Toddler: Time to graduate from the crib?

I have a 27-month-old daughter who has just learned to crawl out of her crib. Every time I put her there, she just crawls out again, and we repeat the process. She ends up falling asleep in my lap, and then I put her to bed. How can I get her to go to bed and stay there?

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Gayle Peterson

Gayle Peterson, PhD, is a family therapist specializing in prenatal and family development. She is a clinical member of the Association... Read more

Consider purchasing a new bed for your daughter. Clearly, she is not a baby anymore, and the crib is no longer effective at helping her stay put at bedtime. In fact, it may act as a challenge to her to climb her way out of! View this new ability to climb out of bed as a developmental milestone. React with encouragement and congratulations as well as defining new expectations for a set of skills for "staying in bed." This will help focus her on the attainment of new goals appropriate to her new abilities.

Recognize the fact that she is now a "big" girl who can be in a bed of her own Communicate the clear expectation that with this "rite of passage" to her child's bed comes the responsibility to stay in it! Invite her participation in choosing a bed and the sheets and accouterments that may go with it. A new stuffed animal and a bedtime story may complete the nightly ritual which helps her develop her capacity to voluntarily remain in her own bed.

If she has difficulty at first, express your confidence in her ability to learn how to do it! Suggest different things that may help. A nightlight, keeping the door ajar or playing soft music may assist her in feeling cozy in her own new bed. Things that may help mark this passage of growth can include such processes as placing on her bedroom wall florescent stars that retain light for a short time after her bedroom light is turned out. Credit these stars with helping her with a new internal discovery of her capacity to stay in her bed after the light is shut off. These and other creative ideas can serve to support her to achieve success in your new expectations of her.

Since your daughter has no trouble sleeping in her crib once you place her there, it is likely that she is simply ready for a new phase of development. Clarify and reward her for her ability to remain in bed even though she is quite capable of physically getting out of it. Bedtimes rituals will help ease this transition and imbue her with a sense of esteem and confidence as a "big" girl with her very own bed!

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