How to Keep Your Toddler in Their Crib

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What’s the most panicky parenting moment you’ve had? For me, my scariest mom experience was glancing at the baby monitor screen once my toddler had gone down for a nap, only to find myself staring at an empty crib! 

It happens to us all at some stage. Our kiddies suddenly become tiny, fearless explorers, and figuring out how to keep your toddler in their crib can become a constant headache. 

Rest assured, though—it’s perfectly normal behavior. With just a bit of planning, you can get through this adventuring stage with as little hassle as possible.

Why Is My Toddler Climbing Out of Their Crib? 

Toddlers can be real little adventurers. Climbing out of their crib is just one of the things that becomes a natural behavior. They certainly don’t do it to give mom and dad a heart attack.

This exploring behavior usually begins around the age of two years old. It can happen earlier, or a little later, or not at all. Between the ages of two and three is usually where they’re agile—and determined—enough to make their escape. 

Some reasons your toddler may be climbing out of their crib include: 

They’re Distracted 

Toddlers are in an extremely curious stage of life. They’re continually learning new things, and they seem to find excitement everywhere. Something that’s old news to us can be the most interesting thing to a toddler’s brain. 

When you put them down for a rest, that doesn’t mean their brain automatically pauses. If they’re still a little awake, simply looking around the room could yield an exciting array of distractions. 

That truck that he’s been ignoring for weeks might suddenly catch his eye. Or she might decide she wants to cuddle with that teddy bear on the other side of the room. 

Something as simple as the light shining in an unusual way on the wallpaper could be enough to distract your little one so much that they actually break out of their crib just to check it out. 

They’re Getting Attention 

This isn’t a malicious or selfish thing. It’s simply another toddler thing. If you’re running back into their room every few minutes to pick them up and put them back in their crib, baby knows that if they get out, they’ll get attention from mom or dad. 

This doesn’t reflect on your child. It’s another natural thing that they learn in large part by how we behave around them. 

That means that this is something we can and need to fix. Running to our children and fussing over them every time they climb out of their crib is telling them that it’s an acceptable behavior if they want to catch our attention and get us to come to them. 

If that’s the result they always get, it’s understandable that they’ll do it every time they want some extra attention.

toddler and a crib

They’re Figuring Out Their Limits 

Around 18 months old is when toddlers really start developing their gross motor skills. This is an extremely important stage of development. But it does take plenty of experimenting for them to become comfortable with their newfound motor skills. 

Climbing out of their crib could quite simply be a way for your kiddie to test their limits. Once they realize they can pull themselves up against the bars of their crib, it’s only a matter of time before they take the next step, and the next. 

It’s a normal thing! We do it too. If you never took steps to improve a hobby or skill, you’d never improve. This is the most natural progression, and it’s simply your little one figuring out how their body works and what they can do with it. 

It’s Fun! 

Kids love to play, and they could really just see this as a challenging, enjoyable game. Some kids love to dig in the sandbox, others may enjoy playing make-believe. And then there are the climbers. 

For these toddlers, climbing just brings them a kind of joy that they don’t get in the sandbox. They’ll climb furniture, trees, countertops, large dogs, and… Their crib. 

It could simply be that you’ve got a little climber on your hands! 

They’re Ready to Move Into a Big Bed 

This one is a bit of a catch-22. It could be that your toddler is big enough now to move into a bed instead of a crib. But moving them too soon can also have adverse effects. 

Just because your little adventurer is scaling the bars every time they go down, it doesn’t mean they should no longer be in their crib. 

We’ll discuss this in a bit more detail further down.

Remember, your toddler doesn’t understand the bigger picture yet. They don’t know that they could fall and hurt themselves when climbing out of their crib. They’re just doing normal, natural toddler things.

When Is the Right Time to Move Out of the Crib? 

It’s super important to not rush your toddler out of the crib. Just because you’re having trouble keeping them in it, it doesn’t mean they shouldn’t still be in it. 

Moving your little one too early could be giving them a little too much freedom that they don’t know what to do with. 

There’s no specific right age for moving your toddler from the crib to a bed. The time could be right from the age of two onwards. To get a better idea, look for some of these telltale signs, in addition to your toddler climbing out of their crib: 

  • They’re getting too big… Literally. 
  • Climbing is getting extremely frequent.
  • Your child is potty-training. 

Outgrowing the crib and dangerous climbing habits are self-explanatory. But potty training can be a surprising reason to make this transition. When your little one starts learning to go to the potty when they feel the need, the crib can be in their way.

To prevent accidents and facilitate the potty training process, moving your toddler to a little bed could be helpful. 

But we’re talking about how to keep your toddler in their crib. If your toddler isn’t ready to move over, you need to take measures to prevent them from scaling the bars. 

