Is your toddler climbing out of crib? Learn how to prevent climbing out and implement clever solutions to extend your child’s crib-sleeping days, plus tips on how to transition into a bed, even if you’re worried he’s not ready just yet.
It was the thud that told me my eldest had somehow managed to climb out of his crib and run screaming to the door. For another son, climbing out of the crib was subtler—I simply saw him standing outside of it after I had just put him in.
And for the third? Well, I knew it was time to switch when I found him straddling the rail of the crib and declaring, “Mama look—horsey!”
No matter the signal that your toddler is climbing out of the crib, every parent has that initial panic of, “Oh no, what do we do?!” We feel unprepared, especially since climbing out of the crib can often come out of nowhere.
After all, pediatricians recommend that you switch to a toddler bed once your child is able to climb out. And no wonder: transitioning into a toddler bed—no matter how challenging—is still preferred over a trip to the ER because of injuries.
But not everyone can immediately go out and buy a toddler bed, or even transition their crib to one if they have that option.
Perhaps you don’t think your child is anywhere near ready for a toddler bed, assuming she won’t sleep in one. But you’re also afraid to put her back in the crib in case she climbs out again in the middle of the night.
You don’t know what to do anymore.
Toddler climbing out of crib? What to do
Don’t worry—you can try to extend her crib sleeping days and learn how to prevent her from climbing out with a few tactics.
These simple hacks can buy you some time while you find a more permanent solution, without having to put her back in her crib and worry she might hurt herself climbing out.
After the hacks, I’ll also share a few tips on how to make that eventual switch out of the crib much smoother.
Let’s get started:
Lower the crib as low as it can go
The first place to look is the height of the crib springs. Sometimes we forget that the mattress springs aren’t on its lowest screw, and that we can move the frame one notch lower.
Many cribs are also adjustable, so that even if it’s already on its lowest screw, the frame can still be adjusted to go lower.
Take a look at where the metal frame of the crib is and whether you can adjust it as low as possible.
Remove the mattress springs completely
Depending on the crib design, you may be able to completely lower the mattress by removing the metal frame supporting it completely. The mattress would be flat on the floor, contained within the crib.
With the mattress flat on the floor and lower than usual, your child is less likely to climb out of the crib. And you can keep the mattress on the floor without worrying about her being up and about in her room.
Turn the crib around
Some parents have had luck extending their child’s crib time simply by turning the crib around and tucking it into a corner.
Many cribs have one long side that’s higher than the other, and usually that side is against the wall. By turning the crib around, your child is less likely to climb out if she’s facing the higher side of the crib.
Keep in mind that your child might still be able to climb over the longer side of the crib. However, turning the crib around may discourage her from climbing if she has only done so on the shorter side.
Use a sleep sack
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A simple way to discourage your toddler from climbing over the crib is to outfit her in a sleep sack without feet. We forget that these can still fit the toddler age, adding yet another barrier that keeps her inside the crib. Trying to climb when your legs are tucked inside a sleeping bag isn’t exactly easy.
Put a favorite toy or book in the crib
Sometimes all it takes to keep your little one from climbing over the crib at night is a few incentives.
A favorite stuffed animal, a new toy she can’t get enough of, or a beloved book can sit in a corner waiting for her when she wakes up. That way, come wake-up time, she feels less compelled to make a run for it when she can instead stay in bed and play.
Let her know she has these toys and books while she waits for you to come get her. Any time before then means she has to stay inside.
Let’s say you’ve stretched crib-sleeping as long as possible, but you know her crib days are gone. Except you don’t have a toddler bed just yet, or can’t convert the crib into one by tonight. What can you do?
Install a bed rail
Are you able to remove one side of your child’s crib? Even if the crib doesn’t come with its own rail, you can remove one of the sides and install a bed rail instead. This way, she can climb in and out of her crib without the risk of falling off.
Bed rails are readily available. While not all stores carry a toddler bed you can take home that day, many sell bed rails you can attach to your child’s existing crib.
Tip: Make sure the bed rail is specifically for the bed size you need. Some are for crib-to-toddler beds, while others are for twin beds.
Put the mattress on the floor
When all else fails and you have zero options, you can simply remove the mattress from the crib and place it on the floor.
Yup, even if that means your toddler can now roam the room freely.
Keep her mattress in the same place in the room as the crib used to be so her environment feels somewhat familiar.
Similarly, place her pillow and head arrangement in the same position so she has one less thing to adjust to. And arrange her sheets, blankets, and other bedding as close as possible to how it was before—just minus the crib.
Transitioning into any temporary arrangement, even if done for safety’s sake, can feel overwhelming… especially when these changes come as a surprise. By morning you realized your toddler has climbed out of her crib, and by evening, you’re forced to come up with a solution, all while feeling unprepared.
Not exactly easy, I know.
Now that she’s able to roam the room and sleep outside of the confines of her crib, how do you make sure she actually stays in bed? Or worse, not run into your room, screaming and crying?
Take a look at these ideas on how to help your child cope:
How to help your toddler adjust to a new bed
- Baby proof the room. Your first agenda is to baby proof her room as much as possible. Install plug covers, make sure furniture is bolted to the walls, and remove any toys she can trip over in the dark.
- Use a night light. Speaking of which, install a night light so she can see in the dark. If you can’t grab one easily, try pulling back a bit of the curtain or blinds so some of the light from outside can peek through.
- Install door knob covers or a baby gate. Afraid your toddler will just open the door and run into your room? Place door knob covers (like these) on the inside of the room so she can’t open the door. Or install a baby gate on the door frame so she can’t simply walk around the house. Think of these measures as an “extended” crib—just as you had kept her confined to her crib to keep her safe, you’re now keeping her in her room.
- Use a baby monitor. Want to make sure your toddler stays in bed? Use a baby monitor with a video screen and speaker. Any time you see her starting to leave her mattress or toddler bed, speak into the monitor and remind her to stay in place. Do this consistently enough, and she’ll get the idea that she has to stay in bed, even if you’re not in the room with her.
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Your first thought on seeing your toddler climbing out of a crib might’ve been, How in the world can I stop her from climbing out again?
Fair enough, especially since this usually comes as a surprise to most parents, leaving us feeling completely unprepared for the transition. I hope the hacks above offered temporary solutions, but at the end of the day, your toddler is likely ready to sleep in a bed, despite your hesitations.
In fact, I encourage you to give it a try. And not just for one or two nights, but over the next few weeks. Yes, it’ll be tough to transition to a toddler bed, but that headache is much easier to deal with than a trip to the ER.
Stay consistent, so that your toddler knows what to expect and what is expected of her.
And more important, expect her to do well! Often, we get sucked into horror stories we hear from other parents, or we decide our kids are simply not ready for a bed after a challenging night or two. But have faith in her ability to cope and learn. After all, we’ve all had rough times with change—kids are no different.
Soon, your toddler will get used to this new arrangement—and won’t play “horsey” on the crib rail again.
Get more tips:
- 10 Things You Should Do when You Transition from Crib to Toddler Bed
- What to Do when Your Toddler Wakes Up Crying
- Effective Techniques to Help Your Child’s Separation Anxiety at Night
- Toddler Bed Transition: Top 7 Items You Need when Your Child Resists
- What to Do when You’re Dealing with 1 Year Old Tantrums Already
Tell me in the comments: what are your biggest challenges with your toddler climbing out of crib?
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