Learn how to prevent climbing out with these toddler climbing out of crib solutions, as well as extend crib-sleeping days and transition into a toddler bed.
It was the thud—before the screaming and running to the door—that told me my eldest had somehow managed to climb out of the crib. For another son, it was subtler—I simply saw him standing outside of the crib after I had just put him in.
And for the third? Well, I knew I had a problem when I found him straddling the rail of the crib between his legs and hollering, “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 it can often come out of nowhere.
Plus, pediatricians recommend that you switch to a toddler bed once your child is able to climb out. And for good reason: transitioning from a crib and into a toddler bed—no matter how challenging—is still much better than a trip to the emergency room.
But not everyone can immediately go out and buy a toddler bed that same day, or even transition their crib into one if they have that option.
Or 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.
Toddler climbing out of crib solutions
So, what do you do when your toddler climbs out of the crib? How can you keep her in the crib all night?
Don’t worry, friend—you can try to extend her crib sleeping days for now and learn how to prevent her from climbing out. These simple hacks can buy you some time while you find a more permanent solution.
Then, we’ll also talk about when you should stop using a crib completely, and how to make that eventual switch out of the crib much smoother.
Let’s get started:
Extending the use of the crib
1. Lower the mattress as low as it can go
Sometimes we forget that the metal spring frame supporting the mattress isn’t on the lowest screw, and that we can move it a few notches lower. Many cribs are also adjustable, so even if the frame is already on its lowest screw, you can still adjust it lower.
Take a look at where the metal frame of the crib sits and whether you can adjust it as low as possible. The goal is to move the mattress as low as it can go to temporarily prevent your toddler from being able to climb out. The lower it is, the harder it’ll be for her to do so.
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2. Remove the spring frame completely
Is the mattress spring frame installed as low as it can go? Then try removing it completely.
Depending on the crib design, you may be able to remove the metal frame, allowing the mattress to lie flat on the floor while still contained within the frames of the crib.
With the mattress flat on the floor and lower than usual, your toddler will have a more difficult time climbing out of the crib. Plus, the frames of the crib will still keep her contained in bed so you don’t have to worry about her getting up and about in her room.
3. Turn the crib around
Some parents have had luck extending their toddler’s crib sleeping days simply by turning the crib around and tucking it against a corner of the room.
Many cribs have one long side that’s higher than the other, and that side is usually against the wall. By turning the crib around, your toddler is less likely to climb out if the lower side—the one she can hurdle over—now faces the wall. In other words, she has a higher side to contend with.
4. Use a sleep sack
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A simple way to discourage your toddler from climbing over the crib is to put 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.
Here are a few examples:
Woolino Organic Cotton Baby Sleep Bag
5. Put a favorite toy or book in the crib
Sometimes all it takes to keep your toddler from climbing over the crib at night are 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, she feels less compelled to make a run for it when she can instead stay in bed and play or read.
Let her know she has these toys and books while she waits for you to come get her out of bed.
Transitioning out of a crib
Let’s say you’ve stretched crib-sleeping as long as possible, but you know those days are long 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?
1. 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 toddler rail, you can remove one of the sides and install a bed rail instead. This way, she can climb in and out of bed without the risk of falling off.
You may not be able to order a toddler bed and return home to install it by that night, but many stores do sell bed rails you can attach to your toddler’s crib-turned-toddler bed.
Tip: Make sure the bed rail is specifically for the bed size you need. Some are designed for crib-to-toddler beds, while others are for twin beds.
2. 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. With the mattress on the floor, you won’t have to worry about her climbing out and accidentally injuring herself.
Keep the 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.
3. Transition into a toddler bed
Transitioning into a new toddler bed can feel overwhelming, especially when the move comes as a surprise. By morning you realized your toddler has climbed out of the 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 this video for ideas on how to help her transition to a new toddler bed:
As challenging as it may be to try a new arrangement—whether a mattress on the floor or a new toddler bed—remember to give her the benefit of the doubt.
Give your new arrangement a try, not just for one or two nights, but over the next few weeks. Yes, it can be tough to transition to a toddler bed, but that headache is much easier to deal with than a trip to the emergency room. Stay consistent so she knows what to expect and what is expected of her.
And more important, expect her to do well!
We get sucked into horror stories from other parents whose toddlers couldn’t sleep in a bed. 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—she just might surprise you.
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, leaving us feeling unprepared for the transition.
You can extend her crib-sleeping days by lowering the mattress frame or removing it completely. Try turning the crib around so the lower side faces the wall. Dress her in a sleep sack to make climbing harder, and offer her favorite books and toys to entice her to stay.
If ditching the crib becomes a must, start by replacing one side with a bed rail and turning it into a toddler bed. She’ll still get to sleep in the same place, but now it’s been converted into a toddler bed. You can also place the mattress on the floor, so she has no options of climbing at all.
And of course, you can always get a new toddler bed, one without high railings, to keep her safe in bed.
No matter which direction you decide, at least you are taking steps to avoid your toddler climbing out of the crib. And don’t worry, she’ll soon get used to this new sleeping arrangement—instead of straddling the crib rail and yelling “horsey” again.
p.s. Check out A Big Kid Bed Is Coming! by Liz Fletcher to motivate her to sleep in a new bed:
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 Every Morning
- 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
5-Day Parenting Challenge
Looking for actionable steps and quick wins in parenting? The Better Parenting 5-Day Challenge is for parents who know they want to improve but need that little nudge and supportive guidance to do so.
We’ll tackle one actionable tip per day that will drastically change the way you raise your child. This is your chance to challenge yourself and make the changes you’ve been meaning to make.
Join my newsletter and sign up for the challenge today—at no cost to you: