Whether you need to maximize space for two or more kids sharing a room, or you want to loft a bed in order to place a desk, dresser, or play space underneath, I hope you'll find this post extremely helpful!! After having just gone through it myself, I'm here to share my tips for setting up your kid's first bunk bed, along with the products I recommend most for bunks and lofted beds! We'll kick it off with a fun video we made of putting together my 5 year old's first bunk bed, with details, tips, and links below. Disclaimer: some links below are "affiliate links", meaning you won't pay more but I'll get a cut to help fund my blog - thank you!
How to choose your bunk bed:
You'll have several factors to consider when shopping for your child's bunk bed. Room layout, for one. Do you have a ceiling fan restricting the height of the bed? Do you want a ladder, staircase with storage drawers, or perhaps something more exciting like a slide. Do you want a lofted bed for one child, a trundle for one child and an occasional guest, a traditional bunk bed for 2 kids, or maybe even a triple bunk (yes, that's a thing!)?
For us, the decision was easy. A free bunk bed appeared in a local mommy group and I was the first to snatch it up! Turns out, it's one of the most recommended types for younger kids since it's very short and versatile. It's the Ikea Kura (Amazon affiliate link) and it can be used as a single canopy style bed low to the ground, flipped upside down to be a low lofted bed, or in that position with a floor bed underneath i.e. a bunk bed. Retailing new for under $200, it's also very budget friendly, has a maximum load of 220 pounds (so I can crawl up there with a kid or two if I need to), is under 4' tall, and has a few very cool tents (Amazon affiliate link) you can add on for about $20-$40.
Choosing your bunk bed mattresses:
You want your child to sleep like a baby, but also to be safe! First things first, check with the manufacturer of the bed to see if there is a maximum mattress height for use on the top bunk due to the height of the guard rail. The Ikea Kura specified the mattress should be under 6" in depth, and that was not such an easy thing to find! Ikea makes a foam mattress just under 4" ($89) thick and another just under 5" thick ($149). I also found 5" ($100) and 6" ($122) foam mattresses by Lucid. Ultimately I decided to go with the 6" memory foam mattress by Zinus ($97 on Amazon, affiliate link), which we were sent in exchange for our review!
The Zinus mattress came tightly rolled up (our unboxing video is included in the main video above, or you can see the quick 2 minute version here). I was pleasantly surprised it didn't have any strong or offensive odors, yet it does require a couple of days to air out and expand to it's full thickness. The Zinus memory foam, which helps to improve sleep efficiency by removing pressure points, meets strict standards of content, emissions, and durability, and is infused with green tea extract and AktivCharcoal to reduce odor and maximize freshness. What's more? Zinus offers a risk-free 100 night trial and 10 year limited warranty! Our son's only been sleeping on it for a couple of nights, but he's loving it, and I find it to be just as comfy as the super thick and much more expensive memory foam mattress we have on our Queen bed, ha!
Protect your mattress:
Whether you're worried about dust mites and allergies, bed wetting, tummy bug puke, bed bugs, or water bottle leakage, a good mattress encasement should set your mind at ease. After searching around, I went with Protect-A-Bed AllerZip waterproof encasement, which fits 7-12" mattress (I thought it might be way too big but actually fit the 6" Zinus great), and is a fabulous material that doesn't feel or sound at all like the plastic or rubber you might be expecting - it doesn't make any rustling sounds when moving around on it, phew! We haven't had a chance to test it out with any accidents or bugs (yet... knock on wood) but I'll come back and add to my review if we do! We have this same encasement on our Queen bed as well and love it. For our son's twin, we see it as the last line of defense. The first line of defense, a flat waterproof mattress pad by QuickZip, is outlined below!
