By: Erin Junker, Pediatric Sleep Consultant
Sometimes as your baby enters those toddler months, they also learn how to
Houdini themselves out of the crib, long before you were planning to make the
transition to the “big kid bed.”
Here are five tips for managing the early crib-climber!
Tip # 1: Crib until Three
I suggest children sleep in a crib until at least the age of three, and do not transition
to a “big kid bed before that time. Why? While it’s not always a breeze to “reason”
with a three-year-old who is constantly getting out of bed, it is wildly more
successful than attempts at rationalizing with a two-year-old. Children only begin to
develop reasoning skills around age three, so prior to this it’s really tough for them
to manage the concept of staying in their bed all night when it’s way more fun to
get out and run around the house!
Further, three-years and older is simply a safer age for your child to be “free” at
night if he does decide to get out of his bed.
Have a new baby on the way and need the crib for your new little bundle? Buy
another crib! Whether new or used (though do ensure it meets all safety
standards!), the financial investment in a second crib will be 100% worth the sanity
you save by avoiding the move to the big-kid bed too early!
Tip # 2: Sleep bags
I recommend that your child wear a sleep bag (also known as a “wearable blanket)
until they are no longer in a crib. Sleep bags come in toddler sizes, and can be a
good deterrent to climbing as it’s tough to hoist a leg up on the crib when wearing a
cozy sleep bag. A sleep bag has many other benefits, of course, including cuing to
your child when sleep time has arrived, and keeping your little one warm during the
Tip # 3: Make the escape no-big-deal
If the crib-jump occurs – even after all your efforts to avoid it – do not react by
drawing more attention to your child’s actions; this will only encourage him to keep
doing it. Instead, stay calm and neutral, firmly tell him not to climb out again,
and put him right back in the crib. Make the interaction boring and very
straightforward, to help him understand that climbing out of the crib will not create
different results in terms of what happens during sleep-time.
Tip # 4: Turn the crib around
If you have a crib with a “back” that is higher than the “front” (which is often the
case with cribs that are meant to be convertible to toddler beds, as the high back
will later act as a headboard), you can try turning the crib around so the low side is
against the wall and the high side is facing out. This creates more of a deterrent for
your child who may be trying to climb out the front.
Remember, above all, safety first. There is most certainly an appropriate time for
children to move to a big-kid bed, for some children, this may be as early as about
2.5 years of age. And, of course, if you’ve exhausted all other resources and your
little Houdini still manages to escape and you simply feel the crib is no longer the
safest option, then it’s time to kiss the crib good-bye. However, in the vast majority
of cases, children are most ready to tackle the toddler-bed milestone after the age
of three, and the tips above are good to keep in mind if your kiddo figures out the
crib-jump before that time!
Erin Junker is a Professional Infant & Toddler Sleep Consultant, and owner of The Happy Sleep Company