May 9, 2006 7:21 PM
Toddler climbing out of crib
A reader wrote:
I read your blog and love it. I've seen you post questions that people have emailed you, so I have one that I can't find a good answer for. I have a 2 1/2 year old girl who is climbing out of her crib. I don't know how to stop her. I don't see any reason to put her in a bed; that just seems like giving her permission to get out. She's very agile, so I'm not afraid of her getting hurt. The main problem is that she's not sleeping well these days and if I have to get up in the night to take care of the baby, I find her sitting in the hallway! I don't like that at all! She has no fear and even less "common sense," even for a toddler. I've tried spanking and bribing. What I'm currently doing is just putting her back in her crib, talking as little as possible. I don't let her climb in (that's part of her bedtime routine) or rock her or anything. Sometimes she says she's afraid of the airplanes that fly over our house, but in the middle of the night, I don't really buy it. I've tried to get her up before she gets out of bed, but with other things going on, I don't always wake up early enough, plus when I do try, those are the mornings she wakes up super early. This kid used to sleep 13 hours a night and took a nap! Now she often wakes up several times a night. I'm cutting down on her nap, but she still needs it and is almost unbearable in her whining and crying if she doesn't get a nap. She's a pretty high-maintenance gal. Fortunately, the baby sleeps better than she does! I'm stuck with how to keep her in her bed. My older child (a five year old boy) never climbed out of his crib and we moved him into a bed against his will when he was three.
Obviously, I'm concerned about her safety, but I'm also concerned with why she's doing this and why she can't (or doesn't) obey. I would love some suggestions. She's also been really clingy and crabby. She's had some constipation issues, but that seems to be getting better (she's not potty-trained) and the baby is almost six months old and sleeps through the night most of the time. She's so sweet and funny and I realize she's only two, but I'm at my wit's end with her not staying in bed, her crying all the time, her whining and general obnoxious attitude. I'm glad she wasn't my first baby or I might not have had any more!
Please help me. I want to enjoy this child, but I feel that I spend more time being frustrated and irritated with her than anything else!
I am sooooo busy right now! Josh is getting married May 20 and I am working on getting our family ready - plus rehearsal dinner. And this weekend, we have a four-day Challenger Little League Jamboree, where kids with disabilities and their families all gather for a tournament (I will take pictures for you - it's phenomenal.)
So I'm counting on readers to help out with this. Your collective wisdom is always welcome!
i have to ponder this but will add what we did with our children. we stopped naps before 2 years old because we put them to bed at 6:30 or 7. if they had a nap, they would not go till 8 or later and my husband and I were not ready to give up our time. My children, now ages 7 5 and 3 still go to bed at 7 and all of our friends are jealous. they don't know how we did it but we didn't do it. we just never changed their baby bedtime schedule. actually, now the 7 year old does get to go to bed later... at 8.
about cribs, we stopped them early too. we were able to read to the boys at night together in the big bed then cover them up. we made a big deal about the responsibility of it all. i don't have any advice for you except, depending on when it is, think about changing bed time and skipping naps.
Posted by: janet | May 9, 2006 9:20 PM
My little Bump is almost 26 months. A week after his 2nd birthday, he wanted to sleep on his "mattress on the floor" that we had on his room for nap time. A week later, we put in a bed for him.
We have a lot of challenges getting him to stay all night. Many folks have told me that's part of the transition.
To keep him in his room, I put a gate up across the door, so at least he's forced to stay in there. We've child proofed his room, so that he can stay in there safely.
I don't always need to gate him, just sometimes when he doesn't want to go to bed. Usually if I come back and check on him every 10 or 15 minutes, he stays put until he falls asleep. I usually pull the gate after he's out, but I have known people who left it up all night.
I think you're daughter is ready for a bed even if you aren't. Stop stressing yourself out and work with her on a transition. Perhaps that will settle down her sleeping schedule more as well.
