The toddler years—usually thought of as age one to age three—are an exciting time for children and parents alike. At around age one, babies come to understand that the world is full of interesting places to explore and objects to examine, and the drive to learn and experience at this age is powerful. For parents, while it is fun to watch your child explore, there is also
a decent amount of worry during this time. It is the parents’ job to keep the child safe, and this can be a challenge when you have a child who wants to go everywhere and touch everything.
The importance of exploring
The one thing parents should not do is attempt to suppress their children’s drive to explore. The purpose of all this exploring is to learn, and the more exploring your child can do, the more she will learn about the world around her. In fact, numerous studies of toddler-age children have linked healthy brain development to plenty of free play time.
Meanwhile, exploring is also an important way for your child to hone his physical skills. Early on, these will include crawling, standing, walking, and manipulating objects. Later, the skills will become more specific—such as the ability to turn pages in books, the ability to open and close doors (which can be dangerous, of course), and interactive play with parents and other children.
As soon as your child begins exploring, you may find that she is drawn to small doors, drawers, and cabinets that are open. Obviously, there will be some cabinets and doors that you will need to childproof, but you can still indulge this drive in your toddler by giving her safe cabinets, drawers, and boxes to explore. One option is to provide a toy container that is easy to open, and to give her a chance to find her toys during each play time.
Another thing to keep in mind is that children at this age want to examine a wide variety of objects. Your child will of course have a set of toys of her own (and you might provide new ones from time to time), but you do not have to limit her tactile experiences to these items. Also give her a chance to look closely at other items that are clean and have no sharp edges or small parts, such as kitchen implements, clothing items, and older kids’ toys. Use common sense when it comes to safety.
Also, do not forget the importance of outdoor activity. Very young toddlers are often perfectly content to explore indoors and may even get bored when you put them in the car seat or stroller, but there will come a time when your child starts requesting to go outdoors. When the time comes, give her plenty of opportunity to explore safe parts of playgrounds, grassy areas of parks, and other more natural areas.
Your child will soon be past the point where you need to hover over him at all times, but safety is as important as ever. In fact, while you do not need to hover, you will want to keep a close watch on your child at all times. As your child becomes increasingly mobile, he will surprise you every day with the things he can do. And if you turn your back for a half a minute, he might get into something that you did not imagine he would be able to get to.
In the second year of your child’s life, she will begin to understand not just “no” but also other commands and simple thoughts. So when she does things that are unsafe or potentially harmful to other kids, do not let it pass. Speak up, and even if she does not consistently obey you, she will understand you more and more as time passes.
By Lisa Pecos