What To Do When Your Toddler/Child is Getting Out of Bed

What to do when your toddler is getting out of bed or your child is getting out of bed. Whether you have a toddler climbing out of crib or hopping out of bed, this post will help you.

Toddler in bed awake with stuffed animal

When we moved Brayden from a crib to a twin bed, I worried that he would get out of it and the battle that would possibly follow.

Happily for us, he had no issues.

He was about 21 months old when we moved him from the crib to the bed.

We never had an issue with him getting out of bed until he was 3.5 years old.

Getting Out of Bed to Go Potty

It started after he was potty trained.

A couple of weeks after I considered him to be potty trained (just over age three), I went to get him from a nap.

He was still asleep, but he had pooped in his underwear. I talked with him and told him if he needed to go potty, he could get out of bed and go.

A little light went off in his eyes. He had obviously never considered this a possibility of getting out of bed on his own before.

For a couple of days after that, he would come to me during his nap and tell me he had gone potty.

He was going only a small amount, and only so he could get out of bed.

My kiddo kept getting out of bed to go potty.

We then had another talk and I told him that he could go potty if he needed to, but that he couldn’t take advantage of that freedom and go potty whenever he wanted to get out of bed.

We talked about it until he understood. He was good after that and no longer took advantage of the situation.

But then when Brayden was about a month shy of 3.5–so a three year old), he again began to test the limits on this freedom.

He no longer used going potty as the excuse; he hunted for every excuse he could think of.

He needed a drink of water. I started to allow him to keep a sippy cup of water in his bed.

He would come to me with question after question.

He wondered what time he could get out of bed. I taught him how to tell time and what time was acceptable to get up.

At first, that worked fine, but then he would just sit and stare at the clock instead of sleep at all.

He went to taking maybe one nap a week. He would not sleep. He was tired.

Something had to be done.

Toddler in crib

What to Do When Your Toddler or Child is Getting Out of Bed

It is important for you to note that your child will most likely test the boundary of staying in bed at some point. Kids love to test boundaries, and this one is no different.

Here are some tips for parents who are facing this situation.

Have Certain Privileges Contingent Upon Staying in Bed

One thing I did was move certain privileges to after nap time, and those were conditional upon him staying in bed.

For him, this was TV time. He didn’t get TV time unless he stayed in bed for his nap.

That worked for a while, but he again started to come up with new excuses to get out of bed.

A big part of this I knew was a result of my being so sick for my first trimester of pregnancy (pregnant with my third baby).

He had more freedom during that time (as is common when mom is pregnant) and had started to become ‘wise in his own eyes.‘ There was some retraining that needed to happen here.

Reward for Staying in Bed

I tried rewarding him for taking a nap rather than simply punishing him for getting out of bed. That didn’t seem to make any impact on him.

That does not mean, however, that it will not work to keep your toddler in bed. Give rewards a try and see if it works for your child’s personality.

You might find something as simple as putting a sticker on a sticker chart each time she stays in bed to be motivating enough.

If consequences do not work for your child, then a positive reward system, like a sticker chart, might be a good solution for you.

You can let your child add a sticker to the chart each day he did not get out of bed. The reward chart can work toward a bigger goal, like a special treat, movie, or outing.

Change The Daily Schedule

Sometimes sleep issues like this come up because there needs to be a change to the daily schedule in some way.

You might need to shorten the nap, drop the nap, or change what time you have bedtime.

You might need to have your toddler, preschooler, or child do more physical activities in the day to be tired enough to go to sleep.

The same can be true for being mentally stimulated enough for sleep. Some learning activities each day can solve that.

>>>Read: How To Do a Learning Activity of the Day

I started to wonder if Brayden was ready for rest time rather than naptime.

He didn’t misbehave the days he didn’t take a nap (other than not staying in bed).

For whatever reason, I just didn’t think he was ready for full rest time. I knew he didn’t need a nap every day, but he also wasn’t ready for the expectation of a nap or two a week.

>>>Read: How to Do Rest Time {Instead of Naps}

Be Consistent In Response and Consequences

As you try out different ways to solve your kiddo getting out of bed at night or in the day, you need to be consistent in how you respond and what the consequences are for doing so.

Do not give in to fits if and when then erupt when you give consequences.

Consistency always pays off.

Over time, we re-established proper freedoms for Brayden’s age. We also had one pivotal day where I finally found the currency that worked for him.

I told him if he got out of bed, I was going to take his clock away. Well, he did, and so I did. He was very upset about this and started to cry. I told him he had made his decision. He cried for about thirty minutes before he finally just fell asleep.

