Once your child is no longer safely confined in a crib – and this includes children who are still sleeping in cribs but are able to climb out – you have to think strategically about safety.
Parents often think that confining a child to their room once they are able to get out of bed independently is somehow “mean.”
I couldn’t disagree more.
If there is a fire – god forbid – in your house, you want to know FOR SURE that your child is contained in their room. Having a terrified preschooler wandering the halls in that scenario is incredibly dangerous.
A much more likely scenario is that your child will leave their room and go looking for you, or go get some snacks, or go watch on a device. None of these are ideal from a safety or sleep perspective.
As you may have read in my blog post a couple of weeks ago, children are likely to sleep better and longer when they do not have free reign of the house. Knowing there’s nowhere to go often leads children to sleep longer.
Some children are patient, compliant little people who will wait for you until you open the door in the morning. If you have one of those, great!
If not, consider a baby gate, door knob cover, Door Monkey or lock on the door.
I promise you are not being mean. You are keeping your child safe and well-rested. You are still allowed to respond to their calls for attention. Keep a baby monitor in there if you like. Just make sure it’s up high and out of reach.
Which reminds me: in case it wasn’t already, everything in the room still needs to be bolted to the wall. Dressers and bookshelves are especially dangerous.
I also suggest removing all toys except for stuffies and books. Make the bedroom really boring. Any toys that must be kept in there should go in the closet, ideally locked or up high. We want the room to be as conducive to sleep as possible.
You should continue using blackout curtains and white noise.
And in case I wasn’t clear above, your child should always sleep with their door closed, and so should you. For fire safety reasons. And also because you don’t your child monitoring your every move around the house, staying up late while you anxiously tiptoe around.
Just start out with the rule that everyone sleeps with their doors closed. It’s much easier to start off right than fix a problem later.
If you’d like help corralling your Little Wanderer back to their room for better sleep, schedule a free consult and see how you can achieve your goals in two weeks or less, guaranteed.
PS If you have a question you’d like to see answered in a blog post, please email your question to firstname.lastname@example.org I’d be happy to address it and I am sure lots of other parents have the same question as you!
Abby Wolfson is a pediatric nurse practitioner, certified child sleep consultant and certified life coach for parents. She divides her time between Brooklyn, NY and San Miguel de Allende, Mexico.