Bunk Beds or Two Singles? How to Make the Choice


When you have more than one child, furniture options start to expand. You can have bunk beds, or you can choose to have two (or more) single beds. Bedding options can be hard to work with and even harder to navigate—even if you are used to working with kids’ furniture. 

How do you choose between bunk beds or two singles? Trying to figure out what furniture is appropriate for your kids needs to take multiple issues into account, including the following:

  • Age
  • Gender
  • Body Size
  • Safety
  • Number of Kids
  • Room Size
  • Room Style
  • Price Point

Not sure where to begin with your bedding options? We can’t blame you; it’s hard to figure things out right off the bat. If you are uncertain about what to choose or what to look for in a bed, it’s a good idea to read this shopping guide. 

How Do You Choose Between Bunk Beds or Two Singles?

At one point in every kid’s life, they think that bunk beds are the coolest thing ever. Unfortunately, they aren’t so cool when you have to live with them 24/7, and the circumstances aren’t bunk-friendly. 

There are a lot of different ways that you can select between the two. Here is what you should think about when you are trying to shop for furniture, divided by concerns ranging from the most to the least important.

Problematic Issues with Bunk Beds

If you’re mulling over the option of a bunk bed, there are a couple of major drawbacks that can (and probably should) impact your decision. Bunk beds are not for everyone. In fact, they are primarily intended for young, smaller kids of the same gender.

Though they may be a classic part of childhood, bunk beds are rarely all they are cracked up to be. In most situations, kids tend to prefer single beds over the long term. Here’s why you might want to rethink bunk beds, broken down by age, gender, body size, and safety.

Age

Age plays a massive role in choosing the right bed (or beds) for your kids. Older children, like preteens, teens, and young adults, need to have a lot of space to stretch their legs. They also need a lot of private space. 

The older kids are, the less likely they are to see bunk beds as fun. Heck, by the time that most kids hit preteen age, they tend to be over the bunk bed craze altogether. Who can blame them? They’re inconvenient and petite in most cases. 

There is also such a thing as being too young for a bunk bed. Experts warn parents not to let kids under the age of six sleep on a top bunk. So, try to keep your bunk bed ages between six and 15. 

Gender

The consensus among American families is that it’s not a good idea to room kids of differing genders together. That’s why it’s not viewed as a good idea to try to have kids of differing genders in the same room. It gets awkward, and body parts get seen. 

Body Size

Bunk beds are typically twin-sized beds, which don’t bode well for older kids. Kids who need lots of privacy will not be too happy with bunk beds, either. As a result, kids who are under the age of 14 tend to be the best candidates for bunk beds.

It’s worth noting that most people find bunk beds to be a little cramped, even if they are still growing. Parents who have children who are ahead of the growth curve might want to invest in single beds if possible. If not, it’s worth noting that you can have a bunk bed as an adult. It’s just not comfortable.

If you have a child who weighs over 250 pounds, bunk beds might not be a good idea. The chances of breakage or tipping over are just a little too high.  

Safety

Most parents have, at one point or another, heard rumors about safety concerns involving bunk beds. There is a legit reason to believe they aren’t as safe as they should be. Some of the most worrisome concerns include:

  • Falls. Kids who clamber up to the top bunk are known for falling down ladders. In some cases, parents have reported children falling off the sides of their beds. In extreme cases, parents have fallen off bunk beds themselves.
  • Bunk Bed Collapses. Though rare, it is possible to have a bunk bed break with one child on the top bunk. This can cause serious injury to any children who are below. 
  • Furniture Toppling. During earthquakes or due to furniture structure failure, there is a higher risk of injury should a bed tip over. 

The consensus among safety experts is that bunk beds carry a slightly higher risk of injury than single beds. If your child is accident-prone, you probably should not get a bunk bed. 

Problematic Issues with Single Beds

Most adults can’t imagine going back to living with a bunk bed as their own bed. Older kids, as well as groups of young children who are mixed gender, tend to require single beds that sit comfortably on the floor for the same reasons we would want one. 

Though single beds are incredibly popular, there are still some issues that may make a parent worry about getting them for the kids. These include the following:

The Number of Children Involved

It’s clear that bunk beds are meant to conserve space and to work with multiple children. If you have two kids, getting single beds isn’t going to be that big of an issue. You might be able to split a room easily while keeping beds low.

However, if you have four, five, or six kids, things get different. In these kinds of cases, bunk beds might be the only way to make sure they have a place to sleep!

The Room Size

Room size matters, and in more ways than one. Here is what people need to be aware of when taking room size into account:

  • Bunk beds are generally considered to be ultimate space savers. If your family is low on space, bunk beds might be the only option you really have. This is a common issue that happens with middle-class families that have four kids or more.
  • Rooms with higher ceilings work for both types of beds. Most kids can sleep in a bunk bed as long as the bunk beds are in a room that has standard-sized ceilings. Higher ceilings are always more welcome with bunk beds. 
  • Having two kids in a bunk bed and a third in a single can lead to fights. Kids want their space too. Having a bunk bed and a single bed in the same room can easily lead to fights over who gets what.
  • While rare, there are also some cases where lone children may need a top bunk as a guest bed for long-term guests. This can be a good way to make things easier for a child that may need to share a bedroom with a family member who stays during the summer. It reduces the need for a child’s guest room, at the very least. 