From that day forward, he has stayed in his bed flawlessly. A month later, he was once again taking naps most days of the week instead of just one day a week.

He had his clock back and wanted to keep it that way.

As your child gets out of bed over and over, think about exactly how you want to respond. It is wise to stay calm and non-emotional.

If you do take your child back to bed, do so quickly and without frills. Don’t read another bedtime story. Don’t give a million kisses. Don’t repeat your routine. You already did all of that.

Do not make this fun for your child.

Some find good success by not putting their child back in bed. If the child gets out, he has to put himself back to bed, but that won’t always work, especially with younger toddlers.

Have a Solid Bedtime Routine

If your toddler keeps getting out of bed, consider your bedtime routine. Make sure your routine will soothe your kiddo and help him settle down for sleep.

Avoid rough play before bed and limit screen time for about an hour before bedtime. Blue light from screens is known to mess with circadian rhythm and make it so people can’t fall asleep.

Be sure you have a consistent routine that helps your child wind down.

Set Up a Restful Sleep Environment

Have a good sleep environment for your child. Some elements to consider include:

  • sleep in own bed
  • lights dim (or even blackout curtains)
  • naps should be in own room (not with other people in the room)
  • a sound machine can help a toddler sleep better. The sound machine helps drown out any enticing noises that might draw your little one out of bed.
  • Shut the bedroom door to help block out noise.

Some children might do well if they are allowed to have a book, or even a few books, to look at in bed.

If your child is still in a crib, you might consider moving to a toddler bed or twin bed. Sometimes being in a bed is more comfortable than a crib.

Sometimes moving to a twin bed instead of a toddler bed will keep your kiddo in bed since the bed is so much higher off the ground.

You could also try some bedrails on the bed. Sometimes seeing a phyiscal barrier there will help remind the child to stay put.

Along the same line of thinking, if you have the door open, try closing the door for sleep (this is actually the safer way to sleep in case of fire). Some parents use a baby gate instead.

Remove Excuses

As you find your child coming out of his room with excuses, work to remove those excuses.

Is your child constantly thirsty? Keep a cup of water by the bed.

Is your child constantly scared of the dark? Get a night light.

>>>Read: What To Do When Your Child is Scared of the Dark

If your kiddo wants to know if it is time yet, teach your child to read time or get an Okay to Wake Clock.

Always needing to go potty? Make sure potty happens before nap, but even so, there will be times your child will need to go potty before nap or bed. You might allow for going once after being put to bed or might even put a potty in the room with your kiddo and have him call to you if he actually uses it.

Consider Sleep Regression

By now, you know sleep regressions are a real thing. Your kiddo might be struggling to fall asleep because of a sleep regression and then coming to visit you.

>>>Read: How To Deal with the 2 Year Old Sleep Regression

Address Separation Anxiety

Your kiddo could be getting out of bed because of some sort of anxiety. If that is happening, be sure to talk with your child about it and address it.

The best time to talk about it is NOT when it is time for bed. If real worries are happening, you will want to take the time to talk about it when you are not trying to get your child back in bed and your child is trying to stay out of it.


If you have a toddler getting getting out of bed, or a preschooler or child getting out of bed, hopefully this story can help you with problem solving.

The first thing to consider is your child’s freedom level. He probably is being allowed more freedom than he can handle during the day. Children need to be reminded at times that they are kids, not parents.

Then, search out proper rewards/consequences for his actions.

Fortunately, we didn’t have issues with night sleep at this age. If you do, the same ideas can apply.

These tips can help you with naps and night sleep to get your child staying in bed when it is time to sleep. Good luck!

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This post originally appeared on this blog December 2008

When your toddler won't stay in bed pinnable image

29 thoughts on “What To Do When Your Toddler/Child is Getting Out of Bed”

  1. Is it fair to say that Brayden’s relative ease of this transition is directly related to you taking charge as a parent from the beginning with BW I?

  2. This is a perfect example of how consistency is so important. We are dealing with issues of William getting out of bed after we put him down for the night. I haven’t been as consistent as I should be. It’s all about needing a drink of water, needing the light on just right, needing all of his animals, needing to go potty. The list goes on. His currency is closing the door, but because I know it upsets him so much I am reluctant to do it. There have been a couple times that I have told him no more and that I would close the door (like you taking away the clock) and didn’t stick to my guns. This is why it has gone on for as long as it has. Interestingly, my DH put him to bed the other night and he didn’t make a peep! Usually, Daddy is the softy, but my DH doesn’t have the inconsistent track record that I seem to have. Time to buckle down!

