Crib shopping frustrating. When my wife and I went originally went crib shopping 3 years ago, I spent hours looking for cribs with the smallest details. Slats had to be safe enough for a child’s head not to get stuck in. The crib had to last us a couple years. The crib had to have the same size sides. Lastly, I had it in my head that the crib had to be a 4-in-1 convertible crib and allow us to transition from stage to stage.

Many parents share the same feelings and when going out to get a convertible crib, the fine print varies as to what the “4-in-1” logic means. Some 4-in-1 cribs call themselves that through 3 baby crib stages and a final transition to some sort of bed. I don’t buy into that. A true 4-in-1 crib is one like the Graco Tatum. The Graco Tatum Crib has 4 actual, very different stages.


What is the Graco Tatum?

tatumcribThe Graco Tatum is very simple, yet modern and stylish looking crib that has a very long lifespan. Unlike the smoke and mirrors 4-in-1 cribs that exist out there that I mentioned above, the Tatum actually has 4 distinctive stages. The first is the crib itself. The Crib has 3 different stages (more on that one later) and then can transition into a daybed, a toddler bed and then eventually a full sized headboard and footboard. The daybed and the toddler bed basically look the same but have some different hardware mounting options.

This 4-in-1 style means that you get a lot of mileage out of your Tatum. Your child can realistically use from birth to their teens. If that isn’t enough, there are a lot of other little things that I like about this crib.


Why this crib?

Besides how dynamic the Tatum is, the main thing I like about this crib’s layout is the fact that both of the main length-wise sides are the same size. One of the things that you might struggle with as a new parent is where the crib goes. Some cribs come with this odd notion that one side needs to be higher than the other is. Whether it’s a solid headboard-style piece or just one side of higher slats than the other, that actually hampers room placement. It’s almost as though the crib’s telling you that you need to shove it up against a wall. What if you want to place the crib in the middle of the room? You then have this weird looking eyesore just floating out there.

Construction is key to your baby’s safety. The Tatum is built of well constructed pine materials to ensure the longest life span possible. Cribs don’t have expiration dates, so this can be passed down to generations to come if that is your plan.


How hard is a crib installation like this?

Most crib installations are simple, one person jobs. A stock standard crib installation should only take about an hour or so. Most cribs tend to see you put together the two short sides with one horizontal side. You’d then slide the base into place and close up with the last side.

When transitioning into other phases, I can’t really say how long it will take. It really depends on what you’re transitioning to. By looking at the photos themselves, it looks like you’re just removing one side of the crib to transition into a daybed. That should only take about 5 minutes. The other phases are likely somewhere in between.


How do crib stages work?

Crib stages are pretty simple and easy to figure out. When you’re putting your crib together, the base piece should on the top-most rung. Here, the crib mattress will sit on the base high enough that it doesn’t take much effort for you to lay your baby down or get them up. This stage usually lasts the first 6 months or so. Some parents will usually recommend that you swap over to the next stage when your baby rolls independently in their sleep. Honestly, it’s still going to be pretty hard for them to gain a mysterious amount of sleep strength that’s enough to roll them up and out of the crib. I’d say that the telltale sign is more when they’re showing interest in pulling themselves up and onto objects.

A quick flip and drop and you’re onto stage two. Stage two sees you drop the crib base drastically and is done so that your child has the freedom to pull themselves up in bed without having you worrying whether they will fall out if they try. Stage three is similar. You just drop down a bit further. By this time, your child should be around a year old and well situated for the next 12-18 months.

You’re probably ready for a toddler bed when your toddler tries to climb out of the crib on a regular basis. That’s going to be somewhere in the 24-30 month range.

Why is a 4-in-1 convertible crib a good idea?

tatumdaybedHaving a multi-functional crib really boils down to one major consideration: money. By the time your kid is ready for Grade 1, they’ll feasibly have been through 3 different bedding stages: The crib, the toddler bed and the next stage (we’ll call it a big kid bed just because that’s what mine calls it.) Each single function bed costs just as much as, if not more than the previous stage. The kicker is that the crib and the toddler bed phase even use the same mattress.

With this mind, buying a multi-stage crib is such a good idea because you just need to add a piece here and there and you’re ready for the next stage of life for very little additional cost.

One other side consideration is that cribs have very little actual resale value once your toddler is ready to move into a bed. By the time your child is done it, your crib will probably have weathered a fair bit of damage. If your child becomes a chewer, they might gnaw off varnish here and there (gross, I know.) Constantly pulling the mattress and changing the sheets will likely fade the paint in places. Moreover, most parents don’t really want to buy a used crib from strangers so unless somebody is inheriting this crib, you might as make the best of the investment.


The next stages

gracotatumconvertedIf I can offer a quick word to the wise: Buying a 4-in-1 crib from a brand like Graco is a smart move because they’ve been around forever and they aren’t going anywhere. Since you’ll have to rely on the manufacturer for most of the “next stage” pieces (they aren’t included in the box and you’ll have to buy directly from them,) aligning with a company like Graco is a best case scenario. As an example, one of my parent friends committed to buying a 4-in-1 from a less famous company and were burned by the fact that the company discontinued the rails and converting pieces, so they were stuck with having to buy a toddler bed.

When it all comes down to it, a crib like the Graco Tatum is one of the best investments you can make for your young family. It will grow up alongside your child and help you save a lot of money when you need to start looking at the next phase of bedding.

The Graco Tatum is now available at Best Buy in 3 colours: Pebble Gray, Espresso Brown and White.

Matt Paligaru
Emerging Technology
A technology nut at heart, I'm always interested in what makes our lives easier and helps us tick day to day. Whether Home Automation, toys, games (board and video) or everything in between, I'm always looking around the corner to see what drives us in today's day and age.