Acing The Big Kid Bed Transition

All the necessary tools to get the process right – or course correct, if needed.

toddler-sleepMany parents live in fear of the big kid bed transition. Why take that crazy baby out of their cozy little jail so they can terrorize you with face slaps, eyelid pulls, and “mamamama” deep into your ear at all hours? But reconsider: A true, well-done big kid bed upgrade is all about positive sleep habits – and boundaries. And it’s completely within reach.

We spoke with Kira Ryan, a mom of three and co-founder of Dream Team, a Manhattan-based Sleep Consultation (she also co-wrote their book, The Dream Sleeper). “Children don’t want to want you,” Kira explains. “They want to feel independent.” Add in the fact that sleep is an enormous part of your little’s emotional and physical development, and it’s a no-brainer to use this transition as a chance to set good habits in motion. Here, she shares all the necessary tools to get the process RIGHT – or course correct, if needed.

Before You Start…

DO Aim to start the transition around 2.5.

Ultimately you know your child best, but 2.5 seems to be the ideal age, based on all the clients we’ve worked with. Before then, even with the most emotionally-intelligent child, it’s still sort of a crapshoot because they’re still pretty impulsive at that age.

DON’T time the switch to baby #2.

Unfortunately this is pretty common to try and get an older kid out of the crib so it’s ready for the new baby, but it’s truly not the best reason to move – and you don’t want her to feel kicked out. Buy a safe but cheap crib for the interim and then wait to do the switch at the right time. Which means…

DO wait until they’re in a good place during the day.

If your kid is listening to you during the day, that’s going to make it much easier for him to respond to your nighttime parenting. But if you say “put that hammer down!” and he starts pounding it on the TV, it’s highly unlikely he’s going to listen and oblige “stay in your bed!”

DON’T make too big of a deal over it.

Your little will take cues from you, so it’s important to be positive and consistent. But not too excited.

DO include him in the transition.

“You’re turning into such a big boy and we’re so proud of all the things you’re learning, so next week it’s time to move into a big boy bed.” Make it a reward for positive behavior and take him with you to pick out a bed or sheets.

DO start with pretend play.

Create a situation with dolls or action figures and a shoebox as the “big kid bed.” Pretend the doll is going to sleep in there, show him what you want to happen at night so he can see what you expect before he experiences it himself. Keep it light and don’t feel like you have to do this for hours!

DO be safe.

Do a thorough check of your child’s room for potentially dangerous pieces. If there’s a bookshelf that hasn’t been secured to the wall, get on it! And Kira recommends an inflatable bed-rail to go under the fitted sheet and keep her from falling down. You want her to feel safe – not worried about falling off.

Now once you actually START the process…

DON’T “ease in.”

It is definitely better to set rules and stick to them from the beginning. Your toddler will look to you to say what’s possible and what’s not, and if she suspects a crack in there, she will take the opportunity! Kira tells clients to be strong but kind.

DO have a script.

“This is what I would like to happen. We’re going to bed now, you’re going to stay in here all night, and mommy and daddy will come get you in the morning.” And when he walks into your room in the middle of the night anyway? “It’s time to go to bed, I’m going to walk you back to your room now.”

DON’T engage.

Toddlers LOVE attention, positive or negative. So don’t let him start any side conversations. Fewer words are better. Just say the same script over and over again – you should be as non-reactive and boring as possible.

DON’T be discouraged.

This middle-of-the-night interruption might happen 22 times. Or 100. But if you pay your dues in the first few nights, it will go a long way. In the morning after a rough night, try not to dwell on it, just say “Mommy is really tired. You’re supposed to stay in your bed – that’s what big girls do, that’s how you got a big girl bed.”

DO pay attention to what motivates your little.

It’s different for every kid – some want to be rewarded with stickers or toys, some want to please, some want special time together. Whatever it is – positive reinforcement is a lot better than punishment. Who doesn’t want to be recognized for good behavior? If you really want to sweeten the pot, come up with a “menu” of things that will motivate your little and post it so there’s a visual reminder. If you have any mom-guilt about “bribing” just put it on a shelf and forget about it – this is a very powerful tool in behavior modification.

DO set the right awake time.

Your toddler should get at least 11 hours of sleep, so count that off starting at bedtime and don’t let wake-up time happen any earlier.

DON’T shy away from props.

Like the OK to Wake clock – it keeps kids engaged in the rules. Or pick out a special lovey that’s only for the big-kid bed. It can’t follow him to yours. Let him pick out his own nightlight – anything to make the room feel safe and enjoyable.

