How to Prevent Toddler from Climbing Out of Crib. 10+ Strategies to Keep Your Toddler Safe and Prevent Climbing
Chances are, you arrived here by searching something like, how to prevent toddler from climbing out of crib.
If that’s the case, let me start by saying, I’m sorry.
Among the many parenting battles, toddlers that decide they don’t want to sleep through the night anymore can be one of the toughest.
While the sleep deprivation is rough, it’s made worse when strong-willed toddler brains decide it’s a good idea to try climbing out of their crib.
(Even worse than the baby standing in crib stage, IMO!).
As well as the obvious lack of sleep, your child practicing Wrestlemania-style moves on the side of their crib at 3 am isn’t an ideal scenario for anyone.
Of course, there are the obvious injuries that can result from them falling from the full height of their crib.
But there’s also all the mischief an escaped toddler with free rein over their bedroom, or heaven forbid – the entire house – can cause.
(FWIW, we use a child lock on our toddler’s room to keep her in her room, and prevent her from running wild around the house, especially during sleep regressions and when we switched to a floor bed temporarily).
For babies who aren’t yet 35″ or taller, it’s okay to keep them in a crib still. Once kids are 35″ or taller, a crib is no longer safe due to the ease of them climbing out.
Just as you need to transition a baby from bassinet to crib once they start rolling over and trying to push themselves up, you need to switch from a crib to toddler bed or kids twin bed once they hit 35″!
If your little one has entered the toddler climbing stage, but not yet ready for a toddler bed, here are a range of tips that will hopefully keep your toddler sleeping safely in their own crib, without the climbing!
10+ Tips to Prevent your Toddler From Climbing Out of Crib
#1 – Lower the Mattress
It may seem like an obvious thing to do, but quite often parents set up a baby’s crib mattress at the highest level. I did, because it made it way easier on my lower back during the “rocking baby to sleep in my arms, and then transferring to the crib” stage of life.
But as your little one becomes a little less little, you need to adjust the crib mattress height.
If your kiddo is escaping, lower the mattress to the lowest available level so they can’t escape (as easily!).
Note, never lower the mattress all the way to the floor, with the crib “cage” around it (unless you’re using a pack and play that’s intended to have a floor-supported mattress for weight limit purposes).
When using a crib or mini crib, only use the 3 to 4 settings intended by the manufacturer. And only use cribs manufactured and approved for safety within the last few years.
#2 – Remove Stuffed Animals from the Crib
Stuffed animals may look cute and can help older babies go to sleep. However, that teddy bear in your toddler’s crib can be enlisted as an accomplice in the nightly jailbreak.
If you have a lot of stuffed animals or a toddler pillow, your kids may use them as a stepping block to to climb over the edge.
If this is the case, you’ll want to remove them. Likewise, you’ll want to move other furniture away from the crib. This way, there’s nothing to grab onto or climb onto!
Note, children under the age of 12 months should sleep in a bare mattress with a fitted sheet. No stuffed animals, as they are a safety concern for young babies.
If your child has been sleeping in a pack and play instead of a crib, and you’ve done anything to make it more comfortable (note: don’t do this for safety reasons), those additions may also serve as escape assistants.
#3 – Turn The Crib Around
Often, a simple furniture rearrangement can do the trick in helping keep your toddler in their crib.
If you have a crib where one side is higher than the others turn the crib around.
Usually for aesthetic purposes you would have the higher side against the wall.
In this new configuration, the side of the crib that is higher faces out. And the lower side is against the wall.
This will make it more difficult for your child to try to climb over.
In our experience, climbing never happened on vacation because our travel crib (we had the Baby Bjorn and a Phil & Ted’s Travel Crib) didn’t have any ledges. Along this line of thinking, you could try a pack and play instead of a crib at this stage, too, to see if it makes a difference in your little one’s climbing attempts.
#4 – Use a Sleep Sack
You may have used a sleep sack or swaddle sack at bedtime when your child was much younger.
