The Bed Tent Saga

This saga has many chapters.  My attempt today is to summarize them here.  And my hope — and prayer! — is to report back about this next time with the greatest of news!

Chloe does not stay in her bed.  She has no judgement of what’s safe and what’s not.  She has no qualms about silently walking out the front door at any time of day or night and wandering who-knows-where.  She doesn’t think twice about getting in the bathtub fully clothed at any time of day or night and filling up the bathtub with who-even-cares-the-temperature of water.  She has been known to sneak out to the garage, get in the car, and start the engine.  I cannot even begin to list all the scenarios she has gotten herself into nor all the possibilities of scenarios that she could get into.  She completely lacks judgement.

Therefore, staying in bed is not something that we can necessarily take the time to train her to do.  (I’m not even sure it is possible to train her to do it, actually.)  When safety is the number one issue, it is just a matter of finding something that works to keep her in her bed.

The above paragraph goes completely against the first-time-obedience parenting I used to practice.  **Huge understatement warning: But having a special needs child makes one rethink their parenting style. In fact, contrary to some of my child-training and child-rearing heroes’ beliefs, some of those great parenting ideas just don’t work with special needs kids.  I struggled with that realization for a time before I discovered and admitted that those professionals are just plain wrong . . .  it doesn’t work with every child. . . it doesn’t work with my child.  So there!  I said it!  And if you are still struggling with parenting your special needs child in a way that you’ve been assured will work for her/ him, then feel the freedom to say, “NO.  It doesn’t work.”  Ok.  That’s all on that.  (Wow.  A soapbox that I didn’t realize I even had!)

Anyway, back to the bed tent saga.

Chloe is very tiny for her age and always has been.  She slept in a crib until she was 6 or 7 years old.  While she was in the crib, we had a crib tent on her crib to keep her safely inside.  These crib tents are $70 a piece and are not the best of quality.  We went through four or five of these tents while she was in her crib.  As I installed the very first one, I tore a hole in it the first time I zipped it.  Even repaired, these holes would spread and grow.  Chloe learned quickly to poke a little hole near the zipper, stick her skinny little fingers out, and unzip the bed.  We used carabiners, ribbons, all kinds of things to try to rig the zippers to stay closed.  All those tricks were just new challenges for my little Houdini who escaped numerous times.  The crib tents would tear.  The zippers would break.  Eventually, I couldn’t repair it anymore, and I would order a new one.  I love the crib tents — they’re ingenious.  But I do wish they were higher quality.

We moved Chloe to a toddler bed a couple of years ago.  I looked and looked for a toddler bed tent but never found one.  So for two years, I rigged the crib tent to work on the toddler bed.  We, of course, had the same issues of tearing and breaking zippers, and little Houdini keeping us on our toes as we tried every single trick in the book to keep that tent closed up.  We replaced the rigged crib tent another 3 or 4 times.  $70 a pop.

Besides velcro and carabiners and safety pins and Duck Tape and needle and thread, we also utilized threats and rewards and punishments.  But none of it was hugely successful.

We would go through a few weeks of a system that worked, but eventually Chloe would figure out how to escape every time.

Last year, we moved Chloe to a twin bed since she had finally outgrown the toddler bed.  For months (years, actually) we had contemplated what in the world we would do when we could no longer use the crib tent.  We came up with some great ideas and some not so great ideas.  I’ll spare you from them for now.

But when we moved Chloe to her twin bed, we went with one of Paul’s ideas, and it’s a great one.  We bought her a bunk bed and turned it around so that the ladder is against the wall.  We didn’t put a mattress on the top bunk so it doesn’t even look like a bunk, really.  We didn’t want the thought of it being a bunk bed to even cross Chloe’s mind or she’d be climbing up top!  I sewed a “tent” that we stapled to the top bunk and then to the bottom, closing her in.  I installed 3 zippers and we closed them with carabiners to make sure it was secure.  It looked great!

