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The Best Kids’ Beds, According to Experts and Designers

updated 3 days ago
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Buying a kid bed doesn’t sound like such a difficult thing — it’s just a bed, after all! However, when you start to consider when to buy the bed, what materials are best, and the longevity of the design, you realize it is a surprisingly complicated affair. I’ve spent my entire career writing about home design and I found it daunting. Here’s why: Sleep is a HUGE issue for families. Getting our beloved littles to sleep through the night is critical to our children’s wellbeing and our own. 

In my case, my son was having a hard time transitioning when we converted his crib to a toddler bed. Suddenly the crib mattress seemed hard and too small for our boy. Freed from the confines of the four sides of his crib, he would walk through our apartment to wake us up in the night (sometimes multiple times in one night!). We were desperate for things to improve, so one day in desperation, we drove to IKEA and bought whatever they had in stock without much thought to our long term needs. Four years later, I’m back looking for a better long-term pick.

I’d like to help you avoid making the same mistake. As with all of our Cubby buying guides, I spoke to experts to get in-depth advice about purchasing a big kid bed. With this guide in hand, you should have the confidence to make a purchase that will last until your kid heads off to college. 

Credit: Erin Derby

When is the right time for a big kid bed?

The right time for a big-kid bed will vary for every child, but it generally comes between ages 2 and 3. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends transitioning your kid once their crib railing is lower than their chest (when the child is standing in the crib). But maybe you have another baby on the way or perhaps like me, you decided to move to a big kid bed when your little one is getting potty trained. If you have a hunch it’s time, it probably is.

Should you buy a toddler bed before a big kid bed?

Our experts cautioned against purchasing a toddler bed because they are usually used for a short period. However, as a small-space dweller, I want to weigh in to say it might be a good choice if you live in an especially small home. A smaller bed might mean your family can comfortably stay in a smaller home longer — and that might save you a ton of money over time. Just know that most crib mattresses are very firm (to make them safe for babies to sleep on), so your bigger kid may need a mattress upgrade or a cushiony topper to make the former crib mattress comfortable.

If you’re nervous about the transition to a real bed, lifestyle writer Liz Callahan Schnabolk suggests looking for a bed that offers the option of removable guard rails.

What do you look for in a kid’s bed?

“Look for a strong, durable frame that can hold up to kids having pillow fights and just being kids,” says New Jersey designer and mom of four Daniella Hoffer. Hoffer says she often opts for a solid wood bed frame for strength and stability. Avoid MDF and other composite wood. Metal frames can be sturdy, but try to see them in person or read reviews carefully to make sure the one you’re choosing is durable.

Are upholstered beds a good choice for kids?

Upholstered beds are cozy, but there’s also an increased risk for wear and tear when fabric comes into play. “We love upholstered bed frames,” says Hoffer. “Always make sure to use highly durable performance fabrics in fun patterns and plush materials.” Another option to consider is an upholstered bed with a removable slipcover that can be washed or professionally cleaned.

Credit: Hannah Brooke Photography

What style of bed is best?

When your child is an adorable 2-year-old, it may be tempting to go for a cutesy kid bed, but it’s more sustainable and better for your budget if you shop for something that will still suit them in their teenage years. Our experts discouraged any kind of themed or novelty bed. Cater to a child’s interests with bedding or other decor items instead.

Consider a bed with additional functions, especially if you’re short on space, says interior designer and mom of two Lisa Ehrlich. She purchased two IKEA beds with storage drawers (since discontinued) for her children’s room and found the extra storage extremely handy. Likewise, Sherry Petersnik, half of the couple behind Young House Love, recently wrote about how much she loves her daughter’s storage bed with cubbies. If storage is not a challenge, Ehrlich likes a trundle bed for its sleepover potential. Daybeds often offer these additional functions with storage drawers or trundles beneath and have the added advantage of being a cozy spot to sit during the day. However, don’t be deceived by catalog images of daybed styled like sweet little sofas: If this is your child’s main sleeping space, it is unlikely the daybed will be made up neatly each day.

Should I buy something larger than a twin?

What size bed is right for your room will depend on how much space you have. Hoffer says if a room is large enough, a full or a queen can be comfortable for a longer time (not to mention big enough for the whole family to cuddle up for storytime). If there’s not room for a full or queen, you could consider an extra-long twin. Roberto Gil, the owner of Casa Kids, a kids furniture company based in Brooklyn, notes that twin-sized beds are most comfortable for people who are under 5’10” feet tall, so if you and your child’s other parent are both tall, those extra inches might be worth the narrower choice of sheets. 

