When my son was 14 months old, he started to show signs of climbing. I got a little worried and checked how other moms handled the situation and realized most of them continued to let their toddler sleep in the crib. I didn’t dare because the fall from the crib is long. After researching a few methods, I found the best solution that worked for me.
So, how to handle toddler climbing out of the crib? The best way is to let him sleep on the floor. Use a mattress or floor bed and place some baby fence to make his sleeping place. If you don’t want your toddler on the floor, lower the crib mattress level and put some floor paddings beside the bed to dampen the fall if your toddler climbs out.
The main concern of them climbing out of the crib is that the fall can injure them, so why not just eliminate the cause of concern and let them sleep on the floor? The benefits of sleeping on the floor are many, and I will share everything I’m doing, it has been working very well so far.
Evaluate if the crib is still suitable
Before we go into the methods of handling the little climbers, it’s better if you first evaluate if the crib is still suitable for your toddler.
- The first thing to check is the height of your toddler VS the depth of the crib. If your toddler’s chest is already above the crib’s railing, then the crib is no longer suitable because very soon, he can accidentally tumble out, not to mention easily climbing out of it.
- Does the crib have footing for him to climb? If yes, it’s probably no longer suitable for toddlers. If he missteps and falls as he tries as he uses those footing, it can be dangerous as it can injure his head or his jaw.
- If you notice your toddler frequently knocks himself around the crib, it is a sign that the crib is getting too small for him.
If any of those are true, consider replacing the crib with the suggestions I have below, starting with sleeping on the floor.
Let your toddler sleep on the floor
You don’t have to worry about your toddler falling and injuring himself if he sleeps on the floor, there’s nothing for him to climb if you childproof the room, something I will cover later.
To prepare the sleeping area, get a mattress or two, some fence if you want, add in all the other stuff you would put inside the crib, and you’re ready to go. It’s cheap and easy to set up! First, let’s cover the benefits of sleeping on the floor that is hard to get otherwise.
1. It’s easy to sleep with your toddler
Most toddlers want their parents to accompany them when they sleep, and it’s difficult to do so if they are sleeping in the crib. Sometimes you may be tempted to climb into the crib, but I strongly advise you not to do it, cribs are not made to hold adult weight. I’ve written an entire article on it here, please read it before you climb in.
When you’re on the floor, you can custom make the bed to fit the size you want. This is what I made for my son, I combined two mattresses, and it’s big enough to fit my husband and me, plus our boy. We install the fence because my husband didn’t want him to roll out of the crib and land on the hard floor.
Every night I will accompany him until he falls asleep, then I’ll leave the room. Some days when he is super cranky, or when I’m exhausted, I’ll just sleep beside him, something I could not do before when he slept in the crib.
2. It is super safe
Even if they manage to climb the fence, the fall is a lot shorter compared to falling from a crib. This is the main reason why I opted out of the crib. Also, since the fence is shorter, it’s easier for them to land on their feet if they manage to escape. I’m planning to add some floor paddings beside the fence, so he doesn’t knock his head if he fails to land on his feet.
3. You get to save a lot of money
You probably already have a crib if you’re reading this, but consider this for your second child or if you need to buy another crib. A crib can cost anywhere from $100 to $1,000, which is a lot of money you can save up if you let him sleep on the floor.
If you already have a crib and want to let your toddler sleep on the floor, consider selling the crib at eBay or Craigslist. The crib will not last long anyway, as you will soon need to transition to a toddler bed.
4. It’s easier to transition to a bed later.
My son is not old enough to transition to a bed yet, but this is what I learned from other parents. Transitioning from a crib to a bed can be extremely difficult, but toddlers that sleep on the floor tend to have an easier time making the transition to the bed, likely because they are already used to the wider area, or used to sleeping on floor beds.
I’m not sure if I’ll buy him a toddler bed, because I can’t see a reason why he can’t continue to sleep where he’s sleeping now. Maybe I’ll buy him a floor bed later.
5. It is stressed in Montessori
We must give the child an environment that he can utilize by himself: a little washstand of his own, a bureau with drawers he can open, objects of common use that he can operate, a small bed in which he can sleep at night under an attractive blanket he can fold and spread by himself. We must give him an environment in which he can live and play; then we will see him work all day with his hands and wait impatiently to undress himself and lay himself down on his own bed.Maria Montessori
If you’re into Montessori, sleeping on the floor is an excellent way to practice it. When your toddler is free to roam around his room, he can practice what Maria Montessori spoke about. Toddlers sleeping in cribs do not have this freedom. Make sure you childproof your room, something I’ll cover later.
Methods to handle toddlers climbing out of the crib
If you still prefer to use a crib, let’s take a look at how we can handle the situation when your toddler starts to climb out of it.
1. Lower the mattress level of the crib
The first thing you can do is to lower the mattress level of the crib. Most cribs have this option, though I don’t suggest that you lower the mattress to the lowest level when your baby is still young.
The lower the mattress level, the harder it will be for you to pick up or put down your baby/toddler because you need to bend down more, and you may injure your back. This method can only delay the inevitable though; eventually, the problem will come back.
Watch this video to get an idea on how to lower the mattress level, it should apply to most cribs in the market.
2. Remove things that he can use as a booster
Take away the toys, pillows, and any other things he can use as a booster. A booster is a support that he can step on to give him footing to climb out. Most cribs use straight bars as a countermeasure to climbing, but if your crib has boosters at the side of the crib, see if you can remove them.