But if you’re not familiar with them, a sleep sack is basically a wearable blanket that has an enclosed bottom. Babies wear light PJs under the sack, and the sack itself replaces the need for a blanket, which are a no no for babies due to the dangers of accidentally covering their faces.
It gives babies room to kick and wriggle, which they often need to self settle. But unlike simply dressing them in PJs, it means they’re unable to kick their leg up high enough on the side of the crib. This stops them from climbing out of it.
If your toddler is a bit of a Houdini and can unzip a sleep sack easily, get one with a concealed zipper to add a layer of difficulty when trying to escape.
Another mom hack is to put a sleep sack on your baby backwards. This makes it more difficult for them to escape.
#5 – Anti-Climbing Pajamas
If a sleep sack isn’t your thing, have a look at these pajamas to keep your toddler from climbing. They are just like normal PJs, except between the legs there a stretchy band of fabric.
This fabric allows enough movement for your little one to be able to walk normally. But it stops your toddler climbing, as it won’t allow them to be able to swing their legs up completely.
This option could be better than a sleep sack for older toddlers. It’s useful for them to still have some dexterity and independent movement for things like toilet training.
#6 – Adjust their Bedtime
If you find yourself being woken in the middle of the night by your escaped toddlers, consider their bedtime routine. This is especially true if it’s happening frequently and around the same time each night.
Your child may be waking if they’ve gone to sleep too early or napped too long. Now, being the independent toddlers that they are, they want to get up because they aren’t sleepy anymore.
Frustratingly, it could be the complete opposite, too. If your child is overtired, they find it more difficult to get to sleep. Overtired kids end up fighting the ability to have the long, restful night sleep they need.
It could also simply be a sleep regression, and you need to wait it out.
If you change their bedtime, adjust it gradually in 10-15 minute chunks. Then assess the differences in how it affects your child’s sleeping habits.
#7 – Only use the Crib for Sleep
Only use the child’s crib for sleeping. Many parents use the crib as a playpen. Or as a place to put their child as punishment for bad behavior.
Having your child in the crib during these awake moments confuses them. Forcing them into a crib when they don’t want to be in it will only encourage your child to look for ways to try to climb out.
Associate being in the crib with sleeping only. You’ll find your child will be less likely to keep trying to climb out of it.
#8 – Stand Guard and Stop the Behaviour
Another tactic to try to keep a toddler in their crib at night is to catch them in the act.
This isn’t my favorite method and doesn’t work if you have a serial escape artist. But it may help delay those who have newly discovered the ability to climb over the rails of their crib.
With a baby monitor or from outside their room, keep an eye on their climbing. If you see them climbing, give them a firm ‘No’ before returning them to a sleep position.
Remember not to make this a game. Don’t engage in further interactions or talking with your little one either, as you’ll only encourage this behavior more.
#9 – Try a Toddler Clock
Older toddlers may be climbing out of their crib simply because they are awake. They’re using their independence to start the day.
A visual reminder, such as an okay-to-wake clock, can be used to show your child when it is an acceptable time to be out of their bed. The colors and lights signify when it is morning and when it is time to be asleep.
With some training, these clocks help toddlers realize it’s not time to be up yet. They give them a reason to stay in their crib (and hopefully fall back asleep!).
#10 – Let Them Climb Appropriately
Some toddlers just NEED to climb. I know this, because mine is one of them. The best thing we’ve done is buy some climbing gear that’s safe for her to use, when supervised. And enrol her in gymnastics several times per week.
Instead of constantly trying to get her to stop climbing, we now encourage climbing on our terms, by setting up our pikler triangle for daily use.
Do NOT Use Crib Tents
Normally on a list like this, you see advice on the positive ways to reinforce toddler behavior. But in this instance, we feel it is important to exclude one method to stop your toddler from climbing out of their crib.
Crib tents were originally designed to go around the top of the crib and zip shut, keeping your baby ‘safely’ inside.
These have been recalled by most retailers as they pose an entrapment and strangulation risk.
Luckily they have been withdrawn by most (but not all) major retailers.
Safety Considerations for Those Who Do Climb Out of Their Crib
If you DO have a climber and are currently going through the steps to keep them securely in their crib for the full night, you may want to take other safety measures.
