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On Call: Waking Up to Play

Q. Ever since my 2-year-old learned to climb out of his crib, he gets out every night and plays in his room. Is he getting enough sleep?


A. My bigger concern, actually, is safety: Could he hurt himself climbing out of his crib? And once out, might he fall down any stairs or otherwise get into trouble should he start to wander around unsupervised?

When a kid figures out how to get out of the crib, it's generally time to get rid of it (assuming the mattress is set as low as it can be). If you don't feel ready to buy a regular bed, or are worried about him falling out of one, you can start with a toddler bed, which uses the same mattress as a crib and is generally low to the floor. You could also put a mattress right on the floor. To keep him from wandering into danger, use a gate at the head of the stairs or across the door to his room.

As for the sleep question, kids generally get what they need over a 24-hour period. The fact that your child gets up by himself and plays, rather than crying for you or seeming otherwise bothered, makes me think that his nighttime wakefulness may be the result of a schedule issue. Is he still taking a nap? Maybe he doesn't need it anymore. Does he go to sleep early in the evening or get up late in the morning? Adjusting his bedtime or wake-up time might help. If it doesn't, talk to your pediatrician, especially if your son seems tired or cranky during the day. She can help you figure out what's keeping your son up at night, and how he  -- and you  -- can sleep better.

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