Is your toddler a climber? Here are a few ways that other parents have found to keep little climbers safe while also encouraging their curiosity:
Is your adventurous toddler climbing to new heights? A toddler’s vertical exploration may give Mom and Dad plenty of heart-stopping scares, but climbing actually has many physical and intellectual benefits. When practiced in a safe environment, it can foster improved coordination, muscle development, self-confidence and problem-solving skills.
Here are a few ways to keep your little climber safe while also encouraging her curiosity:
Be crib smart. Many children are treated in emergency rooms each year from accidents that involve climbing out of cribs. When your child begins climbing, consider placing the mattress on the floor or switching to a toddler bed with side rails.
Close the window on danger. Window screens don’t provide adequate protection for curious climbers. Install window locks and keep furniture away from the windows.
Stabilize tipsy situations. Secure tall furniture, such as bookcases, to the wall with anti-tip straps.
Create boundaries. Install gates to keep toddlers safe from dangers such as stairs. Lock cabinets within your toddler’s reach.
Remove temptations. Avoid placing appealing objects in places that may motivate your child to climb in an attempt to reach them.
Offer safe alternatives. Make “fun zones” on the floor with soft items such as bean bags, cushions or pillows. With your supervision, let your little one climb to her heart’s content.
No Toddlers on the Table
We learned early on that our youngest son loved to climb, run and test physical boundaries. One challenge we faced when he was less than a year old was keeping him from standing on the kitchen table. No amount of correction helped. So I tied the kitchen chairs together with bedsheets, having them encircle the outside of the chairs so they couldn’t be moved. That made it impossible for him to climb the chairs to get to the table.
A Toddler’s Perspective
I walked in the back door only to hear the words, “Catch me, Momma!”
Two-year-old Ryan catapulted at me from atop the refrigerator. I caught him, thankful that he hadn’t slammed onto the floor.
“Me, too!” The flying body of Ryan’s twin, Melissa, launched off the refrigerator, also. I hoisted Ryan to my other side and grabbed her. We landed in a heap on the kitchen floor. My twin toddlers, sitting squarely on my chest, pealed with laughter.
I did not laugh. The twins worked as a team, climbing onto high surfaces. Their current escapade began when I stepped onto the back porch to feed the cat. I was outside for less than 60 seconds.
That day I began to view my home through my toddlers’ eyes. I sat on the floor and looked for all the climbing opportunities at their eye level. I was surprised to see potential hazards that were not clear from an adult perspective.
The refrigerator seemed an impossible feat to me, but it was accessible to them because the hamper was next to the washer, which was next to the utility storage bin, which was beside the refrigerator. From their perspective, the items were stairs. So I simply rearranged things throughout my home to decrease climbing opportunities for my twins.
—T. Suzanne Eller
Find What Works
Panic clawed at my throat as I tried to yell, “Get down from there!” Yet no sound emerged.
I had repeatedly told my 3-year-old, Jeremy, to stay away from the edge of the deck. But there he was, his riding toy serving as his ladder while he leaned over the rail. Our deck was high off the ground, and I knew he might be injured or killed if he didn’t learn this important lesson. He wasn’t normally a disobedient child, but for some reason he just didn’t seem to get it, and I was at wit’s end.
I removed him from his dangerous perch, and then an idea came to mind. My husband had purchased a watermelon the previous evening, and when we cut into it, we discovered it was rotten. I carried the watermelon to the deck rail and said, “Jeremy, come here a minute. Mama wants to show you something.”
I threw the watermelon over the rail, and it burst into pieces as it hit the hard ground. Jeremy’s eyes were huge as he uttered an awed “Wow!”
Then I crouched to his eye level, and we talked about how the watermelon got hurt when it fell. I went on to explain gently that the reason I kept telling him not to get near the deck rail was that I didn’t want him to get hurt. I knew that the visual I’d employed might have been too shocking if not handled sensitively, but it was worth the risk if it would save my son’s life.
Jeremy never climbed near the deck rail again. He had learned his lesson, and I’d learned an important lesson, too: My son was a visual learner. This insight became invaluable as Jeremy grew. When he was a little older, we used squirrels as a visual example to show him how dangerous it was to dart into the road without first looking both ways.
A friend from our church who walked with crutches became a visual example as we shared with Jeremy how Miss Betty had been sick with polio when she was a child. We told Jeremy that’s why he had to have his shots when we went to the doctor’s office — so he wouldn’t become sick.
When Jeremy reached his teens, a drunkard staggering and falling on the side of the road became a visual example that enabled us to talk about the dangers of alcohol. We discussed how this man never intended to become an alcoholic when he took his first drink. Providing visual examples that showed the results of possible actions worked wonders for Jeremy. However, when his little brothers made their arrival in our family, we soon discovered they had different learning styles.
From the time he was born, our middle son, Tim, was more laid-back than his brothers. He was the child who never climbed out of his crib. He would sit and play until someone came to get him. He was an easygoing kid who never ventured into dangerous situations. We never had to tell him or show him things. He loved books from an early age, and as he grew older, we came to realize he was a child who responded well to written instruction.
Our youngest son, Jason, was constantly in motion, but he responded instantly to parental guidance. He was tenderhearted and told on himself whenever he did anything wrong. With his personality and verbal learning style, simply explaining something to him was enough.
Pay attention to what works with your child — and to what doesn’t — to see if you can determine his learning style. This valuable knowledge will save you plenty of gray hairs and will be a useful tool until your child becomes an adult.