#1 – Babyproof your Toddler’s Room
Toddler-proofing a room is quite different from baby-proofing, because toddlers are bigger, stronger, and often more determined, meaning trouble can come a lot more easily!
Do a scan of your toddler’s room and make sure that there is nothing within their reaching grasp that could cause them harm if left alone for a few hours in the first light of the day, assuming they managed to climb out of their crib.
Think about the mischief your little one could cause in their bedroom if they were left unsupervised:
- Is the furniture secured to the walls?
- Are the power outlets uncovered?
- Are there wires and cables they could pull on which can cause injuries?
- What is stored at floor level?
- Where are baby lotions kept?
- Are curtains and cords for blinds out of reach?
This also means keeping the toddler’s room clean: no leaving the changing mat on the floor with the pot of diaper cream after their late-night change. Diaper cream can make a fun fingerprint for walls if discovered or can look like a delicious yogurt and could make your baby sick if ingested.
Remember toddler proofing a room is a temporary measure that you should still take, even if for now the sleep sack, lowering the mattress, or the special PJs do work.
Eventually, as your kid gets a little older and taller the next crib jailbreak may still come and it’s better to be prepared.
#2 – Keep Tabs Using their Baby Monitor
As your kids get older, the new parenting concerns do tend to ease a little and you aren’t as glued to the baby monitor as you were when they were a newborn. But this Houdini age is probably the more important time to be checking on your monitor.
With a video monitor, you can check to see if your child is restless without going in and disturbing them, which could possibly prevent a climbing incident before it starts.
Set it to a sensitive level if you want to find your toddler climbing in the night and you can use this time to train them to stay in bed.
#3 – Secure The Doors
If your child IS going to be climbing out of bed, running amok in their own room is one thing, but around the whole house! No, No, No!
Have ways to secure their bedroom door, so even if they escape from their crib, at least they aren’t having free rein of your home.
A baby gate across the door works well, or a doorknob guard is also another great option.
A Crib or Toddler Bed?
As a last resort, if there is really NO WAY of stopping your little one from climbing, you can switch to a toddler bed.
A toddler bed is really advised for little ones at 2 and a half to 3 years old. If you have an escapee who is only 18 months, you might want to try the solutions and ideas listed above in this article before making a transition to a toddler bed.
A three-year-old toddler is more likely to understand and listen when you explain their new bedtime routine and (that they need to stay in their toddler bed) than an 18-month-old.
But remember, a toddler bed is giving your child roaming rights to their room, so if you DO decide to embrace the switch you’ll need to keep up the tidy, toddler-proofed room habits that come with it.
Often you can use the idea of a ‘Big Kid Bed’ to persuade your little climber to stay inside their crib.
If they seem to like this idea, you could use it as a hook for a few weeks before their transition and use it as a reward for them NOT climbing out of their bed.
Build a Bedtime Routine
With a transition to a new ‘Big Kids Bed’ you need a firm bedtime routine which reinforces the need to sleep and stay in their bed at night. Keep toys away and not in their room so they aren’t a distraction and consider aides like a toddler alarm clock to help them learn times to sleep and when it’s acceptable to be up.
Mattress on the Floor
If you simply aren’t quite ready for a toddler bed, or are still worried about your little one rolling out of a bed without rails, you can also try a Montessori floor bed. This style of sleeping arrangement has the mattress on the floor for your toddler to sleep on.
They are also an option for the stage between getting rid of your crib and buying a toddler bed, as you can use the crib mattress on the floor to set up the floor bed easily.
Final Thoughts on How to Prevent Toddler From Climbing Out of Crib
I hope the ideas we’ve shared in this article are useful for you to ensure the safety of your climber. The solutions we have given won’t last forever, and if after trying these tips and tricks, your babies are still escaping regularly, you can transition to a toddler bed for a safer option than risking them falling from the height when climbing.
If you know any other parents with toddlers who are going through the same sleeping and climbing issues (and having unexpected visitors to mom and dad’s room in the middle of the night) please share the advice given in this article with them too!