Toddler Guard Rails: When To Use, Top Picks, When To Remove

The transition from a crib to a “big kid” bed is a significant milestone that marks the conclusion of the baby era.

It can be an exciting time, but it will also tug at your heartstrings. For your tot, it can be a very exciting moment as it makes them feel more independent and “grown up.”

As you begin your search for your toddler’s next bed, you will want to keep their safety a top priority.

Toddler guard rails are necessary for preventing your toddler from accidentally sliding or rolling out of bed while they are sleeping. Installing guard rails is a simple and effective technique that parents can use to maintain a safe sleep environment for their children. 

The following contains information about the different types of guard rails that you can install on your toddler’s bed and gives a run down of how to choose the best guard rail to suit your child’s needs. 

Toddler Guard Rails

Remember when having a child was a brand-new experience and you felt totally unprepared to be completely responsible for another human being?

Now your baby is a toddler, and you are a parenting pro!

Making a transition from a baby crib to a big-kid bed is a big deal, but with the proper safety measures in place, you can take it in stride just as you have everything else so far.

Why Use Guard Rails?

Your toddler is used to a crib that keeps him contained while he rolls about in his sleep.

However, when you transition out of the crib into a toddler or twin bed, there is nothing to prevent him from rolling too far and falling off the bed.

Enter guard rails! They are a quick and easy solution to make sure that your little “big” kid continues to sleep safely in his new bed.  

Types of Toddler Guard Rails

If you are in the market for a guard rail for your toddler’s new bed, you have a few different options to choose from depending on your needs and circumstances: 

Portable Guard Rails

These are probably the bed rails that you are most familiar with or have seen the most often.

Portable bed rails are like mesh bumpers that slide under the mattress on the side of the bed and create a mini wall to prevent your toddler from falling off of the bed.

This type of bed rail is a great option if you are traveling as it can be used on any bed and is easy to move.  

Fixed Guard Rails

Fixed bed rails are a similar style to portable bed rails, only more permanent.

Rather than sliding under the mattress, it sits outside the mattress and locks in place until a parent removes it.

This type of rail typically attaches at the middle, leaving a gap for the child’s head and feet, and prevents them from sliding or rolling off the bed at night. 

Fold/Swing-Down Guard Rails

Just as the name suggests, fold-down bed rails are able to be folded down when not in use.

The bottom of the rail stays locked in place however, the bumper is able to be folded down for a more tidy look during the day or when cleaning, making the bed, etc. 

Convertible Guard Rails

If you purchased a convertible crib, you should look into a convertible bed rail kit that is designed for the crib-to-toddler bed transition.

The convertible bed rail takes the place of the crib rail, turning the bed into a toddler bed and keeping active toddlers safe during naptime and bedtime. 

Bumper Guard Rails

Think of a bumper bed rail as an oversized, extra-high foam pillow that prevents your child from rolling out of bed.

Instead of being installed on the bed or under the mattress, bumpers are kept in place by a fitted sheet.

They are a perfect option for traveling or if you prefer something more simple. 

A cute little girl lying on her side in bed with a teddy bear.

What To Look For in Guard Rails

When it comes to anything for your child, quality matters. Read through the following before you go shopping.

Safety

Your child’s safety is always the top priority. While all guard rails can be good and serve a purpose, there may be one that is best for you given your circumstances and what will be the safest option for your child. 

While portable bed rails can be perfectly safe and effective for older toddlers, they are probably not the best option for young toddlers, especially those under the age of 2.

They are not as sturdy as fixed bed rails, and your toddler could easily push it out of place and get hurt while trying to climb it, play on it, sit on it, etc.

Another thing to consider is that portable bed rails are NOT compatible with toddler beds.

Toddler mattresses are not heavy enough to secure them into place, leaving them loose and unstable.

Therefore, younger toddlers, especially those with toddler beds, would likely benefit most from a fixed or convertible guard rail. 

Another thing to keep in mind is proper installation. Be mindful of any gaps between the mattress and the rail that could pose a risk of entrapment or suffocation to your toddler. 

Ease of Assembly and Installation

While shopping for guard rails, take a look at what reviews say about the assembly and installation of the product.

We probably all know from experience that most baby/kid things can be a nightmare to set up or install.

Transitioning out of the crib should be a fun experience — not one to be ruined by difficult instructions!

