach it, tucked them in and said good night. They fell asleep shortly thereafter.

The girls didn’t empty their dresser drawers this evening. Hooray!

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Fourth Night

The girls skipped their naps today so they were treated to an early bedtime. Good news: all was quiet in the house by 7:10 PM. My wife peeked in on the girls at this time and they were both–amazingly–sleeping on their own beds.

Nights Five and Six

On the weekend, my wife and I went out on a date each night and the babysitter reported no problems getting the girls down to bed. By the time we got home, they were asleep on their beds.

Essential Tips for Transitioning Your Twins to Big Beds

Through our experience of getting our twins to move from cribs to big beds, we realized a few key things that will help you in your home when the time comes:

  • Practice tucking the twins into their cribs with regular pillow and blankets like they’ll have in regular beds
  • Build up the excitement with your twins that they will soon be moving to big beds
  • During the day of moving to big beds, talk about it all the time
  • Take the twins to the store to buy the mattresses and/or sheets and bedding
  • Have your twins help take apart and move out their cribs
  • Let the twins help you organize their new room with big beds
  • Putting twins in toddler beds may be a good intermediate step from cribs to full size beds
  • Remove any and everything that can break from the twins’ room
  • Remove light distractions (overhead lights, nightlights, etc.) that are within your twins’ reach to be turned on and off
  • Lower your expectations of a clean and tidy room when the twins wake up in the morning
  • Be consistent. Follow the bed time routine even if the twins immediately pop up out of bed.
  • Minimize going into the room after bedtime unless absolutely necessary
  • Expect one or both to fall out of bed during the night. You may just put their mattresses directly on the floor to reduce the change of injury.
  • Try to prevent the twins from opening the door. Use child-proof handles on the inside, or if their handle has a lock, switch the handle so the lock is on the outside of the room. You could even gate the doorway if your twins aren’t likely to jump the gate.
  • Give it some time. The transition won’t happen overnight. It may take days or even weeks.

Remember to be patient and consistent and eventually your twins will come around to the new normal. Good luck!

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I talk more about getting your twins to sleep (and overcoming those challenges) in Chapter 5 of my book, the Dad’s Guide to Raising Twins: How to Thrive as a Father of Twins.

If you’ve already transitioned your twins out of cribs and into big beds, what worked for you? Let us know in the comments.

Picture by Joe Goldberg

Further Reading

Dad's Guide to Raising Twins book
Don't forget to pick up a copy of the definitive guide to raising twins. "Dad's Guide to Raising Twins" was written for fathers of twins to help guide you through the first several years with twins. Click here to learn more about the book and get your copy.

18 thoughts on “How to Transition Twins to Big Beds”

  1. Just found your blog. Love it. We have two-and-a-half year old twin girls and had a jailbreak last night. Looks like we’ll be getting beds soon.

  2. I have 2 year old twins are just moved them to big girl beds after three nights of them getting out of there cribs and going crazy. My question is what did you do for naps? We are on day 4 of big girls beds and my girls are so tired. One wants to sleep but her sister gets out of bed and jumps on her and wakes her up. I count on nap times to help them catch up but if I leave them alone to sleep they end up awake till nap time is suppose to be over. Any suggestions?

  3. Our girls are 3 now. We have only had one escape attempt during a naptime many months ago. However, since they are getting older, we are having the discussion of when and how. I have read so many different things and loved your blog. My question is placement of the matresses. Did you place them side by side, close but not touching, or farther apart?

    Were there any issues with night wakings? or an early bird? I have a good sleeper and a well, not so good sleeper doesn’t even describe it (she wakes 5-20 times a night). I am concerned with her waking up her sister, any suggestions? They definitey would not do well with separation as everything they do they want to be side by side (they even want high chairs touching and sleep together at naptime at daycare!) TIA

    • @Alicia – We started with two mattresses on the floor at opposite ends of the room. We had them in the corners so that two sides of the bed were against a wall.

      Our girls typically wake up around the same time. However, when one wakes up before the other, she will typically come find mommy or daddy first thing instead of waking up her sister. Try to set expectations with your girls. Tell them to come find you when they wake up and let her sister sleep (or whatever arrangement you’d like).

      Good luck in the transition!

  4. Thanks for the tips. I was thinking of moving our 2.5 year old twins to big kid beds tonight but instead will follow your tips to build some excitement around it and do it this weekend after some excitement leading up to it. By the way I love the term Twinadoes!

  5. We will be doing the transition tonight thanks to a climbing baby boy who ended up in his twin sisters crib during nap time today! Your post is really great and i know this site is going to be a great help to my fiancee who has no kids of his own yet but is being an active daddy to my kids! Hopefully we aren’t going to have too much trouble. I was planning to have my older son’s half bunk bed set up with the mattress on the floor ( it has that option) with the ladder against the wall and maybe make curtains for it so they can have a fort/cave to sleep in. Hopefully they like it so much they sleep in it (I’m doubting it though. My twins seem to be payback for my mischief as a kid and I was an escape artist:) )

  6. We have twin boys who are 2 1/3. They just discovered that they can indeed climb out of their beds. They’re very small for their age, but feisty and adventurous. I tried taking one side of a crib off during nap time and was rewarded with many disruptions and no sleeping. One boy is a morning person, the other likes to sleep in. Any extra suggestions for helping them transition? (Especially with different sleep needs.)

  7. Excelent! We have twin boys who are 2 1/2 ,,, and an “older” brother who is 4 1/2 !!
    The bigger is in his own room and big bed. Twins share a room and They sleep in cribs yet.
    We aré going to begin the transition but we are “temerous” of the older brother to enter for a “nignt plarty” (Sometimes he express his desire of sleep with his brothers because feels “lonely”.
    May be your aproach could help us. I mean the relax attitude and let the routine habits to Works.

  8. I just wanted to say thank you for the tips. Our son has been in a toddler bed for months, but we have been unable to get his sister out of her crib. While they are only 2.5, we wanted to try to switch before vacation this summer. Yet every time we tried chaos ensued and we lost patience. Tonight we tried with a room darkening curtain and a door knob cover and an hour of them playing and they were both asleep!

  9. Ok …my twin boys 26 months old and started getting out of crib..yesterday we transitioned them to two full size beds.,.i have their sound machine on and started using a nightlight so they could become familiar with the beds…last night they just cried and kept running out of their room so we had to lay with them until the fell asleep then snuck out..they wok around. 1 so I had to go back intheor with them and just slept with them…an I doing this right?? It’s so hard and stressful bc I don’t know what to do

    • @Kelly – you might have to stay in with them a bit to calm them down but you should leave the room so they can learn to fall asleep by themselves. This may require you go in several times before they fall asleep. Good luck with the transition!


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