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We have a large crib that converted into our toddler's bed. It has served us well for some time, but recently there's been a problem concerning our toddler's night-time or nap-time habits.

For some reason, our toddler greatly enjoys flipping the mattress up. Sometimes onto its edge, other times entirely off the bed and onto the floor.

That alone is not a problem - the problem is that once the mattress is out, his natural curiosity has him stepping into the area the mattress once was - the mattress rack. And once in there, he has a great deal of difficulty getting his legs out of the mattress rack.

What can we do to prevent our toddler from getting into that area? Or, what can we do to prevent him from getting his legs caught between the bars of the mattress rack?

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    is getting stuck in the mattress rack not already a natural punishment teaching a great lesson about actions and consequences? how many times has it happened? is it dangerous apart from being stuck, or just annoying? Commented Feb 21 at 2:33
  • What might happen if you strapped the mattress down? Commented Feb 21 at 22:01
  • @RobbieGoodwin That is an option, though I am not sure what kind of straps I could get that wouldn't make it very uncomfortable for my toddler.
    – Zibbobz
    Commented Feb 22 at 3:49
  • @user253751 Incidentally - he's done this every morning for about 3 days straight now. And he gets bruises on his leg from doing it. I think the fun of flipping a huge mattress around his room is outweighing the punishment of getting his legs stuck in his mind.
    – Zibbobz
    Commented Feb 22 at 16:26
  • That sounds as though I was suggesting strapping the toddler down with the mattress… In my imagination, straps will make it uncomfortable for the toddler only if they (greatly) distort the shape of the mattress… as if you put a single strap across the middle, and it jack-knifes the mattress. If straps won't work, why not use a mattress cover… even if that means making one specially to fit this particular mattress on this particular bed? If we were neighbours, I'd do it for you. Commented Feb 22 at 21:32

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I wonder if he's enjoying the feeling of lifting a heavy (but soft) weight? I would see if you can provide opportunities for that sort of play (maybe the sofa cushions instead?) in the day, or if its the stepping on the bars beneath then balancing games/toys might be fun. Then telling him that his bed is for sleeping, not playing, and stopping him from playing with his matress.

If he will not stop, to prevent injury I would remove the actual bed frame and leave his matress on the floor. Such an arrangement is called a 'floor bed' and trendy in some circles.

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  • Oh believe me, he lifts the sofa cushions too. The thing is, that's not dangerous - or at least not as dangerous - because the sofa doesn't have metal bars that he can get his leg stuck in when he lifts them up. As for moving the mattress to the floor, that is a suggestion that we are seriously considering. Though I am worried he'll still wind up flipping the mattress around the room, and that it could knock into his window, his sliding closet doors, his gate, or worst of all himself.
    – Zibbobz
    Commented Feb 20 at 14:33
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If you're interested in simply toddler-proofing the mattress or bedframe situation, you can think about ways to secure the mattress to the frame without creating a choking hazard.

One option might be to put a fitted sheet on the mattress upside down so that it completely covers the part of the mattress that is in contact with the write part of the bedframe. Cut small holes in that fitted sheet and thread a loop/strap through them so that it can secure that bottom fitted sheet to the wire frame (so the loop will go through the holes in the sheet and then loop around one or more of the wires in the bedframe). And then of course use a second fitted sheet to be the normal fitted sheet on the bed.

If you just want to prevent him getting his legs stuck in the bedframe and you're not so concerned about the mattress being moved, you can just put a board or some cardboard over the bed frame and secure it from underneath with whatever tape or fasteners seem sturdy enough to prevent your toddler from pulling the board up too.

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    The board's a good idea, we used a sheet of plywood from home depot cut down to size
    – Cullub
    Commented Feb 21 at 20:06
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I would suggest to calmly remove him from his room every time he starts picking up the mattress.

If the door doesn't have a lock, you can install a hook-and-eye lock on the outside to keep him out for at least a few minutes afterwards.

G-d willing, the message will sink in at some point and the mattress-lifting behavior should decrease.

If he doesn't seem to be getting the message, then by all means go with R Davies's suggestion and banish the bed frame until he's a little older/has more self control.