The Room Style

Style can play a big factor in whether a person gets a bunk bed or a single bed. Though we often think of single beds as the constant victor, that is not always the case. This can be especially true in these situations:

  • You’re looking for a modern take on kids’ rooms. Thanks to upgrades on the aesthetic front, bunk beds can be a very modern touch to a typical kid’s room. Even loft beds are gaining traction among teens who want a modern look to their room. 
  • The size of the single beds eats up most of the room. It can be exceedingly difficult to decorate a room when you have almost no space to put any decor. A well-designed bunk bed can be an eye-catching focal point. 
  • The beds you could afford don’t work with the look you want. If you are looking for a nice layout in your room, it’s worth pointing out that single beds will cost more than a bunk bed will. At times, you might have to pick between style and function. 
  • Some kids really love the fun element of a good bunk bed. We would be lying if we said there wasn’t an innate fun factor to having a bunk bed. Kids who insist on a little whimsy or the odd camaraderie that can come from having late-night bunk bed talks will beg for a bunk…at least, for a little while.

The Number of Rooms

How many rooms you have dedicated to your children can have an impact on your kids’ bed options. Parents who have a limited number of rooms might not be able to give each child a single bed. 

If you have two kids and one small room, you might not be able to choose single beds. If you have three kids and two rooms, a bunk bed could be the only way to give each kid enough space to feel comfortable. 

Price Point

The price of having a single bed for every kid in your house should not be underestimated. 

Though there are always exceptions to the rule, buying two normal beds will usually be more expensive than buying a single bunk bed. If you are short on funds or can’t afford extra rooms, bunk beds might be better.

Bunk Beds vs. Single Beds: Preparation

Another major aspect of your bed purchase should be remembering the safeguards, upkeep, and maintenance you might need to do. Here is what parents should expect with each type of bed in terms of various aspects of upkeep and installation.

Putting the Bed Together

In terms of actual bed assembly, the actual time and complexity of the assembly procedure will vary based on the bed that you choose. Bunk beds are often far more complex in terms of builds. 

If you just want a bed that is easy to assemble and easy to work with, the clear winner is getting your kids two single beds. That’s just one of many reasons why parents are increasingly preferring the idea of getting single beds for kids. Convenience matters, you know.

It is worth pointing out that bunk beds need to be assembled correctly by following directions down to the letter. Not doing so or feeling like you can “skip a step” can turn the bunk bed into an accident hazard.

Mattress Sizing

Mattress purchases are straightforward with single beds. Children usually get a twin, twin XL, full, or queen-sized bed depending on their age, the size of the room, and the budget that parents have.

Queen beds can get queen mattresses; twin beds can get twin mattresses. If you are low on money or must cut corners, it is possible (though not advisable) to get a mattress that’s a size or two off from the single bed frame’s suggested size.

With bunk beds, things are a little different. Most bunk beds for kids are twin-sized or full-sized exclusively. Unlike single beds, you cannot mess around with mattress size when you have bunk beds. Due to the nature of bunk bed design, choosing the wrong mattress can cause tipping or falls.

Safety Preparation

If you have a younger child or a child who needs extra safety precautions, then chances are you already know you might need to install some safety features to keep them unharmed during the night. Here’s the scoop:

  • Single beds are easier to install (and uninstall) guardrails for. If you want simplicity and ease, then single beds are your best bet. Most doctors and safety experts strongly suggest them since they are low to the ground and can be used for all ages. 
  • If you chose to have bunk beds, you might need more safety equipment. Depending on your children’s needs, you may need to buy guardrails, bumpers, or specialty handrails. Bunk beds that are used in camps often must have these features by law.
  • Bunk beds are also trickier when it comes to installing safety features. This might make it too much of a hassle for certain parents.

Making the Bed

You would think that making the bed is a cinch with both bed styles, but that’s not necessarily true. Single beds are notably easier to make in the morning and are easier to switch up. When it comes to bunk beds, things can be a lot more difficult. 

The top bunk of bunk beds can be difficult to make and “dress up.” It’s harder to tuck fitted sheets into top bunk mattresses and also ensure that all the bedding stays in the bunk it’s supposed to. 

How to Choose Your Bed

Choosing a bed isn’t exactly the easiest decision, but knowing the perks and pitfalls of each bed type can have a huge impact on which style you want to choose. There are several ways to conclude on which bed you should choose:

  • Prioritize and compare the benefits of each. Each bed type will have its own perks and pitfalls. You’re going to have to take a good look at which benefits you need, which you want, and which you can’t live without. Then, you are going to have to figure out which bed style matches most closely to your list.
  • Just assume they want singles. If you have been thinking of getting bunk beds for your kids, then switching them to singles, you might want to just stick to singles. It may save you some money and help them get acclimated to adult life faster.
  • Offer to go long term. Some (but not all) bunk beds can be separated into singles. If you want to give both options a try, getting a model that allows this to happen could be a good way to get the best of both worlds and let the beds grow with your kids.
  • Ask your doctor. Parents who have children that are special needs might want to consider asking a doctor before they decide to get a bunk bed. Doctors will be able to tell you if it’s a wise choice and make a point of telling you any advance prep you may need to do.
  • Let your children choose their beds together. A good way to empower your children and help them gain confidence in their decision-making skills is to let them choose their own beds. At the very least, if they complain later, you can tell them it was their choice.