  3. thanks for sharing this story! Will definitely keep these ideas in mind. However, my daughter is only 19 months old. We just started trying to transition her to her toddler bed this week (we have baby #2 coming in January, that’s why we are transitioning so soon). She was getting out of her bed at nap times (so she just went to the crib), but she stayed in bed at night time the first two nights. At first i thought she had caught on… until last night. we put her to bed and she got up about 5 times before we finally put her in her crib. any suggestions on how to get a younger toddler to understand about staying in bed? she sort of understands because when i tell her she needs to get back in bed, she will… she just won’t stay there. thanks!

  4. Thanks for sharing! We’ve recently begun having a problem with our 2 1/2 year old putting off bedtime. Today I realized my currency for bedtime is singing him a song before I leave the room. I also really believe we have been giving too many freedoms… he is a very good talker and it FEELS like talking to an adult. It is so hard to not give him the same options that I would give to myself! Thanks for the reminder!

  5. We transitioned our 18 month old into a toddler bed to prepare for baby #2. At first she stayed in bed at night, but it didn’t take long for her to realize she could get out of bed. At first, I would just put her back in bed without any conversation, maybe a kiss and putting her blanket back on her, but that was it. Boring. This worked for awhile until the baby arrived 2 months later. Then her world turned upside down and she started exercising her freedoms. Bedtime became very difficult. We tried everything in the book and online. Going into her room and putting her back in bed became social/comedy hour. We then bought a monitor with a screen and I would sit by her door and anytime she would begin to get up, I would say “lay down” or “stay in bed”. The key for us was to teach her to lay in bed. She would test her limits and talk a lot in the beginning, sometimes up to 1 1/2 hours, but now she talks for maybe 5-15 minutes, rarely tests her limits and falls asleep. It was well worth the few weeks to teach her. I never did anything for her naptime, because she never was a good napper. I did the feed/wake/nap schedule with her, but assisted her in all her naps like taking walks, rocking her to sleep, driving her around. AAAugh! I wonder if I can get a 23 month old to take naps now? She does sleep 11-12 hours at night and she has an hour long rest time in the afternoon, but never sleeps.

  6. Maureen, We luckily haven’t ever had bedtime issues. He stays in bed at nighttime with no problems. Brayden started his “delay bedtime” tricks young–around 18 months. I have been able to avoid those (knock on wood). You are right, consistency is key. And I never make a ‘threat’ I will not follow through on. He knows I mean what I say–even though he still sometimes tests it 🙂

  7. Julia,That is a tough one. My first thought would be it sounds like she just isn’t old enough to know what is expected of her. I totally see why you are tranisitioning right now, though.I would look at her daytime obedience. How is she at obeying you, and how are you at expecting obedience. Also look at her freedoms during the day and make sure she doesn’t have too many. See the posts linked in the body of the post for more on those ideas.

  8. Flanagan,You are most welcome! It can be hard staying ahead of those oldest children. They spend more time thinking of delay tactics than we do 🙂

  9. SweetSweetBabies,That is some good advice for fixing that problem. They often will start having problems in some area after a new sibling arives.As for naps…I would say it is definitely worth the effort to get there. Something for you to know is that she definitely needs a nap at that age. You should have at least 1, closer to 2, possibly more, years of a daily nap from her. I don’t have any experience with that…but I would try 😉

  10. I love this post. Sometimes reading your posts can be overwhelming because everything seems to work out so perfectly. It’s nice to see that it took some problem solving and work. I’m having issues right now with Noah staying in bed for a nap. He plays before he goes to sleep. In some ways it’s felt like an advantage because it lasts longer, but I’m questioning whether it’s too much freedom for him. Thanks for giving me such direction on how to handle things.

