HOW Do I Get My 3Yo to Stay in His "Big Boy" Bed???

Updated on August 06, 2013
R.Y. asks from Memphis, TN
12 answers

we just switched my 3 year old's crib into a toddler bed a few days ago, right after the first night he climbed out of his crib. he just turned three last month so we knew this was coming. the first few nights with no railing, he did great. he fell out the second night, but i'd put down padding and he was fine, just scared. NOW, a week or so later, we cannot keep him in the bed. he's got every excuse in the book, and he never said this stuff before: "i'm cold," "i'm hot," "i need pants (he was in shorts tonight)", "i'm not sleepy," all of this while he's yawning and an hour past his normal bedtime. he did get scared by a bee at the park the other day, and last night he couldn't sleep because he was afraid the bee would get him. tonight, though, he just says "i'm scared," and he's never been scared of the dark, anything. i tried to get a night light at the store today but they didn't sell them (?!?!), and i'm losing patience, quickly, because i have a broken ankle and it's hard enough to get around, forget the wandering toddler.

i have tried the "just put him back in the bed" approach, but he wants comfort and WILL NOT stay put. i've told my husband we need to shut his door to where he can't open it (it sticks), but my husband says he "doesn't want him locked in there," unfortunately, the past two nights i have not slept well at all because i keep waking up to see if he's still in his bed. he's already learned to be very sneaky and quiet getting out.

please help me figure out how to keep him in bed!! what worked for you?? night lights etc? he has his comfort toys, nothing about his sleep routine has changed but the lack of a railing. this is killing me (and my ankle).

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answers from Chicago on

Concentrate more on keeping him in the room rather than in the bed. Put a gate across the door and don't play into the drama. Tell him if he screams you will shut the door but if he stays quiet in his room it can stay cracked open. The thing is he is old enough now to realize you are still "awake and having fun" while he is in his room. He wants to be up with you lol. I had several mornings after we switched my son to a toddler bed that he was asleep at the gate of his bedroom door. It only takes a short time.

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answers from Miami on

If your husband is throwing up a road block, then you need to take him to the your ped and let the ped tell him how to keep your child in his room.

The ped will tell your husband that letting him leave his bedroom at night is a SAFETY concern. How would your husband feel if you ignored your son for hours at a time during the day and got hurt? Well, that's exactly what can happen at night when you two are sleeping.

If he has trouble with a door locked that he cannot see your son in, tell him to go to Home Depot or Lowe's and buy a cheap interior door, and have them cut the door up above the doorknob, sand it so there are no splinters, and install it in the doorway of his room. Put the doorknob on it BACKWARDS so that you can lock it from the outside. You can hear your son and he can see out into the hallway, but he cannot get out of the room.

Your son is taking advantage of you with your broken ankle, and he realizes your husband will let him. Enough of this! Get your husband on board before your son hurts himself.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Oklahoma City on

You put a gate in his doorway and put a baby monitor in the hallway. That way you can hear him if he gets up. If he realizes he isn't supposed to go anywhere then he'll just turn on his light and play for a bit. Then likely go back to bed.

If his room is child proof there is no need to worry if he's going to get hurt.

Now that he does have the freedom to wander you are going to have to make sure every door has a door knob protector on it. He cannot have access to the bathrooms for another 6 months or so. Kids are not supposed to wake up during the night to go pee, they're supposed to go to bed, go to sleep, and wake up when it's time to get up then they go pee.

So he needs every door locked so he can't get into things he wouldn't normally have access to.

Also, he's sort of old for a toddler bed since they're for toddlers and not pre-school aged children so he might be tired from sleeping on this mattress that was made to hold a baby and not a big kid.

If he continued to do this get rid of the toddler bed and put him in a bed for kids his age. My niece bought her kids a queen size bed when they turned 2 and put them in it. It is the bed they'll have until they leave home.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Portland on

Why don't you just put the railing back on? If it makes him feel secure, that's the first thing I would do. If you think he's insecure without it, then yes, the simplest option is to put it back on. If that is the crux of the problem, it's a very easy fix. For what it's worth, my son used a side rail until he was well past four. There's no magic time that he needs to get rid of it... just when he's ready.

If you ever want to try it~

The "just put them back to bed" approach is not a one-night, one time option. You have to decide that you are willing to spend a week or more if need be, teaching him that once he's in bed that he must stay in bed and not pop out for every little thing. This would mean maybe a sippy cup with a valve (to stop leaks) on a night table. Otherwise, I did it much like I did boot came, with great resolve and no looking back. I made the commitment to teach my son what he needed to learn and then actually camped out in the hallway, so that every time he got out of bed, I quietly walked him back to bed. No talking, no cuddles, no eye contact, no angry expressions on my face. NOTHING. The first time, I just said 'bedtime' and took him back to bed. Then I did that about four more times before he realized that he wasn't going to wear me out.