Posted by: Sal | May 9, 2006 10:12 PM
I also think that she is too old for a crib. I don't think children really belong in cribs past the age of 18 months, and even that is pushing it. If she rolls over much in her sleep (and what 2 year old doesn't) then she is probably hitting the bars and it must be very uncomfortable. I wouldn't even bother with one of those toddler beds. I would get her a twin. My kids always fell off the toddler beds because they were just too small. I have both my 4 year old and my 2 year old sharing a full but I plan on switching to bunks soon.
As for the obeying- don't take bad behavior personally. She, like most toddlers, just has poor impulse control. She isn't disobeying to get you mad, she isn't thinking about your or the possible consequences at all before she does it. Modifying toddler behavior takes tons of repition.
If you want to keep her safe I would suggest a tall baby gate. If you think she would climb over that then put in a half door with a lock on the outside. This way you can peek in on her and hear her, but she can't get out.
Posted by: paigeu | May 9, 2006 11:03 PM
I'm not a mom, I'm a high school teacher, and I don't have advice, per se, but... My little (now 6'4) brother used to do the same stuff. Drove my mom nuts for almost a year. Eventually she started sleeping in front of his room at night. That was when he started staying in his room and playing if he woke up. We'd find him asleep on the floor, but safe in his childproofed room. He's a happily married Southern Baptisit minister now. Even at four and five, I remember that mom was tired that year, and he was her last child (though I had terrible colic and that didn't stop her from having him). However, as hard as it was, she got through. She loved him, didn't give up and with God's sustaining grace, she got through. What ever you do to work this out, you will too. I imagine your little one's tenacity and "pluck" will make her the same kind of strong and amazing person my brother is. In the meantime, you are in my prayers. Further, I just know someone here will know the right answer. I'll be watching. I figure it's in my family's genes I better know what to do too. God Bless!
Posted by: Sandy | May 9, 2006 11:15 PM
I see what you're saying about not wanting to seem like you're giving her permission to get out of bed by putting her in a toddler sized bed, but I think it's really worth considering. My ds climbed out quite a few times before we bought him a toddler bed, but we never had a problem with him getting up after that. Sometimes it's the fun of climbing that they enjoy or the fun of doing what they know they shouldn't. Removing the crib would avoid that.
Posted by: Shannon Miller | May 10, 2006 12:37 AM
It sure does sound like something is going on, with the whining and attitude stuff, AND the bed issues (not sleeping well). I wonder if she's got some food allergies or something like that going on?
I second the idea about the gate. That way you at least know she's SAFE.
As for disciplining her, if the discipline isn't working, start looking for another solution. Out of my five, I have had one very challenging little person, and spankings and other things like that (that will usually help a child learn to obey, and aren't usually needed frequently) don't seem to do a darn thing...but lots of time together, lots of eye-contact and smiles and hugs and tickles DO.
As for the crib, why not switch to a toddler bed? With the gate at the door, her safety won't be an issue, and she might really like her new "big girl" bed. My children were all in toddler beds around 24 months (mainly because a new baby came and we needed the crib back! lol)...
Ok, I'm not feeling very helpful here, but oh well! :lol:
Posted by: molly | May 10, 2006 1:41 AM
My sister used to do the same thing starting from about 8 months old! Only, once we finally got her to sleep she would stay put til the morning. When she was still an infant we used one of those net tents for keeping cats off the baby to keep her in. When she was older (about 2) we put a hook lock on the outside of her door. The rest of us slept nearby so it wasn't a problem with not hearing her.
My dd is in a crib where the mattress is just off the floor and has two bars removed so she can get out when she wants to and we have the door handle fixed so she can't get out (she's 2 1/2 also). Her room is toddler proof so it isn't a danger if she gets out and starts playing (in the dark). I will leave her there in the afternoon even when I know she's awake because, to be the best mommy I can be, I need the break while baby sleeps.
Also, my dd sleeps a lot better when we have gotten out to the park and let her run off energy. I know this is always a good thing for me when I'm getting frazzled. We just get out the stroller for the baby (dd sits on the cup holder if she gets tired) and our sand pail and head out. I know it sure helps me, and most of the time it helps dd feel better too or at least be so tired that she sleeps well.
