When Your Toddler Starts Crib Climbing

I remember the scene so vividly: My oldest had just turned 2 years old a couple weeks prior and we had just welcomed baby #2 into the family.  Life was a bit chaotic, to say the least 🙂

I put my 2 year old into her crib for her much anticipated afternoon nap and came downstairs to feed her baby brother.  I was enjoying the delicious baby snuggles when I heard a noise. I looked up, and there she was: My curly haired girl standing at the top of the stairs, lovey in hand, with a giant smile on her face.

She climbed out of her crib.


Watching your child grow up and learn new skills is an incredible experience. However, we were NOT ready for this change yet. Adjusting to life with a toddler and a newborn was not easy and adding crib climbing to the mix was not exactly helping 🙂

I wish I could tell you I handled that experience perfectly- but I definitely didn’t. Knowing what I do now, I would have done things very differently.

Safety First

Safety will always be the #1 priority. Be sure the nursery is ready for the inevitable first crib climb BEFORE they even start showing signs.

  1. Make sure that crib is EMPTY (except for maybe light pillow & blanket).  There should be no crib bumpers as kids can use these to launch themselves over the edge. 
  2. Be sure the area around the crib is empty.  You don’t want them to use any furniture/objects to help pull themselves over AND you don’t want them falling on something and hurting themselves if they do get out.
  3. Be sure their bedroom is fully baby proof.  This includes no hanging window blind cords, having all furniture secured to the wall, and diaper cream/lotions/medicines up and out of reach.  

Tricks to try BEFORE ditching the crib for a bed

  1. Be sure their crib mattress is on the lowest possible setting. 
  2. Put your toddler in a snug sleep sack.  You may need to put it on backwards so they don’t mess with the zipper. A sleep sack can prevent them from lifting their legs over the bars.  
  3. If your crib has a higher back and lower front, turn it around! Having the high side in front can deter climbing.
  4. Put the crib in a corner.  This blocks off 2 sides for climbing.  
  5. Have a 2 way audio-monitor in the nursery.  As soon as you see your toddler starting to scale the railings, give them a firm ‘NO!’ through the monitor. 
  6. Be sure your timings on naps/bedtimes are correct.  An under-tired toddler has a lot of energy to practice climbing!

When it’s time to Switch

In the ideal world, toddlers wouldn’t leave the crib until 2.5-3 years old.  At this age they have a bit more impulse control and will have an easier time staying in bed. However, I realize this isn’t always possible. You may need to move your kiddo earlier if:

  1. Your toddler is over 34 inches tall.
  2. The top of the crib railing is below mid-chest level.
  3. The crib climbing has become dangerous- especially if they are launching themselves over.

Tips to help the transition

If the transition is inevitable- here are some tips to help:

  1. Move to a twin size (or bigger) bed.  Toddler beds are low and too much like cribs.  If they were climbing out of the crib….they’ll want to keep climbing out of the toddler bed.
  2. Let your toddler help pick out the bedding.
  3. Use an ok-to-wake clock.  When the light is red, STAY IN BED.
  4. Do not add any new steps into the routine- such as sitting/laying with your toddler- if you don’t want it to be permanent.  
  5. Use a 2-way audio monitor with a firm ‘NO’ if they leave their bed. You may need to implement immediate consequences for leaving bed if escaping continues.

Oftentimes there is a honeymoon period of about 2 weeks when kiddos switch beds.  You may be thinking you’ve GOT THIS, but stay vigilant and consistent.  Sometimes when the thrill has worn off toddlers start testing boundaries to see what they can get away with.

My biggest warning!

Moving to a toddler bed prematurely WILL NOT FIX A SLEEP PROBLEM. Many parents switch early because they think it will help their child sleep better but IT WILL NOT.  Sleep problems are only magnified when you switch too early as they don’t have the impulse control yet.  Addressing sleep problems in a crib is SO MUCH EASIER. If you’ve realized you switched to a toddler bed too early- it’s ok to switch back!


If you are experiencing crib climbing and toddler bed misery- please reach out.  We can fix these issues together and get your whole family back to sleep well again.   

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