How to Keep a Toddler From Climbing Out of Their Crib
A lot of toddlers love the idea of a big kid bed. Usually, they like the autonomy associated with being a “big kid”, but some kids aren’t sure about leaving their crib for a new bed. (And sometimes their parents aren’t either.)
If you’re preparing to make the transition from the crib to the toddler bed, this is what you need to know!
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When do toddlers start climbing out of the crib?
Toddlers can start climbing out of their cribs potentially around a year old, although most toddlers don’t start trying to climb out of their cribs until they’re a little older, possibly even age 3 or 4.
Why is my toddler climbing out of their crib?
They may be too big
If your toddler is comfortable, you can’t blame them for wanting to get out of their crib and find somewhere more comfortable to sleep. If you discover this to be the reason for the climbing behavior, then it may be time to move to a bigger bed so your toddler will sleep better and stop climbing.
They’ve reached a new level of coordination
There is a decent amount of coordination that goes into climbing. It may just be that they’ve mastered a new skill. Your toddler may not be trying to misbehave, but they are just trying out their new skills.
Simple toddler autonomy
If you haven’t noticed, toddlers like to show their independence. It’s quite possible that your toddler just wants to show that they can get out of their bed on their own. Obviously, they don’t understand the safety concern, they just want to do it by themselves. You may be able to talk about it and fix the problem. But, chances are, you’re going to have to try something more because in my experience, once a climber, always a climber.
How do you correct the climbing behavior in toddlers?
Consider a slightly later bedtime so your toddler is more tired
Is your toddler climbing out of their bed because they aren’t tired yet? Much like adults, toddlers will have a hard time falling asleep if they’re just not tired. This may be because they’re taking a later nap, or it may be because you need to push their bedtime back a bit. Sometimes, even a half-hour later bedtime can fix the toddler climbing problem. Let me help you create a daily schedule for your 18-month-old or 3-year-old that will work for you!
Only use the crib for sleep, not as a consequence
It can be easy to use the crib as a place of timeout because you know it’s a place they’re safely contained. This is a bad idea because your toddler may begin to disassociate the crib with sleep and instead associate it as a place of consequence. In which case, they’ll either sit and wait for you to come to get them out, or they’ll try to climb out of the crib themselves.
Try using a sleep sack
One of our favorite successful sleep tools is the toddler sleep sack. They’re great because they provide a “blanket” for kids who aren’t old enough to use a blanket yet, but they’re also great because it makes climbing out of the crib pretty challenging. (Not to say it can’t still happen, as you may be dealing with an incredibly motivated climber.) When your toddler can’t swing their leg over the side of the crib, it’s much more challenging to climb out.
Skip the crib tent
Are crib tents safe? A lot of people say no. There are a lot of potential hazards associated with crib tents. You can read more about crib tent safety in this information about crib tents from Consumer Reports!
Move other furniture away from the crib
Do you have other furniture close to the crib? Is there a changing station attached to your baby crib? If the answer is yes to either of these, move the furniture away from the crib today. Kids will use other furniture as a stair-step down out of their crib.
Don’t make a scene
It can be really scary when your toddler climbs out of the crib for the first time. This is especially the case when you end up with a tiny human a mere centimeter from your face in the middle of the night. (Spoken from experience!)
It’s super hard not to react, but try to keep your cool. Take them back to their bed, try to quickly identify and fix the climbing situation if possible, then tell them to stay in their bed and go back to sleep. At which point I would head to the baby monitor and watch closely. If you react, your toddler may like that they have your attention, and climb out again.
Flip your crib around, putting the shorter side(front) up against a wall
If your baby crib has a lower level in the front than the back, you could flip the crib around, putting the lower side of the crib up against the wall. This will make it harder for your toddler to climb out of the crib.
Try a Ready to Rise Clock
What is a Ready to Rise Clock? Until I had toddlers, I had never heard of them either. Basically, it’s a clock that tells your toddler when it’s time to sleep and wake up. It may possibly help your toddler to stay in bed if they know they’re supposed to be in the bed until the light turns green and someone comes in to get them.
Put the mattress on the ground inside the crib
First, I am not a crib safety expert, so completely ignore this solution if it makes you nervous. But, if you’re absolutely desperate to get your toddler to sleep in their crib, you may consider removing the support frame inside the crib and put the crib directly on the floor.
The most obvious safety concern here is that your toddler could get caught in between the mattress and the frame, so you need to make sure there isn’t a gap. Again, you need to make your best judgment. For me, I wouldn’t sleep at night if I knew there was any potential that my child could get hurt, but for some, there didn’t end up being a safety issue at all and this solution worked.
Buy pajamas make for climbing toddlers
If your toddler doesn’t do well with a sleep sack, you could try some pajamas specifically designed to keep toddlers from climbing called Little Grounders. They’re basic pajamas that are made with a swatch of fabric sewn in between the legs so that toddlers can’t climb out of their bed.
Make sure no one is helping them escape
Have you considered that one of your older children may be aiding your toddler’s escape? It is entirely possible that one of your older kids is helping your toddler climb out of their bed. If this is the case, you can easily fix the problem!
Is it dangerous for your toddler to climb out of the crib?
Generally speaking, yes, it can be dangerous for your toddler to climb out of their bed. The most obvious concern is your toddler falling and hurting themselves, especially a head injury or broken bone. The safest place to be is in their crib. Having a carpeted nursery is better than some type of hardwood or linoleum floor because carpet will pad their fall better.
