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How To Keep Your Baby or Toddler From Climbing Out of the Crib


Many parents are happy to keep their child in a crib for as long as they can, but what happens when they become an escape artist and try to climb out?  Climbing out of the crib is a safety issue because your child could possibly get hurt.

You may think that it might just be time to switch them to a regular bed or toddler bed, but many children are not ready to switch to a toddler bed until closer to age 2.5 or 3 and it is possible your child may try to climb out way before then.  Luckily, we have a list of ideas that you can try first to prevent crib climbing.

Set Crib to Lowest Setting

Graco Benton 4-in-1 Convertible Crib (Pebble Gray) Solid Pine and Wood Product Construction, Converts to Toddler Bed, Day Bed, and Full Size Bed (Mattress Not Included)
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The first thing to do when your child starts climbing out of the crib is to make sure your crib is on its lowest setting.  Most cribs have multiple height settings so that you can have your baby higher up when they are an infant.  As soon as your baby starts showing signs of pulling up to stand, the crib needs to be lowered. Sometimes parents realize that the mattress can be moved even lower than they thought.

If your child is climbing on the lowest setting, there is a possibility that you may be able to remove the platform that the mattress lies on and put the mattress directly on the ground to make it even lower.  This will depend on how the crib is designed, but you should be able to do this with some of our favorite cribs

If your crib does not allow you to do this and you are a crafty person, you can create your own platform that allows you to put the mattress lower, but not quite on the ground. On the lowest setting, it should be harder for your child to get out.

Pros

  • A simple and free solution

Cons

  • Some toddlers can still climb out on the lowest setting
  • Some cribs make it not possible to put the mattress directly on the ground

Use a Sleep Sack

HALO Sleepsack 100% Cotton Wearable Blanket, TOG 0.5, Baby Blue, X-Large
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One of the first things to try when your child attempts to climb out of the crib is a sleep sack.  A sleep sack is a wearable blanket that many parents use for their babies. They are popular due to the fact that loose blankets are not safe for babies. 

Sleep sacks can be great for toddlers as well.  Many toddlers don’t like to keep a blanket on anyway, so a sleep sack can keep them warm and cozy.  The HALO Sleep Sack 100% Cotton Wearable Blanket comes in extra-large size that can fit toddlers up to 40in and 36lbs   The sleep sack can deter a child from crib climbing because it makes it hard for them to get their leg over the side.   Check out more of our favorite sleep sacks here

If your toddler is really persistent, they might figure out how to take the sleep sack off themselves.  One way to prevent this is to put the sleep sack on backward or inside out so that they cannot reach the zipper. 

Pros

  • Safe, easy, and comfortable option
  • Many toddlers love sleep sacks

Cons

  • Large sizes can be harder to find
  • Some toddlers have figured out how to climb out while in the sleep sack

Turn the Crib Around

turn crib around to prevent crib climbing

Many cribs have one side that is taller than the other.  To deter crib climbing, you may be able to help by just turning the crib around so that the lower side is against the wall.  Although the sides would still be available, it gives your child one less spot to try.  You can also put one side against another wall, leaving only one side available for climbing. 

Many parents have had success with doing just this. Most of the time this higher side is high enough that many toddlers are not able to get out.  Some cribs, like the crib in the picture and the DaVinci Charlie 4-in-1 Convertible Crib, have no slats on the higher side, which makes it even harder for the toddler to get out. 

Pros

  • A simple and free solution

Cons

  • Does not look very aesthetically pleasing in the room
  • Still allows for other sides where the child could get out
  • Not all cribs have a higher side

Use a Monitor

infant optics dxr-8 pro baby monitor camera and handheld unit on table

Another solution that may work is to use a video monitor.  A video monitor allows you to keep an eye on your child which could help you catch them in the act before they do it.  You may also be able to hear them climbing through just the audio. 

If you can catch your child before they complete their escape, you may be able to prevent them from getting hurt.  The parent can go into the child’s room, keep them from climbing out, and remind them that climbing out is not safe. 

Also, if your monitor has a two-way talk option like the Infant Optics DXR-8 Pro Video Baby Monitor,  you may be able to talk through the monitor and remind your child to get down, without needing to go in.  Many of our favorite monitors also have this capability. 

This solution can be hit or miss because sometimes crib climbers are too young to really understand why they need to stay in their crib, but it’s worth a try.  

Pros

  • Free and easy option if you already own a monitor
  • Gives you the opportunity to discuss the behavior with your child

Cons

  • It may be hard to catch it on the monitor before it happens
  • The child may not listen and might continue to climb

Use an OK-to-Wake Clock

Hatch Baby Rest Sound Machine, Night Light and Time-to-Rise
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When it comes to toddler behavior, it can sometimes be more effective to let them know what they can do rather than what they can’t do.  An “OK-to-Wake” or “Time-to-Rise” clock can let them know when it is ok to climb out of the crib. 

