This week I'll be talking about how we got the girls to actually transition into sleeping in these awesome teepee big kid beds. One of the most interesting things about parenting twins is the fact that even though they (in our case) look exactly alike - their personalities are entirely different. I think I expected that and I certainly encourage it, but it does often leave us scrambling in times of change and developmental milestones as we try to adapt to the needs of two entirely different personalities simultaneously. It's pretty much what any parent with more than one child does, except that these kids are our first so we have no time to learn from one kid before the other kid is having the same experience That's really all just to say that it's a unique experience and we find ourselves trying multiple approaches to almost everything until we find the thing that works for each child. That said, below is an outline of how we helped the girls make this transition.
- HYPE - We talked a really big game about these beds - how cool they were, how great it was that the kids were helping us build them, and most importantly - how sleeping in big kid beds made them SUCH BIG KIDS. They were about two and a half when we switched them to these beds, so they were really starting to lean in on the idea of being independent and having a say in their day, etc. So we talked about big kid beds a little everyday - whether it was letting them pick out the inside paint color, letting them pick their sheets, to having them tell their teacher and friends at school about their big kid beds. By the time the beds were actually ready - those kids were psyched.
- SET ADJUSTMENT PERIOD - Some of our friends transitioned their kids from cribs to big kid beds over a set time period (days, weeks, etc) but we didn't really have that luxury since the girls share a room and there was definitely no way to fit 2 cribs and 2 big kid beds in the space. But that said, the morning of the day of the big switch - we had them say goodbye to their cribs, they helped J take them apart, then they helped J put the new beds together, and then we spent about an hour before bedtime playing in the big kid beds, snuggling in the big kid beds, and reading/doing our bedtime routine in the big kid beds.
One thing I definitely didn't take into account was that there was a big difference in sleeping space for them. In that, they had these circular cribs so towards the end of their time in them, the girls had much less space then they probably would have in a traditional rectangular crib. So going from that small sleeping space to a twin size bed was a HUGE change.
- RULES FOR GETTING IN AND OUT OF BED - In addition to the big kid bed hype, weeks before the actual transition, we also started using a 'tot clock', which is essentially a cute little clock that glows green when it's OK for your kid to get out of bed. There are a bunch of different types, but we use this OK to Wake! version and I highly recommend it to anyone with young kids. We have it set to 7 am, so once the kids get in bed, they know that although they can be awake before it turns green at 7 am, they can't get out of bed. I wasn't sure how it was going to work honestly, but the kids LOVE it and at 7 am, pretty much without fail, I get to wake up to an alarm that sounds a lot like two kids screaming 'It's time to get up Mommy! The clock turned green!'... Another thing that we did initially and worked fantastically in the beginning was have the kids use a small step stool to get in and out of bed. Warning shameless plug - we used our own Children's Step Stool - the softwood version for Indiana because she liked to pick hers up and move it around, and the hardwood version for Scout because she wasn't as into moving hers. Especially in the first few weeks of the transition, the kids felt like they needed the stools to get in and out of their bed, so every night after they got into bed, we would move the benches to the end of the bed, and in the morning I would move them back so they could get out of bed. It was AWESOME.
All that worked and thing were going great...until we tucked them in and tried to leave them in their big kid beds to sleep. Scout is a little less sensitive than Indiana, which is why I assumed that it would be an easier transition for her. I could not have been more wrong though, Indiana was relatively easily comforted but Scout was truly upset about her new sleeping situation. That first night was pretty sad, I will admit - they were scared and Scout particularly cried a fair amount. After multiple trips back into the room to comfort them, we ultimately decided to let them work it out - which was actually kind of adorable since it basically entailed Indiana comforting Scout and telling her that it would be okay (basically everything we had said to her earlier). They fell asleep pretty fast though AND they stayed in bed all night. For the first week, they cried a little when we would tuck them in, but it got shorter and shorter each night. By the second week they were comfortable and LOVING their big kid beds. In fact, part of our nighttime routine is a few minutes of snuggling with the parent of their choice, and Scout got to the point where she would kick me out of her bed when she was ready to go to sleep. Indiana, who is much more attached to structure and routine, got very used to the snuggling routine (during which I set a timer on my phone for up to 5 minutes of snuggles depending on how the evening had gone) - and for her, once that phone timer went off, she knew and embraced the fact that it was bedtime. Of note, I definitely think our transition was made easier by the fact that the girls share a room and therefore have the company of each other. They were scared to be in their beds initially by themselves, but admittedly, we didn't have to deal with the problem of them being lonely or bored in a room by themselves.