DVR anything you want to watch that night. Be devoted to your cause. You are teaching your son that he is fine sleeping on his own.

Make it pleasant for yourself. I actually put down my yoga mat and some blankets and pillows in the hallway and had books to read, my laptop and my crossword puzzles. I didn't feel like I was missing out on the evening.

Stay calm and matter of fact about this. "Bed" in a matter-of-fact voice and that's it. Keep putting him back to bed. No talking. No chatting, no threats or punishments.

(I should add that re-reading your post, I now catch the broken ankle part. Maybe your husband should be doing this 'teaching' for now and you stay in another part of the house out of sight.)

DO try replacing the side rail first, though. It seems like this could be an easy fix.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Santa Fe on

Try bribing him! If he can stay in three nights in a row he gets x! Then work from there. This worked for our son. He was going to get a bunk bed anyway (he was sleeping on a mattress on the floor) but he did not know that. He was begging and begging for a bunk bed. We told him if he could sleep in his bed all night long every night then he could get one. He wanted that bunk bed!

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answers from New York on

Rather than a lock, you can baby gate him into his room. Explain the rules to him - he's expected to stay in his bed just like his crib, that's what big people do when they have a bed. Tell him that you will NOT come if he calls you (and don't!). If he continues, you can tell him that for each time he calls, you will deduct a minute of tv time, or whatever else he loves. Take everything tempting out of his room if he is getting out of bed to play. He may eventually fall asleep on the floor rather than in his bed and that is okay. He does not need comfort if he didn't need it in his crib. He is making up excuses. Bees are at the park, not at home. Your husband needs to know that for safety's sake, if you have a wandering preschooler, they need to be securely gated into their room.



answers from New York on

we pulled a plum with this one. The first night in his toddler bed was 6/24/2013, he has remained in bed since. About once a week, he might wake up and need us for whatever reason, otherwise, he puts his mobile on, and tucks himself back in.

We have a gate at his door. He hasn't tried to topple or climb the gate. We made a big deal of telling him he must be careful of the gate, otherwise his fingers could get hurt.

Our nighttime interractions with him, on the infrequent occassions when he does get up, are very boring, he doesn't make any requests, he sometimes just wants to revisit something which happened during the day. We say time for bed and tuck him back in.

Long may it so remain.
good luck to you and yours,
F. B.



answers from Washington DC on

Some kids need the railings way past toddlerhood. My 7 year old still has a toddler rail on her bed because she fell out the first night in our new place and it scared her. Periodically, I ask Chickpea if she wants to remove it. So far, she always says no. I'll take it off when she's ready.
3 is also the age when many children develop night terrors and other vague fears. They are old enough to be aware of a much bigger (and scarier) world than before, but lack the emotional tools to process that.


answers from Austin on

Fix the door so it does not stick. Then close it. Put handle covers on the door nob.

Have a "Dutch Door" made for his doorway. Google it.

Get 2 baby gates and stack them one on top of the other..

Get him an extra night light they sell them at Target, Wal Mart, the hardware stores. or get him a flash night.

Learn to just respond with. "It is time to sleep". Even if you find him on the floor next to the door, the gate, whatever, just leave him there. He will get the hang of it.



answers from New York on

If he is wandering around the house, then it's a safety issue, but what if he comes to your bed? I personally have no issue with you? Can you tell him that if he has to leave his room, his only choice is coming to your bed. If he goes anywhere else (beside the bathroom) then you put the gate up. Can he understand those consequences? I think sleep and nighttime should be peaceful and a loving time, but you need to do what feels right. I would NEVER lock my son in his room.



answers from Kansas City on

At my house the rule has always been: you get up once I'm not going to be happy and there better be a darn good reason, you get up twice and you will be spanked. No excuses, no negotiation, bed time is bed time and that is that. Set rules and stick to your guns. You should be able to put him to bed and have him stay in bed with or without the door closed.

Good Luck,




answers from Los Angeles on

Put his mattresses on the floor not on the bed railings (too high).
You can even just do the top mattress (this is best) for ahwile.
Put it in the corner against the wall.
Then as soon as you can, get the bed rail for the other side. Order online
since you can't get around w/your ankle (ouch. I feel badly for you.).

-get a nightlight. If you can't find one at one store, go to a baby store,
hardware, local drugstore etc. This is quicker than ordering online but
if they don't have one, order online. Try Baby R Us or Amazon.

-Make sure he has a sheet, a lovey (stuffed animal) & a cozy little fleece

-put the baby gate across his door. That way door can stay open & you
can hear him.

-If you have to go into his room, don't talk much. Just quietly reassure him, put him back to bed & tuck him in w/a kiss.

-A dream light is awesome for kids. You can buy them at Target, Walmart or online if you can't get around.

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