Clever right? It was coined by my all-time favorite fitted sheet company, QuickZip (on Amazon - affiliate link). If you haven't heard of them yet, it's about time you join the club because they are ah-may-zing!!! Helpful on any bed in your house, all the way up to California King, but essential for cribs and bunk beds. Basically, whether you choose the traditional "fitted" sheet as shown in my video above, or the wraparound base (shown in my blog review and video demo here), you put the sheets on and never have to remove your mattress from the bed again. You simply zip the top part of the sheet on and off to launder, leaving the base on the mattress in bed! It's genius, and I couldn't love it more! It's wise to have at least one or two spare toppers clean and ready to go in case of a middle of the night emergency change, but since it's just a flat sheet, it folds up super compactly (unlike traditional fitted sheets which are one of the most frustrating things to fold in the entire world, am I right!? HA!).
They provided us the fitted sheet ($60), and a white minky topper ($40) that we have been using and WOW, it's so super soft and luxurious. My son is in love and I secretly want one on my own bed!
The twin size QuickZip fitted sheet is 6.5” deep and stretches to fit up to 11”, so I was nervous if it would be too baggy for our 6" ZInus, but it actually fit perfectly, as you can see. The elastic they use is incredibly strong, so there are no worries of it popping off the mattress in the middle of the night! Though, if you're paranoid or simply prefer the other type, they also make a "wraparound" option for twins and cribs, it full encloses the mattress and this is the type we have on all 3 of our cribs - they're great!
QuickZip also sent us their waterproof mattress pad, which you can simply lay flat right on under the zipped on sheet, or use the elastics straps to secure it under each corner, but there's no wrap around skirt to mess with. This will make middle of the night emergency changes from (knock on wood) tummy bugs or bed wetting super quick and easy - simply zip off the fitted sheet topper, pull off the mattress pad, and put on a clean mattress pad and topper and you're done! You didn't even have to lug the mattress out!!
You can see QuickZip's full lineup for play yards and cribs through King mattresses on quickzipsheet.com and Amazon (affiliate link).
Other fun children's bed accessories:
My son has been sleeping in our room most of his 5 years of life. He generally wakes up around 5:30 and starts nagging me about "Is it time to wake up yet? Can I get up???" and O.M.G!!!! It's the worst!! If this sounds familiar, check out the OK To Wake Clock ($23 on Amazon, affiliate link), which we just bought and are loving! The child can push a button to get a night light for 30 seconds or so, and you can set an alarm for night or nap if you wish, but the key feature is you can set an "ok to wake" time on the clock and when it hits that time, it glows green! So, even before your child learns to tell time, they can understand when it's OK to get out of bed. SO COOL! It can run off 4 AA batteries, but also comes with a USB cord which you can use with any USB plug like an extra one you have for your phone laying around.
Here are some other cool accessories we haven't tried out yet, but you may wanna check out!
Have you tried any of these products? Have some others to recommend? Have a fun story about your child's (or your own) experience in a bunk bed? Leave a comment below!!
Disclaimer: Though I was provided products free of charge by Zinus and QuickZip, all thoughts and opinions below are my own and completely unbiased - I'm no sell out :)
We have never had a bunk bed in our house, but I know my kids would absolutely love one. They always ask me if we can get one. It would be fun to have another bed but not have to use up more space. Looks like you have a great system going. That mattress and cover sound great!
1/2/2018 04:02:27 pm
What a great mattress and sheet setup. We put together an ikea bunk bed last year and it went way better than expected. Thanks for sharing your experience.
Oh man, I should have filmed us putting the bunk itself together. It was kind of a nightmare. Apparently if you put one of the leg corner posts in the wrong corner, you don't realize til you're almost done and installing the ladder, and then have to practically start from scratch again. Every time we buy Ikea I'm reminded how much I hate them, but I love them, ohhhhh it's a complicated relationship LOL!
1/3/2018 03:03:48 am
My kids grew up with bunk beds. They are awesome. And you got some cool and fun stuff for the kids in there and your video made me want to be a kid again (or to have a third kid, no sure which one), lol. :) You're doing a great job, mommin' all day (I love the T-shirt, too), congrats and keep the good work going.
6/29/2018 01:02:50 pm
Thanks for this advice for setting up a bunk bed. I'm glad that you mentioned to see what the maximum mattress height should be for a top bunk. It could be good to write down the measurements so you can refer to it when mattress shopping.
