When Toddlers Climb
Today I’m sharing what we did, how we did it, and some other ideas if this doesn’t work for your family!
What’s the big deal?
Putting a child in a toddler bed before three years old is not recommended by the sleep consultant community. People may have success stories regarding this transition before three years old, but many, many more kick off a weeks’ or months’ long battle with their little one who isn’t developmentally ready to understand the need to stay in bed at night. We have personally done it with all our kids around 18-24 months and have had great success but it was a struggle at first. Besides this, many parents find that at this age they feel nervous to put up a barrier such as a gate or to shut the door, and we can all agree it becomes a true safety issue when a child younger than 3 (or even two!) has the option of full reign of the the household while mom and dad are asleep. When it comes down to it, cribs are there to keep your little one safe at night until they are more capable by themselves.
So that being said, if your child climbs out of the bed, here are some ideas.
Lower the crib mattress to the ground.
This is what we did, and to my JOY, it worked! This will only work with certain cribs, and it’s important to make sure that the environment stays safe. This means that there are no cracks between the mattress and the bed that are big enough for your toddler to get arms, legs or their face stuck in. This should mean that ideally, your crib mattress continues to fit snugly within the confines of the crib. After we took out the springs and lowered the mattress to the ground, it made the crib rail at least 5 inches higher, which was just tall enough to be out of Jackson’s impressive scaling abilities.
Try anti-climbing sleep clothing.
These little sleepers or these crib pants are cozy and won’t allow a nimble little leg to be thrown over the top of the crib in order to climb out. Does your little one unzip sleepers or sleep sacks? Put it on backwards!
If your crib has a “high side” and a “short side,” flip them around.
Often cribs will have a higher back that you place against the wall. If this is the case, flip it around so that the short side is up against the wall, and the tall side (that hopefully they can’t climb!) is facing out. This will only really work though if the ends of the crib are also taller, so this won’t work for everyone.
If none of these things work… and you’re only left with the option of transitioning to a toddler bed or a mattress on the floor, make sure you safety proof the room (or even take everything out for the time being besides the bed). Also, you absolutely must put a physical barrier between your child’s room and the rest of the house at night. This is not to be mean or cruel or strict. It’s purely for the safety of your child who is too young to understand that climbing the entertainment center in the middle of the night while you are asleep is dangerous, or who may decide one night to try out their skill at unlocking doors. You can keep the door shut with a doorknob cover, keep it cracked with a door monkey, or leave it open but use a tall gate (VERY TALL- remember your kid just scaled their crib! ). If they have an adjustment period where they cry at the closed door, you can gently help them get used to this by sitting outside their room and verbally reassure them, eventually phasing out this help as they become more comfortable.
I DO NOT recommend:
Crib tents. They sound fantastic in theory, but the safety of these is unregulated and unstudied, and there have been two reports of accidental death in which a crib tent was involved. They may be tempting when you’re feeling desperate, but not worth the anxiety.
Doing nothing. Remember this is a safety concern, so when your little one learns to climb out of the crib, quickly put measures into place to keep them in the crib or to make their environment as safe as possible while you transition them to the toddler bed.