Childproofing your home is important because young children explore indiscriminately. If an object is within reach, a child under three or four will touch it without considering his own safety or the value of the object. Because young children have such a strong natural compulsion to touch, see, and explore, parents have to make the environment safe. But parents also have to balance their childproofing with an understanding of their child’s need to explore.
Parents know to put plugs in electrical sockets, to put locks on cabinets containing dangerous substances, to keep plants and sharp items out of reach, and to put away valuables. But beyond that, they wonder how much childproofing they should do. Some parents feel they should teach their child the meaning of “no” by leaving out objects that he’s not allowed to handle: “Sooner or later, he’s going to have to learn not to touch everything.”
Other parents leave out forbidden objects or refuse to let their child touch accessible items in order to train him to behave well in other people’s homes. One mother who didn’t want to let her son play behind the living room curtains, said, “I don’t care about my own curtains but I’m afraid he’ll play with the curtains at this friend’s house.” Such fears prevent many parents from allowing their child to explore his own house. Yet children can be allowed to touch and play with things at home and taught not to do the same thing at other people’s homes.
Parents who leave out knickknacks and declare many items untouchable will find themselves in constant conflict with their child, who simply doesn’t have the impulse control to resist touching. One common battleground is the kitchen. Frustrated parents who don’t understand the developmental urge to explore understandably try to limit their child’s access to the refrigerator, cabinets, and drawers.
Yet such denial may only make a young child more frantic to experiment with things he sees his parents use. He may run to the kitchen every time he hears the refrigerator open, or he may try to climb on the dishwasher door when it’s open. He just wants to touch and look, but parents often expect too much from a child under three and then feel drained by saying “no” all day.