Little ones grow fast, and at some point, yours will outgrow their crib. Many newer cribs convert to toddler beds but, if yours doesn’t or if it’s soon time to hand the crib down to a new baby in the family, you may be on the hunt for the best mattress for kids.
Often, this means deciding between a toddler bed and twin size bed (although it’s also not uncommon for many families to choose a larger mattress from the get-go).
Toddler beds may feel snugger and cozier for small children and leave more floor space for playtime. However, they’ll outgrow it within a couple of years, at which point you’ll need to upgrade yet again.
If you have or are planning to have more kids, that might not be an issue, but if this is your youngest or budget is a concern, you may be better off going straight to a twin-sized mattress or larger. These, too, have their advantages, including providing more space and comfort for kids and more room for parents to cuddle up for bedtime stories.
As a parent, you always want what’s best for your child, but with so many different opinions and options, decision-making can feel overwhelming. When shopping for your little one’s first “big kid” bed, keep this guide in mind.
Why Is It Important for Children to Get a Good Night’s Rest?
A good night’s sleep isn’t just essential to prevent the grumps. It’s also crucial for overall wellness and healthy cognitive and physical development.
One study, published in the journal Academic Pediatrics and led by a Harvard pediatrician, found children ages 3 to 7 who don’t get adequate sleep are at higher risk of issues with attention, emotions, and peer relationships in mid-childhood.
Another study published in a 2007 issue of Sleep found insufficient sleep, especially before 41 months, resulted in lower cognitive performance and a higher likelihood of hyperactivity-impulsivity.
Experts recommend toddlers get at least 11 to 14 hours of sleep, including naps, every 24 hours, while preschoolers need at least 10 to 13 hours.
Tips for Helping Your Kids Sleep Better
Of course, anyone who’s spent a night lying awake counting sheep or tossing and turning, unable to get comfortable, knows quality matters just as much as quantity when it comes to time spent with your head on the pillow.
Set a Sleep Schedule (And Stick to It)
To help your little one get the quality sleep they need, start by creating an individualized bedtime and wake-up routine. If yours is a night owl, they are unlikely to become an early riser and vice versa. Instead of trying to change their natural rhythms, try working with them.
Just be sure to stick to the sleep and wake-up times you select, even on weekends.
Create a Sleep-Inducing Environment
Like adults, children also tend to sleep better in cool, quiet, and dim environments.
Consider switching off all screens at least two hours before bed as well to help them wind down. Research indicates blue light from screens may throw off melatonin production and circadian rhythms, making it more difficult to fall asleep. Instead of Netflix or YouTube, consider having them read or play quietly.
Help Your Child De-Stress Before Bed
It’s also essential to reduce stress before bedtime, as the stress hormone cortisol can make it challenging to catch Zzzs. If your child is anxious about something, whether it’s school or monsters under the bed, try talking about this earlier in the day, rather than at night.
If they still have trouble quieting their mind at night, consider trying meditation or gentle yoga to help them wind down.
Of course, choosing a good mattress for kids helps too. The best mattress for kids offers a balance of cushion and support to ensure they are comfortable and maintain proper spinal alignment.
How to Choose the Right Mattress Size for Your Child
The first big decision you’ll need to make when it comes to finding the best mattress for a young child. There are pros and cons of every option, including not just how much it costs upfront but also how much value your child will get out of it as they grow.
When looking for the best mattress for a young child the first step is to decide on a mattress size.
- Twin: Twin mattresses, which are 38 inches wide by 75 inches long, are some of the most popular and best mattresses for small children. They’re the closest in size to a toddler bed and suit many kids of average height. They tend to be the most affordable as well. However, your child may feel too cramped in a twin bed as they grow.
- Twin XL: Twin XL mattresses are about five inches longer than traditional twins, making them a good choice for children who are likely destined to be tall.
- Full: A full mattress is a good middle-ground between a child bed and a full grown-up bed, measured about 54 inches wide by 75 inches long. While they’re a tad pricier, your child can grow into it and may use it throughout their teen years, making it a better bang for your buck in the long-run. You can expect most quality mattresses to last about eight to 12 years.
- Queen: At 60 by 80 inches, a Queen may be a good choice for a tall child or a kid who likes to stretch out while they sleep. A queen may also be the best mattress for kids who sleep with their family pet. Queens allow plenty of space for family cuddles and story time as well.
- King/California King: While a King or California King-size mattress is probably far more bed than a young child needs, it is still an option if you have the space for it. There may be instances when a larger mattress is appropriate—like if your child tends to move around throughout the night or you have multiple children sharing a bed. As with full- and Queen-size mattresses, children can use a King for years to come.
