Child who climbs needs alternative to kitchen table

CHILD LIFE

August 21, 1994|By BEVERLY MILLS

Q: My 13-month-old son keeps climbing on the kitchen table. If there are no chairs nearby, he moves them. How can I get him to stop?

E.N., Cooper City, Fla.

A: Don't stop his climbing. Change what he's climbing on. To do that, batten down the furniture and invest in a climbing toy designed especially for toddlers.

'You must realize that the child has to climb; he can't help himself," says Joan Baumler, a mother from Buffalo, N.Y. "What the parent needs to do is provide a safe place."

Many parents who called Child Life suggest decisive measures to put the table and chairs off limits. Terri Green of Graham, Wash., wove an elastic jump rope through the chair legs so her 13-month-old son couldn't remove them from underneath the table.

Dede Thomas of Blaine, Minn., suggests stacking the chairs on top of the table. Catherine Schwartz of Westport, Conn., turns the chairs on their sides. Becky Schultz of Minneapolis, Minn., removed her dining room furniture to storage.

'My daughter is 3, and we haven't put the table back yet," she says.

In place of the table, Ms. Schultz installed a plastic climbing toy. Since Karen R. Joslin of Bellevue, Wash., needed her table, she put a plastic slide in her living room.

"Climbing is developmentally appropriate at this age," says Ms. Joslin, author of the new book "Positive Parenting from A to Z" (Fawcett Columbine, $12.50).

"Concentrate on where the child can climb rather than spend a lot of time disciplining when he climbs in the wrong places," Ms. Joslin says.

However, Ms. Joslin says even a 13-month-old is ready for this simple message that sets the limit: "You'd like to climb on the table, but the table is not safe for climbing. The table is for eating."

Avoid yelling or a harsh tone. Make the statement in a calm but firm manner, Ms. Joslin urges.

While the child is learning the limits, the mother may begin to feel like a robot. She's likely to find herself repeating this message as many as 30 times a day while she points the child toward acceptable climbing areas and other activities.

"Do physical things with the child as much as you can," Ms. Joslin says. "Take walks, and go to the park. There are even parent-child gym and movement classes for children this young."

At 13 months, a child is becoming a toddler, an exciting, challenging stage. Lots of things will be different, and changes come so quickly that they often catch first-time parents off-guard.

While replacing your dining room furniture with a jungle gym may seem drastic, it sets a tone for the household that can make parents' lives a lot smoother in the long-run.

"At each stage of development, you have to set your priorities, and some things you give up because you want your children to have the opportunity to reach their potential," Ms. Joslin says.

"Toddlers can be very demanding, and you'll have an easier time if you run the home environment almost as you would a preschool."

While a reporter at the Miami Herald, Beverly Mills developed this column after the birth of her son, now 5. Ms. Mills and her husband currently live in Raleigh, N.C., and also have a 3-year-old daughter.

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