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What Age Do Kids Need Bed Rails and Bed Guards?

How to install child bed rails or bed bumpers safely as your toddler transitions from the crib to a big kid bed.
What Age Do Kids Need Bed Rails and Bed Guards?
Updated: December 15, 2022

Transitioning to a big kid bed is a big deal for your little one...and for you too! It’s just another sign that they’re growing up. When your child makes the jump to a toddler bed or a twin bed, safety is priority number one.

For some parents, bed rails at the side of the bed and bed guards give them peace of mind that their child is not going to fall out of bed in the middle of the night. But, before you make the jump, you want to make sure you’re choosing the right bed rails and that they’re installed properly.

We’re going to take a closer look at toddler bed rails, safety concerns, and some things to be mindful of before you install them. We’ll also have some recommendations of bed rails you may want to check out.

Related: Where to Find a Toddler Race Car Bed 

Editor’s Note: We know raising kids can be hard. That’s why we’re dedicated to making your life easier with the latest and greatest parenting advice and products. We wanted to let you know that if you chose to purchase one of the items featured in this post, we may receive a small commission for it.

What Are Bed Rails and Bed Guards?

Bed rails can either come attached to toddler beds by the manufacturer or they can be portable. Portable bed rails are bought separately and are attached to the side of the bed to prevent the child from falling out.

According to the Food and Drug Administration, portable bed rails should only be used with children ages 2-5 who can get in and out of an adult-sized bed by themselves. When you’re buying portable bed rails, you want to be sure you are getting the right rail for the type of bed your child has.

Types of Toddler Bed Rails 

Types of Toddler Bed Rails

Not all toddler bed rails are created equal. There are different types of rails to consider depending on your child’s bed.

Portable Bed Rails 

These are generally bed bumpers that are inflatable, giving you portability. These are typically best if you’re traveling, not if you’re just going to use them at home.

Fixed Bed Rails 

A fixed bed rail is installed under the mattress and doesn’t fold or move. This is one of the simplest types of bed rails.

Fold-Down Bed Rails 

If you don’t want a stationary bed rail, one that folds down is an option. It does its job and gets out of the way when you don’t need it. But, if your child loves to climb, this may not be the best option.

Convertible Bed Rails 

These types of rails can only be used for a toddler bed that has been converted from a crib. You can’t use these with a twin-size bed or a queen-size bed.

If you’re going this route, you’ll need a kit to get the convertible crib kit to turn the crib into a toddler bed. This typically involves lowering the base, so the bed frame is closer to the floor and removing the slats from one side.

Foam Bed Rails

This is typically referred to as a bed bumper. They just lay under the fitted sheet and act as a soft barrier to prevent your child from falling out of bed.

Are Bed Rails Safe?

Are Bed Rails Safe?

Bed rails for young children are safe if they are installed and used properly. There have been safety concerns in the past that have led to the government adopting new guidelines.

In 2012, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), took action in response to reports that side rails caused injury and death. These standards say:

  • Portable bed rails must not create a dangerous gap with the mattress into which a child can fall.
  • Hardware must be permanently attached, and the components can’t be assembled in an unsafe way.
  • Bed rails must have improved warnings on labels and instructions.
  • Installation parts like anchors or straps must be permanently attached to the bed rail and have a warning label on them.
  • Bed rails must not have hazardous sharp edges, points, or small parts.

Bed rails should also never be used with children under the age of 2 because of the increased risk that younger children might get trapped between the rail and their beds.

Consumer Reports has also issued some advice for parents using portable bed rails. They recommend that they are only used on an adult-sized mattress with a box spring. Any other type of bed, including cribs, toddler beds, bunk beds, and other beds without a box spring may not be strong enough to support the rails.

Parents should always check the rails every night before bed to make sure they are secure. It’s also advised to leave at least nine inches between the rail and the head and foot of the bed.

How Do I Know When My Toddler Is Ready for a Toddler Bed?

