Pointing to his energetic son who had just learned to crawl, an exhausted father said, "I wish I could strap him to the wall with Velcro for just a few hours a day!"
I could relate. When each of my kids learned to crawl, they climbed like cats. No surface was too high to discourage their attempted ascents. If I wasn't chasing and retrieving them, I was busy trying to stay one step ahead?always on the lookout for potential dangers.
Not surprisingly, research shows that even as parents temporarily rearrange furniture to make way for their new crawlers, this stage permanently rearranges the parent-child relationship. A baby who can come near or move away at will is making her first efforts toward independence.
These changes can lead to heightened emotions all around. You may feel new-found joy when your baby approaches you on her own, but find yourself experiencing a whole new level of frustration when she uses this ability to ignore warnings and move into areas that are off-limits.
At the same time, a crawling baby delights in his expanding world. For the first time, he can go after something he wants and this brings unprecedented pleasure. But he also may express unparalleled frustration when his movement is hampered.
You can reduce the stress level for everyone with these tips:
Provide plenty of time for your baby to practice crawling.
Time spent crawling is time spent learning. Not only is your baby tinkering with independence, researchers say she's also mastering other skills including hand-eye coordination, spatial awareness and balance. A study in the Journal of Perceptual and Motor Skills reported that children who miss the crawling experience lag behind their peers in many other areas of development.
Baby-proof your home.
A crawler's curiosity sometimes leads him into risky places. Unfortunately he hasn't yet acquired a sense of danger. During this active time, the National Safety Council recommends closely supervising your quick-moving baby and eliminating potential hazards.
Prevent drowning by always emptying buckets and tubs. Prevent falls by placing a gate at the stairs and keeping furniture away from open windows. Secure furniture and other heavy items that might tip if grabbed. Cover electrical outlets with safety plugs and fit cupboards and drawers with child-resistant catches. Store dangerous substances and small objects that pose choking hazards out of reach. Remove tablecloths and runners that could be used by your baby as a handhold. Crawl around your house yourself to find other baby-level dangers.
Use action, not anger, to discipline.
A crawler doesn't fully understand the meaning of no, nor can he practice self-restraint. Although it's fine to begin teaching obedience at this stage, it will be several months before your baby understands. For now, briefly confining him or redirecting his attention are the most effective ways to curb his activity.
?Faith Tibbetts McDonald
Mother, writer, former teacher
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