Many parents use “OK-to-Wake” clocks when their children move to toddler beds.  It helps to let them know when it is ok to get out of bed.   The way it works is that the clock will be a certain color such as red during the night.  This lets them know that it means they need to stay in bed.  Then it will turn another color such as green in the morning at the time that you deem acceptable for them to get out of bed. 

Many parents have success transitioning to a toddler or real bed with these clocks.  You can try the same thing while your child is still in a crib.  Teach them that they can only climb out of the crib when it turns green, and need to stay in while it is red.  At the time that you choose for it to turn green, you can go into your child’s room and allow them to climb out of the crib while supervised.

The Hatch Baby Rest Sound Machine, Night Light and Time-to-Rise is a great choice for this because you can control it from your phone, which means you can choose when to make it turn to green, in order to be available to supervise when it does. 

Similar to the monitor solution, this idea may be hard for younger toddlers to understand and may work better for older crib climbers. 

Pros

  • Gives your child a safe option for crib climbing
  • Helps them understand when it is ok to get out of bed, before transitioning to a real bed
  • Some OK-to-Wake clocks are also sound machines, which can be helpful if you think the crib climbing may be due to being woken up from outside sounds

Cons

  • Can be an expensive gadget to buy if you do not already have one or don’t plan to use one later
  • Might be hard for younger toddlers to comprehend

Sew a Strip of Fabric Between Pajama Legs 

crib climbing pajamas

One creative option to try is to sew a strip of fabric between your child’s pajama pants legs.  Similar to a sleep sack, this may make it so that is no longer possible for them to get their leg over the side of the crib, making it harder for them to climb out. If the fabric is the correct size, it should allow your child to still be able to walk around freely in their pajamas, but not allow them to climb.

This could be more effective than a sleep sack because it really stops anything from being able to go in between the legs, while a sleep sack does have the possibility of bunching up between the legs.  This does mean that you would have to cut a piece of fabric to be the correct size and sew it yourself, which may not be ideal for all parents. 

The upside to this is that it is most likely less expensive than buying a sleep sack. Get some pajamas, cut a strip of old, leftover fabric, grab a a needle and thread and you are ready to go. 

Pros

  • Safe and inexpensive option

Cons

  • You need to be able to sew
  • You might need to do this to many pairs of pajamas depending on how often you do laundry
  • Child may still be able to climb despite the fabric

Other Considerations

Objects Inside and Outside of the Crib

Another thing to keep in mind when attempting to stop crib climbing is to think about what is inside and around the crib.  Take out any pillows or large stuffed animals in the crib that they may be able to step on to assist them with their climb.  Also, you may want to make sure that there is no other furniture within reaching distance from the crib, that could possibly be used as assistance to the climb. 

You may also want to consider making sure that there is not anything too tempting within view of the crib.  This might mean removing books and toys from the room or hiding them in a closet. If your child sees something that they want outside of the crib, they may be more tempted to climb out to get it. 

Baby-proofing

If your child is climbing out of their crib, it is important that their room is completely baby-proofed.  You may not know right away if they climbed out, and you want to make sure that they cannot get hurt in any other way in the room. 

This means that outlets should be covered, all choking and strangulation hazards should be out of the way, and furniture should be anchored to the wall.  Make sure that anything you do not want your child to touch is out of the room.   

Toys in the Crib

As we said above, having large toys in the crib can act as a boost for your child’s climbing, so it is usually not a good idea.  Sometimes though, having toys in the crib can be a solution. This depends on the child and the situation.  The AAP recommends nothing in the crib before age 1, so you should not put any toys in if they are under 12 months.

If your child is climbing out only when they wake up, you may want to consider putting some soft toys or books in their crib.  This could help keep them entertained before it is time for them to get up which may possibly deter them from making their escape.

If your child is climbing out before going to sleep or in the middle of the night, the toys may not be as good of an idea.  The toys might distract them from sleep rather than distracting them from climbing out. 

Behavior

If none of the tricks to deter the climbing are working, you can try to work on setting boundaries to improve their behavior.  This may be more effective with older toddlers. If all of a sudden your toddler appears at your side, or you spot them starting to climb out on the monitor, it is best to stay calm and not have a big reaction. 

Set Boundaries 

Quietly take them back into their room or go into the room and stop them from climbing.  Set a boundary by saying something along the lines of, “I see you want to climb out of the crib, climbing out of the crib is not safe, if you need something you can call out my name.”