12/26/2018 05:03:14 am
What a brilliant article this is!. So much informative & lovely. Really very much helpful. Keep it up. Thanks for sharing this with us.
12/27/2018 01:44:33 am
These are some great tips for mommies. Such great writing is going to help many of us. I relished every minute of reading this blog as it's simple writing and the experience is well put.
12/27/2018 05:00:19 am
When we were younger, my mum bought us a bunk bed, and I remember we had so much fun trying to put everything together.. I can't wait to buy one for my kids someday, hopefully we'll have as much fun as you guys had setting it up
12/27/2018 05:56:08 am
Your kids looks so happy and satisfied with the bunk beds. Thanks for sharing these tips. Have a happy holidays.
12/27/2018 06:14:47 am
I love the ideas of bunk beds. I dont have kidsbut I love them for myself.
12/27/2018 11:43:15 am
This article is sooo on time. I have one son, but my niece and nephew are staying for a while and the boys want bunk beds!
12/28/2018 10:05:13 pm
I slept in on the top bunk bed with my brother until our younger brother moved out of his toddler bed and in with him. I liked sleeping up that high that when I got to chose my bed I got a loft bed. It saves so much space when my son is big enough he'll get a loft bed. I totally agree that you really should make sure the mattress is the right size. I rolled off a few times before my parents decided to get the right size instead of the cheap one I had that was not meant for the bed.
4/9/2019 09:03:48 pm
Bunk beds are so fun! My son actually had this exact bed when he was younger :) I am just realizing Amazon sells IKEA stuff- awesome!
4/10/2019 10:21:02 am
I miss having a bunk bed! Shared one with my sister as a kid. Very helpful tips and loving those outfits!
4/10/2019 05:47:21 pm
This is such a great post! I need to look into some of those accessories for my daughter's bunk bed!
5/24/2019 02:21:05 pm
That's an interesting idea to have a slide on a bunk bed. I would think that would be a good way to make sure that you could have a fun bed for your kids that they would love. I'll have to consider getting a fun bunk bed for them to play on as well as sleep on.
1/14/2020 10:26:18 am
I like what you said about checking the maximum mattress height for the bunk bed that you choose. My brother has been telling me about how he wants to get some bunk beds for his kids in the coming weeks. I'll share this information with him so that they can be safe.
2/12/2020 06:05:10 am
Your post covers necessary info that parents must keep in mind while buying the first bunk bed for their loved ones. Thanks for sharing your valuable content with us.
1/21/2021 03:46:47 am
Thank you so much for sharing this information about tips for setting up your first bunk bed. This is very nice and inspiring!! Thanks for sharing and look for more in future!! I hope you keep update us with such great tips and information in future too. This is a great post; I will share as much as I can.Come across Nzlifestyleimports.co.nz and hope you can visit this too to get more information.
1/7/2022 01:58:48 pm
Did you have any issues with the mattress being 6in fitting correctly? Thank you!
1/7/2022 02:47:16 pm
Nope, we never had an issue but I will say 6" is definitely the max I would do, and if you go 6" do NOT use a topper or anything, or you risk roll over. We've been happy with the 6" zinus and ended up getting 2 more a few years later, now all 3 kids are on them in a triple bunk/loft setup: https://www.usjapanfam.com/blog/our-kids-gender-neutral-bedroom-makeover-easy-copy-cat
6/7/2022 02:04:41 am
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12/20/2022 10:51:17 am
Hello mkfurnishings, we're so glad you enjoyed our tips for setting up your first bunk bed! We hope that this article was helpful and that you have a great time using it in the future. Thank you again for writing this review - it really helps us out!
1/4/2023 08:44:55 am
My wife and I found out that we'll be having twins, so we need to rethink our future bedroom situation. It makes sense that a bunk bed would be perfect to be able to still use the same space. I'll be sure to do some measurements so I know how big of a bunk bed we can get.
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I'm a NYC metro area mom blogger living in NJ with my Japanese husband & our 3 kids (twins plus 1), focusing on fun and honest product and travel reviews, saving moms time finding the best for their families! Find what you need in the menu bar or search section above!