Keep the crib: how to stop your toddler from climbing out of the crib. Twins too.
It was night.
We were watching a movie when suddenly we heard a door slam. The kids were all put to bed, so we knew this was something to be feared. And we were right. It was the last thing we wanted to see.
Our toddler had climbed out of her crib. Horror!
Okay, maybe horror is an exaggeration. But it is something we did not want to happen. Most parents don’t want their toddlers to climb out of their cribs before they are ready to make the change to beds. But for some of us, it happens. And it happened with both Ali and Sammy. Twins climbing out is not good! Everything I read online said it was time to move to toddler beds, but I wasn’t so sure. That is one option, but it isn’t the only option.
We decided to keep our toddlers in their cribs, despite their escapes. They aren’t climbing out anymore. Here is why we didn’t get rid of the crib and how we got our toddlers to stop climbing out of their cribs.
Keep the Crib: What To Do When Your Toddlers Escape Their Crib
Don’t Panic, Keep the Crib
Why Keep the Crib?
A lot of articles I read suggested making the switch from crib to bed once your child starts climbing out. Um, no. This was so not the solution for us. I like the safety of a crib and quite honestly I feel better knowing my toddlers are contained at night. Why would I solve the problem of leaving that containment by giving them the freedom of a big kid bed? That just doesn’t make sense. We needed to keep our toddlers in their cribs.
Before you make any decisions about bed situations, you need to assess the safety of the situation. Is your child injuring themselves by climbing out of the crib? Are they in a safe environment if you do decide to switch to a regular bed? This needs to be the first factor in any sleeping arrangements you consider. (And if you have twins there are safe sleeping options: Twin Sleeping Arrangements: Safety and Practicality)
Keep the Crib: Control the Environment
Make it Harder to Break Out
There are ways to make it harder to break out of some cribs. Make sure the mattress is on the lowest level possible. If that isn’t low enough you can try moving the mattress to the floor within the crib structure. This works if the sides are close to the floor so your toddler can’t squeeze out underneath.
Make sure there is nothing nearby your toddler’s crib that they can use to climb down. For the enterprising little climber, this pretty much means have nothing near the crib. For twins, this means you need to make sure they cannot reach each other in their cribs. Teamwork is great, but not when they use it to escape at night.
There are crib tents that go over the top of cribs to prevent kids from climbing out. These can be a bit controversial, but when it comes to safety every parent needs to make their own choices. I haven’t used these, so I can’t recommend any specific item. But do some research if you think this is the path you want to take.
Make the Room Super Safe
When you first move your baby into their own room you make it as safe as possible. But over time when they can’t get out of bed, it is easy to relax some safety. I don’t mean big stuff, but just leaving things out you really wouldn’t want your toddler to play with. (Or potential messes you don’t want to deal with.)
If your child is escaping, make that bedroom the safest place you can. You know climbing out of the crib is possible, so don’t leave anything in that room that could cause trouble. Consider putting a baby gate in the doorway so your child can’t run around the rest of the house while you sleep.
Along with making the room as safe as possible, make it as boring as possible. Take out toys, books, anything fun. Why get out of bed if there is nothing fun to play with? Don’t give your toddler anything that could tempt them to get out of bed. This is tough with twins because they can tempt each other. But do your best. (Twins can be the best of friends, but not always. Learn what to do when your twins fight–> Twinemies: How to deal when your toddler twins fight)
Keep the Crib: Dealing with the Culprit
After you have handled the physical location of the breakout, you need to deal with the culprit. Once they have tasted that freedom it can be hard to keep them in their cribs. There are a few ways to handle this.
Talk to Them
Don’t hate me, but we basically just told Ali and Sammy to stay in bed and they did. I know, I know. We got lucky. This won’t always work. But it is the easiest thing to try, so give it a go! Two-year-olds still like to please their parents, and they might honestly not know that climbing out is against the rules. (Why bring it up before they try it? That would just give them ideas!)
We really played up that big girls stay in bed. Yes, it is kind of funny that we are using the big girl reasoning to keep them in their cribs, but they don’t know. Being a ‘big kid’ is a big motivator for some toddlers. Ali and Sammy wanted to be big girls, so they stay in their bed.
Point out all the good things about their cribs. They are safe, comfortable, and get to rest. For twins having something that is just theirs can be huge. So we really play up that they have their own special bed that is for no one else. Whatever you have to say to make the crib seem like the greatest place ever.
Don’t Get Emotional When Escape Happens
A big reason toddlers will escape is to prolong bedtime and get attention. When Ali and Sammy climbed out of bed we didn’t freak out. (Not on the outside at least.) We calmly brought them straight back to bed with as little interaction as possible.
Getting out of bed should be boring. If it is fun they will keep trying. Yelling can be exciting, cuddles are a reward. And lectures will just go over their heads. Say as little as possible and plop them back in bed.
Aim for Positive Reinforcement
Negative reinforcement is tough in this situation. All the toys are already removed from the bedroom, so it is hard to take things away. And most toddlers are going to have a hard time connecting consequences during the day with something that happened the night before.
Praise is something kids like. After they broke out we started praising Ali and Sammy for staying in bed. If they called out to us at night we mentioned that they did a good job of staying in bed. Every morning I told them how proud I was that they stayed in bed all night. You don’t have to go overboard, but be sure to let them know they did the right thing.
Keep the Crib: Don’t Panic
Cribs are wonderful for keeping toddlers safe while they sleep and for giving parents peace of mind at night. But sometimes toddlers will find a way to climb out. Don’t let a couple of attempts force a transition you aren’t ready for. The first step to handling crib climbing is not to switch beds. You can get through this period and keep the crib. So far we have been successful at convincing Ali and Sammy to stay in bed. You can be successful too. Keep the crib, you can stop toddlers from climbing out.
Ready to make the switch to big kid beds? Learn how to make the transition early.
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