We removed our stairs’ safety gate years ago, when Little Sir had finally stopped hurtling himself about as his way of walking. But now that the Baby Bumblebee is already toddling about, it’s time to put it up once more… if I find it!
As a general rule, my husband and I encourage our children’s gross motor development and need to explore. To this end, we actively create a safe home environment that will support their innate need to move.
I’ve written here and in other websites about the importance of movement in young children’s lives. They learn by moving, exploring with their senses, and yes, by falling down and getting up again. They become more aware of their bodies when they are allowed to move about, and learn best when they touch and look at something closely.
Though I am a naturally anxious person, I try hard to be calm for my children. I keep myself from hovering over them (and making strange sounds) when they are trying to learn something. I have actually perfected the art of lazy mothering, which works perfectly in encouraging independence and respecting my little ones’ need to do things “all by myself.”
A safe place
Creating a safe space for children’s exploration actually makes our lives easier. By setting up a system and a set of rules, we make sure that our little ones get to explore and move to their heart’s content without the need for helicopter-parenting on our part. A secure and enriched environment does a lot in promoting our children’s development in all areas.
I always try to remember that little kids are still unable to assess what is safe or not. It’s my job as their mom not only to keep them safe but also to teach them what is and how they can be safe.
Here are some of the things I’ve done to encourage my children to explore and maintain my peace of mind at the same time. This list does not include the usual baby-proofing tips, as I baby-proof minimally, and instead take the following steps.
1. Set a dedicated safe space
A mat is one of the first safe spaces that we’ve given our kids. For Baby Bumblebee, this non-slip, non-toxic Comflor mat did the trick. She turned over, crawled, and took her first wobbly steps on its soft but firm surface. When she’s on it, I know – and she knows – that she won’t get a bad bump whatever happens.
Upstairs, in our room, she also has a thin mattress on the floor beside our bed to serve as her base. She sometimes plays there during daytime and sleeps there at night. Incidentally, she fell off it one time — she must have been exploring in her sleep haha — and I wasn’t very worried as it was such a low fall.
2. Clearly set limits
I find it amazing that none of my kids have smashed any of the decorative odds and ends around the house. When they first discover and try to hold something breakable, I immediately get it from their firm grasp and tell them that it’s not a toy. I then either bring them to another area or hand them something else as a way of distracting them.
The kids are just informed in a matter-of-fact way that it’s not to be done, without the drama of shouting “No, no, no, no!” Clear limits at an early age train children on the behavior expected from them.
3. Orient the household
News about babies getting into mishaps scares the daylights out of me. With an infant on the verge of toddlerhood, safe exploration means a lot to me. Take this uncovered pair of sockets, for instance. There used to be a table here so I forgot that I needed to cover it. This is one of the few things that I should baby-proof around the house!
I orient everyone who looks after my kids and constantly remind them to look out for dangerous items – dangling wires, batteries, sharp objects – before letting the baby roam around. The bigger kids, T and Little Sir, appreciate these reminders too when they are tasked to look after the family’s little explorer.
4. Make age-appropriate toys accessible
Every quarter, I go on a spring-cleaning frenzy. I weed out toys and books, and get some out from storage. This enables me to rotate the kids’ things and let them enjoy toys that are appropriate for their current age and interest.
Making these toys accessible to them makes it safer for them to explore – no falling
debris toys from the closet they’re trying to unearth, thank you. For Baby Bumblebee, I’ve put some of her toys and books on the lowest shelf in our schoolroom/playroom.
5. Protect the soft, baby skin
Baby Bumblebee has dry skin and constantly scratches herself. I was really surprised by it, as my two older kids have never had skin problems. A study says that 60% of babies have dry skin, even if there are no visible symptoms. Genetics (members of my husband’s family do have sensitive skin), air conditioning, or even using family bar soaps play a part in skin dryness.
Dry skin is more prone to irritation and scratching. We dress her up, then, in pajamas or leggings even during playtime. And of course, I’ve searched for the best mild and nourishing baby bath and lotion for her. She needs strong healthy skin when exploring the rough world around her!
As much as I make light of being a lazy mom, careful planning and appropriate supervision are still a must when you little ones. Though I’m not hovering and even get to work on things I need to do, I make sure to still be there.