The answer depends on how old your pint size jail breaker is. If your child is 2.5 – 3 years old then it might be time to consider transitioning them to a big kid bed. I recommend that children stay in their cribs for as long as possible and I definitely recommend for children to stay in their cribs until they are at least 2.5 years old. This is because on average the earliest a child can cognitively understand staying in the bed all night is 2.5 years old, before that they just can not be expected to understand the invisible boundaries that a bed requires. At 2.5 years old they also have slightly more impulse control and they may have the language skills required to talk about the rules of a big kid bed. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that once the crib rail falls below a child’s chest (while standing in the crib and the crib mattress is on the lowest possible setting), it’s time to transition. For most toddlers this is usually about 2.5 - 3years. So if your child is at least 2.5 years old then you might be able to make the switch from a crib to a bed. But what if your child is younger?
If you children is younger than 2.5 years old, or if they are older than 2.5 years but you do not think that they are quite ready for a big kid bed, then before you abandon the ship (crib) I have some recommendations for you.
1. Lower the Crib Mattress: If you have not already done so I recommend lowering the crib mattress to the lowest possible setting. Also remove any stuffed animals or other toys that they can use as a climbing tool. This will make it harder for your little climber to get their leg up and over the side of the crib.
2. Get a Sleepsak: A sleepsak is a great deterrent for little climbers however if you have a particularly determined climber then I recommend sewing the sleepsak down the side to narrow the leg opening. Another great option is Cribberz pajamas, although they do only come in limited sizes.
3. Stay Close: One of the most effective ways to stop children from climbing out of their crib is to stay close by and when they start to climb tell them in a firm voice “no, no climbing”. If you are sitting in the room with them you can gently push their little foot or leg back down. If being in the room is too stimulating for them then sit outside their room with the door cracked open and each time they start to climb tell them not to. You want to correct their behavior before they even have a chance to start. This may take a while but it is worth it to keep a young child in a crib until they are ready for a bed.
While you are working to change your child’s climbing behavior you also need to make sure their room is completely child proof. This means making sure that the furniture is not going to tip if climbed on, that curtain cords are safely tucked up, that there is a baby gate across the doorway, and anything else that you need to do to keep your child safe should they wake (and escape) during the night.
You also should ask yourself if this is an isolated incident or if your child’s new found skill of climbing in just a piece of a bigger sleep problem. If your child has always been a decent sleeper, and escaping from the crib is a new problem, then you should just focus on finding ways to stop the climbing. However if you child has never been a great sleep and climbing out of the crib is a piece of a much bigger sleep problem then you may want to consider sleep coaching to address this bigger issue.
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