DO “schedule” sleepovers in your bed.

If you want to, that is. But you should make it a special thing that everyone is looking forward to, not a kneejerk reaction that has to happen because you’re all so exhausted.

And if you’re already dealing with a tot who’s NOT into her big kid bed…

DO know that there’s help.

No, it’s not going to be a quick fix – there’s so much history leading up to this behavior. Before dealing with difficult nighttime behaviors, spend 2 weeks being hyper-vigilant about following through on what you say. You have to reestablish that you mean what you say so when you start to make changes about nighttime, they already have experience with you following through. And then try the tips discussed above for kids just starting the process.

7 Tips To Ace The Grocery Store With A Kid

Make grocery shopping less something you white knuckle your way through – and more a totally civilized weekly errand you do with your kid. ? @southeasttexaswoman

groceryEver abandoned your shopping cart mid supermarket, grabbed your child, and left the store in tears (either or both of you)?

If not, well, lucky you. If so, we feel you (and have been there). Which is why we compiled this cheat sheet to make your shopping experience less something you white knuckle your way through – and more a totally civilized weekly errand you do with your child.

Park Your Ride

If you drive there, choose a spot not by its proximity to the entrance but to its nearness to the “shopping cart return” so you don’t have to be that person who ditches the empty cart in a totally valid parking spot because you already loaded the kid in the carseat. #SmallWins

Keep Your Child Busy

No, we don’t mean hand over your phone. Grab an onion, preferably one with lots of dry, flakey skin to be peeled. Hand it to your child in the cart. Enjoy the quieting sounds, ignore the trail of onion peelings you will leave around the store (you’re excused).

Very, Very Busy

When the onion fun is over (it lasts a shockingly long time), hit up the “pack your own beans/grains/nuts” section. No, not for the health reasons (who has time to rinse and soak beans overnight?!) – for the twisty ties! Let your child get creative and make shapes, figures, whole scenes (extra points for those!).

Decisions Decisions

What shape pasta should we get, spirals or shells? Red or green grapes? YOU pick! Making decisions goes a surprisingly long way with a toddler.

When All Else Fails…

Distract with food. Not some unhealthy crap you wouldn’t ordinarily buy, but an apple (takes a while to eat) or a baguette (best $2 you can spend) will buy you some time, especially if your little is huuuuungry or just over the whole experience.

Quick Getaway

Did you know all pregnant women and moms with small children get to cut the line at Whole Foods? Yep, that’s a true story. Take advantage. (It is the least they can do when you think about it – a must-read if you haven’t.)

If It’s Time To Call It, Make A Quick Pit Stop

Before you abandon a half-filled cart (and waste that time and energy) in the middle of the store because your child is melting down, drop it at customer service. They’re happy to keep it for you while you deal with your little. If need be, many shops have a cold place to store it (who knew?!).

How To Discipline Without Screwing Up Your Kid

This (very refreshing) approach to discipline gives parents a strategy (i.e. tools) to correct their child’s behavior without screwing them up. 📷 @oopsiebabe

disciplineThere is no one-size-fits-all method of discipline. And according to Dr. Vanessa Lapointe, psychologist and author of Discipline Without Damage, the most qualified “expert” to handle your child’s meltdowns is… you!

Her (very refreshing) approach gives parents a strategy (i.e. tools) to correct their child’s behavior without screwing them up (win!).

The core of her theory is that if you are able to truly connect with a child during a tantrum, you will keep your cool and resolve the problem.

But how to do that? Follow her 3-step process:

1. SEE IT – Understand deeply the frustration your child is experiencing.
2. FEEL IT – Show compassion and empathy towards your child.
3. BE IT – If you do the 2 things above, you will naturally respond in a way that meets your child’s needs.

We put her to the test with some of our own recent experiences and are here to report that we followed her guidance – and $h*t works.

There’s a meltdown in aisle 5 because our daughter wants the Frozen-branded sugar-filled processed snacks and we are not having it.

THE ISSUE: Since you are clearly going to stand your ground here with a big firm “no,” you are going to need to turn up your “kind” side. Your child right now is coming undone – that’s how a totally normal toddler’s brain reacts to a firm “no”. And further, she’s dealing with this terrible news during a very taxing activity – grocery shopping is overstimulating for a kid.

THE SOLVE: Time for the “No…I know” strategy. “No we are not going to buy those, Sweetie… I know you are disappointed.” And as the escalation continues, you just calmly and empathically repeat yourself using various iterations of the “No…I know” response. Until it is done (i.e. when your child moves from angry, frustrated bawls to soft, sad tears).