Give yourself peace of mind by keeping the house safe
Keep the video baby monitor closeby
If you’re concerned about your toddler climbing out of their crib and wandering around at night while you sleep, make sure you keep the video baby monitor closeby so you can hear them and see what they’re doing at all times.
Toddler proof their doorknobs
You can get door knob covers that prevent your toddler from opening the door and exploring at night.
Use baby gates
You may consider using baby gates to secure your toddler in their room. But, if your little climber can escape the crib, they’ll likely escape the baby gate. It’s worth a shot!
Pick up the floor before bedtime
One thing you’ll want to do is to have your toddler help pick up the toys in their room before going to bed. This will eliminate a tripping hazard, but will also have the toys out of sight, and out of mind is important. If your toddler sees something outside of their crib that they want, they’re more likely to try to climb out of the crib.
Eliminate anything with cords
If there is anything in your toddler’s room that has a cord, either get rid of it or secure it to the wall. For us, we have a fan, a vaporizer, and a baby monitor that all have cords. You’ll want to make sure you secure the cords to the wall in some capacity so they don’t become a safety hazard.
Double-check your blind cords
Similar to cords, make sure you have secured all window blind cords. They need to be tied up out of your toddler’s reach.
Double-check your electrical outlet covers
Chances are, you already have outlet plugs in all of the electrical outlets in your house. You should go around and double-check that this is the case.
Double-check for toys, remotes, etc. with button batteries
Seriously, two of my worst fears for my young children are button batteries and drowning. Unfortunately, there are kid’s toys and remotes that have button batteries inside of them. Make sure there are no button batteries in your child’s reach.
Make sure all furniture is safely secured to the wall
Larger pieces of furniture usually come with safety fasteners. Now is the time to make sure that all furniture is safely secured to the wall so your toddler can’t pull the furniture down on top of them. Unfortunately, kids die every year from large pieces of furniture falling on top of them. These are the furniture anchors we use.
How to make toddler bedtime easier?
Create a routine and stick with it
Consistency is key to any kind of routine both as adults and for kids. If you want your bedtime routine to stick, you need to figure out a routine that makes sense for your family and then stick with it.
Verbalize your expectations
You want to make sure that your toddler is onboard with your bedtime routine. Toddlers are auditory and visual learners by nature. Make sure that you show them your expectations, as well as verbalize your bedtime routine.
Set an incentive where applicable
If your toddler responds well to rewards, now may be the time to throw out a good one. Safety is your #1 concern when it comes to your child. If a fun new toy or book is something that will keep your child in their bed, it’s totally worth it. (If you were wanting something, you know you would totally bribe yourself with something to help reach your goal. It works for toddlers too!)
Is my toddler ready for a big kid bed?
Do they still fit in their crib?
If your toddler has outgrown the crib physically, then it’s time to move to a big kid bed. Kids grow fast, and it’s possible that your toddler just isn’t comfortable in the crib they’ve outgrown. This would be a legit reason to move your toddler from the crib to a toddler bed.
Do you need the crib for a new baby?
This was the case for us. When we were bringing a new baby home, we needed the crib. For us, this meant a transition to a toddler bed for the child currently occupying the crib. When we did this, we bought a set of bunk beds for the new room. The excitement was enough to make our toddler want to get out of the baby bed.
You’ve tried EVERYTHING and they’re still climbing!
If you’ve tried every tip to get your toddler to stop climbing out of the crib, then it may be time to throw in the towel and move on to the toddler bed.
Are you potty training?
As I mentioned before, too many big transitions at one time aren’t going to work. If you’re currently potty training, try to keep them in the crib as long as possible.
On the flip side of the potty training discussion, if you’re potty training and you want your toddler to be able to use the bathroom at night, you’ll need to move them to a toddler bed so they can safely get up at night.
How to transition from crib to toddler bed?
Talk about it
Make sure you start talking about leaving the crib behind for a new bed. When kids are familiar with the idea that something is going to change, they typically handle it better.
This is especially the case if you’re having a new baby. If you’re going to be giving the crib to a new baby when you move your toddler to their new toddler bed, make sure you talk about how the new baby will be sleeping in the crib. If you don’t, things can do TERRIBLY wrong.
Stick with it
As with a lot of transitions for toddlers, transitioning to a toddler may not go as smoothly as you want it to. That’s OK. If you know making the move to a toddler bed is best for your child, then you need to stick with it. Reassure them they’re safe and the new bed is a fun place to sleep.
Keep familiar things
If your toddler is old enough to be sleeping with a blanket, and some kind of lovey, make sure they also move to the toddler bed. The more things you can keep consistent, the better off you’ll be. Here is more information about when a toddler can sleep with a blanket.
Also, make sure you aren’t making any other big changes around this time. Don’t try to do something like potty training when making the transition to the toddler bed. Toddlers can only handle so much change at one time.
Let them help
If you’re moving your toddler to a toddler bed because you’ll be having a new baby, there’s a good chance your toddler will be moving to a new room. Making this move is totally OK, you’ll just want to make sure to include your child in the moving process. Let them help move their toys and clothes. Let them choose which blanket they want to sleep with. If your baby is too young for a blanket, let them still participate in the moving process, as this will help them feel like the new room is theirs.
What solutions have worked for you to keep your toddler in their crib?
Having a toddler who can climb out of their bed can be scary and super frustrating. Oftentimes you can keep your toddler in their bed with one of the climbing solutions we’ve talked about. But sometimes, it’s just time to transition to a toddler bed, and that’s OK.
Have you had success keeping your toddler in their bed by doing something else? I’d love to hear your toddler climbing solution!
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