  11. I am ashamed to say that we fell off the Babywise wagon quite some time ago. When my ds was 7 months old, we moved to a different state, and our lives were basically turned upside down. Because he had just started crawling, we let him have free run of the apartment. Little by little, everything we had worked so hard for in those first 7 months started to fall apart. Then I became pregnant, and miscarried a few months later. Then we found out my FIL had terminal cancer and lost him less than a year later. Then we got pregnant again and the two children are almost exactly 2 years apart. A few months later we moved into our first house. In all of this, we kind of let things go. My 2.5 year old now is a handful. It takes us a half hour to get him to bed (he was never easy, even when we were good with the Babywise) because he just keeps popping up. We've tried spanking, we've tried taking his beloved duck that he can't sleep without(that just seems to make it worse), we've tried ignoring him and just picking him up and putting him back in bed. At one point, my husband had to do this 40 times before he stayed. Now we are sitting in his room reading a book and not giving him any attention for 15 minutes. This has helped, but he will still pop up at least twice. Of course, he gets out of bed before us all in the morning and will come in our room and wake us up. We have always had a consistent bedtime routine and lights out time (7:30). I read your post on freedoms, and just recently borrowed toddlerwise and preschoolwise from the library. I just feel like I'm loosing it, and the tension in our home is thick. I find I'm yelling so much during the day that I'm utterly exhausted by 3pm. We've implemented Babywise for our 7 month old, and thankfully she's on a good schedule. But my 2 year old is becoming a nightmare. We took him to swim lessons last week for the first time, and he wouldn't listen to his dad or the teacher. He just screamed. We were so embarrased we haven't gone back. I want to jump back on the wagon, but I'm not really sure where to start. Any advice?

  12. Cmerie, The first place to start is by reading the books. Then just decide what to implement first and take it one step at a time.It is good to work on eating and sleeping things first because a well-rested and well-fed child is better able to be obedient.Then just be patient as you work on things. It will take time, but he will get there. Good luck!

  13. We are preparing to transition my 19 month old to a toddler bed since baby #2 is coming in May. I know we still have sometime, but I wanted him to be completely transitioned and not have any issues once the baby is here.My son currently is unable to open door and even if he was I was planning on putting one of those door safety things so he can't open it from the inside. For one, its a safety reason in case he gets up in the middle of the night, and two, I figured if he got up and there were no toys to play with I would just leave him there. What are your thoughts on that? Instead of giving him attention by going back in there every time he wakes (he would like that) I would have the attitude of, if you want to sleep on the floor fine. Not sure if this is how I should go about it though.

  14. LEM, that is the strategy suggested in Parenting with Love and Logic. I think you can definitely try it and see what happens!One thought. You most likely don't need to give it this much time. I do one month; I think two months would be sufficient. If you end up having issues, you can go back to the crib until he is a bit older and better able to exercise self-control.I know some moms will leave the crib up and tell the child if he gets out, he sleeps in the crib instead. Most kids love to go to a big bed and don't want that consequence. So that is another idea for you.

  15. My 3 year old son was raised on BW and slept through the night great until he turned 2. Then he started waking up crying a lot so we took him out of his crib into a regular size bed. He would come down and wake us 4/5 times a night. I would bring him back to his bed and then a few hours later he came down again. we put a gate up at his door and that worked until he learned to open the gate. Then we locked his door and would let him cry until he went back to bed which worked for awhile. Now he says he's scared to have his door locked and also the Dr doesn't like that idea either. But now I'm not locking the door and he's back to waking me up 3,4, or 5 times throughout the night. I bought a clock that turns green when he's allowed to get out of bed but that doesn't work either. I am pregnant with #4 and would like to be getting as much sleep as I can before September arrives. My 8 and 1 year old sleep great Thank God!! Any suggestions PLEASE & THANK YOU :)??

  16. boysrus,If it were me, I would try to find something that means a lot to him and tell him if he can't stay in his bed, he will lose X priviledge. TV, visits to grandmas, whatever it is that he loves.I would also look at the imagination blog label and read up on that so you can be sure you are helping him to tame his imagination in case he is scared.

  17. I have a 22 month old that has always been a good sleeper until this week. She started climbing out of her crimb and now I can't get her to sleep unless I put her to sleep by rocking or quiet time. I had planned to move her to a twin bed in the next few months before my 3rd baby is due but knew she wasn't ready. I am re reading Toddlerwise to get her sleep on her own again. Any suggestions?

  18. You have a few options.One is called a "crib tent." I haven't ever used one, but my neighbors have and loved it. They used it with their twins.Another is to simply put her back in bed every time she gets out with no talking/interaction. You could say, "Time to sleep. Go to sleep".A third is to make her room safe and just let her fall asleep where she is.If it were me, I think I would start with repeatedly putting her back to bed. This will take time and patience and lots of energy.If that didn't work, I would probably move on to the crib tent until she can demonstrate she can stay in bed when she should. She is old enough to grasp that concept.Good luck!