Can You Trust Your Kids to Choose Their Own Beds?

If you are thinking about letting your kids choose their own beds (or bed), that’s understandable. Plenty of families have made furniture purchasing decisions by letting the ones who will use it the most call the shots. It also can help kids gain confidence and understand the importance of checking things out before they buy them. 

However, we all know that there’s a point where kids aren’t always going to be old enough to be trusted with making a good decision. The hard part is figuring out when that moment is. Here are some quick signs that can help you decide if they are ready to pick out a bed on their own:

  • They can speak and enunciate their needs. A child that cannot speak is not old enough or mature enough to pick their own bed. It sounds obvious, but it still is worth pointing out. 
  • They do not have any special physical needs—or if they do, they are aware that they need to pick a bed that works with their abilities. A child who has special needs probably should not choose his or her own bed, unless he or she is mature enough to realize not all beds will work. 
  • Your children can talk with each other and come up with a decision. The decision to get a bunk bed is not just going to affect one child; it will affect both equally. If your children can’t put their heads together, negotiate calmly, and make a decision, they aren’t ready. 
  • Neither child is impulsive. Sure, that neon orange bunk bed might look cool now, but you know they’re not going to want it by the time they get back home. That’s a given for you, but do they know it?
  • Your kids know how to stick to a budget and space constraints. If you tell your kids that they can only buy a treat up to $40, do they comply and act grateful? If so, they may be ready to pick their own bed together. Otherwise, they may have some growing up to do.

When Should Bunk Beds Be Out of The Question?

Bunk beds, when used responsibly and carefully, should be fine for most children. However, if any of the following ring true, a bunk bed may be too dangerous for your child to use:

  • Your child has a convulsive disorder, a muscular disorder, or a physical issue that causes them to have difficulty moving. Children who have specific muscle problems that involve convulsion (like epilepsy), weakness (like MS), or clumsiness (like neurological disorders) should be left in a single bed for their own health. The risk of falling from the top bunk is just too high!
  • One of your children is known for being rambunctious. The problem with bunk beds is the same as with regular beds. When treated very roughly, they can break. If the top bunk breaks, it quickly turns into a major hazard for both children. Ergo, kids who are rambunctious should not have bunk beds.
  • You have an extremely low ceiling. This is both a space issue and a safety issue. If your ceiling is too low, you might not even have enough room for the top bunk to exist. If the ceiling just squeaks by, there is a chance that it could put one child at risk of head injury during wakeup time.
  • Your doctor has actively warned you against using a bunk bed for one or more of your children. Along with convulsive disorders and common muscle disorders, there are some rarer disorders that can make a doctor worry about a child’s safety. If your pediatrician advises you against having bunk beds, it’s best to listen to him. 
  • One or both of your children is incontinent. No one wants to wake up due to a leak from above. Do not do that to your child on the bottom bunk.

Can You Use A Hand-Me-Down?

If there is one thing that parents love, it’s getting hand-me-downs that others give them. This is especially true with furniture. After all, who doesn’t like saving money on a new school desk or a new child’s chair? 

Hand-Me-Down Single Beds Are A-Okay

If a family member donates an old single bed, the chances are that you can use it for one of your kids without issue. Single beds are sturdily built and generally do not pose a hazard. That’s why you can have a child as young as four in a regular bed without any issue. 

Like with any other piece of furniture, it’s a good idea to wipe it down and sanitize it before it goes in use. Aside from that, you should be alright as long as the bed’s frame is solid and intact.

Hand-Me-Down Bunk Beds? No Way. 

Bunk beds are a different issue. There have been dozens of bunk bed recalls over the past couple of years, and the safety regulations dealing with bunk beds have changed as well. Having an older model simply might not be as safe as it could be. Moreover, wear and tear could also cause a bunk bed to be shakier than usual.

Conclusion

There is no real formula that lets parents make a universally perfect decision when it comes to the age-old question of single beds versus bunk beds. Bunk beds are best for children who are between ages six and 15, who are of healthy age and are calm enough to avoid reckless behavior on their beds. 

Even with the healthiest of kids, bunk beds are usually a choice that’s fueled by a need to save space.  If you have concerns about your child’s safety, have a child with special needs, or just have enough room to give your kids space, the chances are that you might want to stick to a pair of single beds. 

Choosing the bed type doesn’t have to be your burden to bear, nor does it need to be something your doctor works. If your children are mature enough to do so, offer to let them decide whether they want to have bunk beds or single beds on their own. 

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