Your baby turned one a few months ago. You survived a very challenging year…
You marveled at the incredible changes in your baby from month to month. One day your baby decides it is time to walk. You grab the video camera. You clap and smile and your baby knows this is something special. Everyone asks them to repeat this great feat. They oblige and enjoy the attention.
A few months later they continue along in natural development and begin to climb on top of the kitchen table. You scream “No!” as they prepare to leap. You look horrified and your confused toddler does not understand why this next step in his development is not resulting in the same reaction as mere walking. “Where are the cameras?” “Where is the applause?”
You now have a toddler. From here on, your delight at your toddler’s advancement in physical and mental development will be balanced against your fear that they will be hurt. And your toddler will feel frustration and some confusion as they do “what comes naturally” and sometimes get a negative reaction.
Toddlers have no knowledge of danger. By the same token, they have no idea that they can be hurt. The normal bruises and bumps will begin to give them an idea of what to avoid, but a real sense of fear (like we have as parents) does not yet exist for them. All they know is that they must move forward along this developmental road. They must begin to become an independent individual –and it is your job as their parent to help them achieve this important goal in a safe, protected environment.
What a wonderful challenge this is! Here are a few points to keep in mind as you move ahead…
1. It is important to be aware that toddlers have very little — if any — self-control. They are driven to explore, to climb, to taste, to feel, everything in their world. So create an environment as free of danger and frustration as possible. The first step is to safe proof your entire house. Place gates between rooms and on stairs. Remove breakables, protect electronics and plug outlets and remove electric cords from reach. It is helpful to get down on your hands and knees and check the room from a toddler’s perspective. Remove anything that you find that could become a danger.
2. Now you are ready to make a space that fosters creative exploration for your toddler. Put cushions or small plastic climbing toys in the room. Provide a variety of toys, and change them every few days. If you are in the kitchen, put chairs on top of tables, and remember to lock all cabinets except for one filled with plastic containers, wooden spoons, and small metal pots that can become safe and entertaining toys.
3. Lastly, never forget the number one rule: Always keep an eye on your toddler. The reality is they are fast and can get into trouble quickly.