Life At Home with a Toddler: Toddler-Proofing and the Importance of Play

As Marlee neared toddler-hood and her little feet started firmly planting themselves on the ground I had friends warn me about the challenges that lay ahead.  “Just wait!” they would always say (although I’m still not sure what I should be waiting for!)  Now that she is very much a toddler, toddling, walking, sometimes running, and now climbing (sigh) I have to admit that they were, for the most part, right.  Watching her every eager step, following her every clumsy move, chasing after her, holding her, keeping her from danger is a full-time, exhausting marathon of sorts.  It didn’t help this week that I caught a cold and was especially tired and achy.  Those are the hard days.  I found myself getting frustrated easily, knowing that I shouldn’t be, knowing that she was just being herself- a happy, curious, eager, active, playful toddler with a world to explore.  And she wants to explore everything.  Toys hold little fascination for her now.  All those exciting, singing, flashing toys that friends and family were so eager to get for her are now replaced by dishwasher buttons, cabinet doors, food on the floor and leaves on the ground.  The fireplace draws her like a magnet.  The  fine china in the cabinets call to her.  The food on the floor which she wouldn’t touch at dinner time is absolutely irresistible any other time of the day.  Window sills are perfect for climbing.  Is it any wonder mothers are tired all the time?

I felt like all day long I followed her around telling her “no!”  Little “pops” on the diaper or the back of the hand didn’t phase her when I tried to teach her that the fireplace was not a place to play.  “No” means nothing to a toddler!  She’s driven by a deep innate desire to discover, and I don’t want to hinder that.  I realized, I was the one that needed some training.  First of all, the house needed some serious toddler-proofing.  Baby proofing is fine for a while, but does little when they start becoming so mobile.  Computer cords are now on top of the desk or behind the bookshelf.  DVDs and CDs are up out of reach.  China cabinet doors are tied to lock.  Cleaners are above the washer.  I even put a paper cover over the screen on our printer to keep her from seeing (and pushing) all the buttons.  Out of sight out of mind works pretty well.  There’s still more that needs to be done, but I’m determined to make our house a safe, accessible place where she can wander, play and discover to her heart’s content.

I also got a book.  Whenever I don’t know what to do, I usually get a book, and this one is wonderful.  It’s called The Toddler’s Busy Book by Trish Kuffner.  Upon looking into it, I suddenly realized how little I knew about my own child.  I was feeling frustrated because what I was doing wasn’t working.  I didn’t know what she needed to play, how toddlers learned, how they experienced their world.  Educating myself and using these ideas, I now feel so much more confident and excited about each new day with my toddler.  I know that sounds like a plug for the book, but really, it has helped me tremendously.

An idea from the book: A "Baker's Box" fun kid friendly items they can play with and keep in the kitchen just for them while mama is in the kitchen cooking (empty oatmeal and tea boxes, empty garlic powder bottle, kid cup and straw, plastic scoop and ice cream scoopers)

A success!

The final thing that I think is so important is getting back to play.  This is something my husband and I have always felt, but I didn’t realize it was so important until now.  Play is really really important for children.  And it’s not the kind of play that comes from a toy store.  It’s the kind of play that they just know, innately, and will use if given the chance.  Battery-powered toys often hinder this creative expression that children are born with.  They want to discover, imagine and create.  As a parent, I want to watch that unfold in my little girl and not give her any limitations.  Another book that I didn’t get, but really liked is called Unplugged Play: No Batteries, No Plugs, Pure Fun by Bobbi Conner.  If you are at all curious about how important simple creative play is, I recommend reading it.

I love this quote from the first book I mentioned:

“Toddlerhood is a precious stage in the life of both parent and child, and one which can be enjoyed immensely if you are prepared to slow down a little, sit on the floor a lot, and worry about picking up the toys only when you’re child goes to bed at night…Be adventurous and look at life through your child’s eyes as she begins to unearth some of the many wonders of this amazing world in which we live.”  (The Toddler’s Busy Book page vii-viii)

What's not to love about toddler-hood!

2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Meghan
    Apr 20, 2012 @ 23:02:35

    Avery has a thing for baskets too… excepts he prefers the laundry basket!


  2. Walking The Rough Road
    Apr 21, 2012 @ 01:00:30

    Going to try that with Aurum.


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