One minute you’re watching your baby take those wobbly first steps, the next they’re a full-blown toddler tearing through the living room at warp-speed. Yep — those milestones will pass you by pretty quickly. And once you’ve got a walking, talking toddler on your hands, you’ll be dealing with all sorts of other fun things you never expected. Like wrestling them into their PJ’s, arguing over bedtime, and best of all, trying to keep your toddler from climbing out of their crib each night (and winding up in your bed).
As for that last one, don’t panic — we’ve got you covered.
Check the mattress height and adjust accordingly
This is step number one when dealing with a crib climber, says Jennifer Gilman, a certified child sleep consultant at Good Night Sleep Site New Jersey.
“Lower the mattress to the lowest setting, remove any excess pillows/bedding/bumpers that could be raising your child up an inch or two, and turn the crib around if the back side is taller than the front,” she says.
Your kiddo’s safety is of prime importance, and blocking them from being able to make a break for it by easily climbing over the crib rail will insure they don’t take any nasty spills when your back is turned. So will ridding the crib of any extra items that may be making their escape plan even easier.
Whatever you do, say no to crib tents
Sleep experts strongly advise against using crib tents, which may sound like a good idea in theory, but have been found unsafe time and time again. In fact, Consumer Reports has them on their list of dangerous baby products to avoid, since they pose a risk of strangling little ones if they get wrapped up in the fabric. Your best bet is to steer clear.
Watch your reaction
The thought of your child scaling their crib walls and potentially falling and injuring themselves is_ scary._ I get it. But as much as you can, try not to freak out or have too big of a reaction when you see it start to happen.
“Make sure to tell your toddler no in a firm, neutral tone,” Gilman says. “Keep your reaction consistent, and in a few days this climbing phase will [likely] pass.”
Don’t be so quick to ditch the crib and spring for a big-kid bed
Just because your kiddo is trying to make a break for it doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s time to toss the crib all together. Gilman says it’s important to remember that toddlers are impulsive and curious by nature, so some of these “jailbreak” attempts are to be expected.
“At this stage of life, children are designed to try new things, test out their ideas, and see what impact they have on the world around them,” she tells CafeMom. But it’s not always because they’re truly outgrowing their crib.
“Most toddlers don't realize that if they climb out of their crib, it means they may get switched to a bed,” Gilman adds. “And most toddlers who climb out of their crib aren't ready for a bed yet.”
Always consider their age — and their safety — first
Gilman says it all depends on your child’s age, and the frequency that they’re trying to climb out of the crib, that will determine how you should approach a solution.
If this is more of a once-in-a-while thing versus an everyday thing, your toddler probably still has more crib days ahead of them. If this is a new thing, you may want to wait it out to see if they continue to try to escape.
However, if it feels like it’s time for a big-kid bed, it’s time
If these crib escapes pose safety risks and aren’t just your child trying to throw the occasional leg up over their crib rail, then it’s probably time to consider new sleep digs.
Since every kid is different, there’s no hard-and-fast rule for when it’s the right time to transition to a big-kid bed. In fact, the age range is wide: Some start to make the move as early as 1 ½ or 2, while others don’t transition to a toddler bed until 3 ½ or even 4. But you’ll start to sense that it’s time once crib jailbreaks, or near-attempts, are becoming more common; if they’ve been asking for a big-kid bed; or if they’re literally outgrowing their crib.
Take the transition slow at first if you need to, by keeping the crib in the room when you first set up the toddler bed. Encourage them to take their naps in the toddler bed to start, so they get used to sleeping in another space. As with all transitions during toddlerhood, patience and empathy can go a long way in making sure your child moves from baby bed to big-kid bed as smoothly as possible.