How Do I Know When My Toddler Is Ready for a Toddler Bed?

As with any other milestone, each child is going to be different. Once you think they can safely get in and out of a toddler bed on their own, they may be ready to make the leap. For some kids, this can be at the 2-year-old mark, while others may be ready sooner or even later.

How Long Do Toddlers Need Bed Rails 

Once you get your child comfy in their new bed and used to the rails, it’s generally recommended that you keep the bed rail until they’re 5 years old. At that point, they should be less likely to fall out of bed and get hurt.

What Should I Look For in Toddler Bed Rails? 

Whether you’re shopping for toddler bed rails in the store or on Amazon, there are certain features you want to look for before you settle on one. Here’s a rundown of what to look for:

Safe Product 

Child safety is number one no matter what you’re buying. The purpose of a bed rail is to prevent injury when your child is sleeping. You want to make sure the guardrail is safe and is not part of any recalls.

Easy to Assemble and Install 

When it comes to putting a bed rail together, you want it to be easy. Look for rails that have easy-to-follow instructions that won’t take you all day to figure out.


Be sure the bed rails you choose will accommodate the bed if it is larger than a typical-sized bed.

How Do You Install Bed Rails Properly? 

How do you install bed rails properly?

While your instruction manuals may be different from product to product, there are some general rules to follow when installing a bed guard.

  • Remove the toddler bed mattress from the bed so you can see the bed slats.
  • Position the legs of the bed rail on top of the wooden bed slates. Make sure the outside of the bed rail sits against the inside of the side rail. Leave at least 9 inches of space between the headboard and the bed rail.
  • Make sure to center the legs of the bed rail on top of the slats. Place 4-inch corner braces on top of the bed slats and against the bed rail legs. Mark the bracket screw holes on the slats and the toddler bed rail legs with a pencil.
  • Line up the bracket screw holes with the pencil marks you made before screwing into the bed rail legs.
  • Reposition the toddler bed rails on the bed slats. Line up the marks on the slats with the holes in the brackets. Attach the bed rails to the slates with the remaining bracket screws.

Once you do the same thing on the other side, you’re ready to put the mattress back on the bed. Remember, these are just typical instructions. The guide for the rails you buy may be different so be sure to read them through before starting installation.

Best Bed Rails for Toddlers 

Just as with anything for kids, the selection of bed rails for toddlers can be overwhelming. That’s why we’ve compiled this list of 5 of the best bed rails for you to choose from.

  1. Munchkin Sleep Toddler Bed Rail

This one will fit twin-, queen-, or full-size mattresses and has swing-down and pinch-free hinges.

  1. Hiccapop Convertible Crib Toddler Bed Rail Guard

This bed guard is easy to use and fits perfectly under a crib mattress.

  1. Regalo Swing Down Bed Rail Guard

Ideal for a queen-size bed or twin bed, this rail guard will keep your child safe as they make the transition into a big kid bed.

  1. Hiccapop Toddler Bed Rail Bumper

If you’re going the foam bed bumper route, this is one to try. It fits under the fitted sheep on top of the mattress.

  1. Summer Infant Double Safety Bed Rail

When you need just a temporary bed rail, this is one to look into. It’s affordable and fits a twin-size bed or queen-size bed.

The Bottom Line on Bed Rails for Kids 

The Bottom Line on Bed Rails for Kids

Bed rails for kids can be a safe option when transitioning them to a big kid bed. There are safety guidelines put in place to help prevent a child from getting hurt when using a bed rail. Be sure any type of rail you choose is installed properly. Check the rails every night before bed to make sure they are securely in place.

When you shop for a toddler bed rail be sure to check safety requirements, look for products that are easy to install and be sure to get one that fits the bed properly.

If you do all of these things, you and your child should have a peaceful night’s rest!

Kristina Cappetta

About Kristina

Having previously worked as a news producer, Kristina left the world of television when her… Read more

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