Posted by: Cheri | May 10, 2006 5:27 AM
Great comments here - nothing like the wisdom of a mom who's been there, done that - or a big sister who's seen her own mom being there and doing that :)
We used toddler beds early - for the same reason as Molly - needed the crib for the next baby. I became a very light sleeper, so I would wake at the slightest sound. But I do remember one night our front doorbell rang at 3am and we answered it with great trepidation - only to find three-year old Matt sleepwalking. That was a little scary!
As far as the attitude and acting out - remember your daughter has been replaced as baby of the family and is probably on some level VERY upset about this. Different kids react differently to the birth of a new sibling. Some go with the flow, but others are deeply wounded. Our second son Matt was born 17 months after Josh. No problem for Josh. But when Ben was born 19 months after Matt, Matt was deeply wounded and would have nothing to do with me for six months - only let his dad hold him.
When a child is craving attention, it doesn't matter whether it's positive or negative - any attention will do. So I'd say in addition to all the other responsibilities you have now, there is the added need to make sure your daughter feels special and has some one-on-one time with mommy.
And when you switch her to a toddler bed or twin bed, you can explain that this is because she is a big girl now. Ease her into her big girl status - with all the perks. "You're a big girl so you can make cookies with Mommy" "sleep in a big girl bed" "help Mommy with the dishes" etc.
Posted by: barbaracurtis | May 10, 2006 6:53 AM
You've received some good adivce about using gates and childproofing. She's too old to be in a crib at this point.
It also sounds like she's feeling a little displaced by the baby. Is there anyway you can give her one on one time during the day, maybe when baby is asleep? Here behaviour sounds like a cry for your attention, something she was used to having before the new baby came into the picture.
Just a thought.
Posted by: Laura | May 10, 2006 7:25 AM
Concentrate on restoring your relationship with her, as perhaps it has been neglected during the past six months. When the connection is strong, it is easier to see that her feelings and needs are real. It could be airplanes or loneliness or feelings of rejection. Try to empathize instead of continuing an adversarial relationship. I'd guess your stress and frustration over her normal immaturity is being mirrored in her, resulting in her cranky behavior. Nutritional deficiencies could also be a problem.
I have had four children and never used a crib. Consider putting her crib mattress on the floor next to your bed. My children also stopped (on their own) napping as soon as they turned two.
Posted by: Carol | May 10, 2006 7:28 AM
When my 21 month old is being a pill...(read this to mean high energied, loud, no self control...) my husband always says, "It's his job." I may get frustrated, or worn down...hubby just follows the protocol we've already outlined beforehand. For a toddler that is usually contain or confine (if being naughty), soothe or comfort (if upset or hurt), feed (if hungry), distract (if he just isn't big enough to understand). What I'm trying to say is that I get emotionally involved, take it personally, think I'm a bad mom. My dh sees him as a normal, busy little boy, and deals with him as such, knowing that he will outgrow it soon. :)
Decide what you are going to do, let your daughter know this is what happens "when," (whining lands you on your bed)...and so forth. Yes, I gently agree that it is probably time to skip the crib.
Posted by: Holly | May 10, 2006 7:42 AM
I would second the idea that she's needing a bit more attention. One way to do this is to focus on her a bit more deliberately during the day, but this can be hard sometimes with everything else you're juggling. Another idea would be to give her some cuddle time, either at naptime or at bedtime -- maybe lie down on your bed with her, or give her a twin bed so you can lie down with her on her bed. For my daughter, a few minutes of cuddling at naptime can make a big difference. And sometimes, we even let her sleep in our bed, so she gets to cuddle with Daddy all night (leaving me free to deal with her little brother as needed). Cuddle time is not a complete replacement for time spent interacting, but when time is in short supply, it can help make up the difference, especially for a child who really likes to cuddle.
