It seems to happen in a blink of an eye, our babies grow into ninjas… I mean toddlers. Some children naturally have more of a desire to climb, jump, and explore than others and, unfortunately, sometimes that desire coincides with when they should be sleeping.
When this happens, you may find your little one out of their crib when they should be in it. Obviously, this poses some serious danger and it needs to be addressed! But, let’s not rush to getting rid of the crib just yet. There are other ways to keep them safe and in the crib. (Because if you’re struggling to keep them in the crib, keeping them in a big bed will be even tougher.)
Whether you’re being proactive and wanting to prevent crib climbing or you’re here looking for ways to stop it, it’s important that all the furniture in the room is secured to the wall and the cords and outlets are protected and covered.
Ok, let’s start with ways to prevent crib climbing.
1. Lower the crib mattress as low as it’ll go
It’s so convenient to have the mattress raised when our little ones are itty-bitty, but as soon as they’re able to push up on their hands, the mattress needs to be lowered. Some mattresses have increments and you’re welcome to use those, of course, but before your child is pulling up, the mattress needs to be on the lowest setting.
2. Use a sleep sack or Little Grounders pajamas
A sleep sack, or wearable blanket, will prevent full range of motion in your child’s legs making it harder for them to whip it over the rail.
That same concept is used in the Little Grounders pajamas. Essentially, these are footie jammies with a thick piece of fabric sewn between the legs, again, limiting the range of motion.
3. Remove anything from the crib that can be used as a stepping stool
Children under one year of age shouldn’t have anything in their crib anyway. But, after a year, it’s safe to have a lovey. Be aware, though, that one lovey can quickly become 2+ and makes for a crowded space and a tower to freedom.
Pillows (which shouldn’t be introduced until age 2) and stuffed animals are the most common crib items to be used as a stool to get out. But, little ones will try anything!
If your child only has their beloved lovey in their crib and they’re using that to climb out, the natural consequence is losing it for a time. But, there’s no need to remove it just to prevent climbing when they’re showing no signs of escaping.
Now, what do you do if you’ve done these 3 things and your child is still getting out?
1. Drop the mattress to the floor and turn the crib around.
Forget the lowest setting. Drop that mattress all the way to the floor!!
Some cribs are made in a way that you may need to have a small platform or something to raise the mattress slightly to prevent any limbs from getting stuck between the mattress and the bottom of the rail!
If there’s no way to drop the mattress any further than it is (like my oldest’s crib that had drawers underneath), there’s still hope!
If the crib rails are higher on the backside than the front, turn it around and push the crib into a corner so the highest side is facing out instead of toward the wall. Having it in the corner will allow only one side of the crib to be used for climbing out attempts.
If each side of the crib is the same height, pushing it into the corner can still help!
2. Remove all distractions
Even though the room should be 100% pitch-black dark, when children know there are toys and books just on the other side of the crib rail, they’re still going to be tempted to get out. They don’t care if they have to play in the dark. (Though, I’ve heard of children that will help themselves to turn the light on.)
If it doesn’t feel possible to move all the toys and books out of their room (and it may not be in your situation), know that this doesn’t have to be a permanent change. If removing the distraction encourages your child to stay in their bed, after a month of no escapes, you can start bringing things back in and see how they do. The consequence, of course, will be to remove them again if they get out of bed.
If you don’t have another space to keep these toys and books, here are a few suggestions:
Start a toy rotation by reducing the total amount of toys you keep out to be played with and the rest store away to switch out later. You can store them in your closet, the attic, hall closet, anywhere that they’re not easily accessible to your little one.
Tuck them anywhere there’s space - a bin on a bookshelf, a designated cabinet in the kitchen, in a container under your bed.
Donate the ones that aren’t special and keep only what’s cherished and used.
3. Use the monitor
I highly recommend the use of a video monitor to keep an eye on them and talk to them through the intercom!
Especially if you’re dealing with an escape artist.
Of course, you won’t always be able to catch them in the act (like if they’re doing it in the middle of the night), but there’s a good chance you will while you're awake.
I don’t recommend using the intercom for the first time to stop your child from climbing out (though, that startle might be enough to get them to cooperate). Instead, show them how the intercom works and let them know that you’re keeping an eye on them to be sure they stay safe. If you see that they’re doing something unsafe, you’ll talk to them through the monitor to remind them of the safe thing to do. I recommend doing this even if you need to go to their room to help them back in or to check on them.
Keeping your little one in the crib until age 3 is ideal and sometimes we have to get a little creative to make that happen!
But, even still, some children are persistent! If none of these ideas are stopping your little climber, you may need to a big bed sooner and “crib” the room. (Essentially, make their room as safe as their crib (except the climbing out part, of course). Even secure a baby gate at the door so they can look over the top, but can’t roam the house without your knowledge.)
And, of course, if you’re at your wit's end and need some clear direction, I’m here for you!