How To Keep Your Toddler From Getting Out Of Bed Repeatedly At Night

 

A toddler getting out of bed repeatedly during the night is a common frustration once you’ve transitioned out of the crib.

Your child’s sleep boundaries have disappeared. So, it’s normal for your toddler to wander out at bedtime or during the night to see what she may be missing. Just because it’s normal doesn’t mean it isn’t frustrating or tiring, though.

I always advise parents to leave their toddlers in the crib as long as possible, because once you remove their boundaries it can be difficult to keep them from roaming. There’s nothing wrong with a 3 or 4-year-old continuing to sleep in a crib if everyone’s happy.

Find out when and how to transition your toddler from a crib to big kid bed here. 

Encouraging your toddler to stay in bed all night does take effort, but it can be done. As with all aspects of teaching children to sleep better, your biggest determiner of success is your consistency.

This post may contain affiliate links.

 

It’s a good idea to move your child into a big kid bed if: 

  • You’re beginning nighttime potty training
  • Your child verbalizes that she wants to transition (AND is at least 3 years old)
  • There are repeated episodes of climbing out (this becomes a safety risk)

[Important Note:] If a new sibling is on the way & will need a crib… BUY ANOTHER ONE!
This will save you so much stress & headache, trust me.
Keep both children “contained” for sleep as long as possible. 

 

Here are some proven tips to keep your toddler in bed at night.

 

Important Note: If your child is younger than 3 and climbs out of the crib once, I wouldn’t move her to a big kid bed right away.

Explain that it’s not safe and she may hurt herself. Tell her that Mommy will come to her if she calls out in the night. (And put pillows on the floor beside her crib.)

Maybe she’ll be “scared straight” for a while which buys you more time.

If she continues climbing out, then it’s time to transition out of the crib.

 

Nighttime roaming is a particularly stubborn phenomenon. With the right approach and a few weeks of consistency, though, your child will understand her new limits and stay in bed all night. 

If you try an approach for only a few days or you occasionally give in and let her come into your bed, then the nighttime roaming will probably continue.

You should use these tips to keep your toddler in her bed during nap time too.

 

Find out more about how to get your toddler to nap well here. 

 

How To Keep Your Toddler From Getting Out of Bed Repeatedly at Night

 

First: Investigate any Bedtime Fears

First, I recommend exploring the topic with your child during the day to find out if she’s afraid of anything at night.

If so, you can help calm her fears and reassure her that Mommy and Daddy are always nearby. Tell her that you’ll come to her in the night if she calls out, rather than her getting out of bed.

Let her know that there are no such thing as monsters in her closet (for example.) Have a look at her books and the TV shows she watches to make sure they aren’t contributing to her bedtime fears. 

 

RELATED: How To Stop Your Toddler Waking at 5 am

 

Then: Let Your Child Know the New Nighttime Rules

 

Once the bedtime fears have been eased, it’s now time to inform your toddler about her “new rules” for wandering.

Make sure to have this conversation early in the day, rather than at bedtime when she is tired and could be cranky. Keep it lighthearted and upbeat.

Let her know that you have a very special treat waiting for her each morning, when she stays in her bed.

A sticker, stamp, animal mask, trip to the park, 3 M&Ms (or anything from the Dollar Store) is usually enough of an incentive to reduce nighttime roaming.

Make sure to talk excitedly about her “special treat” each night at bedtime. And gently remind her of your expectations.

Tell her what a big girl she is, and how proud you are of her. Remind her that (her friend or cousin) also sleeps in a big kid bed and doesn’t come out at night.

Let her know that IF she leaves her bedroom and comes to you, then you’re going to take her straight back to bed. Be loving, yet matter-of-fact.

Many parents find success installing a baby gate at the bedroom doorway. Sometimes it’s just too tempting to go to Mommy’s bedroom, so a barrier really helps! When she calls out from the baby gate, you simply hop over and put her back in her bed.

Every time you have to do this, remember to stay calm and boring. Say very little except a rehearsed line like “It’s time to go to sleep.”

Any extra attention or conversation (positive or negative) could reinforce her roaming, causing it to continue.

Also, you don’t have to run to her the minute you hear her calling from her doorway. The first night, wait 1 minute. The next night, wait 3 minutes. Add 1-2 minutes of waiting each night to encourage your child to go back to bed on her own. (And give lots of praise in the morning when she does!) 

 

The next morning

 

Make sure to give lots of hugs, kisses and praise as her nighttime wandering improves. These are often more cherished than physical treats.

Don’t dwell on failures. If she had a bad night, just say “That’s ok, you can try again tonight. I know you can do it!”