If they continue to climb when it’s time for them to be in bed, be firm and consistent with the boundary.  Do not allow them to come into your bed or play, or do whatever they would prefer to do. 

If they are climbing out when they wake up, put them back into the crib and remind them they need to call out to be taken out.  Be consistent with this as well by putting them back in the crib until they do it correctly.

Positive Reinforcement

Providing positive reinforcement for staying in the crib is important as well.  If they have a night or naptime where they do not climb out, make sure to let them know how proud of them you are.  Maybe they even get to choose their favorite breakfast that morning or afternoon snack after their nap.   

Sleep Issues

If your child is climbing out of the crib when they wake up in the morning or after a nap, it is probably not due to their sleep.  Although, if you want them to sleep longer check out how to get your baby to sleep until 7am.  If they are climbing out of the crib when you put them down for the night or climbing out in the middle night, you may want to consider that it may be a sleep issue as well.  Check out how to get your baby to sleep in a crib.

FAQs about Crib Climbing

What if my child continues to climb out of the crib after trying these ideas?

If you have tried all of the solutions on the list and still cannot keep your child from climbing, it is safer to move them to a toddler or regular bed.  The risk of them getting hurt while climbing the crib is higher than falling out of a bed. If you end up switching to a bed, check out the best toddler bed rails to help keep them from falling out. 

At what age do toddlers try to climb out of their crib?

Toddlers can attempt to climb out of their crib as soon as they can walk.  Some climb out as early as 12-15 months, but most parents see their toddlers start to climb out between 18-24 months. Around this age, they are more coordinated and have more muscle strength to get them out of the crib.  They also tend to want to push their boundaries at this age as well.  

Is it possible my child will never climb out of the crib?

Yes! Many children never attempt to climb out of their crib, even when they approach older toddlerhood.  Some children never realize it is an option and some have no interest in getting out.  Other children are too cautious to take the chance. 

If my child climbs out of the crib once, will they likely do it again?

Not necessarily!  Sometimes a toddler will try it once just to see if they can do it but never do it again.  It may have scared them the first time, or they learned quickly they were not supposed to do it.  In this case, you may not need to use any of the tips!  It is a good idea though to keep an eye on them for a bit after their first try. 

When should I switch to a toddler bed?

It is common to switch your child to a toddler or regular bed between ages 2-2.5  Some parents have success switching earlier around 18 months.  Recently, sleep experts have been suggesting that you keep your child in their crib as long as possible, even up to age 3, because studies have shown that toddlers sleep better and longer in a crib than a bed. 

Giving your child free roam of their room is a big transition and responsibility.  It can cause bedtime behavior issues that may not have been present while in the crib.  It is easier for children to understand boundaries around staying in the bed when they are closer to age 3.  This is why we suggest trying solutions to stop crib climbing before transitioning them to a bed. 

Are crib tents safe to use?

You should not use a crib tent. If you have done a search on crib climbing, you may have come across pictures of little tents that cover the whole crib and do not allow the child to get out. This is not on our list of solutions because crib tents are not safe.  Many have been recalled because they can be a strangulation and entrapment hazard.  Do not use crib tents to deter crib climbing. 

Wrap Up

Many parents dread the day that their child learns to climb out of the crib.  Luckily, there are a lot of tricks to try before needing to say goodbye to the crib.  

  1. Make sure the crib is on the lowest setting, or put the mattress on the ground if possible.
  2. Use a sleep sack so that it is harder for them to get their leg over.
  3. Turn the crib around so that the shorter side is against the wall.
  4. Use a monitor to catch them in the act or remind them to get back down.
  5. Use an OK-to-Wake clock to teach them when it ok to get out and when they need to stay in.
  6. Sew a strip of fabric between their pajama pants legs so that they cannot get their leg over.

Hopefully one or more of these do the trick so that you can keep your child in the crib longer.  If you are not able to keep them in the crib safely, it is time to transition them to a toddler bed.  Check out our favorite beds for toddlers here.

Sources

  1. Caregiver-perceived sleep outcomes in toddlers sleeping in cribs versus beds, www.sciencedirect.com
  2. Dangerous Baby Products to Avoid, www.consumerreports.org
  3. Five Retailers Agree to Stop Sale and Recall Tots in Mind Crib Tents Due to Strangulation and Entrapment Hazard, www.cpsc.gov

Rachel Lacy    

Rachel Lacy is a teacher turned stay-at-home mom to a 1.5 year old daughter and another baby on the way. She has taught 1st Grade, Kindergarten, and Gifted Education K-5. She has a BA in Early Childhood Education and has also worked in Early Intervention with children ages Birth-Age 3. She lives in AZ and enjoys exploring the outdoors.



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