Posted by: Newt Sherwin | May 10, 2006 9:23 AM
I don't think moving him to his own bed is giving him permission to get out of bed. He's going to have to move there sometime, and essentially you are facing the same issue now with climbing out of crib as you would with climbing out of bed. I would simply return him to bed and tell him it is time for sleep. Repeat. Repeat. Ask God for patience. Repeat some more. ;) Eventually, he will stay.... so long as he doesn't get so much attention leaving bed that its worth the effort. Just return him and say "goodnight!" If its a major onslaught you can also put a chair just outside his bedroom door and bring a magazine so as soon as he comes out he gets returned with no reward of seeing the house. Depending on the personality of the child this could only take a few nights-- it could also take a month. But you can do it... its yet another training exercise.
Oh, and also, getting him a "big boy" bed might just inspire him to act like a big boy.
Posted by: Janet | May 10, 2006 12:03 PM
I want to give you a big hug. I have read all the comments you've gotten and think there is a good chance you're feeling attacked (I hope I'm wrong). Anyway, reading the comments objectively, I see the wisdom in the words. Reading them as though they were to me personally, I think my feelings would be hurt and I'd be worried there was something I'd done wrong (lack of attention, etc.) that is causing the problems. You sound to me like an excellent mom who has your family's best interests at heart. When my daughter climbed out of the crib, I just put the side down so she could climb out easily without getting hurt. She doesn't climb out unless she's told to though, so it isn't an issue for us. She's happy in her crib (she's also 2-1/2) and I have no intention of moving her right now.
Re: the excessive whininess, it could be a food issue. My 4 year old daughter was diagnosed with celiac disease at 2 yrs old. She had become very whiny and clingy and also had trouble with sleep. It might be worth an investigation.
Anyway, you're doing a great job. Don't get discouraged! As my mom always says, "This too will pass."
Posted by: Elaine | May 11, 2006 10:19 PM
Not to worry, Elaine - I checked with the mom and she was not feeling hurt or attacked at all - just surprised that so many people moved their children into beds so early.
We have made that transistion at different times for different children, sometimes having two cribs going at the same time (our kids were born as close together as 54 weeks, and two of our adopted sons are 52 weeks apart). But since we never had three going at a time, I know we made some transitions pretty early :)
We used toddler beds with some and transitioned straight to twin beds with others. The key is being flexible and ready to do what meets the needs of the toddler and the family.
Posted by: barbaracurtis | May 13, 2006 3:53 AM
It's awesome to have each other to glean wisdom from. I'm sure praying that God would give you discernment into your little one's heart and wisdom is a great place to start daily! Also supportive husbands are real gifts as they are the leaders in our homes and hopefully are directing us.
I've had 8 children and presently have a 14, 12, 10, 9, 5,4, and almost 3 year old (one daughter died so we're at 7 now).We are working on a few more...
My simple advice that has worked for us is that we move our children to twin mattresses on the floor (without box springs) by 2 or 2 1/2 This way they don't fall far if they roll off. I've never done toddler beds - just one more transition I don't have to deal with, plus twin mattresses are better for mom or dad reading to them. I believe gates are one more barrier to teaching them the importance of obeying and staying where they are supposed to.(Although they do come in handy if you want a very young child to play by himself during the day for a little bit).
Also no matter what bed time is at night, we always til age 5 have our children have rest time for 1-2 hours a day. (Even our older kids (and myself!) still do this - it's reading time or drawing or puzzle time)They are more joyful, and rested and I don't know a toddler who doesn't need down time!! All the 4 and under kids I know sleep during this time. The saying, "sleep breeds sleep" is so true. This brings better temperment in the evening hours and as they grow out of naps, they can still have quiet toys, books, felt, etc. It's one of the biggest blessings in our family.
Our home's quiet time is 1:30-3:30 and bedtime is still 8:00 or 8:30 by the time we've cuddled and read books and sung. Naps have never prevented us from having a decent bed time so my husband and I can have some time together and with the older kids.
I think if you focus on special time with your child during the day especially the 30 minutes before bed time - reading, laughing, cuddling... she is more relaxed and joyful and willing to submit and honor you.
We don't spank the first time our newly transitioning toddler comes out the bedroom at night, but after the second occasion, we gently remind the child that there will be spankings if they come out. There should be no guilt on our part for training them to do what is right.