Try to find the product that meets your safety needs and also has reviews for easy assembly and installation.

You want something secure, but you also want to be able to install it without a degree in engineering!

Size

Always double-check the size of the guard rail, and make sure it will fit the bed or mattress to which it will be attached. 

You want to make sure the rail will be tall enough to protect your child once it is installed.

Measure the thickness of the mattress, and determine how tall the guard rail will be once it is attached.

Very thick mattresses may obstruct guard rails, making them shorter than advertised. 

Length is also important. Measure the length of the mattress and the length of the guard rail to ensure that it is long enough.

The guard rail does not need to extend the entire length of the mattress — it should only cover the middle and leave small gaps by your child’s head and feet.

The gaps should not be big enough for your child to slide through. 

Materials and Quality

You want to select a bed rail that is durable and will suit your child well. The frame should be made of a sturdy material, such as metal or steel, that can hold your child’s weight.

Plastic is a safe option for older kids who will not need guard rails for much longer. 

For the sides, you will want a breathable material such as mesh or nylon.  

When To Remove Toddler Guard Rails

It is recommended that you use a toddler bed rail for your child until at least age 5.

Even if they can climb well at a younger age, you cannot predict what will happen when they sleep, and you want to prevent them from falling off the bed. 

A cute little girl sitting on her white toddler bed.

Best Bed Rails for Toddlers

Here are a few highly recommended guard rails with great ratings to get you started on your search:

TotCraft Safety Guard Rail

This is a fixed, fold-down guard rail that fits any size bed. It is safe, sturdy, easy to clean, and super easy to install!

ComfyBumpy Extra Long Toddler Bedrail Guard

This is another, more aesthetically pleasing, fixed, fold-down option! It’s also suitable for beds of all sizes and easy to install. 

Primica Bed Bumpers for Toddlers

If you don’t want to go with a guard rail, try this bumper! It is a simple design, easy to clean, and super easy to install — just slip it under the fitted sheet, and you’re good to go! 

Tips for Transitioning From Crib to Toddler Bed

The following tips might help the transition go as smoothly as possible, but every child is unique, so adjust your routine until you find what works best for your toddler.

  • Time it right: Don’t rush the process. Wait until your child is showing signs of readiness. Also avoid doing it simultaneously with another big change (potty training, no bottle, etc.)
  • Consider a convertible: This makes the change less drastic
  • Keep exploration to a minimum: Do last calls for water, stuffed animals, or potty trips before tucking in, and make sure your toddler knows it’s final.
  • Solid, consistent bedtime routine
  • Let your toddler pick out special bedding that they love 
  • Childproof your house
    • Gates on stairs
    • Bolt bookcases and TVs to wall
    • Cover electrical outlets
    • Put safety latches on dresser drawers
    • Put a baby gate at your child’s bedroom door 
    • Lock windows and doors to outside or basement
  • Praise baby for good bedtime habits
  • Don’t expect an easy transition: Practice patience!

How To Keep Toddler Safe Without Guard Rails

If guard rails aren’t your thing, there are still things you can do to keep your child safe.

Consider putting the bed in a corner to cut down the number of edges from which they could fall.

You should also place a pillow, bean bag chair, or thick blanket by the bed that will provide cushioning if they do fall. 

The safest option, if you are not going to use guard rails, is to have a very low bed or a floor bed, which is simply a mattress on the floor.

This eliminates any dangers, even if your child was to roll off at night. 

Related Questions:

Are Bed Rail Bumpers Safe for Toddlers?

Bumpers are a safe option for toddlers and act as a “speed bump” to keep them from rolling off of the bed. 

When Is Baby Ready for Toddler Bed?

The answer to this question is different for every baby! There really is no specific age; it just depends on when your child begins displaying signs of readiness.

Your child should be able to climb in and out of the bed on their own and, preferably, should be old enough to understand boundaries.

This will be helpful and eliminate the fear of them wandering the house while you are sleeping.

Some tots transition as early as 18 months, which is a bit on the early side, and others wait until they are closer to 3 years old. 

Try not to rush it — it will come soon enough! Wait until your baby is truly ready to leave the crib. 

Final Thoughts

There you have it! I hope this information makes your search a little easier!

May your crib-to-toddler bed transition be a great one for both your little one and you!