Toddlers And Sleep


By Good Night Consultant

“My toddler gets out of his crib!”

I very often receive a frantic phone call from parents, wanting to know HOW to stop their toddler from climbing out of his/her cot. How come they sleep so soundly and then, within seconds, clamber dangerously towards their freedom?

My little bundle of toddlerness figured how to climb out of the cot at around two years and one month. Now let me just say that as a boy in the 95% percentile in terms of growth, he really is big and strong (probably thanks to his 2m tall dad) and I was anticipating these actions. He went right up to the door of his room, and said (obviously, very proud of himself): “Mommy… helllloooo!!!”

I wanted to get in there, and give him a high five! How on earth did he manage that? But unfortunately, that is not the best way to go about it. It is best to respond in a negative way to discourage a repeat of the behaviour. I went into his room, got down to his level, looked him in the eye and said: “You are NOT allowed to do that you can get very hurt. Do you understand mommy?” I put him straight back in his cot and he has never tried it again.

The biggest mistakes parents make when confronted with the cot-climbing are:

1. Not addressing the climbing out as a problem early enough. Address it the first time, with a negative response, making sure your toddler knows that climbing out of the cot is not acceptable behaviour.

2. Moving their children to a big boy/girl bed. While this seems to be the obvious choice, your child should actually stay in a cot as long as possible, and it’s preferable that he/she is not moved into a bigger bed before around 2.5 years.

If you have a consistent, persistent climber, try the following:

1. Remove all the toys, blankets and bumpers that he/she can possibly step on to gain leverage.

2. Try to watch how he/she gets out of the crib Are they holding on to something? Climbing onto something? Once you’ve figured it out, remove the troublesome object.

3. Get a sleepy sack! It makes them a little less mobile.

4. Move the cot/crib away from the wall.

If all else fails, you have to address the behaviour:

1. Make it safe for your climber so that if they do fall, they don’t hurt themselves. But then keep on putting them back into the cot, and soon they will learn that climbing out serves no purpose.

2. Stay next to the cot if you child can hurt themselves and go into “robot mode”: Continue to say: “No climbing, its sleepy time” in a stern calm voice and then move your chair further and further away (Remember that this will take some time! They won’t understand that they need to stop their behaviour in one day).

Most importantly, be consistent! Don’t change the sleep rules just because he/she has figured out their way to freedom!
If nothing works, safety-proof the room and get a gate for the door and keep on putting him/her back in the cot.
No-one said toddlers were easy, but try to remain inwardly proud of your little explorer while laying down the ground-rules.

Here’s to a Good Night,