It's important to train our children to obey us which in turn honors our Lord who placed us over these precious ones. Obedience at night is as important as obedience during the day. Don't reward disobedience. You all need a restful nights sleep.
Also I've noticed if I've been consistent at following through with discipline during the day when there are testings, showing the child who is in charge, (LOVINGLY)then she is more likely to settle in and not test at night. (This also relieves them of walking around all day with the heavy load of guilt from all their sin - it's like they are begging you for discipline).
You'll have to remind yourself that you are loving her by disciplining her. You need sleep and she does too. She's too young and unwise to make this decision on her own.
There will eventually be thunderstorms that scare them, or whatever, but that should be few and far between and then we lovingly allow them to cuddle with us.
I'll start praying for you tonight!
Posted by: Julie | May 14, 2006 1:08 AM
Hi, I actually came to this site because I was looking for the same answer as you. While reading your post, I found that you are going through a very similar thing as I am. I am due on August 11, 2006 with my second child and my daughter has started to act out a little bit, but I just think it is because she doesn't really have much playing space in the house anymore. We are about to move to a bigger house and I think that she will start acting better. I know that she is going to be jealous of the new baby because she gets jealous of the dog and if we play with her babydolls. I have tried teaching her about the new baby with an actual babydoll that she can't play with because a friend said that it worked for her, but it only made her start treating her babydolls mean. My daughter is almost 18 months and she is wanting to potty train and we have had a little success, but not much. I thought that if I put her in a toddler bed with all these other transitions in progress that it would overwhelm her, but I guess that I am going to try to put her in a toddler bed anyway, if for nothing else, but her safety. I am just scared that one of these times she is going to climb out and I am going to be calling 911 because she broke a bone or is bleeding to death. I hope that what people have said has helped you as I hope it helps me also.
Posted by: Tiffany Arnoldin | August 7, 2006 3:10 PM
Ok, my sitter just called and said that while my 21 month old was napping she heard a thud. She ran upstairs to discover the little Houdini smiling proudly next to her bed. The sitter just called me and now I'm scouring the internet for next steps to take. She sleeps in a Halo Sleepslack every night but doesn't nap with it. I'm thinking a temporary solution, until I figure out something permanent, is to zip her up in that sleepsack every time she takes a nap. This way, she won't have feet/leg ability to climb out. Just an idea.
Posted by: Liza | January 15, 2009 1:48 PM
My son can get out of his sleepsacks, even if I put them on him BACKWARDS. But, the sleepsack did keep him in his crib a long time, he couldn't get his legs apart far enough for climbing.
He sleeps with a crib tent on his crib. I started using it when he was one because he kept throwing his favorite bear out of his crib and was then too upset to nap without it. I tried letting him learn that it was a bad idea to throw it out by not returning it to him. But, after a week or more of no naps I gave up and got the crib tent. I chose to fight other battles.
He turned three in December. He is happy and comfortable in his crib. He likes the tent a lot. I don't think 2 and a half is too old for a crib (obviously). The downside of the crib tent is that they are expensive.
Before you would consider the expense of a crib tent, think about potty training. We are planning on keeping our son in his crib until he starts asking to go to the bathroom in the night. At that point it will no longer be practical. He is potty trained during the day, but sleeps too soundly at night. If you are planning on nighttime potty training soon, you are going to have to put her in a big girl bed then anyway.
Hey, if it helps to hear it from an expert, Burton White says in the book "How to Raise a Happy, Unspoiled Child" that you should leave them in the crib until they ASK for a big girl bed. Of course, in my experience, you can find some book to back up any opinion you want to back up. I'm sure there are plenty that say something else, but I happen to really like that book.
Posted by: My Boys' Teacher | January 15, 2009 9:35 PM
My Grandaughter is 13 months old and lastnight she got out of her crib she is 30" tall the matress is to the lowest setting,this is so early to happen what do you suggest?
Posted by: Dawn | July 19, 2012 8:23 AM