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What’s the right bed for your kids?

A child getting comfortable sleep

Your kids need to be comfortable so they can get good rest, but how do you know what bed they need in order to do that? We took a look at the different types of beds out there to see their benefits and drawbacks when putting them into a kid's bedroom, and also laid out what sizes work best.

Types of beds

There are lots of different ways to sleep. To decide what type of bed to buy, keep in mind your child’s needs, the bedroom space, and how much upkeep you want to do. Here are some of the more common types and how they might work in a child's sleep life:

  • Crib – Crib size is standardized at 27” x 52” in the US, but if you’re buying online or from a manufacturer that doesn’t adjust to those standards, the size could be different. You can get foam or innerspring mattresses for a crib, so you have some options in the feel. Cribs are used for infants and toddlers, but due to the standard size your child will outgrow it before too long.
  • Standard bed – Although things are changing, most beds are made up of a bed frame, a box spring, and a mattress. There are lots of sizes available, but the most common are: Twin, Twin XL, Full, Queen, King, and California King. Some specialty sizes exist, like Full XL, but it can be very hard to get mattresses and sheets for them. All the bed components, including any headboard or footboard, need to be the same size in order to fit together (unless you have an adapter). It’s usually very easy to find mattresses and beddings for any standard bed frame. Picking the right mattress is its own topic.
  • Platform bed – This type of bed provides a flat base for a mattress without the need for a box spring. They are very popular internationally, and becoming more and more used in the US. The platform can be a flat wood board, slats, or even metal. Platform beds may have drawers built in underneath, or just extra room for storage. They usually come in the same sizes as a standard bed frame, but may be more limited in some construction types. You can usually use any type of mattress or bedding on a platform bed. These are a good option for more storage space, which is always a bonus feature in a kid’s room. Some platform beds are portable, so they can travel to college and all the housing moves that involves.
  • Bunk bed – A bunk bed is a type of platform bed where one deck is high and one is low. Usually both bunks are Twin size, but there are options with a Full on the bottom and a Twin on top. As with other platforms, no box springs are usually needed, and the standard sizing means bedding options are varied. However, the size and type of the mattress you used may be limited by the support and height of the decks. If you have kids sharing a room, this is a good option to save space. You can dress up any bunk bed so that each one suits that child’s personality. Make sure that it has a sturdy ladder and safety railing.
  • Adjustable bed – An adjustable bed is a bed that moves. Some of these are as simple as a hinge that allows the head to be propped up. Adjustable beds started, and are still used, in hospitals and therapeutic centers to help patients of any age with recovery. Now, though, they are widely available for home use to ease aches and pains, reduce snoring and acid reflux, and provide support for activities like reading or working in bed. No box spring is needed, and unlike a futon you can use just about any mattress. They come in standard sizes as well as split models, so it’s not hard to find bedding. This may seem like an expensive option for a kid’s room, but if your child has sleep problems, an adjustable bed can help.
  • Daybed – A daybed is a bed with three sides. They can be standard or platform construction, and are often Twin sized (and therefore can use a normal Twin mattress and bedding). Many cribs are made so that one side can be dropped, forming a daybed as a transition for your child. For older children, if their bedroom has limited space they may prefer a daybed because it can be sitting space during the day and a bed at night.
  • Futon – Speaking of beds that are also sitting spaces, the futon is a favorite for college kids because of its versatility. It is usually a wood or metal platform with a hinge so that it can be adjusted to have a back and function as a couch, or laid flat for sleeping space. A futon usually needs a specific mattress to adjust to the different formats, so choices for comfort are limited. There’s usually no storage space underneath, either, and you may need special sheets depending on the type of futon you use.
  • Trundle/roll-away – Another bed that saves space is a trundle. These are platform beds that fold down and roll away when not in use. Usually made of metal, you can find trundle beds under day beds, or on their own. Like a daybed, they are usually Twin size and use Twin mattresses. However, if the bed is rolling into storage, the mattress may have to be on the shorter side in order to fit.
  • Waterbed – This is an unusual option, but if you have a child with specific needs you may want to consider it. Waterbeds collect less dust and mites than other mattresses, so a child with allergies could benefit. They also provide pain relief, and the water motion can be soothing to some children who have trouble falling asleep. They are difficult to service, and to move around, and must be drained and cleaned from time to time.

What size bed is right

Kids grow up so fast it’s sometimes hard to know when they’ve grown out of something. Their bed is no exception. A bed that doesn’t fit them can make for restless sleep, and kids need sleep just as much, if not more, than adults. When your kid is ready for a different size will depend on your child’s growth and needs.

The mattress should ideally be about 6” longer than the height of the person sleeping on it. 

  • Crib – The change to a “big-kid bed” can happen at different times for each child - from 18 months or 4 years old. Your child is usually too big for their crib if their head and feet are brushing the ends when they lie flat. Also, if your child is climbing out when the rail is up, that becomes a hazard. They may need to get up when they’re potty training, and they may have other needs that make getting out of bed helpful. Not all of the transition from a crib to a bed is physical. They may have trouble adjusting to a totally new bed. For these in-between times, try getting a crib that transitions to a daybed, or keep the crib in the room for security.
  • Twin options – Standard Twin size is 39” wide x 75” tall. This is the size that most kids will have throughout their childhood, although taller or bigger kids may outgrow them before they become adults. Twin XL is a little longer, at 80”, but not wider. It’s a less common size, so Twin XL bedding options may be limited.
  • Full – At 54” x 75”, the Full bed provides a little extra space. If you have an active sleeper, or a kid that’s just more comfortable with more room, a Full is a great “in-between” choice. It’s a standard size, so bed and bedding options should be plentiful.
  • Queen – This is the most popular bed size. Queen size is usually 60” x 80”, and are often what couples upgrade to when they start sleeping together. Since kids’ bedrooms are often smaller, this may not fit and still provide space for their activities. Older kids may like the extra room. When doing schoolwork, a bed may be a more comfortable, and bigger, place to do projects. When they have friends over, the bed becomes a place for lounging as well.
  • King sizes – Kings are not often used in kids’ rooms. Measuring 76” x 80” for a standard King, and 72” x 84” for a California King, they’re just more space than one child usually needs. However, California Kings are the longest beds widely available, so if height runs in the family, this may be needed for a comfortable fit.

Think ahead – if your kid is growing fast, they may soon need a bigger bed than their age might suggest. Or if you expect they’ll be doing more in their room, like schoolwork and having friends over, they may want the extra space. They can grow into something bigger, but it’s more money and hassle to replace something that is too small.

There are bed frames out there that can adjust to different sizes. A universal frame will start at Twin and go all the way up to King, so you can be ready for whatever they need to get more comfortable sleep.