The day every parent dreads…watching on the monitor as their toddler skillfully (or not so skillfully) climbs out of the crib.
Or not realizing anything happened until hearing the pitter patter of little feet running down the hallway, or the extra commotion of clothes being thrown out of the dresser rather than sleep taking place.
I hope you’re reading this before your toddler has ever attempted to climb out of their crib, however it’s not too late for those who have already made the jump.
Not only is climbing out of the crib unsafe, as your child could not only get hurt but now has access to their entire room, but it’s of course keeping your toddler from the very activity you put him in his crib for…SLEEP!
The good news is, there are some tricks we can try to keep our toddlers from escaping their cribs before transitioning to a toddler or twin bed.
But before we can get there, let’s first talk safety.
How to safely set up your toddler’s room
While this blog post is about how to prevent your child from climbing out of their crib, you’re likely reading it because your child has already tried or succeeded in escaping their crib, or your baby is growing and you’re trying to prepare yourself for what’s to come.
So let’s talk safety!
Make sure your child’s dresser, changing table, and bookshelves are all at a distance from the crib. We want to make sure there aren’t any surfaces beside the crib that could make it even easier for your child to successfully climb out.
Any sound machine, video monitor, or toddler clock chords should be completely out of reach from your child’s crib, no matter what they do to try to reach them.
Similarly, any other bedroom chords should be tucked behind a dresser or somehow covered, so if for some reason your toddler or older child does get out of bed in the middle of the night, there is no risk related to loose chords.
Furniture should be anchored
Not only is anchoring furniture important for day-to-day life with little ones, but it’s also important for toddlers and older kids who can roam around their room.
If your toddler happens to escape their crib, or your older child gets out of bed in the middle of the night and starts exploring their room, we want to make sure there are no safety hazards.
Now that your little one’s room is safe…
Here are my top four tips to prevent your child from climbing out of their crib:
Turn Your Child’s Crib Around
I don’t know what it is, but I don’t think I’ve ever heard of a child trying to climb out of the side of their crib, it’s always the front.
Fortunately, many cribs are higher on the side that’s against the wall, making a quick solution to crib climbing. If this is the case with your child’s crib, turn the crib around so the higher side is facing out.
It may not look “Pinterest-perfect,” but it works!
If you see your child attempting to escape their crib, whether you’re in the room or watching from the monitor, give him a firm, “No!”
If you are in the room (or make it to the room on time), physically put your child’s leg down as you say no, to prevent him from climbing out.
Try not to engage in conversation, as this could quickly become a game that only ends in frustration for all parties involved; simply keep your language to, “No,” or “No climb,” and if necessary, physically put your child back in the crib each time, preventing him from successfully climbing out.
Put Your Toddler in a Sleep Sack
I am a sleep sack lady through and through, and one of the many reasons I love them is because they can help prevent your toddler from crib climbing out of the crib.
If your child is already in a sleep sack and it has a zipper on the front, turn the sleep sack around so he can’t take it off and then try to climb out.
My favorite sleep sack brand is Woolino, as the toddler sleeping bags fit kids ages 2-4 (that’s what my Olivia currently wears). The fabric is not as stretchy as some of the other brands, which makes it more challenging to swing a leg over the side.
Additionally, the zipper and buttons are not as easy for toddlers to remove – it zips down the side and under the feet, and the buttons are strong and on the shoulders.
Drop the Crib Mattress as Low as it Can Go
(This suggestion does not work for all cribs, so make sure you check yours!)
With some cribs, you can actually lower the mattress all the way to the floor.
This makes the reach/climb all the higher for your child and it’s very difficult for a little one to climb out.
Note, however, that there should not be a gap between the mattress and crib rails when you drop it – if there is, this is not a safe option.
When to transition to a toddler bed
I often hear about parents transitioning their toddler to an open bed because they’re nervous they will try to climb out of the crib. Or they have attempted to climb out, or have even been successful at getting out.
And I get it! Our kids’ safety is absolutely our number one priority.
However, I’ve worked with several families of young toddlers who transition their child to an open bed too soon, and sleep becomes very challenging because the child is just too young to fully understand what it means to “stay in bed all night.”
And they don’t have the impulse control to actually do it!
So when at all possible, I always suggest families do what they can to keep their toddler in a crib until as close to the age of three as possible (if not older), so that their child can better understand the boundaries and expectations that come with an open bed.
If, however, you’ve tried all of the tricks and your toddler is still climbing out of the crib at night, it is time to transition to a bed for the safety of your child. Read this post to learn about how to go about transitioning your child from a crib to an open bed.
I will be honest. I know there are some very determined kiddos and despite doing everything possible, nothing seems to work. I have seen parents transition their child to a big bed before the age of 3, and although it’s really not ideal, sometimes there’s no other option.
If you do have to make the transition sooner than you’d hoped, make sure you have a plan, because if your child was escaping his crib, he will very likely be getting out of his new bed, too. So set up some bedtime expectations and make a plan for how you will reinforce them.
A Guide to Bedtime Boundaries (FREE!) will help you do just that!
And if you find yourself stuck or don’t know how to make a plan, don’t hesitate to reach out! I love sleep and I love helping families like yours achieve the sleep you need.
Note that this post contains an affiliate link, but the review is from personal use.