Thursday, January 19, 2006

Toddlers are Curious by Nature

By Christina VanGinkel

Just when I thought, my grandson was old enough for me to leave the room he was in for a minute or two, you know, to run to the bathroom, or answer the phone, I was proven wrong. Yesterday, he was situated in my bedroom, sitting in the middle of our queen-sized bed, watching a cartoon on the television. I had been folding some laundry and he was also helping me do that. My daughter was visiting along with him, and was in the spare room / craft room, working on a scrapbook layout. This room is situated about one foot away from the bedroom. She asked me to come and see what she had accomplished with the page. I told him to keep watching the cartoon, that I would be right back to finish folding the pile of laundry. I exited the room, entered the room my daughter was in, looked at the page she was working on, picked it up, commented about the way a brad was attached, sat it back down in front of her on the worktable and went back into my bedroom. In the minute it took me to do this, my grandson had dumped the laundry basket of folded clothes back into the pile of unfolded. He had scooted off the bed and dumped another basket of unfolded laundry all over the floor. We have several strips of flooring edge lying beneath our bed, stored there for when we complete the floor in the bathroom off our room, and he had pulled out all three of those. He was in the midst of climbing back onto the bed when I walked back into the room.

I have in no way exaggerated the time line of these events. He was very busy in the minute, minute and a half at the most, which I was out of the room. While he did no harm and no harm came to him, it was a good reminder of why you should never leave a toddler unattended even for very short periods of time. The unexpected is so often the precursor of an accident, small or big. This is not to say that you have to sit and stare at a child twenty-four hours a day to keep him safe, it just means that you have to consider each time you do turn or walk away, leave the room, answer the phone, where they are at, what is around them, what they are apt to do. Part of this can be handled before anything does happen by childproofing the house. As a grandparent, I will admit that even though we still practice many obvious childproofing tactics, such as not leaving medicine anywhere he might be able to reach or climb, I am not so good about many unobvious things, like the edging strips beneath the bed. They should never have been left there in the first place, and should have been stored in the basement or a garage. They were there though, peeking out from beneath the bed for some time, and he had probably walked by them a couple dozen times, each time becoming more curious about what they were. It only took the one time for him to be left alone in the room for his building curiosity to get the better of him.

This brings us right back to toddlers in general. Curiosity is what drives them. Curiosity is a big part of how toddlers and young children learn. Without it, they would have no desire to see what is around the corner, under the bed, in the book. It is the foundation of how they learn. It is our responsibility as the adults to make sure that the curiosity is allowed to occur, but in as safe an environment as it can.

Take a few minutes to walk around your home, and then get down on your hands and knees in each room. Look at the rooms from your toddler's height, and by doing this will you will see a very different perspective of the place you live. It can highlight things that you might never have noticed as being attractive or interesting to a toddler. This is important to do whether you are a parent, grandparent, or anyone that has toddlers in your home that might be left unattended for even a moment. Curiosity is good for children, and it is our job to make sure that curiosity is watched. Now I have some more laundry to refold!

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