But she got out of it 4 times the first night.  Each time she escaped, I called Paul in there to examine how she had escaped and what we could do to secure it.  We secured the tent enough to last a few nights at a time before something needed to be repaired or thought through.  We had still not landed on the perfect solution.  Ugh.

Last week Paul constructed doors to attach to the front of the bed tent.  That way we could secure the doors closed and keep her in her bed.  The first night Chloe pulled the doors off of their hinges.  Still not a home run for the parents.  Chloe was still not safely stuck in her bed.

BUT THEN . . . .

My friend Maranda mentioned in the comments section of this blog that she had found a special needs tent online.  A new one.  Believe me, I have researched bed tents and special needs bed tents for hours!!  And this one wasn’t available then!  I immediately clicked to learn more about the Nickel Bed Tent.  It is a bed created by the mom and dad of a child with special needs.  I smiled as I pictured them going through the same steps that Paul and I have been going through for years.  But the big difference is they have apparently landed on something that works!  I ordered one right away.  The tent right now only comes in boy colors.  Think I care?  My daughter currently has DOORS attached to her bed!  Aesthetics is not a big factor here!  (And besides I think the colors are just fine!)



Now I am spending my time each day with my nose pressed against the front windows watching for the mailman, hoping that today is the day of our big delivery.

Can’t wait to give you the update!  Here’s hoping for AMAZING results!!  🙂




44 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Paul Mastin on February 10, 2011 at 12:19 PM

    Thanks for calling my idea “great.” And thanks for not pointing out my obviously inadequate carpentry skills. I was thinking rabbit hutch in my door construction. I should have called someone who builds the bull riding chutes for the Stock Show and Rodeo to bring his welding equipment and some steel to help me construct an adequate enclosure for our sweet little angel.


  2. Complete lack of judgement? Check. Inability to control impulses? Check. Bed tent to keep said child safe? Dear God, please let it be soon! Haha. Of course you already knew I could relate. 🙂


    • By the way, I contacted the seller to see when they would ship (because we are that desperate) and they said the tents are hung up in customs and they willowy a notice on the website as soon as they are ready to ship…which is completely different from what’s currently posted on the website, but oh well.


      • OH NO!!! You’re right — that is NOT what the website says!!! UGH. My heart is so broken over this! Thanks for the update. I can at least peel my nose off of the freezing cold window since I know the mailman isn’t coming today . . . 😦

  3. Posted by Sue in Grapevine on February 10, 2011 at 7:10 PM

    I have no idea if you’ve thought of this, but can you put hook & eye or security chain or somesuch on doors that lead to the outside to keep her from leaving the house if she leaves her room? At a height that the boys can reach, but she cannot? Have you turned the doorknob on her door around so that it locks in the hallway, instead of in her room, to keep her in there? We did that w/one of ours. Does she have to have the door to her room open at night?
    I cannot begin to understand your dilemma, but these are things that just popped into my mind. I’m sure one of your super powers, by now, must be the ability to ignore unhelpful advice. So, I just say “Shazaam!” to anything that is not applicable.


    • Thanks, Sue. Great suggestions.

      Yes, we have those locks up high. They slow Chloe down a tad — long enough to go grab a chair and scoot it to the door, climb up on the chair, and rig the thing unlocked. . . ummm, yeah, little stinker. But maybe I would hear the chair scooting across the floor in the middle of the night.

      We actually have the door knob turned around on another child’s door right now . . . 🙂 That’s a great idea, too. The bummer with that is I can’t imagine a room totally Chloe proof — like Chloe-on-her-own-for-11-hours proof. I’ll keep thinking on how to make that one work though.

      You made me laugh at your “Shazaam!” comment! Yes, I do get unhelpful advice, but this is one area that I am totally desperate and open to suggestions! 🙂 Keep them coming!


  4. I hope you get the tent very soon!
    I don’t even try to keep Gracie in her bed anymore. I put her matress on the floor because she was falling out of her bed, even with rails on it. I figured at least she doesn’t have far to fall now. She just doesn’t sleep soundly and travels all over. Because she lacks all safety awareness, we have to keep her in her room (Which is totally Gracie proof), so right now we have a baby gate in her doorway. I’m sure it will break soon and we will have to figure out another way.
    I wonder what all of us mothers could figure out if we ever had the chance to sit down and discuss these issues!! Wouldn’t that be fun?


