Space Saving With Kids: Toddler Bunk Beds

ikeabunks2

People keep asking us how we like our home since we moved back in as a family of five.

It’s great. I’m enjoying the space and the view and the kids really like it. The floor plan works well with young kids. Room enough for them to find a quiet corner if they want to play on their own but close enough that they’re within ear shot. I hope we are here for quite a few years.

How do you fit three kids in a two bedroom condo?

Right now our older two share the second smaller bedroom and the baby sleeps in a travel crib in our master bedroom. The boys bedroom is big enough but it’s not big. If that makes sense. I’ll do a little tour of it soon but today I wanted to share the boys new (to us) bunk beds.

Originally we had one second hand IKEA Ovre child size bed that our oldest slept on. We stashed a mattress under it during the day and the middle boy pulled it out and slept on it at night. The IKEA child size beds are great if you live somewhere small. The beds are roughly 66 inches by 30 inches – bigger than a full crib but smaller than a twin bed. The beds are long enough for an average size child to use until they are eight or nine years old.

Our second bedroom could fit a twin size bunk but I wanted to leave more floor space open for the kids to play. A twin bunk would  dominate the room and when you live in a smaller home you need to keep your options open for kid activities.

The faux trundle bed worked but it wasn’t ideal. Being directly on the floor isn’t great for mattress health. Plus, the kids had bunk beds back in the Isle of Man and really liked them.

After reading about 5 kids, 1 condo’s toddler bunks we contacted the builder Owen Thomas. As luck would have it Thomas told me Adrian was moving to a bigger bunk for his kids and their toddler bunks were up for sale. Lucky us!

The beds have a surprisingly simple hack to make them bunks. The bases are two IKEA Gulliver children’s beds (they appear to be discontinued on the IKEA Canada website). The bunk supports were so easy to piece together that I did the whole thing myself by laying the beds on their sides to attach the supports. I won’t give all the details away both because it’s not my handiwork and also, don’t want to be sued, but you can see in the photos the height of the bed and where a ladder was added. I do love a good IKEA hack.

These are not forever beds.

It would be great to use this bunk for four or five years. I could see us moving our oldest into a lofted single bed once he needs more space. The baby and our middle child could then use the toddler bunks for another few years. After that, who knows. I don’t think we have the ceiling height for a comfortable triple bunk but we could move all the kids into the master bedroom and fit a twin bunk and another twin bed in there. Or we could rearrange our master bedroom to include some office space and put our oldest in our den. We’re lucky to have options both because of our space and because we have all boys.

Have you made any creative sleeping spots for a small space? If for some reason we thought all our kids needed their own room, we could even put a Murphy bed in our living room. Fluid sleep spaces aren’t really the norm here in North America but I remember seeing a piece about a Scandinavian family that lived in a one bedroom and the parents had a fold out bed in the living room. And living downtown I have met a local family of five that is making a one bedroom work.

Links:

Love this IKEA hack of the Gulliver child’s bed into a captain’s bed with storage. Parent in Brooklyn did it for his two year old. Great space saver.

IKEA Expedit lofted child size bed hack. Cozy bed and storage.

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  • Our family lived in a one bedroom apartment until after our third child was born. We currently have three bedrooms, but we use one for an office. All five of our children share a bedroom, with two bunkbeds and a pack’n’play for the baby. The room is full, but they primarily only use it for sleeping. The dresser with their clothes is in our bedroom, which actually works really well, since they can still get changed if the baby is sleeping. We have an older hand-me-down bunk bed, and an Ikea bunkbed. The Ikea one is great because it has a smaller profile and looks more open, which makes a difference in a small space. I would love to get another Ikea bunkbed at some point!

    • Smart move with the dresser in your room. We have all the kids clothes in the kid room and when if I’m changing the baby after they go to bed I have to creep in. I think your system will be in our future once the baby is in there.
      Love to hear of another family make a small space work :)

  • I LOVE THIS!!!! We have my 4 year old in a Gulliver and my 2 year old in the crib (that converts to a toddler). My husband wants another kid, so this set up could be perfect. I agree that Gullivers can last well past toddlerhood.

    • If you are looking into making the bunks send me an email and I will send you more detailed pics and some instructions on how this one was set up. It’s really solid.
      The only flaw I see with those toddler beds are that the slats for the mattresses break easily. The one we originally bought had a broken board and this one had some adds ons because the slats had come off the fabric strips. Otherwise, I think these are great beds. Nice space savers and I think my two year old would be a bit lost in a twin bed.

  • This is awesome! We are planning to purchase that IKEA rail for our daughter next week! And this is a great idea. Currently we are a family of three going on four in a one bedroom apartment so I’ve been wondering about ideas for when our kids get a little older. How old was your oldest when he started sleeping on the higher bunk?

    • They had bunk beds when we were living in the UK and he started sleeping on the top bunk when he was 5. Our middle child was almost 2 when he started sleeping in the bottom bunk. We actually had to stop using the top bunk for a bit and block it off because our 2 year old was climbing up top.. and trying to jump off. Now at almost 3 he knows he isn’t allowed on the top bunk so we don’t have the same safety concerns.
      Every child is different but I’ve heard anywhere from 4 to 6 for going in a top bunk.

