How do I keep my toddler in his bed?
We are trying to make the switch from crib to toddler bed but our toddler keeps getting out of bed. What can I do to keep him in?
Switching from a crib to a toddler bed can be challenging as your toddler is trying to understand the differences in her routine. The switch brings up a range of different feelings for them, curiosity, excitement and some nervousness as they try to understand the shift to a big kid bed.
If your toddler is 2 or over you can you can try a few different things. Start by talking to your toddler and explaining that she needs to stay in her bed. You can tell her that you will help her remember for a few days by putting a chair next to her bed-facing away from her and sitting there quietly reading. Some toddlers will be able to manage their feelings if you stay close.
If this does not work you can shift to just helping her stay in her room. Make sure everything is safe and tell her that her job is to stay in her room at night. If she gets out of the bed she can walk around, get a pillow and lay down but she cannot come out of her room. You can purchase the traffic light timer (Amazon) and tell her she needs to stay in her room until the light is green.If that is challenging for her you can also put a chair by the door and tell her you will sit there as long as she stays in her room. Sit quietly with your back away from the room. If she tries coming out quietly tell her you can only stay if she stays in her room. Quietly put her back in bed and go back and sit down. If she pops up again to come out, put her back in bed and tell her you can only stay if she stays in her room. If she is unable to do that after a week you may decide you want a gate at the door. You can let her know she can come to the gate but that you will not talk with her because it is sleep time.
It may also be helpful to play this challenge for her with her toy. Try having some of her animals struggle staying in their cave. Don’t solve it for her but see how she acts out the problem for her self. Toddlers often take 4 to 6 weeks to solve problems for themselves. They need to work on multiple levels especially cognitively and emotionally to fully comprehend change.
About our expert-
Marsha Greenberg is a therapist in New York City. She is the author of the newly released book, Raising Your Toddler, by Globe Pequot Press. She has masters degrees in Child and Family Development and Social Work from the University of Michigan. As the Director of the Health Systems Child Care Program for over 14 years, she was responsible for over 250 children between the ages of 6 weeks and 6 years of age. Marsha teaches in the Early Childhood Special Education department at NYU and has a private psychotherapy practice in NYC. Marsha is the mother of three grown sons and has three grandsons (aged 4 and 18 months and 4 months) with a new grandchild on the way.