Don’t forget any boosters at the headboard and footboard. Some cribs have many toys or features that can act as a booster.
Remove any nearby furniture from the crib, some toddlers are attracted to furniture, like my son. He has conquered most of the chairs at home, and are now advancing to climbing small tables. If you have furniture beside the crib, it can encourage them to climb on it and then climb down.
3. Create a landing area for your toddler
If your toddler successfully climbs out of his crib, he will mostly try to land on his feet, failing that, he may land on his bum, but the chances of him knocking his head are still too high in my opinion.
A mattress to catch his fall is probably the best, but expensive. Playmats with sufficient padding is a cheap and good idea. I generally would not use cushions of any kind, because if your baby lands on his feet, it can give way or make it difficult for him to stand, and cause him to fall.
Some parents use plush rugs, which I think it’s a good idea too. Just make sure you don’t put any furniture beside to try to catch him with it, as mentioned above, it will only encourage them to climb up and down.
4. Move the crib or turn it around
Some cribs have 1 side lower than the other to help you pick up and put down your toddler easier. If your crib is like that, then the taller end is likely facing the wall. Turn your crib around or move it so that the shorter side is now facing a wall, and the taller side is facing out. It is a temporary measure, but you’ll have some extra time before you need to remove the crib.
5. Switching to the bed
I checked with other moms that have successfully moved over to a toddler bed between 18 – 24 months. These are some common things they advise.
- Find a low bed, as close to the floor as possible. (Similar to what I talked about above, sleeping on the floor via mattress or floor bed, only that they use a low bed instead)
- Start to use the new bed for nap times, and continue with the crib at night until they are fully comfortable with the bed.
- Use the same mattress if possible, and bring over his toys and blankets, the lesser things that are new the better. (I transitioned my son from crib to the floor without any issues using this method)
- They will roll out of the bed, that’s why you want a low bed, and put him back when he rolls out. (Sleeping on the floor reduces the risk of falling out of the bed and injuring himself)
- Stay positive and give it a month or two, transitioning from crib to bed can be challenging.
Childproofing your toddler’s room
It’s time to childproof your room. You need to do this whether or not you let him sleep on the floor, the toddler bed, or continue to sleep in the crib. When he starts to climb out, you must make sure the room is childproofed.
1. Cover all plug outlets & wires
Get this and cover all the plug outlets in the room, we cover the entire house, anywhere that is within reach for our boy. I notice my son will try to stick his finger into the outlet, sometimes with wet fingers! If left alone, someday he may stick something into the outlet that could be potentially dangerous or hazardous. Make sure it’s tight; I’ve caught him trying to pry it open more than once.
For the wires, you can get these to cover it. it’s dangerous to leave them lying around, he can either pull it hard enough or chew on it and get electrocuted. Make sure the wires are all covered and hidden.
And then if you have other bulkier electrical stuff on the floor, get a cable organizer box and keep those things in it, then hide it if possible.
Then, make sure that there are no electrical appliances on the floor or within reach, every electrical stuff should be either locked, hidden or out of reach of our toddlers.
2. Childproof all furniture
Toddlers are curious, and you may have noticed that they love to open drawers, cabinets, and the likes. Soon enough, he will start opening them and climbing into it, which can be very dangerous!
First, make sure that all the furniture, especially cupboards and cabinets is secured to a wall. Here’s a useful video on how to secure the cabinets.
Next, get these and lock all the cupboards and cabinets. Even if your child is not tall enough yet, lock all of them that your toddler will eventually reach.
3. Keep the windows out of reach
Make sure there is no furniture or anything that your toddler can climb and reach the windows. I recommend that you do not install window grills because if there’s a fire, you may be cut off from the only exit available.
4. Gate the stairs
Ok, this is not the room, but sometimes your toddler can leave the room if you forget to close the door and go near the stairs. Make sure both ends of the stairway are gated. This gate is pretty good, it doesn’t require drilling and has extensions that can cover wide entries. I even installed one in my kitchen so my son can’t come in.
Use baby monitoring tools
Even at 18 months, we still use a baby monitoring tool. He has passed the danger of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), but we still use it so we know every time he has left his sleeping area.
I’ve written an article about the monitoring tool we use, one of the features is it will beep when it detects no motion. It’s so sensitive that it can detect if your baby’s heart is beating or not, so if he leaves his play area, we will know. Just take note that the monitor I use does not have visuals.
There’s a benefit if your monitor has visuals, that way you can monitor your toddler while he utilizes the things in his room like how Maria Montessori described.
Our son’s room has a small bookstand with some books on it, and a movable tray with things on it. Sometimes, he will open the door on his fence, walk out and interact with those objects around the room, and these are all good development activities.
Should I just start with sleeping on the floor? I won’t do that; babies prefer confined spaces. Without tight boundaries, the place can feel too wide and scary. It’s better to start with the crib, and later transition them to the floor or a toddler bed. Another point, newborns need a lot of attention at night, you don’t want to step on them accidentally, so please let them start with the crib.
Should I just start with sleeping on the bed? Like starting on the floor, I don’t recommend it because of the wide area. Also, if your newborn falls from the crib, it’s going to be very dangerous. Just start with the crib and later transition to the bed.