How to Choose the Best Kids Mattress

The Importance of a Quality Mattress

Sleep is essential for a child's health and wellbeing. Numerous research studies show that adequate sleep can improve behavior, attention span and memory, and immune system responsiveness. Important for physical development as well, sleep is the only time when a child grows.

A kids mattress plays a vital role in helping children achieve the quality and amount of sleep necessary for a healthy life. The right mattress prevents tossing and turning and supports the kind of deep, restful sleep that developing kids need. The following guide is designed to help you pick the best matress for kids that will in turn help you raise a healthy, well-rested child.

Choosing the Best Mattress for Kids

A child should move from a crib to a bed by the age of two or three years old. Selecting your child's next mattress may seem like a daunting task because of the vast array of options compared to crib mattresses, which have a standard size and firmness level.

To make the mattress shopping process easier, narrow the search down by first deciding which mattress size is right for your child. Parents generally stick to three mattress sizes when shopping for kids mattresses: twin, twin xl, and full.

Twin
Twin is the best mattress size for saving space. Measuring 39" by 75", a twin mattress fits in even the smallest of rooms and offers adequate sleeping space for children. The narrow bed is especially helpful if two kids share a room. Twin mattresses can usually fit side by side or in a bunk-bed setup for ultimate space utilization.

Twin XL
If your kid is close to using the full length of a twin mattress or you anticipate growth spurts in the near future, you may want to shop for a twin XL. Five inches longer than a standard twin, a twin XL accommodates taller sleepers. Though it may seem excessive to purchase a twin XL for a small child, you might need the extra length if you plan for the child to use the same bed into early adulthood. Shoppers should especially consider the mattress size if above-average height is a genetic trait that runs in the family.

Full
Also called a double, a full mattress provides a wider sleep surface and is ideally suited for older children as well as young adults. The mattress size even remains effective well into adulthood and perfectly accommodates a grown child home on a visit. Measuring 54" by 75", a full mattress is the same length as a standard twin. If you like the width of a full bed but want something longer for your child, you may want to look into a larger mattress, such as a queen. In most cases, however, a full mattress is more than sufficient for a kid's bed.

Toddler Bed
For very young children who are too big for a crib but too small for a standard mattress, a toddler bed provides the perfect solution. Ideal for the transition from infancy to early childhood, toddler beds use a standard crib mattress but offer more freedom than the constraints of a crib.

Pick Your Price Range

Use Price to Narrow your Search
Once you know the specific mattress size you need, you can further narrow your search by determining an appropriate price you want to pay. Mattress prices can typically be categorized into two ranges: $499 and under, and $500 to $1,000. While luxury kids mattresses often cost more, capping the price range at $1,000 generally results in a wide selection of comfortable mattress options for children.

Price and Quality
With mattress shopping, price and quality often go hand in hand, as high-end mattresses are sure to use top-quality materials and manufacturing practices. However, lower-priced options consistently work just as well. Low-cost mattresses commonly offer long-lasting durability and the same level of relaxation as luxury mattresses.

Shoppers should nevertheless avoid buying the cheapest off-brand mattress available. Cheap mattresses from unknown brands commonly use low-quality materials and construction techniques, which sacrifice comfort as well as mattress durability. In contrast, name brand mattresses offer quality assurance and warranties to ensure mattress superiority.

Price and Satisfaction
Price does not guarantee satisfaction. Low-cost mattresses commonly earn higher satisfaction ratings than more costly models produced by the same brand. In most cases, customer satisfaction hinges not so much on the quality of the mattress, but on how well the mattress meets the unique needs of the particular customer. Comfort is subjective, and satisfaction ultimately comes down to whether or not the mattress provides the desired level of comfort and support.

Choose the Mattress Support Type

Support is the most essential function of a mattress. Children and adults alike require a balanced support system, which allows pressure points to sink in but prevents the back from bowing. A truly supportive mattress cradles the body and maintains the back's natural shape for the entire night. You can evaluate the support a mattress offers by looking at the type and configuration of the materials found inside the mattress. These factors tell you what kind of support the mattress offers, how long the mattress will likely provide support, and what you can expect to pay.

Innerspring systems and memory foam cores are the most common types of support and generally rank as the best options for kids. Alternative support types, such as waterbeds, futons, and air mattresses, are acceptable for older individuals or temporary use but should not be taken into consideration when shopping for the best kids mattress. Innerspring and foam mattress types offer the most choices and highest overall user satisfaction.

Innerspring

Innerspring Open Coil
The most common mattress type available, innerspring open coil uses a system of interconnected steel coils to absorb pressure from the body. As the oldest mattress support system still in use, classic innerspring coil remains a trusted, go-to mattress type. Durable and long-lasting, innerspring mattresses use tempered steel coils, which work in unison to support body weight. Because the weight of a child typically isn't enough to stress the system and cause coil fatigue, the mattress often lasts for years when used as a kids bed.

Innerspring open coil mattresses come in different configurations, such as Bonnell, offset, and continuous. Performance and durability varies by configuration, but most innerspring mattresses belong to the
same price range. Overall, innerspring open coil is the most inexpensive of all support types and ideal for individuals seeking quality and affordability.