10 Designer-Approved Big Kid Beds

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The Crib That Converts

We’ve recommended the Sleepi in our toddler bed buying guide, but did you know it’s more generously sized than most toddler beds? “I'm 5'4 and can lay in it too,” says Katrina Peralta, the founder of Livlet Studios in Brooklyn. “You can drop the side and then add the extender to be a toddler bed, but what I also like about the toddler size is you can still adjust it up and down as the kiddo gets adjusted to not rolling out.” It requires a special Stokke Mattress, but Peralta says you can just tuck in a regular twin fitted sheet.

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The Timeless Pick

Multiple designers pointed to this classic design. Dallas interior designer Lisa Henderson says, “Jenny Lind takes the cake! The nostalgic shape and transitional style make it the ideal bed for any kid’s room.” Professional organizer Elise Hay agrees, noting its design longevity. “I choose the Jenny Lind because it’s a classic that can be styled in various ways and will still suit my daughter as a teen,” she says.

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PB Teen

The On-Trend Design

“This bed is luxurious and mature, so it can grow with your child and there are a variety of color options and sizes,” says designer Daniella Hoffer. Channeled upholstery has been having a moment the past couple of years, but is still timeless enough to last for years to come.

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West Elm

The Sleek Storage Bed

Blogger Sherry Petersik gushed enthusiastically about this affordable storage bed available from several online retailers. “We thought a lot about the beds that we purchased for this house, knowing full well that it would be smart to utilize them for under-bed storage. Our daughter’s bed has done the job especially well,” she wrote. “It really holds a ton of stuff (which can’t get pushed under the bed and lost).”

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The Budget Storage Bed

Blogger Sherry Petersik gushed enthusiastically about this affordable storage bed available from several online retailers. “We thought a lot about the beds that we purchased for this house, knowing full well that it would be smart to utilize them for under-bed storage. Our daughter’s bed has done the job especially well,” she wrote. “It really holds a ton of stuff (which can’t get pushed under the bed and lost).”

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West Elm

The Small Space Pick

Shamika Lynch, the designer behind Maximizing Tiny Interiors and a mom of two, likes a bed in a versatile color with a minimalist frame. “The wood is a nice tone that's gender-neutral and age-neutral. It can work for a new toddler or a pre-teen and with a variety of aesthetics without being too bold or too boring.” Lynch notes that the headboard gives it presence in the room, but its slim profile and lack of footboard mean it is still a good choice for a tight space.

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The Inside

The Custom Upholstered

Mom of three Shelly Rosenberg, the principal designer of Acorn & Oak, an interior design firm specializing in homes for families raising children with disabilities and special needs, says, “When it comes to kids’ beds, I love to go simple and soft. I love that this upholstered bed can be wrapped in the fabric of your choice.” Rosenberg loves the iconic Sheila Bridges’ Harlem Toile, but The Inside has over 100 fabrics in stock, so there’s something for every style.

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The Minimalist Option

"In addition to being both modern and attractive, the space saving design has a practical bench at the foot for sitting or for placing objects,” says interior designer Jacqueline Schmidt, who lives in Brooklyn with her two sons. “It is also compatible with a trundle which is so useful in a small space when you have sleepovers. The security rail is a major plus too." Jennifer Jones, the founder of Niche Interiors, a California design firm specializing in sustainable design, seconds this Oeuf pick as a great sustainable option.

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The Luxe Eco Option

If money is no object, Niche Interiors’ Jones also loves this heirloom-quality day bed. “It’s made of solid domestic wood (no MDF) and it’s beautifully crafted with a natural oil finish,” she says. You could use it in an office or living room once your child has flown the coop.

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West Elm

The Wooden Daybed

“A daybed is great for space planning because it can tuck against a wall and leave the floor space open for playing. You can also add a trundle underneath for sleepovers,” says Jennifer Stoner, the lead designer at Jennifer Stoner Interiors and a mom of two. “Add a fun wallpaper behind the bed and you have a stylish bedroom without much work.”

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Pottery Barn Kids

The Designer Trundle

Ehrlich also loves a daybed for its optional trundle, but prefers an upholstered frame. “Pottery Barn Kids’s daybeds are available in many textile options and are eco-friendly with Greenguard certification,” she says.