What to Do When Toddler Climbs out of Crib

Tips for Transitioning From the Crib to a Bed

Is your toddler suddenly an escape artist? Tots can go from perfectly contained in the crib to constant acrobatics over the side in the blink of an eye. The first time your little one reveals his climbing skills, it's time to rethink your sleeping arrangements for him.

What to Do When Your Toddler Climbs Out of the Crib

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One minute your toddler is secure in her crib. The next, she's standing next to you. What just happened? She just told you in her own way that she's ready to leave behind her crib days and transition to a big girl bed.

Once she can climb out of the crib, the safest place for her is in a bed. Even if she can climb out of the crib easily, she could fall during one of her escapes, potentially resulting in head injuries or broken bones. No matter what her age, if she can climb out of the crib, it's time to move on.

Does a Crib Tent Help?

A crib tent is a mesh enclosure that attaches to the top of the crib. In theory, it should stop your toddler from climbing out of the crib. But the tents come with some serious risks. The clips and seams don't always hold up over time. Some cases have been reported of kids getting caught between the crib and the tent. Experts recommend only using attachments that come with the crib. Your toddler is usually safer transitioning to a bed rather than using a crib tent.

When to Ditch the Crib

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How do you know when it's time to ditch the crib? Climbing out of the crib is one major sign it's time to make the switch. But there are other ways to tell. Look for these clues that your little one needs a big kid bed:

  • You're potty training your child. Being in a regular bed lets him reach the toilet easily.
  • Your little one is close to age 3, even if he hasn't tried climbing out of the crib. Babies are often physically able to climb out between 18 and 24 months, but your little one may be content to stay inside. Still, it's a good idea to make the transition whether or not he's climbing.
  • You have a hard time lifting your toddler into and out of the crib.
  • Your toddler is 35 inches or taller. At that height, he likely has the physical ability to climb out of the crib.
  • You're expecting another child and want to make the transition before giving birth.
  • Your child shows interest in the transition or asks about a big kid bed.

How to Transition From the Crib to a Bed

Some toddlers happily switch to a bed with no issues. Others resist the change or get out of bed frequently thanks to the newfound freedom. Start by deciding the next step in your tot's bedtime routine. Options include a toddler bed, twin bed or mattress placed directly on the floor.

Bring in the new bed, so your toddler can explore it. Play up how exciting it is to get a big kid bed. Letting her choose sheets and bedding can make the new sleeping arrangements more appealing. If your child resists the new bed, keep a positive attitude about it, but don't force her into the new bed. Let her get used to it with opportunities to try it out at bedtime or nap time.

Keep everything else about bedtime the same as much as possible. That familiar routine gives her the cues she needs to understand it's still bedtime. She may need extra snuggles after you tuck her into the new bed.

Some kids refuse to sleep in the new bed without you. Your little one may feel better if you stay in the room until she falls asleep. Slowly remove yourself from the sleep equation by moving away from her every few nights. You might start by sitting right next to the bed but work up to moving across the room. Eventually, you can leave the room completely.

Toddler Sleep Safety Tips

No matter where your toddler sleeps, keeping him safe at night is a priority. Use these tips to create a safe, comfortable sleep environment for him:

  • Transition your child from the crib to the bed as soon as he shows signs that he's ready.
  • Put his crib or bed away from windows and cords, which present injury risks to your little one. 
  • Use a bed rail once you transition to a regular bed to keep your toddler from falling out of bed.
  • Hold off on blankets until your tot is about 18 months old. A pillow in a baby's crib is a suffocation hazard.
  • Your baby is safest without items attached to the crib. Avoid any dangling cords or attachment pieces that could catch your toddler.