    • Oh, yes, Debbi, a committee of us mamas would be quite a fun experience! We should organize our own Special Needs Mama Bloggers Convention! 🙂 We could either do it here in the winter or near your place in the summer!! 😉

      Tell me how you totally Gracie proofed her room. That’s what I can’t get in my little head. No chokers? No diaper cream? Dresser and bookshelves attached to the wall? I just don’t think I could make a room safe enough that I think she’d be okay unsupervised for 11 hours . . . . Maybe I’m over concerned??? Help me if you can.

      And I think if we used baby gates, we’d have to stack 3 or 4 of them high in the doorway . . . Hmmmmm. I’ll keep thinking.


  5. Posted by Sara Watson on February 11, 2011 at 2:29 PM

    I am glad that you guys have found something that looks like it will work. We have started putting a baby gate on Morgan’s door because she was getting out of bed and wandering around the house at night. It really freaked me out the first night I found her sitting at the kicthen table when I got up to feed Brendan. Anyway, I thought I would mention that but I suspect Chloe would figure out how to escape a baby gate in one night flat! The lock up high sounded like a good idea or a lock on the other side of the door knob…we did that once too. I know it isn’t as idedal as keeping her in bed but definitely better than her hanging out in the bathtub or in the garage! Yikes!!!


    • Oh, isn’t it disheartening to see your baby girl up and out and about when you thought she was safe in the bed. Ugh. Can’t stand it! Thanks for your ideas and for understanding what we’re going through!


  6. Posted by Angie's Mom on February 23, 2011 at 8:23 AM

    well hello there…do tell how the bed tent worked for your Chloe!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Mine is on it’s was as I type & I am hopeful, excited, but not totally convinced it will be safe ( I know she’ll be safe INSIDE it, but how will it handle a 40lb jumpy, kneeling girl who will put all her weight on the front of the tent). Please let me know how safely it secured TO the bed frame & if you had to make any of your very ingenius adjustments to it. Thank-you!


    • Hi, Angie’s Mom! Yes, I’m hoping to write a post about the tent today. We rec’d it in the mail yesterday and last night was our first night with it. Watch for an update post on the whole saga!


  7. Posted by Laurie Smith on February 28, 2011 at 9:49 PM

    We have gone through 3 nikel tents, I will say they are much more effective than the crib tents were. The first version of the nickel we found the poles broke easily, the second version the poles were orange and worked much better, but eventually he was able to work a hole in the netting, and the zipper separated and with that he was victorious. (it did last over 8 months though). Both times the tents took forever to get to us, there were problem after problem but for the price – we really didn’t complain too much. Finally, after the nickel tent didn’t work -we also did almost the exact enclosure on the bunkbeds you guys tried. When that didn’t work – we seem to have found a workable solution. We took our son’s old crib rails which measured perfection to our bunkbeds (lauralind babybed old style) – we used wood screws and screwed them into the side of the bunkbed frame. He is much happier as he doesn’t feel enclosed. To get him in and out we put a plywood door w/ a bracket on the footboard – and we use the same lock/snap we had on our nikel tent. The otherside of the bunkbeds are up against the wall. We used the nickel tents material to seal the headboard and footboard area (the mesh) of the bunkbeds that were still exposed. So far we’ve made it almost a year. My son is on a feeding tube and has 22Q deletion syndrome, he must stay in bed or he pulls out his feeding tube. We just need 9 hours he is still so he can get his feeds, but he is tenacious!!


    • Wow, Laurie!! Amazing! You’ve had quite a journey, too, haven’t you??!! Wow. Thanks for writing. Interesting idea with the crib rails. We have talked about doing that exact same thing. Do you have a photo by chance? I would love to see it . . . .