Best Kids Mattresses: Important Factors to Consider
Sufficient firmness levels are important to support the body and keep the spine aligned. Preferences vary from person to person, but most do well with a medium-firm mattress.
Keep in mind that preferred sleep positions will affect how firm your child’s mattress should be. If your child is a stomach-sleeper, they may prefer something a bit softer, whereas if they sleep on their back, they may prefer a slightly firmer bed. Side sleepers tend to favor beds that conform to the shape of the body–like memory foam beds–as they tend to provide pressure relief and cushioning support for the back and shoulders.
As any parent knows, kids are notoriously accident prone. Proper edge support can prevent accidental slips and falls as they climb in and out of bed.
Edge support is also essential to maintaining the mattress’s integrity over time as it reduces sagginess. Look for a mattress with firm but comfortable edge support to maximize sleeping area while ensuring safety.
Children can be hard on their things (and pretty much everything else they come into contact with), including their mattresses. That’s why, if you want your child’s bed to last into adolescence, you should choose a product made with high-quality, durable materials. You may also want to consider buying a quality mattress topper to extend the bed’s lifespan and protect the mattress in case of accidents.
Temperature Control & Breathability
Waking up during the night overheated and sweaty can be extremely uncomfortable. Look for a bed with built-in cooling technology and ventilation if your little one tends to sleep hot. Generally, innerspring, hybrids, gel, and latex mattresses tend to be cooler than memory foam, although many modern memory foam products come with cooling, temperature regulation solutions.
If your child has allergies, consider looking for a mattress made with natural, hypoallergenic materials such as latex.
Mattress prices can vary dramatically from one brand and product to the next. Fortunately, with so many beds on the market, you should be able to find a high-quality mattress in your preferred size and material that’s within your price range.
Growing pains (both physical and mental) are a natural part of growing up. They tend to present as aches and pains in the child’s legs, particularly muscular areas like the thighs, calves, back of the knee. A mattress designed to relieve pressure can help support your child as they grow.
What Type of Mattress Is Best for Kids?
Nowadays, there are a variety of mattress types to choose from, and there’s no one right answer for which mattress your child will prefer. However, brushing up on the mattress types—including their benefits and drawbacks—will help you and your child decide what’s best for optimal comfort and support.
A tried-and-true option for sleepers of any age, innerspring mattresses tend to be breathable, cool, and supportive. They’re also bouncy, which some children enjoy. Because these are the oldest and most widely produced, they’re also usually the least expensive.
The downside to buying an innerspring mattress is that the coils can wear out over time, especially cheaper options. (Think back to your college dorm bed for a prime example of how it feels to sleep on a cheap innerspring.)
Memory foam provides a “hugging” sensation, cradling the sleeper and conforming to their body shape. The caveat with some memory foam mattresses is they tend to absorb heat and may not be best for those who already sleep hot. However, many manufacturers now make memory foam with built-in cooling technology to resolve this issue.
On the other hand, a foam mattress may not be the best choice for a particularly destructive child. They also tend to offer less edge support, which could make climbing into bed difficult for a small child.
If you choose to go with a memory foam mattress, make sure to look for foam mattresses that are CertiPUR-US certified. Children may be more susceptible to negative effects from off-gassing of volatile organic compounds (VOCs), so it’s important that the mattress meets quality standards for emissions, content, performance, and durability.
Latex is similar to memory foam, providing similar body contouring and support with less sinkage. It’s also naturally cooler. Another advantage of latex is it’s made with natural, sustainable materials and is naturally resistant to mold and mildew and dust mites.
Just keep in mind that natural latex can get expensive. Be careful, though, of synthetic latex as these mattresses tend to be less durable and may be prone to off-gassing of VOCs.
Also, it’s worth making sure that your child does not have a latex allergy prior to purchasing a latex mattress.
Hybrid mattresses are the best of both worlds, offering the cooling, well-ventilated properties of innerspring mattresses with the body-conforming quality of memory foam. They also tend to provide pressure relief and optimal support.
Hybrid mattresses can be some of the most comfortable, but that comfort comes at a price as they tend to be the most expensive.
What Mattress Is Best for Your Young Child?
The best mattress for kids is ultimately the one they feel most comfortable in.
While you can read reviews and shop for all the right features, such as durability, edge support, back support, cushion, firmness, and temperature control, you won’t know for sure if a mattress is right for your child until they’ve given it their seal of approval. When shopping, look for a retailer that provides at least a 30-day sleep trial, so your child can try it out at home to determine if it’s a good fit.