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  • Writer's pictureAnnika Brindley

Help, My Toddler is Climbing Out of Their Crib!

Toddler with yellow attireclimbing out of crib

One of the most common childhood problems is when your smart and savvy toddler decides to climb out of their crib. Even the best sleeper can turn into a crib-jumping Houdini overnight.

These toddlers could be the best sleepers, and then one day - boom - there they go, out of the crib and down the hallway.

A few nights ago, I got a " 911 sleep emergency" call from a dear client of mine. We worked together when her now two-year-old daughter was much younger and had continued to be a fantastic sleeper.

In the blink of an eye, she had shimmied out of her sleep sack and got out of her crib. Her issue had started two weeks before with the start of a nap refusal; this is common in two-year-olds.

Sticking to the routine and staying consistent can get your child back on track in one or two weeks. However, this cutie had some other two-year-old plans up her sleeve.

One night last week, the Mom tucked her daughter into her crib after her bedtime routine and said goodnight as they did every night.

My client went downstairs to hop on her Peleton. A minute later, her two-year-old was beside her, scaring her right out of her bike shoes.

I have personally experienced this life-altering toddler moment. Yes, even a sleep consultant's kid has age-appropriate sleep challenges.

My third kid was a fantastic sleeper. I, too, tucked him in, went downstairs to eat my dinner, and that kid magically appeared in the kitchen laughing his cute little head off. Yes, the joke was on me. I was so shocked and caught off guard that I let out a huge scream.

Crib jumpers come in all ages and sizes. It is not just the tall toddler who will attempt to escape his crib. I have seen the tiniest and youngest toddlers scale their cribs.

These are agile babes who resemble Cirque Du Soleil performers. These little ones can defy gravity. Pay attention if you have seen and caught your child trying to put their tiny foot up on the crib railing.

They can take that little sticky, sweaty foot to grip it like a monkey, and the rest is history and will make a good wedding speech story.

Why do toddlers climb out of their cribs?

Toddlers climb out of their cribs for several reasons. Here are some common reasons why a toddler might climb out of their crib:

  • Exploration: Toddlers are naturally curious and may climb out of their crib to explore their surroundings.

  • Increased physical ability: As toddlers grow and develop, they become more robust and agile, making climbing out of the crib easier.

  • Discomfort: If your Toddler is uncomfortable in their crib due to issues such as an uncomfortable mattress, teething, or illness, they may try to climb out in an attempt to find a more comfortable spot.

  • Your toddler may be big and have a roller. These rolling babes bump into the side of the crib and wake themselves up.

  • Need for independence: Toddlers may crave more autonomy and control over their environment. Climbing out of the crib can be a way for them to assert their independence.

  • Developmental milestones: Toddlers may climb out of the crib as they develop new physical and cognitive skills, such as increased strength, agility, and problem-solving abilities.

Remember that your toddler will not stop being a toddler at bedtime or in the middle of the night. Bedtime and sleep time are attractive times for kids to test the rules.

If your toddler has begun consistently climbing out of their crib, it may be time for a big bed. However, it may not. Your child may be physically able to climb out, but they may be too young cognitively and emotionally.

If your child is too young, they will have difficulty understanding big bed rules.

How can I prevent my toddler from climbing out?

You may feel your toddler needs more time and is not ready for a big bed. Here are some things you can try first to prevent your child from climbing out and before you make a move to a big kid bed:

  • Lower the crib mattress to the lowest possible setting to make it harder for your toddler to climb out.

  • Remove any objects from the crib that your toddler might use to climb out, such as stuffed animals or blankets. Kids can stack stuffies to gain 4-5 inches sometimes.

  • Remove crib bumpers, blankets, and pillows.

  • Use a sleep sack to prevent your child from climbing out of the crib. A sleep sack can restrict your child from being able to lift their leg up and over the side of the crib.

  • Put the sleep sack on inside out and backward, so the zipper is inside and in the back, making it much harder for your toddler to remove the sleep sack.

  • Make sure your sleep sack is not too big. A child can get out through the top of the sleep sack if it has a broader neck hole.

  • Make sure the crib is safe and secure, with screws, bolts, and mattress support tight and secure.

  • Often cribs have one side higher than the other. Turn the crib, so the more elevated side faces out and the other side against a wall and in a corner.

  • Watch your toddler in their crib. If you catch them climbing, go into their room. Say, "No, that is not safe," calmly put them back into their crib, and leave. If it happens again, repeat the process.

  • It is crucial to be non-reactive. The more emotionally charged you are, the more attractive you will make this newfound activity. Be calm and firm in your delivery.

  • Toddlers need time to understand your rules. You need to be consistent and stick to putting them back in the crib, doing it the exact same way each time.

  • Make sure you have established a consistent bedtime routine. Check-in with yourself to see if you have been backsliding in your bedtime rules.

  • Positive reinforcement is always helpful. If your child did not climb out, tell her she did a great job sleeping but avoid discussing the crib climbing. Focus on what is good.

  • Stay away from rewards or promises of new toys; this does not work, and if it does, it will only last a day or two. Your toddler's instinct to climb will overtake any prize you promised.

  • Get an EXTRA tall baby gate. You will be making your child's room into a large crib. Remove all toys and furniture from your toddler's room; this is a great option, but if your child can scale a crib, they may be able to climb a gate. Choose a tall and secure gate that they can not push down.

If your toddler continues climbing out of the crib or can escape a gate despite your best efforts, it may be time to transition to a big bed to ensure their safety.

How will I know if I should put my toddler into a bed?

If your toddler is climbing out of the crib and you are wondering if you should switch to a bed, ask yourself a few critical questions first. Here are some signs that your toddler may be ready to transition to a big bed:

  • Climbing out of the crib: If your child consistently climbs out of the crib, it may be a sign that the crib is no longer safe or suitable.

  • Age: While there is no set age for when a child should transition to a big bed, most toddlers are ready between 2.5 and 3 years old.

  • Potty training: If your child is potty trained, a big bed may be more convenient for them to go to the bathroom and return to bed.

  • Interest in a big bed: If your child is interested in a big bed, such as asking to sleep in a "big kid bed," it may be a sign that they are ready for the transition.

  • If you decide to transition to a big bed, childproof the room and remove any potential hazards, such as sharp edges or objects. Cover all electrical outlets. Secure and anchor heavy furniture to the wall.

Should I nap my toddler?

If your toddler climbs out of their crib at night and during nap, you may have to transition to a big bed. However, naps at this point may be very challenging.

Most toddlers still need a nap. A nap helps prevent over-tired tantrums. If your child is under three years old, they need a nap during the day. If your child is three or older, they will need to stop napping.

Taking a nap past age three can create big bedtime battles and prevent your child from falling asleep at an appropriate bedtime. It is better to get rid of the nap and start putting your child to sleep at 6:45 - 7:00 pm, regardless of whether they are napping or transitioning to a big bed.

Before switching to a big kid bed, it is worth trying a few things. Review your bedtime routine and ensure that all caregivers are doing the same thing that you are. Look at their routine and environment and make adjustments as needed.

Don't give up...

Don't give up after a day or two! Repetition and being non-reactive are critical to positive and lasting change. Stay consistent so your child learns what you expect from sleeping and staying in their cribs.

Want more tips on child sleep and parenting? Follow me on Instagram. Interested in working together to solve your family's sleep issues once and for all? Set up a free 15 minute call here.


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