  8. Posted by Becky Dunn on March 22, 2011 at 2:57 PM

    Hello! I completely understand your dilemma! We actually had a carpenter build a HUGE crib (twin size bed) complete with doors a few years ago but she could still move around quite a bit within it. So when we moved we actually out of despeation but her inside an ACTUAL tent! She slept throught the night and it was a MIRACLE!! We now say my daughter is “camping” We bought a two man tent, but with an inflatable mattress and lots of comfy bedding–it works great! Best $20 I ever spent I purchased it from Wal-Mart and cant really find it online. It is an Ozark Trail 2-man junior tent—GOOD LUCK!!


    • Wow, Becky. I love to hear from people who are struggling like we are . . . I mean, I’m not glad you’re struggling, but it’s so good to know that people can relate! I just typed up an update on the whole bed tent saga that should post either tomorrow or Thursday . . . Thanks for your info about your ideas! My husband and I have actually looked at camping tents and wondered how that would work. Do you have a photo of your daughter’s tent? Or of the twin bed crib?? I would love to see them, and I would love to add it here the next time I post a bed tent saga update! Thanks again for your comment, and big ol blessings to you!! 🙂


  9. […] most of you know, our family has been involved in quite a long bed tent saga over the past few years.  I wanted to give you a quick […]


  10. Hello,
    My husband and I are in the same position and I was wondering if anyone had an update? Thanks so much! 🙂


    • Hi, Gina. Thanks for writing. So far I and my good friend who ordered the Nickel are surprisingly pleased. My friend’s zipper broke the first few days she had her tent, but they fixed it, and it hasn’t been a problem since. My daughter has gotten out of her Nickel a handful of times, but we have been able to rig it again so she can’t get out. Our Nickel certainly has some signs of wear, and I’m still crossing my fingers that it will continue to last. It has been over 3 months and the Nickel has allowed us (and Chloe) LOTS of security and LOTS of sleep! If I had to do it over again, I would definitely order the Nickel Bed Tent again! Good luck! Let me know what you decide and how it works for you! 🙂


  11. […] De ja vu. . . again. […]


  12. […] and bed fiascos for quite some time.  If you’re new around here, you can read about our saga here, here, here, here, and […]


  13. I stumbled upon your blog today and I am desperate to own one of these tents. Can you please tell me. Email me if it has helped you and your family?


    • Michelle, we were surprisingly pleased with the Nickel Bed Tent. If you search “bed tent” up at the top of my blog page, you’ll see some other updates that I gave during the 3 1/2 months that we used it. I think my daughter has some extra special Houdini powers so our bed tent only last a few months. But I think surely it would last most people longer than that! I was surprised that the tent isn’t “camping tent” quality . . . . , but it did last 3 months. Read this update to learn more, too: I think you’d probably be pleased with it . . . . I say go for it! And be sure to let me know how it works for you! 🙂 Wishing you the BEST OF LUCK and BEST OF SLEEP!!!


  14. Thank you for the response. I have 2 girls with special needs and we are hoping to hear back from the company if they are still on back order or if they can be purchased.


  15. Our bed tent lasted for 6 months. He tore his way out of it on both sides and through the top. I spent four days hand sewing new mesh on it. He is still in it, but the material has a small hole in it. Praying it doesn’t rip anymore.


    • Wow, Gina! Thanks for the update! 6 months of safe nights and peace of mind . . . . Think it was worth the money? And will you buy another one?


  16. Honestly, I do not know yet because he has figured out how to break through that mesh and I am wondering if we get a new one if he will do the same in one night. It took 5 months for us to get our first one to get shipped. It’s very hard to know what to do. A lot of ideas have failed. It’s difficult.


    • Gina, that’s my thoughts exactly on ordering another one. I feel that since Chloe now knows how flimsy the material is, there is a good chance she’ll poke her finger through it the first night . . . . That’s why we are keeping our fingers crossed that she is approved for this fancy new bed and that maybe by 2012, she’ll be sleeping safely again — this time for good! (See post Hoping for a Bed)


  17. You know exactly how I feel. I hope that your new bed works out! Nobody knows how much stress it puts on a person unless they are in the situation. I know I can’t sleep wondering what he is going to do. I wish you luck.


