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When is it time to graduate to big kid stuff?

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Kids grow faster than parents ever expect. Before you know it, they’ve outgrown their cot, pram and high chair. But how can parents tell when it’s time to move on from them, and how they foster their child’s development?

Before you decide that a certain piece of baby furniture has outlived its usefulness, you should assess the child’s level of cognitive and motor development, advises Dana Mundt, a social educator for Germany’s Federal Conference for Child Guidance Counselling (bke).

“Every child has their own pace of development,” she says, so parents shouldn’t compare a child with siblings or other children. Nevertheless, there are some general indications when it’s time to transition.

Bye-bye baby cot release from behind bars

A cot is a safe place for babies to sleep. But there comes a time to get rid of the bars or slats – at least some of them anyway. “It’s usually after age 2,” says Andreas Kalbitz, managing director of the German federal working group Greater Safety for Children.

“Then the child can get up by themself, and into and out of the cot” through the opening made by the missing bars/slats. At this point, they won’t want to sleep in the open cot for much longer: “After about half a year, you can transition the child to a toddler bed,” he says.

In the lead-up to the transition, putting the child in a sleep sack that they can walk in will help keep them in the cot if they try to climb out, Mundt points out.

The child’s sleeping habits also play a role in the timing of the transition. If they sleep well and feel secure in their cot, you shouldn’t rush it, says Kalbitz. “But if the child keeps bumping against the bars on both sides, is extremely restless or simply too big for the cot, it’s time to make a change.”

To prevent the child from falling out of their new bed during sleep, you can fit it with a safety rail.

Pram and pushchair adieu high time to hoof it

Prams and pushchairs are very practical, enabling you to easily take your child with you while you shop, or wheel the tired tyke back home when you’re done. “As soon as the child signals they want out though, you should encourage them to walk or to help you to push it,” advises Mundt.

You can start on short trips to the playground and gradually venture longer stretches, she says.

As soon as the child is able to walk well, Kalbitz recommends not using a pram/pushchair every time you go out. “After age 3, you don’t need one anymore for everyday distances,” he says, adding that parents should foster children’s mobility, since walking builds their motor skills and kids are naturally curious.

“When children feel their home to be a safe nest, they want to explore the world on their own initiative and take the next step” towards independence, says Mundt, so parents should allow it and trust their offspring.

Nice knowing you, high chair finally a seat at the table

A high chair is an indispensable piece of baby equipment, as it ensures that the baby is securely seated at mealtimes. Its utility, too, depends on the child’s physical development. It’s not needed when the child can sit safely by themself – without sliding off or falling over – on a normal chair.

The child should also be large enough to be able to eat at the table with the rest of the family while sitting on a normal chair. To facilitate this are “growing chairs,” with an adjustable seat height, that are well suited for children of primary school age.

“You should make sure that these chairs don’t inhibit independence,” says Mundt, because “children want to sit on a chair like the ones for their parents or older siblings.”

Parents should fulfil this wish and give it a try, which can further the child’s development. Booster seat cushions can aid the transition as well.

“A child that’s able to sit on a normal chair no longer needs special treatment,” says Kalbitz – and can proudly join the ranks of the “big kids.”

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