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How to Keep Your Toddler in the Crib?


Babies grow at warp-speed; you’ll go from watching your baby take their hesitant first steps one minute, to them tearing through the living room in the next. Your toddler will be conquering the couch and trekking up the stairs. You’ll notice that once your child turns one, your house has turned into a jungle gym. 

Pretty soon you’ll have to deal with all sorts of unexpected fun things, debating over sleep time, getting them into their PJ’s and best of all, trying to keep them from climbing out of their crib each night.

Your toddler might be dangerously close to escaping their crib, maybe they’ve already pulled a jailbreak and tumbled to the floor. Toddlers will eventually tap into their inner monkeys and figure out how to climb straight out of their crib.

Realizing your young child’s ability to make it out of the crib can be scary for parents. Experts say that a lot of kids, as early as 15 to 18 months old, will experiment with climbing out of the crib. 

So, how do you handle your toddler’s newfound jailbreak skills?

The first thought that you might immediately have would be to transition your toddler to a big kid bed. But not so fast, experts have said that a premature transition may end up causing bigger problems. 

However, crib climbing is a habit, and just like any other behavior it can be caught and corrected with patience and a little help. 

We have looked at some common practices that encourage and even assist toddlers in their ambitious crib jailbreaks and how to avoid them.

Read Related Article: When to Lower the Crib for Your Baby?

Lower the Mattress:

This one is the obvious step number one when dealing with a crib climber. Many cribs come with height adjustment, so if you haven’t already, try lowering your baby’s crib mattress to its lowest possible point. Doing this as soon as they are able to stand will prevent them from climbing out.

Some cribs have a side that’s lower than the other. If your toddler’s crib is of this type, make sure this lower side is pushed against the wall. This will make it harder for your baby or toddler to get an easy escape route.

Don’t overreact in front of your toddler: 

The thought of your child scaling their crib walls and potentially falling and injuring themselves is understandably scary. When they do climb (or attempt to climb) out of the crib, try not to have a big reaction, even if it’s a negative one. 

You freaking out will often lead to your little one attempting this new trick again. A firm and neutral tone works best. Keeping your reactions consistent will lead to the passing of this climbing phase in a few days.

Adjust their Bedtime: 

Between ages 1-3 toddlers internal body rhythms change as they grow into their next stage of development. Like older kids, a child’s natural need for sleep adjusts. Too early bedtime or naptime might make your toddler restless. Also, too late a bedtime might exhaust your kid beyond their limit.

Observe when your toddler actually falls asleep, and adjust your schedule to reflect their biological clock, as opposed to when you’ve been putting them in their crib. You can adjust these timings each night by a consistent increment. This will establish a good bedtime routine as their internal clocks shifts and they’ve adjusted.

Use a Toddler Sleep Sack: 

Sleep sacks are a good way of extending the benefits of swaddling in a toddler-friendly way. A sleep sack encloses a toddler’s legs and feet, leaving enough room for them to move comfortably, but not enough for them to actually climb. 

Sometimes introducing a small restriction in the form of a toddler sleep sack to an avid climber is enough to discourage them from doing any middle-of-the-night climbing. 

You can use the ritual of dressing them up in one at night, to create an understanding that it’s a cue for bedtime and relaxation.

Remove toys and pillows that can give toddlers a boost: 

Children’s cribs shouldn’t have pillows or toys for the first year to help reduce the chance of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). Even after the first year, keep your toddler’s crib bare. Stuffed animals, books, toys, blankets, and pillows can all be used to create steps out of the crib. Ridding the crib of any extra items that may be making their escape plan even easier, will go a long way in ensuring your kid’s safety.

Say no to crib tents: 

Sleep experts strongly advise against using crib tents, which may sound like a good idea in theory, but have been found unsafe time and time again. In the past, specialty products called “crib tents”, made of mesh were marketed as solutions. The tents fit right over the top of the crib and zipped shut keeping active toddlers in their cribs. Problem was, these crib tents weren’t safe at all.

In fact, Consumer Reports has them on their list of dangerous baby products to avoid, since they posed major entrapment and strangulation risks. Your best bet is to steer clear.

Think and Plan for Safety First:

While after some time keeping your kid in a crib can be challenging, remember that your child may have access to the whole house. So, baby-proofing your house to ensure your little climber is safe is very important. 

Safety should be maintained even after your toddler seems to have changed their climbing behavior. Do a safety sweep of every room your toddler can access. Baby-gates should be up at the top and bottom, bolt bookshelves and televisions to the wall, and dressers should have safety latches.

Some experts suggest locking your child’s door or putting a gate on it, but you have to think about fire safety. If your toddler defies all effort to keep them inside the crib, you can use doorknob guards to prevent access to certain rooms thereby reducing the risk of access to other dangers.

Use a Video Monitor

A video-enabled baby monitor works as a fantastic pair of extra eyes to alert you of any motions. You should follow the set bedtime routine and leave your child’s room once you’ve put them down for the night. The moment you see attempts to get out, then immediately enter the room, pick them up, and calmly repeat the words, “good night, it’s time to sleep”, as you lay them back down.

Sometimes a variation of “no climbing, danger” in a firm but calm manner is helpful too in keeping your baby in the crib. You will probably have to repeat this for over an hour for 3-4 nights in a row, but be calm and firm. That should be enough to signal to your little one to stay in the crib. 

By keeping an eye on their actions before they drift off to sleep, you can stay proactive in stopping their behavior, and also eliminate risks from occurring.

Use Audio-Visual cues to tell your child when it is morning: 

How to Keep Your Toddler in the Crib?

Bedtimes and early mornings are when your child will probably try to get out of bed. Adding a sound cue will help your toddler understand your expectations. 

Playing some soft, pleasant music at wake time will let your little one know when it is okay to get up for the day. Along with this, you can adopt a firmer, stricter attitude at waketime, so that your child learns why you are changing your response.

Using a lamp on a timer to turn on at wake time works well, but we advise that you avoid leaving clocks that have bright lights on all night. Sound cues work best for toddlers who are two and older, though it’ll help you even if you have an early climber! 

Don’t use the crib for time outs:

As children grow, they will begin testing limits. You should avoid using the crib as a place of punishment. If you put your little one in the crib when they’re already frustrated, then you’re looking for trouble. Your baby will not want to be in the crib and will try anything to get your attention and get out. This may also cause aversion to crib around sleep times as they start equating it with punishment. It’s best to find another location for taking breaks if needed.

If your toddler still won’t stay in their crib, it may be time to move them to a toddler bed and see if it offers any improvement. This decision needs to be both instinctive and carefully planned because as parents you’ll know what’s best for your child.  

It’s highly recommended by experts, that children up till two years of age sleep in their cribs itself. This inculcates a good sleeping routine and is safest for your child.

I hope these suggestions have taught you how to keep your toddler in the crib. Have questions or thoughts? Share your experiences in dealing with your little one’s escape with us in the comments below!

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