  18. […] commented post:  The Bed Tent Saga and No News Means Things are […]


  19. Gosh I get it. we had trouble with our little girl early, she still wonders around but has more sense of safetly than before. At age three, she had opened a window and was on the roof in the middle of the night. Once she was outside…I had to do something. she had a pressure vest and tied her to her bed, then I worried she would choke herself, so we used the crib rail idea and screwed it to the bunk bed as someone mentioned above, it worked!! much more sturdy than tent material I would think.


  20. Wow I am reading my life on this blog post. I was researching tents for my special needs son and cried reading yours. Our son ripped through the ready set bloom tent within 8months then we found a tent cot at the bass pro shop that was much more durable. It took him almost 2 years to rip through that one. So, we bought another one and he ripped through it in less than a month….ahhhhh! We just bought an XL dog play pen (no I am not a bad mom just desperate to sleep without worrying about my child) with strong mesh but alas too small afterall and he already pulled it apart. I am currently about to ask a friend to sew the strong mesh found on the animal stuff onto the military tentcot that we currently have from bass pro shop.
    I loved your comments about all the heros that give parenting advice on first time obedience not always being right. Amen to that!! I tried it on my typical yet extremely strong willed son and it was terrible. So, my special needs son definately didn’t respond well. However, my sweet happy-go-lucky daughter is easy to train in that way. Temperament is alot and ultimately the Lord wants us to cling to Him not methods anyway.
    I really like you and keep on bloggin girl!!!!!


  21. Posted by Susan Cerasoli on June 22, 2012 at 6:24 PM

    We have a special needs son who is currently using a crib and tent. We really need to move him to a twin bed. Please tell us what you’ve found and where to order it. It would be very appreciated as I’m sure you understand.

    Susan and Jeff


    • Hi, Susan. It’s scary to think of moving him from his crib, isn’t it? Wow. What a big change and a big step. Depending on his needs and his behaviors, we know of a couple of options. You will find details of both here on my blog. There’s a search option at the top of my blog; you can search specifically by name of the bed tent or just search “bed tent.”

      First, there is the Nickel Bed Tent. It is inexpensive, and most people can afford it without much thought and planning. But I must warn you that it’s my experience and many other readers’ experiences that the Nickel is not made of strong, good-quality materials. The mesh tears easily and will need repair, the zippers break easily, and the poles are quite flimsy and break easily. Supposedly they have started making their tents with higher quality materials, but I haven’t heard from anyone if it’s really better quality or not. It’s my experience that you will have to totally replace it within 4 months, and the 4 months you use it, you’re not totally positive that your child is secure in the bed tent. That’s how it was for me anyway. Also, I asked the company to send me a new, improved quality bed tent so that I could review it here (this topic remains the #1 way people find my blog), but I never heard back from them. So, unfortunately, all I have is my experience of the thing ripping to shreds and the pole breaking while I set it up for the first time. UGH!

      The second and best option for us has been The Safety Sleeper. It is an amazing tent! I have a hard time even explaining the quality of it. It’s made of such durable materials that I literally never even blink twice after putting my daughter into it every night. I KNOW that she is safe, secure, and not going anywhere. And she learned very quickly that there’s no use trying to get out, trying to rip the material, trying to manipulate the zippers, etc, because she just can’t. She sleeps much better and is so relaxed to be in her bed for SLEEPING and not a new challenge of ESCAPING. I cannot say enough good about the Safety Sleeper. It is way more expensive, but you’re not going to have to replace it. We’ve had ours for 6 months and it looks brand new and we’ve had NO issues with it and have not worried about Chloe even ONE TIME!! Unbelievable. And if you peruse their website, you will see that there are options for getting financial help to pay for the tent. I strongly encourage you to call or email Rose and chat with her about it. I really, really think it’s by far the BEST OPTION for parents with children with disabilities!

      Please let me know what you decide and also let me know how it works out for you. THANKS!


