toddler bed

When Should I Move My Toddler Out of the Crib?

I have 4 children, 3 girls, and 1 boy, and only one of them ever climbed out of the crib. Can you guess which of my children was the climber? Yep, my son is the only one of my children that climbed out of his crib. That’s not to say that boys are the only climbers, as a sleep consultant I have worked with many families who have sweet little girls that climb out of their crib. 

I will never forget the night I put him in bed, came downstairs, and started cleaning up the ever-present mess, then 10 minutes later I turned around and there he was smiling at me. My first thought was “Well my life is over.” 

Toddlers can become wonderful climbers at a very early age and begin to find a way out of their cribs at night. Some of these little friends are so good at climbing that they can get in and out of their cribs with relative ease. Some less nimble boys and girls will jump out and hurt themselves when they hit the floor. It can feel scary the first time your child climbs out or falls to the ground, it’s common to see bumps and bruises when kids are learning new physical skills. Your child may also be pushing to be more independent and make all the decisions for themselves. This is developmentally appropriate but can be tricky to navigate. Let’s go over some ways to combat the climbing and when it’s time to move to a big kid bed.

Prevent Climbing Out of the Crib

If your toddler is good at jumping out of their crib, meaning that they do not get hurt while doing it,  tell them at bedtime that you don’t want them jumping out. Then, when they invariably jump out anyway, calmly and quietly go in and return them to the crib. The first few times this happens, you can remind him/her of the rules by saying, “No getting out of your crib allowed. It’s time for sleeping.” After the third or fourth time, however, you should no longer speak when you go into the room; simply return your child to bed without saying a word. For many children, negative attention is still attention, and if you talk to them each time they jump out, they will most likely keep doing it.

If you are not sure that your toddler can jump out of the crib without getting hurt, move all dangerous objects away from the crib, and put a mattress down on the floor in front of it. 

Many toddlers will not attempt to jump out of the crib more than once because the first time scared them, and the problem will end there. Others will continue to jump out anyway, especially if they get a big reaction from the rest of the family. When your child jumps out of their crib, you should go in and make sure they are not hurt. Then, put them back in the crib and quietly remind them that they are not allowed to get out.

Helpful Tip: If this problem persists, try using a wearable blanket.  This blanket is a great way to prevent their little feet from gripping onto the crib to get out. They just slide down the bars and give up trying. 

Moving to a Toddler Bed

When a toddler starts to jump out of the crib, the first reaction from most parents is usually to move their child into a toddler bed. In my opinion, many children are moved out of their cribs and into a bed much too early. This often happens sometime around their second birthday, which is too early for a child to really understand that a new bed comes with new responsibilities. A child closer to three is much more cognitively capable of understanding the responsibility involved in moving to a bed. 

You can make a special day out of transitioning to a bed and even have a bit of a celebration as a family. You will need to clearly outline the new rules and expectations of sleeping in a bed and enforce them if your preschooler starts testing the boundaries. 

A three-year-old is much better at foreseeing the consequences of his actions than a two-year-old, and they will be able to resist the urge to get out of bed to explore their room or go and see what their parents are doing.

Nonetheless, your three-year-old will likely spend the first couple of nights taking advantage of their newfound freedom and get out of bed to play with their toys or come out of their room to look for you. Whenever this happens, simply return your child to their bed, reminding them that it is not playtime and that they need to stay in bed. 

Remind them of the rules the first three times every night, and then simply return them to bed without saying a word. The use of a reward chart is also going to be helpful here in reinforcing the desired behavior. 

Children like rewards and should not like the consequence that comes with not making the

right choice, which is to stay in their bed. Ensure you balance consistency and reinforce expected behavior, always encouraging them to make the right choice first.

It’s common for families to struggle with this transition. If you find yourself battling a 3-year-old at bedtime or with a consistent nighttime visitor schedule a call with me and we will get things sorted out.

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