  • From my own and others’ wealth of experience, if I had to do it again I would designate the chidren’s bedroom as a sleeping only place with two bunk beds and a couple of spare foam mattresses below for parents during sickness or visiting kids or family, when extra beds are always nice to have. A simple solution and in fact, even historic. Having clothes in one place outside of that space is also helpful and if you’re going the minimalist route, easier still… I don’t really think it matters about mixing boys amd girls, either, but I know not everyone will agree. All of these ideas wom’t work for everyone and kids vary in their needs, too, but a lot of it has to do with expectations amd if you’re willing to think outside the box (which you are as well as many of your followers!). Now as a grandmother of 3, so far, I feel even more strongly about this when I see so many of today’s kids with too much stuff to distract them and they usually play in family space anyhow, not forgetting the great outdoors. I think Carmella at Assortment has found a good solution for her older boys sharing one space, too, with curtained niches. The only vital consideration is airing the sleeping room daily!! ;o

  • What a great idea! We currently have our oldest three (Girl-6, Girl-4, Boy-2) in our one bedroom living space, the girls are in bunkbeds (our oldest started sleeping on the top when she was 4- they are the full sized bunk beds from Ikea with the rails around the top) and our son is still in a crib. Our one year old is in a co-sleeper next to our bed that is tucked away in a corner in the main living space, but I plan to move him into the bedroom in the next couple of months.

    For us right now it works great! Before we moved here the boys and girls had separate rooms, but they actually sleep better now all in one room, I think they like the company. The first few nights I put a baby monitor in their room because they were talking quite a bit before bed, but now they all go to sleep together with no problem and the two year old and one year old nap together in the afternoons in there, I have a pack ‘n play set up in the bedroom as well. It is a little cramped, there are beds everywhere, but it is just for sleeping and changing clothes so it hasn’t really been a problem :)

  • I’ve heard it mentioned before that you shouldn’t put mattresses directly on the floor but I have never seen the reason why. Do you know? We have our older boys in an Ikea kura w/the bottom mattress on the floor.
    The set up works great for us and we’re about to put all three of our boys in one room so the youngest can have her own room. Not because she’s a girl and needs her own room but because Boy 3 really wants to be with his brothers and we’re hoping the baby will learn to sleep in her own bed. ‘Fingers crossed’

    • Mattresses need air circulation to prevent mold. If you live somewhere dry I’m sure it’s less of a problem. In rainy Vancouver it’s a must to either have the mattress on a slatted frame or lean it against a wall during the day to let it dry out.
      Good luck with the room of 3 boys! Like you, we may need to put our baby on his own in our office for a bit to get him sleeping in his own bed and through the night. But eventually they will be in the one room.
      Wishing you lots of good sleep!

  • My kids are almost 12 and almost 9. They have separate bedrooms. The older chose to have the tiny box room about a year or so ago. They both have Flexa beds, which are full-size single beds that we used to use as bunkbeds, but now they are in the boys’ separate bedrooms. Later on they can be lifted, and Flexa desks and drawers can be put under them.
    However, soon after moving to separate bedrooms, my kids changed their minds re sleeping arrangements, and they sleep in the same bed together in the bigger room. :) They are using the smaller room to play and as a den. :)

  • Our two boys 3 and 5, were both sleeping in their Gulliver cots with one side removed until recently. They now have new Gulliver toddler beds, luckily purchased just before they were discontinued in Australia. The cot mattresses have just been extended with an additional foam piece. We agree that they can be used until well beyond toddler hood, and hope that they will work for the next 5 years or so when our boys will be old enough for bunks or loft beds. Playing and floor space in their room was a major consideration. Replacing the cots with single beds would have meant to loss of two bookshelves and 1/3 of their play space,

    • Love those bunks so much. The design is beautiful. So handy that they take a crib size mattress. They would be a perfect size for my #2 and #3 that are 22 months apart in age.

  • Our eldest of 4 has wanted to have her own bed since she was 11, but she also wants to sleep in the same room as her 3 younger siblings. I raised her bed with cinderblocks, covered 3 camping mattresses with smooth satin-slippery fabric that is washable and had them each choose a blanket and pillow cover of their liking. Every night they pull their thin mattress from under the eldest’s bed along with their pillow and blanket and they sleep next to each other on the floor. As a previous commenter mentioned, we don’t worry about gender. The phrase in our house is not ‘make your bed!’ it is: ‘put your bed away!’ I have now made 3 more of these mattresses so they can have sleepovers. If any want to have their own room, we do have another room 8×6, but after that, we will need a bigger house. This current situation has worked for 2 years very nicely.

    • Sacha – thank you for sharing! I love hearing that another family is making their small space work, particularly with older children. Your system sounds like a Japanese futon – the common method is to pull out thin mattresses at night for sleeping on the floor.

  • Dan from Smallish…really ingenious design. I really like the fact that you really don’t have to buy many tools. Is the ladder pre-made?

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