KEEP IN MIND: While this fun is going on, focus only on your child. Don’t worry about or engage the lookie-loos in the store.

IN DIRE STRAITS: Park your cart with customer service and handle the situation outside the store.

Our daughter only wants mommy to do the bath and bedtime routine, and frankly, mommy is exhausted. And daddy’s feelings are legitimately hurt.

THE ISSUE: If mommy is the child’s primary caregiver, then she’s highly likely the go-to comforter. It’s not that daddy isn’t cool or loved, but your child’s brain associates mommy as the one who soothes when upset. On top of that, separation from a parent is a universal fear for kids, and the bath-bedtime routine is an impending separation – hence kids become deregulated at this time.

THE SOLVE: Time for daddy to take control of the relationship with his child rather than be insecure about it – he’s fully capable of showing compassion and connecting too. Since going cold turkey with mom will not go over well, try having mom be present (with a glass of wine in hand if she likes) while dad does the “work” of bath and books, and you both give a kiss goodnight.

KEEP IN MIND: You send a powerful message of your united front and equal roles by doing it together for a bit.

IN DIRE STRAITS: We find when mom is out of sight, she’s out of mind too and the child welcomes daddy doing the whole routine. So if your child is melting down about daddy even being involved in bedtime, mom needs to start having “plans” (i.e. get outta the house!).

Our son just bit the child over for a playdate. We’re horrified (as is the other child’s mother). How to nip this behavior in the bud stat?

THE ISSUE: There is nothing like a good bite to worry parents about aggressive behavior, but the reality is, kids bite for 27 reasons, and aggression – 9.9 times out of 10 – isn’t one of them. Kids bite to regulate (watch when they close their sweet little mouths on someone or something and their eyes sort of glaze over) and to communicate frustration when they don’t yet have the emotional savvy to do so with words. Don’t be horrified by this.

THE SOLVE: First, swoop in firmly (but with kindness in your eyes) and say “No, this must stop” followed by a “distraction action” to move your child onto something else to settle him down – maybe a drink of water or a snuggle in your lap. If your child is very young child with little understanding of language, this is all you need to do. If your child is older and understands more, wait for him to calm down and then explain that “biting hurts, and you know he is kind, and that next time around you want to be able to count on him not to use biting to solve a problem – and to come to you for help instead.”

KEEP IN MIND: If your child tends to bite frequently, you need to be on high alert around other children, so you can prevent any impending chomping.

We spend 20 minutes, multiple times a day, trying to put a coat on our 2.5-year-old, and we’re about. to. lose. it. #TheStruggleIsReal

THE ISSUE: Putting a coat on a child is a signal you are transitioning them to another activity and/or place. And transitions are hard for littles’ brains to process, hence the meltdowns.

THE SOLVE: As a first line of attack, give your child some verbal transition warnings: “We need to leave for school in 5 minutes. 2 more minutes, Honey!” Couple that with making putting on their coat a fun activity by teaching a coat-flip-trick – now he’s a “coat magician”!

KEEP IN MIND: Some kids run hot and are really bothered by being overheated in winter wear. Think about what your child actually needs versus what you want him to wear.

IN DIRE STRAITS: Some kids need a visual warning on top of verbal warnings. TimeTimer has an app or an actual timer clock that can do the trick.

We just prepped homemade meatballs that our kid is throwing on the floor while smiling maniacally. This madness must be stopped!

THE ISSUE: Young kids engage in this kind of behavior as a beautiful (albeit messy) example of the relationship dance that forms the foundation of healthy emotional development – they do something, you respond to it. And it is incredibly gratifying to their attachment-focused brains. A child’s brain doesn’t practice self-control until age 5-7, so if meatball tossing sounds fun, then meatball tossing it will be.

THE SOLVE (2 AND UNDER): For a child in this age group, simply find another way to engage in some back-and-forth so that need is met without meatball-palooza. Peek-a-boo, a tickle game, or whatever else you can come up with in the moment.

THE SOLVE (3+): Very calmly, and with kindness in your eyes, move the meatballs aside. Respond with compassion, “It seems that you are having a tricky time eating your meatballs.” Then let your child know what is needed, “This needs to stop… meatballs go in your mouth only.” After this, secure a good intention, “Can I count on you to land those meatballs right in your mouth?” And if things cannot be calmed at this point, just very matter of factly move the meatballs away again and say, “It looks like eating meatballs is not going to work out, so I’ll just set them here for now.” This is not as a consequence, just a reality of you taking care of the situation for your child who isn’t in a frame of mind to do so herself. Follow this up by engaging her in something else. Maybe have some water. Then try the meatballs again when she’s more settled.