      • Posted by Gina on June 23, 2012 at 11:56 AM

        Hi everyone! I am back with another report on our new bed tent. Within two months, the mesh was torn! Needless to say, my husband and I are not happy. Especially because the price went up! Our son is more gentle on this one than the first! 😦

      • Oh, sheesh, Gina. You bought another Nickel, right? I’m so sorry. Do you happen to know if yours was the “new improved more durable mesh” or not? Not a good report if yours was the newer better mesh! Ugh. What a pain. I strongly encourage you to check out The Safety Sleeper and research their ideas on financial assistance. The bed is unbelievable. I have to admit I don’t even think about it and the stress and the trouble that we experienced for 8 years before getting it. I put Chloe to bed every night and leave her room knowing that she will be RIGHT THERE when I return in the morning. I don’t even have to wake to go check on her. The peace of mind and the safety is literally priceless!!

  22. Posted by Meg on July 16, 2014 at 5:30 PM

    Somebody can tell me where I can buy this tent bed? Please! Meg.


    • Meg, try You will LOVE it! An amazing product of great quality!! Please report back if you get one!


  23. Posted by John on May 8, 2015 at 7:24 PM

    One person wrote “He tore his way out of it on both sides and through the top,” and another that the material is very “flimsy.” I have a teenage son who’s rather strong. Are the expensive name-brand camping tents of higher quality material?



  24. Posted by Anna DeBlois on May 15, 2016 at 5:04 PM

    I realize that some of these posts are years old, but some people may still be reading–looking for a way to keep autistic escapees or other special needs kids safe at night. I have a 13 year old autistic that sleeps perfectly at night (thank goodness–we do have extra locks on our home doors, and the fencing outside just in case), and we have a five year old escapee (girl). She (Scarlett) is autistic and hyperactive–pretty ruff and tumble–breaks just about everything that is not super sturdy. My advice–do not purchase the nickel bed tent–Scarlett broke hers within the first night. She ripped a hole right through the mesh, and broke the zippers and poles (went into the trash within 48 hours of receiving).

    What works for us: We thought about going for the expensive special needs beds, but they are well—expensive.
    1. We bought the little tykes 7′ trampoline–(about $159 at walmart/toys R us/ amazon)They take up about as much room as a king bed–Scarlett still has plenty of room. Then I bought a thick memory foam mattress,(king–cut it round to fit perfectly in the tramp),kings/queen sheets can easily be manipulated to fit. (they do make round sheets–never bought them), and a small ring lock for the zipper. The mesh is extremely tough, and she has plenty of room–plus she can bounce safely for a bit before settling down. Most Importantly–she cannot escape, have not had a single problem. I keep one of those baby monitor cameras from walmart next to my bed at night (for my peace of mind).
    2. For travel– a two man tent from walmart designed for indoor/outdoor use (about 20.00/ needs to have the bottom in it/mesh window for air). They fold up, and have a bag that is really small. I also purchased a small airbed for kids (aero bed for kids from amazon) that kind of dips in, so she does not end up on the bottom oh her airbed (they even fit great with sheets). They are much sturdier than nickel bed/much cheaper than safety sleeper.
    3. Buy some of those safety alarms that you can attach to windows/doors (about 9/10 dollars walmart). You can put them up as high as you wish, and they have an off button for times you want them disabled–very loud alarm–great for travel.
    Hope this helps somebody–Us parents of autistic sometimes need to think outside the box!!


    • Wow. Interesting set up! It’s crazy how creative we have to be as parents! Oh, me.

      I definitely agree about not getting the Nickel…unless they’ve made some major, major improvements over the years. Chloe’s didn’t last long at all.

      We have LOVED our Safety Sleeper! It has been a life changer for us! And they have funding ideas to help it be affordable. In fact, we recently replaced Chloe’s Safety Sleeper with a new model, and Texas Medicaid paid for it! That’s huge news!

      Thanks so much for your comment! This topic continues to be the number 1 search topic that brings new readers to my blog! It’s a biggie for families like ours!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: