Ah, the baby stage.
When your child can barely move, hold their head up, or roll over on their own.
Those are the days!
Unfortunately, they don’t last long. And soon your baby will grow into a toddler that’s forever trying to hurt, injure, or maim himself.
Crawling out of the crib is one of their favorite ways to do it! And sometimes they figure it out way faster than you’d expect.
What do you do when your toddler starts climbing out of his crib, but he’s NOT ready for a toddler bed?
One of the easiest solutions is to simply lower the crib mattress so he can’t climb out.
If you’ve already tried that, put him in a large, cozy sleepsack at night. It’ll keep him comfortable and warm while restricting his leg movement just enough that he won’t be able to climb over the crib rail.
(Check out an awesome toddler-sized sleeping sack right here on Amazon.)
But there are a few other options you have, too!
I’ll dive into a few more ideas below.
What’s the right age to switch to a toddler bed?
And how do you know if your kid is ready?
There’s no specific age, but most experts I’ve read suggest toddlers can move to a “big kid bed” anytime from 18 months to around 3 years.
Though 18 months would be considered on the early side. Most kids will be ready for a toddler bed closer to 3 years old.
Some kids will start trying to climb out of their kids as early as 15 months old, or maybe even sooner if they’re developing fast physically!
But kids that young are almost definitely not ready to move out of their crib and into an actual bed.
Here are some signs to look for that your toddler may be ready for a real bed:
Falls asleep consistently at night
When you’ve got the routine down and bedtime stops becoming such a huge battle, that’s a good sign that your toddler might be able to handle a bed that doesn’t physically contain him.
If he or she really struggles to wind down and get to sleep, what do you think they’re going to do when they can simply get right out of bed and go play or come find you?!
Only wakes up at night if something is wrong
It’s probably too soon for a toddler bed if your kid still cries for you in the middle of the night for no real reason other than comfort. This could lead to them getting out of the bed on their own and wandering around, and possibly hurting themselves.
Of course, kids will always wake up if they’re not feeling well, have to go to the bathroom, get sick, or lose a stuffed animal or blanket.
But if you’re having to get up and go soothe them multiple times per night, it’s probably best to keep them in the crib for now.
You trust them alone for short periods
The truth is that, in a toddler bed, your kid could definitely get out on his or her own and you might not realize it for a while.
Hopefully, you’ve set expectations well and have established when they can and cannot get out of bed, but it might happen anyway.
If you’re not comfortable having your toddler out of your sight even for a few moments for fear they might get into something dangerous or hurt themselves, a toddler bed is probably not the right move.
If your toddler plays independently in a separate room from you frequently and hasn’t had issues, you might be ready to give them a little more independence and freedom at night.
Fix #1: Lower the crib mattress
If your toddler starts climbing out of his or her crib and you’re pretty sure they’re not ready for a toddler bed yet, there are a few things you can do.
The first and most obvious one is to lower the mattress!
When your baby is an infant, you’ll typically start them off in their crib with the mattress very high and close to the top of the crib rail.
This makes it really easy for you to put them in and take them out without leaning too far over.
And at this point, they can barely move! So there’s really no risk of them climbing or falling out.
But as they get older, you’ll need to lower the mattress down away from the top of the crib to prevent them from hoisting themselves over the edge.
There should be a few brackets on the bottom of the crib (turn it over on its side to see them) that you can take off, slide the mattress support down, and then re-attach.
Fix #2: Use a sleep sack to restrict leg movement
This is a favorite mom-hack I picked up browsing discussion forums online.
A LOT of families have this problem, and even with the crib mattress at its lowest setting, their 15-18-month-olds are still climbing out.
Put them back in a sleep sack or sleeping bag that restricts the use of their legs. They won’t be able to climb without their feet!
You typically think of swaddle wraps, sleep sacks, etc. as being for babies.
But they make them in big-kid sizes all the way up to 3T and beyond.
Make sure you get one without separate leg holes.
Most toddlers and babies of that age will have a very difficult time getting out of a crib without using their feet or swinging their legs over the top bar.
(If they still do, congratulations, they have amazing upper-body strength!)
You can get a great toddler-sized sleeping sack right here from Amazon for a great price.
Fix #3: Put a crib safety net or canopy over the crib
This is another one a lot of parents swear by.
A crib net or canopy is basically a mosquito-mesh that fits over the top of the crib.
It’s breathable, safe, and hypoallergenic, but it’s just enough to prevent a baby from climbing over the top rail.
It also has a nice added benefit of keeping out bugs, mosquitos, and spiders to keep baby from being bitten while he or she is sleeping.
Now this probably wouldn’t stand up to the strength of a 2.5-3-year-old, but for younger babies who aren’t ready for a toddler bed yet, it’s the perfect deterrent.
You can check out the top baby crib safety net on Amazon right here.
Fix #4: Re-think the bedtime routine
If your toddler is so wound up that he’s still finding a way to climb out of the crib even after:
- You lowered the crib mattress
- And you put him in a leg-less sleep sack
He might just have some other sleep or energy issues going on.
Try making some adjustments to the sleep schedule, like:
Better, longer, or more consistent naps:
Over-tired kids actually have a LOT of trouble falling and staying asleep, which is counter-intuitive.
When your toddler is doing the classic eye-rub and becomes cranky for no reason, that’s a sign that he’s getting really, really sleepy and could be headed toward over-tired land.
Wind down instead of play:
I repeatedly break this rule myself with my daughter and sometimes pay the price for it.
Bedtime is for winding down, not wrestling! Good bedtime activities are reading books, telling stories, or doing quiet games like puzzles or art.
Getting your kid all jazzed and excited right before bed is a surefire way to keep them up all night.
Try rewards for good sleep behavior:
If your toddler is old enough to have some control over his or her behavior, you can try encouraging better sleep habits using a reward system.
Something that has worked well for us at times is to offer a sticker or magnet for every night of good sleep (meaning, in-bed on time and staying in bed all night).
Once she’s collected a certain amount of magnets, she earns a big prize like a new toy or a special dinner.
It really works!
It’s pretty normal for kids around a year old or so to start testing their physical abilities and seeking more freedom and exploration.
Sometimes this means trying to crawl out of the crib, without them even realizing how dangerous it is!
If that sounds like your toddler, it may actually be time to switch to a big kid or toddler bed, if:
- They fall asleep well
- They usually stay asleep most of the night
- You can trust them alone for short stretches
If you’re just not ready, I would definitely recommend lowering the crib mattress to its lowest setting and trying a sleep sack to restrict leg movement and climbing ability!
From there, work on developing healthier bedtime habits and more consistency. Trouble sleeping will manifest itself in all kinds of different ways, even if they can’t physically climb out of the crib.
Hope that helps, parents, and best of luck!