Crash! You hear a thud on the floor and then the pitter patter of little feet and suddenly your little toddler is down the stairs or in your bedroom! How did this happen all of a sudden, what are we going to do?
This is a very normal progression and many children at some point do work out how to escape their cot. I am often asked when is the right time to move my child into a toddler bed or a single bed. So let’s explore this.
First off your baby’s cot is the safest place for them to sleep because they are in an enclosed space. A clear cot is a safe cot. No cot bumpers, no pillows, blankets, toys. Pillows, blankets are not recommended for children under 12 months.
But when they start to climb out, this is going to cause a danger and we need to address this situation quickly. Some clever little monkeys start to climb around 18 months and some closer to 3 years of age. Most children climb out feet first. Some do however go head first. My advice it to keep your child in their cot until the age of 3 years or as close to if at all possible.
Prior to the age of 3 years children have very little impulse control which means if they want to get out, do something, physical or verbal they will! They cannot control their behaviour or emotions. If your little one is out of the cot under the age of 3 years be prepared it may take a long time to teach them that they need to stay in their bed at nap and night time.
By the age of 3.5-4 years children start to grasp the concept and it is easier to teach your child they need to stay in their bed.
Children often feel safe and cosy in a cot. It is usually us parents who want to move them to a big bed more than the child.
Keeping your toddler in a cot can help eliminate or reduce many of the common sleep problems toddlers have. The two most common sleep problems are:
Taking a long time to fall asleep if they are in an open bed
Escaping the room and coming to see you multiple times in the night and/or early in the morning if they are in an open bed too early
Preventing the great escape
Some children when they attempt the great escape they may use teddies or books that are in the cot to climb onto to give them a little advantage and power to get themselves up and over the bars so it is super important to make sure the cot is clear. Just one little comforter is enough.
No cot bumpers, as we know they are not recommended by the Lullaby Trust UK and are not advised for children under 12 months old for a safe sleep practice. As soon as your child is rolling over, sitting up and standing up, the cot mattress needs to be lowered to its lowest setting.
You may be able to remove the cot base like the picture below but do the safety checks to ensure there are no gaps that may cause entrapment.
Tricks you can try
Put your child in their sleep sack back to front and inside out so they cannot get out of it and free those little legs!
If the cot has one higher side than the other turn the cot around so the lower side is against the wall.
You can also be super clever and sew on a piece of fabric to join one leg to the other around the thigh area so they the legs are not able to split wide for climbing. Of course as soon as you get up in the morning you need to remove them. Ensure it is long enough for them to walk in.
Make the room safe
So, your child has made the transition to the toddler bed. You will need to assess the bedroom now and ensure it is a safe place. Look at your child’s room as one giant cot!
Ensure loose curtain/blind ties are tied up out of reach
No loose wires from monitors and lamps
Secure all drawers, shelves furniture fittings to the wall
Ensure any chairs in the room are not near surfaces, shelves windows
Corner protectors on furniture
Door slam protector to protect little fingers and toes
Make sure there is no furniture or chair near the cot they can climb onto.
Check the room very carefully for choking hazards, what small toys do they have in the room, check the toys box with fine detail.
Put safety catches on the drawers and wardrobe
Cover plug sockets
You may like to invest in some bed safety rails for either side of the bed
When you invest in bed rails ensure they conform to British safety Standards. Check your countries safety standards if you live outside of the UK. Make sure they are a good fit and there are no gaps between the mattress and rail to prevent entrapment.
Toys in the room may entice them to climb out and play with them so it may be worth to do a little rotate of toys and move some out to the play room.
If they do come out of their room do you have stair gates up? Do you have other rooms that may need a stair gate on the door like the bathroom perhaps?
A little trick I have suggested to many families is to hang a little bell over the door so when they open it the bell rings and you are woken and aware there is a little wonderer about!
What bed is best to transition to?
Many cots turn into a toddler bed so this is the first choice to go for.
It is the right size for your little person age and weight. It is low to the floor so if they do fall out they don’t have far to go! Ensure you put a soft rug or blanket down to soften the landing! Toddler beds are quite light and may move so you may like to put anti-slip material on the legs of the bed. Equally you can put a sheet of anti-slip material under the rug on the floor.
A bigger bed such as a single bed is obviously higher so a soft landing will be needed! If you do choose to transition to a single bed look for one that is low to the ground. Some are very traditional and are very high up.
A toddler bed is specifically designed for a small child. There is no need to put them from a cot into a twin/single bed right away.
This is something we need to think about and be aware of. You may like to put the bed head against the wall and not the side of the bed. Having the sides free and open is the best way to avoid entrapment. You can put on bed rails that fit snug to the mattress. You do not want any gaps between mattress and bed rails. Again, make sure they comply with safety standards.
Universal Safety standards in the UK state bunk beds must abide to the British safety Standard EN747-1:2012+A1:2015. European Standards EN747-1:2012+A1:2015
They must have guardrails on all four sides or the upper bed. Safety standards also state the upper bunk should only be used from the age of 6 years. Ensure both mattresses are snug fitting so there is no chance of entrapment.
It is more important to teach your child what a bed is for and how to stay in it than how to not fall out if it. That bit will come. So there really is no need to transition to a bunk bed right away.
A bed is for sleeping, it is not a toy. Remove the ladder so there is no temptation to climb up there or play up there.
If your child is sleeping on the upper bunk ensure they have a night light to use if they need to get out in the night when it is dark.
To read more about bunk bed safety please see this link
I hope this has helped guide you and offer solutions you for your child’s safe transition to a bed! Please share this blog with a friend who may be looking for a solution also!
Your Paediatric Sleep Consultant