A distressed mother spent seven hours locked in her 14-month-old son's closet after he shut the door on her.

Karen Kilgour's renditions of The Wheels on the Bus and Five Little Ducks could keep Harry entertained for only so long, and the 32-year-old had to sit helplessly listening to "crashing and banging" as the youngster ran around their Mt Eden home by himself.

The part-time antiques dealer could have been trapped for another eight hours if her husband hadn't decided to skip a friend's leaving drinks because of traffic.

Mrs Kilgour was sorting through the clothes on a shelf in Harry's closet about 9.30 on Friday morning when the toddler playfully pushed the door shut.

Her husband, Jason, was at work in Takanini.

He was to have attended functions after work, and was not expecting to be home until midnight.

Their 2-year-old daughter, Lucy, who would have been able to open the door, was at daycare. Mrs Kilgour was supposed to pick her up about 3pm.

And her brother Andrew, who lives with the family, was working a double shift as a chef and was not expected to be home until after 11pm.

Mrs Kilgour started screaming for help from the small, pitch-black wardrobe, hoping neighbours would hear her.

But her cries only upset Harry, who began sobbing.

She spent about three hours trying to open the door, first by banging it with her hip, then using one of the shelves. She also tried to pull bits of metal off an ironing board in the wardrobe to prise it open.

Mrs Kilgour sang to her son, who was wearing only a nappy and top, and pushed her fingers under the closet door.

He played with them for a while, then wandered off.

"He's very accident-prone right now," Mrs Kilgour said yesterday. "I was terrified he would climb up onto the toilet seat and fall back on the tiles.

"We have a ladder in our wardrobe that he likes to climb; I was scared he would get up it and fall."

Harry eventually tired himself out and fell asleep on his bedroom floor.

By that time, Mrs Kilgour was hungry, as she had had only a cup of coffee that day, and needed to go to the toilet.

She had a bruised hip, and sore stomach muscles from screaming.

She had no idea what the time was, but said it felt like "hours and hours".

Mr Kilgour came home about 4.30pm after deciding not to go to a friend's leaving drinks in Mt Wellington because of traffic on the Southern Motorway.

He heard his wife's muffled cries and rushed into Harry's bedroom.

"He was in shock," Mrs Kilgour said.

"He thought someone had died and I'd locked myself in there or something ... All I could say was, 'Get Harry some water'."

When Mrs Kilgour went into her lounge, she found Harry had eaten the scraps of his breakfast.

The toddler was thirsty but unharmed.