Innerspring Pocket Coil

An update on classic innerspring open coil systems, the pocket coil design allows the coils to move independently from each other. Featuring individually wrapped coils, pocket coil mattresses offer customizing support that contours to the body. As a result, the high-quality design provides deep, comforting pressure relief and excellent motion separation. Due to the high quality, pocket coil mattresses are usually more expensive than innerspring open coil options.

Foam

Memory Foam
Originally developed by NASA for pilot seat cushioning, memory foam is a slow-reacting material that contours to the shape of the person lying on it. The dense, stable material evenly distributes body weight and offers superior pressure relief to the heaviest areas. A hypoallergenic mattress type, memory foam mattresses inhibit the propagation of dust mites, fungus, and bacteria. Durable and long-lasting, memory foam can offer consistent support for over 20 years. Some memory foam mattresses tend to feel hot during sleep, but high-quality versions use gel infusions to dissipate body heat and maintain a cool sleep surface through the night.

With memory foam in particular, price is not a good indicator of quality. Both high- and low-quality mattresses are found in each price range. To ensure quality, test the mattress before purchasing. In general, memory foam mattresses tend to cost more than innerspring alternatives.

Latex
Created by frothing and baking the sap of a rubber tree, latex is a natural mattress type similar to memory foam. Top-of-the-line in quality, latex usually outperforms memory foam when it comes to support, comfort, and durability. Memory foam users sometimes complain that the mattress grips the body too closely, creating the sensation of sleeping in a hold.

Latex users, on the other hand, often describe sleeping on latex as a buoyant, floating experience derived from the responsiveness and breathability of the material. Latex also lasts longer than any other mattress type, with some mattresses lasting over 30 years.

As a premium mattress option, latex usually costs the most of all mattress support types. Retailers generally feature a limited number of latex mattresses in their showrooms, which makes testing and comparing mattresses challenging. Additionally, shopping for an all-natural latex bed can be a bit confusing.

Not all latex mattresses are made of 100% natural materials, even though some may be marketed as natural in general. Latex mattress can also be made from synthetic materials, with some manufacturers even creating synthetic and natural latex blends. Synthetic, blended, and natural latex mattresses feel and act the same, but if you want an all-natural product, make sure the label describes the mattress as 100% natural.

Choose the Right Comfort Level

Comfort level refers to the initial feel of a mattress. Manufacturers adjust the top cushioning layers of mattresses to create different degrees of firmness, which are commonly called comfort levels.

Not to be confused with support, comfort level is a personal preference and has no bearing on spinal support. An extra firm mattress may feel completely different than a pillow-top one, but the two can offer the same support the body requires. Mattress firmness only affects the health and development of infants; children 18 months and older can sleep on any comfort level, so pick the one your child will find the coziest.

Extra Firm
The least cushioned comfort level, extra firm provides the most rigid feel available. Offering little resistance when you lie down, extra firm feels almost as rigid as sleeping on the floor. Some children may enjoy extra firm mattresses, especially those transitioning from crib mattresses, which are inherently firm. While back and stomach sleepers may enjoy the comfort level, side sleepers should find something a bit softer.

Firm
Offering a bit more give than extra firm, firm feels moderately solid but not hard. The comfort level offers initial give upon lying down, followed by a stable, floating feeling. Children transitioning from crib mattresses to regular mattresses may enjoy the moderate comfort level, which works well for all sleep positions.

Plush
An intermediate comfort level, plush strikes a proper balance between firm and soft. Using soft comfort layers, plush mattresses allow the sleeper to sink in a bit. The comfort level works well for all sleeping positions, especially for side sleepers.

Ultra Plush
Also called pillow top and box top, ultra plush is the softest comfort level available. Using thick layers of comfort materials at the top of the sleep surface, ultra plush mattresses offer a pillow-like feel that sleepers can sink into. Back and side sleepers enjoy the cradling comfort of ultra plush, but stomach sleepers should avoid the mattress type. For the softest mattress possible, choose an ultra plush.

Start Testing

Once you narrow down your options for how to buy a kids mattress, head to a mattress store with your child and start testing out some models. If the child is too young to express likes and dislikes regarding comfort level, take a sibling or do the testing yourself.

The 15-Minute Rule

It takes about 15 minutes to truly determine whether or not a mattress is comfortable. Simply sitting or lying down on a mattress for just a moment gives few insights about the quality of rest it offers. When shopping at a showroom, try to have your child lie down on a mattress in a natural sleeping position for as close to 15 minutes as possible. If you don't find that option feasible, test some beds on your own and select one you think your child would enjoy.

No Universal Comfort Level

Mattress manufacturers design their own comfort scales, so one comfort level may feel different from brand to brand. For example, one manufacturer's firm comfort level may feel like a plush mattress from another brand. This further supports the importance of testing out mattresses before purchasing.

Final Thoughts

The sheer number of mattress options on the market can make choosing your child's next bed a challenge. Following our guide on how to buy the best kids mattress will break the task down into a manageable process. Once you find a mattress, you'll be glad you didn't rush into the purchase of an item that your child might use for the next eight to ten years. Buying such a long-lasting item requires the proper research to ensure your child will enjoy the mattress for years to come.