Over the next few weeks, they gradually stopped using the benches, but still stayed in their beds no problem. The tot clock was still the indicator for them to get up and they were all about that life. They would intermittently chat amongst themselves for a few minutes at bedtime or in the morning before the clock turned green, but overall everyone was sleeping well and it was truly glorious. For MONTHS we had no problems and the whole system was like a MACHINE...until the kids got really sick/we started traveling for the holidays. We were in Williamsburg when Indiana realized that she could get up out of her sleeping bag/sleep cot and visit me in the middle of the night in our hotel room. I didn't love it. But what I loved even less was that once we got home from that trip, she started making those unannounced visits to our room in the middle of the night for the next two weeks straight (sometimes multiple times a night). Meanwhile Scout sleep soundly or, on the rare occasion she did wake up, would announce through the monitor that Indiana had exited her bed (all while she stayed in hers). It's not that a kid popping into the room in the middle of the night was all that terrible (although INCREDIBLY alarming), but what was more upsetting is that in the house we are currently renting, the master bedroom is on a different floor than the rest of the bedrooms, which meant she was traversing the stairs all by herself in the dark, and I knew it was only a matter of time before she fell. I thought about putting the baby gate back up, but I ultimately decided that it would be better to get to the root of the problem than to just treat the symptoms. That proved to be a little harder than anticipated, and I tried everything from:
- Talking to her about why I was concerned/why she should stay in bed and how all she had to do was say 'Mommy, I need you' and I would come up - Effectiveness level = LOW
- Negative consequences - I threatened to take her favorite bunny away if she exited the bed before morning. She seemed against the idea and told me that she wouldn't get out of her big kid bed...then got out of her big kid bed...twice - Effectiveness level = LOW
- Ignoring it - I thought maybe all the hoopla surrounding her getting out of bed was giving her attention/reinforcement so for a few days, I would take her back to her room and tuck her in - all silently, with no emotional reaction. Effectiveness level = LOW
- Positive reinforcement - FINALLY - I decided to start rewarding Scout for staying in her big kid bed, rather than punishing Indiana for getting out of hers. That's around the time that Indiana started showing interest in staying in her big kid bed. Long story short - our kids LOVE stickers, so we started a sticker chart and every night that they stayed in their big kid bed all night, they got a sticker on their chart and a sticker to play with. Scout continued to stay in her bed because, FOR THE LOVE OF STICKERS. Indiana's love of stickers, coupled with her dislike of watching Scout get something she didn't get, ultimately took her down the right path. I encouraged her every night and told her that I knew she could do it and after she had a few nights of success and mornings of stickers, I upping the ante so that if they stayed in bed every night of the week, on Sunday I would take them to the store to pick out their own stickers (shout out to Michaels and their WHOLE AISLE OF STICKERS). That was the total slam dunk for them because they love going to the store and getting to ride in a cart almost as much as they like the endless sticker options. I'm happy to stay though, that it's been almost a full month and no child has exited their bed before the clock turns green in the morning
This is just our experience - every child is definitely different FOR SURE, but in case you find yourself in need of a sticker chart - you can download our 1 kid chart and/or 2 kid chart below. I call it the 'Stay the F in Bed' chart - mostly because it makes me laugh and my kids can't read - WIN WIN. Happy sleeping!!!