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  • We have been trying each time he does this, but god in heaven, he has a lot of determination.
    – Zibbobz
    Commented Feb 22 at 3:50
  • @Zibbobz, based on the kinds of questions you are asking, I am wondering if your son has some degree of hyposensitivity: reduced responsiveness to sensory stimuli / injuries. You might want to take a look at Mona Delahooke's book, Beyond Behaviors: Using Brain Science and Compassion to Understand and Solve Children's Behavioral Challenges". She has a chapter on hyposensitivity in children. Commented Mar 18 at 18:39
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If I understand correctly, moving the mattress isn't the real issue, but that he puts his feet in and can't get them back out.

I would not try to stop the mattress lifting. I believe that letting children explore is important. If he lifts out the mattress and then sleeps bad, that's a lesson learned. And things fall over, interesting. And its a weird shape, this moves funny.
Curiosity is a good thing IMO, as long as nobody gets hurt etc.

So skipping the mattress lifting part, we get to the "cant get out part". I can think of a few solutions:

  • Lift out the mattress rack, place a sheet of wood underneath and place it back. You might want to cut some breather holes in, smaller than a foot :)
  • Lift out the mattress rack and staple some fabric to it.
    • If you staple it on top he can't stick his feet through, but it does have hard and soft spots to play around with.
    • If stapled to the bottom he can stick his feet it, but a lot less deep. This does require better fastening, as the fabric should be able to hold more weight as it now pushes the staples out. This would be more fun to experiment with as a toddler.
  • Space the slats further apart. Some racks have 'loose' slats, you could space them a bit more apart so the foot can get out easier. If you move the slats in sets of two (so move slat 1+2 together, 3+4, etc) you keep the overall strength, just spaced a little less optimal, but a child isn't very heavy.

Edit: I just read a comment that the slats are metal. That complicates it a bit, but you could make some wooden slats yourself, or need to come up with a adaptation to my suggestions :) Eg. a tie wrap instead of a staple, etc.

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  1. Does he scream, cry, get panicked when his legs get stuck in the supports?

    • If "Yes" he'll eventually figure out that this is a bad idea and stop doing it. Most people learn from their mistakes. Preventing people from making mistakes removes their chances of learning and leaves them dependent on others to solve all their problems for them for the rest of their lives.
    • If "No" then what's the problem? Is it just annoying to you to have to pick the mattress up and put it back in the bed? Doing annoying & inconvenient tasks is part of parenting.
  2. Is he able to get them out eventually?

    • If "No", then that might be an issue. So long as he's not getting seriously injured, it's an inconvenience and annoyance for you (see above, "inconvenient & annoying" are part of parenting), but he's learning something.
    • If he is getting hurt, then the other answers address how to prevent your child from getting seriously injured. However, though, what he's been through so far is still a learning experience and you can hope that he's learning from it.

TL;DR: Making mistakes and getting minor injuries are how people learn. You say "toddler", so I presume he's learning to walk or has recently learned. He did a lot of falling on his way to learning to walk, and each fall probably hurt a bit. If you prevented every fall, he'd have never learned to walk.

Some additional thoughts:

So long as the bumps & bruises and risk are minor and age appropriate, there's noting wrong with allowing children to explore and play and get those minor injuries. I guarantee he'll fall over and get hurt more than once learning to ride a bike, but that's no reason to never put him on a bike in the first place.

Obviously, when he's tall enough to reach the stove top, he'll burn his hand if allowed to reach blindly above his head. This is NOT the type of minor injury I'm talking about, so let's not get carried away. That's not an age appropriate thing. However, when he's 5, 6, 7 years old, teaching him to cook and how to properly use the stove is probably a good thing. He might burn himself at that point, but will be better able to cope with it then than now. Heck I've got grand kids and still manage to burn myself on occasion, but I know how to deal with it and know if I need to run cold water on it or go to the ER...

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  • (I lolled that your TL;DR is actually longer)
    – Martijn
    Commented Feb 21 at 16:19
  • Fair point, @Martijn. I didn't do the word count... :) Hope it's better now. ;)
    – FreeMan
    Commented Feb 21 at 16:32

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