With 2-3 weeks of consistency, your child’s nighttime roaming should greatly diminish. 

a guide for parents to help their baby sleep better

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12 Comments

  1. Daley Wilson

    My son is about to turn two. He climbed out of his crib constantly. So we have made the transition. We finally got him to where we can shut his door and he will stay in bed. But come about 3/4 am he comes out into our living room to sleep in my recliner. Whenever we catch him, we put him back in his bed but he just comes out whenever for the rest of the night. What do I do?????

    Reply
    • Artemis

      Hi Daley,

      Sorry to hear this! It’s such a struggle when our little one’s get out of the bed at night, and of course concerning for us parents as well due to the safety issues. I hear you!

      We would love to help you via a private consultation:
      https://programs.babysleepmadesimple.com/30-minutes-private-consultation-checkout/

      Alyssa, our sleep coach, will give you great advice on what to do.

      You can book the consultation on the link I provided.

      Let’s get you guys sleeping better!
      Artemis, BSMS Support Team

      Reply
  2. Laura T

    Our 3 year old is now in a big kid bed because he kept climbing out of his crib literally at his 3rd birthday. Previously, he slept the entire night in his crib without a peep. Now, he’s out multiple times within the first couple of hours to go potty (he was trained at 2.5 and nights sort of followed along). We ensure he goes before bed and don’t rush him. We don’t cut liquids but definitely scale it back after dinner time. He 100% is doing this for attention because when we take him, he doesn’t even go.

    He was waking his younger (8mo) brother at night and wandering around so we reversed his doorknob and lock him in 🙁 it’s for his safety as our bedroom is the loft above and we have stairs near our bathroom.

    We’re at a loss of what to do! Help!

    Reply
    • Artemis

      Hi Laura,

      I’m so sorry to hear about this. However, you seem to be doing all you can and you’re doing well! Perhaps you just need some guidance, and we’re happy to help you.

      The best place for us to help you is via a private consultation. We’ll go into detail and give you a plan of what to do. Here is the link:
      https://programs.babysleepmadesimple.com/30-minutes-private-consultation-checkout/

      Hoping to talk soon,
      Artemis, BSMS Support Team

      Reply
  3. Amanda

    How do you deal with a 3 year old who thinks it’s funny and just keeps coming out of her crib and room during naps and nighttime . This can go on for 2 hours min … and we are loosing hope. May I add that she now wakes at 4:30 am and wakes the whole house. Please help

    Reply
  4. Rhiannon

    My daughter has started screaming for me in the middle of the night, she’s not yet 3 and has a speech delay so can’t or won’t tell us what’s wrong. Her crib’s on the landing just outside our bedroom. She has also started not being able to go to sleep herself (even though this hasn’t been an issue before). She’s really small for her age and still doesn’t understand getting under and pulling up blankets, so I don’t think she’s ready for a bed. She also wakes up way too early in the morning well before it gets light. But she’s also started falling out of the crib multiple times especially when trying to get her to go to sleep in the evening, every time I put her back and try not to get mad but it just doesn’t seem like it’s working. I don’t want to get in a habit of soothing her to sleep or cosleeping in the morning. Are there dome tips you can give? Thanks!

    Reply
    • Artemis

      Hi Rhiannon,

      So sorry to hear about your sleep situation. Does your little one fall out of the crib or climb out of the crib? I didn’t quite understand. We can help you with all of these issues and get your little one sleeping well, as soon as she can sleep safely inside the crib.

      You can get back to us here:
      support @ babysleepmadesimple . com

      Artemis, BSMS Support Team

      Reply
  5. Sabrina

    Recommending that a child who has outgrown the safety height for a crib is extremely irresponsible. You should transition to a bed BEFORE they start climbing out. I don’t understand why you are recommending that parents put their children at risk of falling and hurting themselves. I can’t believe what I am reading here.

    Reply
    • Jilly Blankenship

      Hi Sabrina,

      I don’t recommend that a child who has outgrown the crib be forced to sleep there. I don’t say that anywhere in the article.

      What I do say is “It’s a good idea to move your child into a big kid bed if there are repeated episodes of climbing out (this becomes a safety risk).” And I also say “If she continues climbing out, then it’s time to transition out of the crib.”

      There are measures parents can take if their child climbs out just once to keep them safely sleeping there.

      It’s not always possible to transition out of the crib before a child climbs out as this can happen at a variety of ages.

      The crib is the SAFEST place for little ones to sleep. It keeps them safely contained while parents are sleeping and can’t supervise them. And as stated above, once children can climb out- they should be transitioned to a big kid bed.

      What’s very dangerous is having young toddlers roaming around the house while parents are sleeping.

      I appreciate your concern and feedback.

      All the best,
      Jilly

      Reply
  6. Sharon

    Very helpful

    Reply
    • Alyssa Taft

      Hi Sharon,

      We are so glad this resource was helpful for your family!

      Best,
      Alyssa, BSMS Support Team

      Reply

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