When your baby starts climbing

How should I baby-proof my house? Keeping your little adverturer safe

Photo: iStock

Photo: iStock

Even before Jordan could crawl, he was more interested in going up than going forward,” says Sarah Dufton. Now 13 months old, Jordan has been actively exploring his home — vertically as well as horizontally — for the past four or five months.

“He’s always on the lookout for a chance to climb,” says Dufton. “We have a stepstool in the kitchen for my three-year-old, Libby, so that she can reach the counter when she wants to help me with dishes or cooking. If we leave it out, the second my back is turned Jordan pushes it over to the cabinets and climbs up.” Stairs, of course, are the other big attraction for future mountaineers like Jordan. “I didn’t even use baby gates on the stairs with my first child,” says Dufton. “But for Jordan, we have gates at the top of the stairs and at the bottom.”

Baby gates
Some babies you can put down on the floor, leave the room — and come back to find them in the exact spot you left them. Not so with a baby who loves climbing. “One time, the gate wasn’t closed, and I didn’t realize it and walked out of the room. A second later, I heard a noise and thought, ‘That’s weird. It sounds like he’s upstairs,’” recalls Dufton. Yup, in that short time Jordan had scooted up the stairs and was happily exploring the bathroom.

One of the challenges with these little adventurers is that sometimes the standard safety devices can make life more dangerous, not less. I had a baby gate at the top of the stairs for my first son, Matthew — until the day I caught him trying to climb over it. Falling from the top of the baby gate and down the stairs would have been even worse than a tumble down the stairs.

Dufton solved that problem by, as she says, “spending an insane amount of money on our baby gates — the ones we got are made with a pinhole mesh that he can’t climb. That’s worth every penny with Jordan!”

Another example: We normally think of cribs as safe places for babies, but the most recent figures available from the Canadian Hospitals Injury Reporting and Prevention Program show 896 injuries related to cribs or cradles in 1996: 46.3 percent of these were children who fell out of the crib (no explanation given) and 34.9 percent were children who fell while climbing in or out of the crib. And 21.4 percent had some kind of fracture as a result. (That’s another good reason never to have bumper pads or toys in the crib — babies who like to climb just see these as helpful stepping stones to facilitate their escape.)

Baby-proofing and house-proofing
To keep Jordan off that injury report, Dufton says she both “baby-proofs the house and house-proofs the baby.” That means:

• Using approved, secure baby gates at the top and bottom of stairs — and keeping them closed.

• Storing the stepstool away from the counter, and keeping the dining room chairs (something else Jordan likes to climb) tucked under the table.

• Clearing counters and tabletops of dangerous items like knives and scissors — just in case.

• Keeping drawers locked with baby-proofing devices (otherwise he can pull out the drawers and climb them).

• Teaching him to get down stairs or a step safely, by turning around and coming down backward on his tummy.

• Teaching about boundaries — places where you don’t want him to go. A baby won’t completely understand this concept, but if you always say no and move him away from the bookcase he’s trying to climb, he’ll eventually catch on.

• And perhaps the most important step of all — supervision, supervision, supervision! While Jordan may not mind his mom going to the bathroom alone, she knows it’s safer to bring him with her.

Dufton also thinks it helps to find lots of safe opportunities for baby Jordan to explore his love of climbing, by going to indoor playgrounds or setting up little obstacle courses at home. “It’s finding that balance — keeping him safe while also giving him opportunities to explore,” she says.

This article was originally published on December 2008.

Read more:
Babyproofing: Should you do it?>
Why some babies skip the crawling stage>
Best indoor playgrounds in Canada>

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