The Best Kids Beds, According to Experts and Designers
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.
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.
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.
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.