(this article originally appeared in the 11-2-10 edition of The Review Atlas as a part of my weekly Practical Parenting series)
Before I gave birth I despised dusting. Post-motherhood I rather enjoy the chore.
Allow me to explain.
I especially loved my babies when they were six to nine months of age; when they can sit up on their own but before they can crawl. They were entertained with whatever toys were within reach and I could actually take a shower or prepare a proper meal. Life was good! Then the first birthday rolls around and they start crawling, cruising and (gasp!) walking.
The peaceful days of playing in one spot are replaced with curious, exploring, extremely quick footed toddlers who want nothing to do with their toys and everything to do with electric cords and remote controls.
My kids were too fast for me. Maybe I was sluggish from malnourishment or lack of sleep but whatever the excuse my reaction times were extremely sub par. I found myself literally running from nick-knack to picture frame to coffee table, trying to salvage my family memories, candles and Grandma’s doilies.
And then I found an easier way.
I removed every last piece of unnecessary table decoration I could. Literally, nothing was left but lamps.
Some readers will of course will disagree with me. “Children need to learn!” they argue. “If you move photo frames, ashtrays and remote controls how will they ever learn not to touch stuff? I leave everything out! They’ll learn not to touch when I slap their hand!”
Well on one point we can agree. You are teaching them something. Your toddler will learn that you are bigger and meaner and that it is alright for you to hit. You're not teaching them what is and is not OK to play with. You are teaching them that they could get hurt by you for being normal explorers. You see, curious toddler’s have brains that are literally wired to learn by moving, touching, exploring, tasting and experiencing.
So here’s a thought. How about we as parents and caregivers understand and recognize how our children learn. Let stop hindering and starting nurturing the process along!
When it comes time to teach your mobile baby what is and isn’t off limits no amount of hitting will do the trick. There is one tried and true method that will effectively teach your child and it requires only one thing; you. Parents must redirect their children. This is a tiresome task as the toddler's curiosity is relentless when it wants something.
Realistically, you can’t move everything. But when your child crawls under the desk to eat computer cords you go immediately and move them to a more appropriate activity. When they touch the buttons on the T.V. you should get up off the couch and engage them with a toy that also has interesting buttons. When your child gets in the kitchen cabinet and pulls out all your pots and pans you designate a special drawer for them where they can explore bowls, plastic containers and wooden spoons. If they want to rip the magazines on the coffee table, you move them or let them (unless of course you’ve not yet read that edition of O magazine).
Good parents understand that their toddlers are learning when they are exploring. Please don’t hinder your children. It is our job to make sure that they can do all the learning they need in a safe environment. Baby proof your home the best you can. Consider putting away all the unnecessary or important nick-knacks and think of it this way: the more you move your stuff the less you have to dust. That’s my secret anyway. Why? Because I’m the mom and I said so. That’s why!
Stephanie conducts playgroups and provides home visits to area families with children ages birth to five years. She can be reached at Lincoln Early Childhood School at 734-2222