  19. this is helpful for me to read. We are having two issues with my 2.25 year old son. 1) he is not staying in bed at night. He repeatedly gets out of bed, up to an hour's time worth. He then keeps his little bro up (9 months old in the same room) while getting up and making noise. We've only been taking him back to bed. But now, it's time to implement reward and/or punishment. 2) He is not staying in bed until his alarm goes off in the morning. 🙁 He gets up about 6am and toddles to our room. I or my hubby take him back to bed. About 15 minutes later, he toddles back, announcing, "diaper change!" to which we change his diaper then head him back to bed. Sometimes he gets books to look at; sometimes not. how can I encourage this little guy to stay in bed? & How can I get him to sleep longer in the am (he was sleeping until 7am, two months ago) OR is there something I can do to help him "wait" for his morning poopy diaper?????

  20. I would first put some sort of white noise in the room to help muffle noises for the 9 month old if you haven't already. This is a symptom of something bigger. either he is not ready for the freedom of sleeping in a bed he can get out of, or he isn't listening to you in general. How does he listen in the day? Does he follow your instructions? If so, I would try a pack and play or somehing at night and tell him when he can stay in his room like he is supposed to, he will sleep in that bed. Do you have dark blinds in his room? The sun might be waking him up in the morning. Do you allow him to get up on his own when the alarm goes off? I would stop that for now if you are. He obviously isn't ready for that since he gets out early. Just make sure there is no reward for getting up early. There was once a time when I would let Brayden watch a show when he got up early so I could try to get more sleep (this is when McKenna was a newborn). He just got up earlier and earlier to watch TV, so I stopped that and he just was sent back to bed if he got up early. Then he had no reason to wake up early. You could try putting books in bed with him to look at until you come get him, but I wouldn't give them to him as a "reward" for getting up early.

  21. Hi. Thank you for all the good advice, I love this site and often come back to it for info.However, I seem to have the opposite problem. My daughter is 2 yrs 3 months old. She has been in a toddler bed since she was 9 months old because we didn't have a crib. She sleeps well and she never gets out of bed. That’s my problem! She has now been potty trained for five months. During the day she goes potty all by herself = we only have to help if there are tricky buttons or something. At night, I make sure to dress her in loose fitting, 2 piece pj’s, so that they are easy to manipulate if she needs to go potty. Almost every night she is done with all food and drinks at least 30 minutes before bed – so she doesn’t have to go in the middle of the night. This usually works, but we are not perfect and some nights she is eating or drinking snacks right before bed. If she needs to go potty she just sits in her bed and says, “I have to go potty” over and over and over. I tell her everynight before she goes to bed that she can get out of bed if she needs to go potty – to no avail.Should I be worried about this – or is it possibly just that she needs more help when she is sleepy?Also, she wont get out of bed in the morning on her own. She sits there awake (usually saying so over and over) until we come and get her. Am I missing something that she is needing – or is she just not ready yet to have that [email protected]

  22. Tina, She is young for handling the freedom of getting out. I think you have a good problem on your hands :)In the day, does she just run and go potty by herself or does she ask for help? If she asks for help, there is no chance of her doing it alone at night in the dark. For now, I would just help her go potty in the night. When she gets older, she will be able to do it alone.

  23. Help! My son is 25 months old and he just figured out how to crawl out of his crib and every time I put him down for a nap he crawls out and won't nap for several days now! He has been BW since almost birth. Always a great napper, usually 3-3.5 hour naps consistently, taking him about 15 minutes to wind sown before falling asleep. He would lay down in his crib and either talk to himself or flop around for a bit, but then wind down and fall asleep. He has been super cranky, so I know he needs a nap but I don't know how to keep him in his crib. I know eventually he will transition to a toddler bed, but I'm so confused at how to get him to lay down and fall asleep. I need your advice!!

  24. So, we finally decided to transition our son to a toddler bed. He loves it! He sleeps very well at night but we are still having issues with him napping. He plays nicely in his room but won't stay in bed like he does at night. After about two hours of playing, he gets exhausted. I go back in his room, lay him down and he finally will stay in bed and go to sleep for two hours + . I just wish he would lay down like he used to in his crib and fall asleep sooner. I feel bad that he is spending so much time in his room. I tried putting him down earlier, right after lunch, but it didn't seem to help. I also tried later, but then he is so wound up he won't nap at all. Any thoughts?

  25. So, we finally decided to transition our son to a toddler bed. He loves it! He sleeps very well at night but we are still having issues with him napping. He plays nicely in his room but won't stay in bed like he does at night. After about two hours of playing, he gets exhausted. I go back in his room, lay him down and he finally will stay in bed and go to sleep for two hours + . I just wish he would lay down like he used to in his crib and fall asleep sooner. I feel bad that he is spending so much time in his room. I tried putting him down earlier, right after lunch, but it didn't seem to help. I also tried later, but then he is so wound up he won't nap at all. Any thoughts?


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