Dear Father Hood: how do you stop a toddler falling off the bed?

Three times last night, four the night before. No, I’m not boasting about my sexual prowess, I’m talking about the amount of times my wife and I had to deal with our toddler falling off his new “big boy” bed (read: cot with one side taken off).

The good news is we knew that falling onto the floor was a common issue for toddler’s transitioning from a cot to a regular bed, so have covered the danger area in cushions, pillows and soft toys. The bad news is it’s now nearly two weeks since I took the side off his cot and the falls aren’t showing any signs of decreasing.

Yes, he’s had a bit of a cold, and colds always make him toss and turn more than usual. And yes, Britain is enduring a heatwave that has made sleeping extremely uncomfortable. But even allowing for these two things, this is a crisis. A bona fide parental CRISIS!

The potential solutions

So what’s the best way of overcoming a toddler falling out of their bed crisis? Along with the absolute givens of making sure one side of the bed is against a wall and not even thinking about bunk beds, our options include:

  • Putting the side of his cot back on and waiting until he’s 100% ready to move into a “big boy” bed.
  • Buying a toddler bed, which is smaller than a regular bed and has slightly raised sides that help to prevent falls.
  • Moving him onto a mattress on the floor, so he has more space to toss and turn and his falls are less likely to hurt.
  • Moving him into a bed that’s fitted with bed rails.
  • Using duvets and pillows to create a barrier that will prevent him taking a dive.
  • Turning the duvet sideways and tucking it in tightly.

Lots to think about here, so let’s deal with them one by one.

1. Putting the side of his cot back on

This isn’t going to happen, as the little man can climb up and over the bars with ease and pretty much thinks he’s Daring Danny X from Paw Patrol. Thus putting the side back on creates a bigger toddler falling headache than leaving it off. Next.

2. Buying a toddler bed

Positively, a new “inbetweener” bed would excite the little man, take up less space than a double bed and be a lot less risky than moving a two-year-old straight into an adult bed. Negatively, it’s an extra expense and is likely to come as a flat pack. And we all know how good I am at building flat-pack furniture.

3. Mattress on the floor

Psychologist Laura Markham told that this is a good idea, because it “acquaints your child with the idea of sleeping without boundaries, while also preventing serious falls”. I told myself that I can see the logic, but can’t think of a suitable room where we have the floor space to put a mattress, and am not sure how I feel about telling my child to sleep on the floor.

4. Fitting bed rails

Judging by some of the posts in this informative Mumsnet discussion, parents’ biggest concern about attaching rails to the side of a toddler’s bed is that it “won’t actually teach them to stop falling off the bed”, so is simply “storing up the problem” for later. And judging by some of the other comments, this isn’t actually a problem, as the older kids get, the better they are at staying inside the bed’s boundaries.

5. Creating a pillow and duvet barrier

Like most parents, we’ve done the whole “surround him with a wall of pillows and cushions” thing on a number of occasions (e.g. while the little man has caught some Zzzzzss on a bed or sofa at a friend’s house). But is it really safe enough to use as an all-night-long fall prevention technique? Having seen the speed and power at which my sleeping son can scramble, I have my doubts.

6. Turning the duvet sideways and tucking it in tightly

Yes, this is a thing. And what’s more a lot of these Mumsnetters swear by it. My only issue? It involves the kid being snugly tucked in under the duvet. And while I’d be happy to try this in spring, autumn or winter, given the current summer temperatures in the UK it just isn’t going to happen.

Our next move

Each of the above ideas has merit and will work for some parents. But given my son’s daredevil nature and restless sleeping patterns, our budgets and floor space, and the current UK weather, my top two options are…

  1. Toddler bed
  2. Bed rails

Got that? Great, because I need to go and sell this plan to my wife. Wish me luck. And, as ever, feel free to add your comments, hints and tips at the bottom of the page.

Until next time…


  1. We have gone with a toddler bed (who doesn’t want to sleep in a racecar) and an add-on rail. We are still transitioning into the big boy bed. Our problem at the moment is its the middle of winter and he refuses to sleep under a blanket. We are using ‘sleep suits’ but we have to put him in it once he is already asleep or he won’t settle

    • I want to sleep in a racecar (that’s a Simpson’s reference, right – the episode where Millhouse’s parents split up?). Sleep suits sound interesting, I’ll check them out. It’s funny how you’re having issues because it’s winter and we’re having issues because it’s summer. Kids, huh?

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