Is It Dangerous for My Toddler to Climb Out of Their Crib? 

Obviously, the reason we’re talking about how to keep your toddler in their crib is because it’s safer for them to be in there.

There are some risks that can come with an excited, adventuring toddler, such as: 

  • Risk of injury due to falls. 
  • Possibility of injury in a room that isn’t child-proof. 
  • Interrupted sleep due to excitement. 

But don’t worry—the crib is not a deathly trap for an active, exploring toddler. There’s no need to panic when your little one starts scaling the sides. But it’s an excellent idea to take some safety measures to keep them in there. 

Tips for How to Keep Your Toddler in Their Crib 

The benefits of keeping your toddler in their crib for as long as possible certainly outweigh the disadvantages.

Here are some things to start implementing if your little climber is on their own mission. 

Stay Calm 

This is often the one that we parents get wrong and don’t even realize it. Remember when we mentioned that sometimes kids crib-vault for the attention? That’s exactly why losing your cool is a bad idea when they climb those bars. 

If your little one is doing crib gymnastics because they love the surprised look on your face when they arrive in your bedroom, or because they know they’ll get more cuddles when you come back to put them down—again—getting upset is only fueling that attention-seeking behavior

Kids don’t always distinguish between good and bad attention. They just know that mom keeps coming back and picking them up again. Getting upset with them only reinforces the fact that what they’re doing is working. 

Stay calm. If necessary, stay away! Don’t make a big deal of it. Your little one will soon learn that it has no effect on you anymore… And if you’re lucky, the climbing action will diminish.

baby in crib

Climb-Proof the Crib 

Your kiddie is starting to use their critical thinking skills, and they’re using what’s around them as tools to get where they want to go.

They may be old enough to sleep in their crib with the addition of teddy bears and blankies, but those soft, fluffy things can be building materials when a determined toddler wants out of their crib. 

If your toddler has started climbing out, take a few moments and watch that baby monitor once you’ve put them down for a sleep. You may be surprised to see your little smartie gathering the teddies and blankies into a pile to vault themselves off of! 

To climb-proof your baby’s crib: 

  • Remove any objects that they would usually have with them in the crib. 
  • Lower the mattress in the crib. 
  • If your crib is one with a higher and a lower side and you have the lower side facing outwards, simply switching it around could help. 
  • Crib tents are NOT recommended

Make Their Room Boring 

If your little one spots their toys as they’re drifting off, it could spark their wakefulness again. Pack everything away before bedtime, and if you know they’re going to climb out and open cupboards or toy boxes, get a lock! 

Basically, make his room look so boring that there’s just nothing out there to entice him out of his crib. 

Play Their Game 

If you’ve reached the end of your tether, this could be a great way to break their habit. If your toddler insists on climbing out of their crib, let them.

Once your toddler is out, they may discover that there’s no way for them to get back in. If you’re always running in to rescue them, they’ll never understand this.

Don’t worry—just a bit of preparation and your toddler will be camping on their bedroom floor until they figure out it’s best to just stay in their crib. 

Set up a little floor bed so you know your kiddie will be safe and warm. It won’t be as comfy as their crib, but after a few nights of having no choice but to sleep on the floor, they may stop scaling their crib altogether. 

Other Tips

Although we would prefer our toddlers to stay in their cribs, it’s a great idea to take extra measures just in case they get out.

Fall-Proof the Floor 

Your little one may be determined to get out of there no matter what. Even if you’ve climb-proofed your baby’s crib, it’s a good idea to fall-proof the floor too. 

This is especially important if your baby’s room is tiled or has hard floors. You don’t need to go all out and carpet the whole room, but you will need to pay special attention to the area directly under and around your baby’s crib:

  • Buy a thick, fluffy carpet that covers the crib-area plus a few feet. 
  • Spongy rubber matting is another good option. 
  • Move objects, toys, and furniture that are close to the crib.

Child-Proof the House 

Your home is most likely already fairly child-proof. But if you expect your kid to be safe in bed, and they’re frolicking around the house in the dark… It’s best to do a little extra child-proofing. 

Block staircases and keep doors closed. Make sure electrical cables are safely out of the way. 


Figuring out how to keep your toddler in their crib really depends on your own kiddie. If you have a little climber on your hands, it may be a bit more difficult to keep them in—but not impossible.

Spend a bit of time working out what would suit you and your tiny adventurer. If the first thing you choose doesn’t work out, don’t get despondent! Keep trying new ideas, and before you know it, your little one won’t be fighting you anymore.

Cristin is a co-founder of Smart Parent Advice, and the loving mother of two wonderful children. In her free time, she can often be found in a yoga studio or catching up on her favorite shows.