Protecting The Upwardly Mobile Toddler
on May, 12 2009
When Eileen Downing's son Colin was two, he showed her a new trick: climbing along the outside of their curved staircase to perch atop a six-foot-high curio cabinet. “I was paralyzed when I found him up there,” Downing says, still deeply stressed by her son’s apparent lack of fear. “I have baby gates everywhere, but he scales them, too.”
Obviously, keeping a sharp eye on toddlers who climb is paramount to keeping them safe, but it’s next to impossible to monitor them every second. Baby gates might work for a while, but many toddlers quickly learn to get over them making a fall down the stairs more likely. If possible, position a gate where there is a landing spot on the other side before the edge of the stairs. Teaching your child to go down the stairs on her bum can give some peace of mind, too.
Downing has had to find solutions to everyday tasks. “I can’t chase him around the house when I cook dinner, so I had doors installed in my kitchen and set up a play area for him so he is entertained when I’m cooking.”
Distraction, not reaction
Instead of shouting, “No!” which could be seen as a challenge, calm diversionary tactics can work well. Instead, saying, “Show me how you can stack these blocks,” might divert a child from the riskier game she’s discovered.
Clear the area
If your child likes to stand on top of furniture or climb out of the crib, keeping the areas free of sharp or hard objects will prevent her from landing on anything that can cause more injury than the fall. You might begin to feel as though you’re in a rubber room until your little one understands climbing is best left to the jungle gym.
“We placed foam around his crib, then realized it was best to move him into a bed where the fall wouldn’t be as high,” says Downing.
“I cleared an area in our yard and one in our basement and installed a proper climber for Colin with padded mats around them,” says Downing. “Any time he mounted the railings or couches, I took him to the climber and told him this was where climbing was safe. He still finds adventure in surprising areas, so I can never let my guard down.”
Downing knows it’s a phase and Colin will eventually stop climbing. “I figure he’ll stop once he gets to the top of Everest. Then I might be able to take down the gates and clear away the pillows.”