With Junius, we knew it was time because I was pregnant and needed a crib for his baby sister. Plus, he never slept well in the crib anyway, so it was no great trauma to move him.
We put him in a double bed with rails for the first time when we were at the beach, just after he turned two. He promptly buried himself under his blanket and friends and went to sleep. Just like that.
With Pippi, it's a different story. She always slept well in her crib, at least compared to her brother. And she was contained that way -- good both for timeouts and for letting her sing herself to sleep at night without worrying that she was roaming around in her room.
I was in no rush to move her, as long as she could still fit in the crib. I figured we'd wait until she turned three, then transition her so we could pass along the crib to our friends who are expecting their first baby in March.
So how did we know we needed to move her? She told us.
As in, she turned to me one night after Christmas, looked me straight in the eye and said in her most dramatically serious voice, "It is time, Mommy. It is time to give my crib to Molly."
Cue knife to Mommy's heart.
But she was right. It was time. So, based on our experience, here's your step-by-step guide to a successful transition from sweet baby crib to biggirlgrownup bed:
Step 1: Wait until you need the crib for someone else or until your child announces that she will no longer be sleeping in the crib. Feel sad.
Step 2: Come to terms quickly with the fact that your baby girl no longer fits in her crib like this:
Step 3: Make a "bed" on the floor out of blankets and pillows. Repair the nest during the night as your toddler wiggles and rolls around so that she doesn't end up sleeping on the carpet. Talk a lot about the importance of staying in your bed ALL NIGHT and not getting up. You can also take the mattress out of the crib and set it up like a bed on the floor.
Step 4: Clean up the nursery so you can take pictures of how adorable everything looked when your baby girl was still a baby. Notice suddenly how very big and tall and slender she is. Take a deep breath.
Step 5: Take apart the crib and set up the real bed. Add bed rails and load it up with friends, blankets and pillows. Talk some more about the importance of staying in bed ALL NIGHT. Snuggle up with your big girl and be thankful that a) there's enough room for you and b) she's still got that stinkin' pacie so at least she's not all grown-up just yet.