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Safe Climbing

Climbing is an important development process. Here's how toddler's can do it safely.

You've followed the safety experts' advice and tied up the cords to your blinds, locked cabinet doors, and attached rubber guards to table corners. Now your curious toddler will be perfectly safe, right? Wrong. The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), warns that many injuries and deaths occur when children climb onto or pull themselves up on furniture.

But before you take all the furniture out of your house, consider this: Dr. Joanne Hynes-Dusel, an assistant professor in Towson University's kinesiology department and a board member of the American affiliate of the International Association for the Child's Right to Play, says toddlers have a developmental need to climb.

"Climbing is just one of the physical activities in which children engage to help them learn about their world. Allowing toddlers to climb encourages the development of their large motor skills and their hand and arm strength," says Hynes-Dusel.

Climbing also improves their spatial awareness, balance, and coordination. When they climb to obtain an out-of-reach object and succeed, their self-esteem increases.

To fulfill your toddler's need to climb without taking a weekly trip to the emergency room, consider these suggestions for safe climbing:

  1. Remember that all toddler play needs to be supervised by an adult regardless of any other safety precautions you've taken. Parks with toddler playgrounds and recreation centers offering unstructured play or gymnastics classes are safe environments for young climbers.

  2. Create a danger-free climbing zone in your house. Even a small corner of the living room stocked with floor pillows and soft toys can provide your child with a safe place to explore.

  3. Consider buying home playground equipment, which costs from $40 to $400. Known as "climbers" or "activity gyms," they often include features such as steps, low slides, platforms with guardrails, and short tunnels. The apparatus should be used outdoors.

  4. According to the CPSC and KaBoom!, a non-profit organization that helps communities build safe playgrounds, there should be a base of shock-absorbing material (wood chips or mulch or a safety-tested rubbermat) underneath all play equipment. The material should be nine inches deep and extend at least six feet out from the play structure in all directions.

—Shelley Kimmons Bacote

First Aid for Falls

Dr. Eva Wyrwa, chairman of the pediatrics department of Glen Ellyn Clinic in Glen Ellyn, Illinois, offers the following first aid tips should your climber injure herself:

  1. Head: Apply an ice pack to the injured area for 10 to 20 minutes. Observe the child for about an hour. If she fell several feet, cries for a long time, or experiences vomiting, unusual tiredness, headache, or dizziness, call her doctor immediately.

  2. Nose: For a bloody nose, keep the child upright and gently pinch nostrils with your thumb and index finger for about 10 minutes. Use a cold compress for swelling. Call your child's doctor if bleeding continues after 20 minutes, tenderness or bruising exists, or she has difficulty breathing.

  3. Mouth: For a swollen lip, apply an ice pack to lip for 15 to 20 minutes. A frozen juice pop will provide relief to the tongue. Call the pediatrician if bleeding continues or call your child's dentist if a tooth is dislocated.

  4. Limbs/Extremities: Apply an ice pack to the injured area and call your child's doctor and explain the injury. Ask the doctor if you can give your toddler Infants' Advil or Infants' Motrin to help with the pain.

—Shelley Kimmons Bacote

March/April 2002, Vol. 14, No. 4, Page 18

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