Tips for Buying a Kid's Bed

When your child is ready to leave the crib, usually around age two, you can invest in an interim toddler bed that's low to the ground, but you don't need to. A simple bed frame or even a mattress and box spring set directly on the floor will do the job nicely for the couple of years it's needed.

When your child is up and running, a sturdy bed and a good-quality mattress and box spring will give a growing body the support it needs to rest comfortably -- and will also survive the occasional "monkeys jumping on the bed." Experts advise replacing mattresses at least every ten years, so if you have to choose between a supportive new mattress/box spring and a new bed frame, choose the former. You can always repaint or refinish the frame, but even the old board in the bed trick will not really improve a less-than-supportive mattress.

Good mattresses and box springs are always on sale somewhere, so plan ahead to get the best price on this essential. Always use a box spring with the mattress; the box spring supports the mattress so it can support your little dreamer. (For health reasons, don't use hand-me-down mattresses, and think twice about taking other upholstered pieces. However, old quilts, linens, and other fabric items that can be washed are fine.)

When you go mattress shopping, take your youngster along so he or she can "test rest" several mattresses in the price range you've selected. While innerspring mattresses are generally the most supportive and popular at all price points, you may be interested in foam, air, or even flotation (once known as waterbed) options. If you are considering foam, make sure it's supportive enough, and plan to use a coordinating electric heater with any flotation system. If you're considering an innerspring mattress, remember that "firm" doesn't have to feel hard thanks to today's pillow-top cushioning. Every body is different, so let your child try out several choices. A mattress used every day for a decade should be one your child will find comfortable from the start.

When your child is about five years old and demanding a "big kid's bed," you'll have a wealth of choices to work with. Most kids adore bunk beds, and they do save space if the room is shared, but make sure you can keep little ones off the top bunk. Also be sure bunk beds have guardrails and that mattresses are five inches or more below these guardrails; even big kids can roll out of bed while asleep. A safety ladder is another must-have. Bunk beds have undergone rigorous legislation in recent years, so look for those labeled as being in compliance with safety laws and industry standards. Many kids decide, as they enter their teens, that they're too old for bunk beds, so it's also wise to choose bunks that can be uncoupled and used as twin beds.

If bunk beds aren't your child's style but you're short on space, consider a loft bed. These feature elevated beds with a play area underneath or a desk and other storage. Some offer a second twin bed that installs under the loft. Loft beds work best in bedrooms with ceilings of more than eight feet.

Another space saver is a low-profile trundle bed, available in styles from contemporary to traditional. One twin bed unit pulls out from underneath another to accommodate a sleepover guest. Some trundles are freestanding units on casters that are stowed under the primary bed and easily roll out when an extra bed is needed. Other styles sit on frames attached to the primary bed; these also roll out from under the bed. Choose a trundle that moves smoothly and easily and is one your child can handle alone, and be sure corners on the lower bed's frame aren't sharp.

Tips for Buying a Kids' Bed
Inspired by classic Swedish built-in beds and colored in romantic ice pink
and celery, this fairy-tale room is sophisticated and timeless as well as pretty.
The real beauty is the multitude of built-in under-the-bed drawers that eliminate
the need for a bulky dresser. Designer: Jeanne Benner, Benner Interiors.

Similar to a trundle bed, a captain's bed is a twin bed with a number of storage drawers beneath, all on the same frame. Some beds have both a second trundle bed and built-in drawers. A captain's bed that is authentically styled has high sides to keep the sleeper from "going overboard."

Canopy beds are a traditional style that, in twin sizes, are marketed mostly to girls. The beds' tall posts support a framework that can support a fabric covering. Some come with drawers or a trundle below. A variant with some of a canopy bed's drama but that may appeal to both boys and girls is a bed with tall pencil posts but no canopy.

A twin-size bed is adequate, but, if the bedroom is spacious enough to accommodate it, consider using a full-size bed (also called a double). Once the standard for couples, the full/double bed has been replaced in most master bedrooms by a queen- or king-size model. Following this trend toward "supersizing," an older child may be more comfortable in a double bed than in a twin.

Now that you've got the lowdown on bed options, take a look at the next section for tips on selecting bedding.

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