As soon as babies master crawling and pulling themselves up,
parents face the challenges of mobility. Most parents are inclined
to babyproof their homes, removing all breakables from the tables
and the floor.
The remove-it-or-lose-it philosophy will ensure your favorite
book does not become a teething ring. But some parents and
caregivers think it is better to teach young children about
"off-limit" items, which will help a child develop
"Parents should consider the many benefits to keeping some of
the items accessible to their children," says Diana Derby, a child
advocate specialist who lives in Crystal Lake.
The picture frames, books and vases on the coffee table are some
of the most interesting items in the baby's line of vision. The
table is at the perfect height to pull himself up on, and he or she
is enticed by the shiny objects, candles and magazines.
Clearing off everything breakable and decorative is a natural
inclination because it offers your child a safe playing
surface-safe for the baby and for your possessions. But if you keep
some of those precious items around and take time to teach your
child, he will begin learning a valuable life lesson that will
serve him well next time you're away from home.
Every parent fears the potential nightmare of their child
breaking something while visiting a friend or relative's home.
"I remember being nervous when visiting a friend's house,
especially if they didn't have children," recalls Derby, the mother
of four children. The world is not baby proof, and children raised
in a world free of "off-limits" objects expect everyone's home to
offer the same environment.
Every new location is another prospective adventure for baby-and
potential source of stress for parents who are faced with strictly
supervising or restricting their baby's mobility to avoid a
disaster. To cope, many parents simply opt for the clean sweep.
Terri Curran of Arlington Heights shares the popular opinion
that prevention is the best defense. She was horrified when Tiara,
her 14-month-old daughter, cleared off her grandmother's coffee
table. "She swept everything, including an antique ashtray, onto
the floor. If only I would have just removed everything from the
But while eliminating temptation will preserve your possessions,
reduce your stress and lessen the potential for disaster, it also
presents some drawbacks. If your baby lives in a world where
valuables are out of reach, he or she will not realize that
cruising around great-grandma's coffee table and picking up all the
trinkets is a no-no. And pick them up they will. Children are
unable to resist exploring new environments.
Unless they have been taught to cautiously admire, but not
touch, certain treasures, young children instinctively use their
senses of sight and touch. When parents help their children learn
when it is appropriate to touch they help the children develop
"It's easy to identify when a child lives in an environment
that's been thoroughly baby-proofed," says Liz Ryan, owner of a
licensed home daycare center in Crystal Lake. "They don't
understand that every surface is not for playing or coloring on.
They expect that everywhere they go there will be a clear surface
Redirecting children from the situation - instead of removing
the situation from them - aids in this developmental stage. Allow
your child a brief moment to satisfy his or her curiosity and
divert his or her attention to an acceptable toy. Give your child a
chance to look without assuming the child is going to break
Caregivers such as Ryan find it refreshing when a child
understands boundaries. "They project a clear level of respect for
others' belongings and a good understanding of the concept of
self-control," adds Ryan.
Nurse Danielle Foster of Wheaton says it is possible to foster a
child's curiosity safely. Encourage your baby to sit with you and
help you hold the items from the table. Use phrases and words that
reinforce the appropriate actions. "Look how you're so gentle,"
instead of "No, no . . . don't touch that," teaches your child you
trust them, fosters respect and encourages inquisitiveness.
If you know that your baby adores looking at a particular item,
take a few minutes out of the day to sit quietly and hold your
child's hand as he or she touches the object. Feeling the grooves
and different textures will stimulate your child's senses and
appease his or her curiosity. While you're teaching your child how
to evaluate an item you are also teaching your child how to respect
it. Allowing children as young as 6 months old to help you hold the
object of their fascination will develop not only their respect for
the item, but their motor coordination and self-esteem.
Your child will delight at your willingness to allow him or her
to examine holiday ornaments or decorative pieces, and you will
cherish the closeness shared while teaching your child how to
handle the items. Explain the origin of the special vase or
identify the people in the picture your toddler loves to
Children begin to understand and process language at very early
ages and will appreciate it. Your demonstration of how to care for
fragile things will provide a positive example for your child.
Of course, if the object of your child's desire is an
irreplaceable heirloom, you might want go back to the "remove it or
lose it" rule and offer a less precious item instead.
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