No matter what we ask our 2.5-year-old child to do (pick up toys, brush teeth, put clothes in hamper), she blatantly just doesn’t listen or oblige.

THE ISSUE: You’re not connected to your child’s “yes brain” when you’re asking her to do something, and she’s busy doing something else and simply not paying attention to you.

THE SOLVE: To get VIP access to her “yes brain”, connect with her by taking a keen interest in what she’s engaged in – “Look at this amazing block castle you are building! I love it.” The next step is to put fun in your request, like “Let’s sing the clean up song while we pick up the toys!” “Let’s play the clean-up race!” “It’s time to go upstairs and brush your teeth now – do you want to climb the stairs using your elephant feet or your bunny feet?!” “Let’s play basketball laundry – first you, then mom… ready, set, go!”

Now go have a very stiff cocktail – you’ve earned it.

📷 @oopsiebabe

Survival Guide: Moving With Small Kids

Some game-changing tips and a timeline that will get you (and your little) through a move in one piece.

Screenshot 2016-06-17 10.26.57Whether you’re moving 3 blocks or 3,000 miles, packing up your life and moving to a new home is damn stressful. (Fun fact: It’s in the top 3 most stressful life experiences, along with death and divorce.) Add on to that a small child, and the daunting task seems nearly impossible.

If you can’t justify hiring someone to pack and unpack everything (and really, who can?), here are some game-changing tips and a timeline that will get you (and your little) through it in one piece. #MovingGoals


The More Things Change… : The chaos of a move is felt even by small children. Outside of the move, try and keep as many other things the same – this is not the time to potty train or transition to a big kid bed.

Ask For/Accept Help: People will likely offer to watch your child for a few hours while you pack, or come help you clean out your closet. Just say yes! You need all the help you can get. Also, you’ll get 10X more done with the kids out of the house, so it’s worth hiring a sitter if your family and friends are selfish unavailable.

4 Weeks Before

  • Take inventory. Any furniture you don’t want to keep, list on Apartment Therapy and/or Craigslist.
  • Start prepping littles by explaining that you’ll be moving, and read a book about it to really drive it home. We love Boomer’s Big Day and The Berenstain Bears’ Moving Day for the toddler-set.
  • Go through closets and create a Salvation Army/Goodwill pile (schedule a pickup then – there’s no next-day appointments).
  • If you have kid things going to Goodwill/Salvation Army, make sure they are out of sight from your child. Otherwise, the giveaways will become the new favorite toys!

2 Weeks Before

  • Change your address online (takes up to 2 weeks to make its way through the system, which should surprise no one).
  • If you’re trying to move on the cheap, do a quick search on CL  or check Uhaul’s box exchange for free boxes and bubble wrap. That stuff is surprisingly expensive and people who just moved are often trying to unload it.
  • If your little(s) are 2+ and you’re without a sitter, put them to work. Set up an empty box and let them fill it with whatever you decide (your shoes, their toys, etc). Involving them in the process reduces their anxiety.
  • If you have the capacity to executive produce your move, down to a color-coded labeling system… well good on you. At the very least, label the kids’ stuff – so when your little refuses to go to bed until he has Moo Moo, you can find it fairly easily.

1 Week Before

  • Change your shipping address on amazon. (You will be ordering a lot right after you move and nothing’s more annoying than it going to your old address – we speak from experience.)
  • As your stress level escalates with the impending move, mask it from your kids with special treats like ordering pizza for dinner and letting them watch TV – things that make your life easier and make them feel extra-special.
  • Pack a kids moving day go-bag that has several changes of clothes, any coveted lovie or stuffed animal, snacks, a few toys, sippy cup, diapers/wipes, hand sanitizer, and PJ’s. Just. In. Case.

Moving Day

  • Have kids out of the house before the movers come – it’s upsetting for them and distracting to you if they’re around. Send them off with Grandma, out with the nanny, or hire a babysitter to take them somewhere (anywhere).
  • Ask the movers to put the kids’ room boxes on the truck last, so they are first to come off. That gives you a jump-start on rebuilding the crib and getting his room set up.
  • Put a surprise new toy in your child’s new closet. Not only will it delight him during a chaotic time, but it might also keep him busy while you get things (slightly) sorted once the movers leave.

Post Move, Day 1

  • You have 1 million boxes to unpack, and they’ll still be there tomorrow. Time to go do something fun with your child in your new neighborhood! Check out the library, go to a playground – do something to get him excited about all this change.