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Toddler Tips

Daredevil Toddlers

From: NEW BEGINNINGS, Vol. 21 No. 6, November-December 2004, p. 226

"Toddler Tips" is a regular feature of the magazine NEW BEGINNINGS, published bimonthly by La Leche League International. In this column, suggestions are offered by readers of NEW BEGINNINGS to help parents of toddlers. Various points of view are presented. Not all of the information may be pertinent to your family's life-style. This information is general in nature, and not intended to be advice, medical or otherwise.

Situation

My two-year-old son is a daredevil! He is always climbing, jumping, or running, and often he ends up getting hurt. He has more bumps and bruises than most of my friends’ toddlers, who don’t seem to have any desire to climb so high, jump so far, or run so fast. I’d like to keep my son safe, but still allow him opportunities to be physically active. How do I do this?

Response

My daughter was a daredevil in her toddler years. When Autumn was climbing the playground heights before she was two years old and trying to leap large toys in a single bound, I knew something had to be done. I decided to find an environment where she could learn to play safely while taking risks and where I could learn to help her. We found that several of the local gymnastic schools offered "Mommy and Me" classes for boys and girls beginning at two years of age. The classes were about 45 minutes long and required a responsible adult to attend with the child. One of my neighbors was able to recommend a particular school that was both child-friendly and more affordable than the others. From the first day the teacher was clear that there was no pressure for the child to accomplish any particular task, or even to pay attention or stay with the rest of the group the whole time. After all, you cannot expect that from a two-year-old! She just asked that the parents follow the safety tips she taught and direct their own child in the way they know is best for him or her.

Over the 11 weeks of the class, my daughter went from shy and unsure to confident and coordinated. She loved walking on the balance beam and jumping on the trampoline. I learned how to keep her safe when she was tumbling and attempting daredevil behaviors such as swinging from bars and leaping from heights. One of the first and most beneficial lessons was how to land properly when jumping, tumbling, and so on.

Autumn’s coordination and attention span have improved. She is learning to follow directions and take turns. She can even walk on the high beam by herself at two-and-a-half years old! We took a second series of classes and had fun further developing our skills. I would recommend such classes to any mother of a daredevil. May you have as much fun with your daredevil as I had!

Breeze Foster
Edgewood MD USA

Response

It can be very tough on a mother to handle a child who seems to fear nothing and who loves running wild. My oldest son was a daredevil. He always seemed to have a stick in his hand. At first I would take the stick from him, but he would find a new one soon. I realized that he just had to have something in his hands all the time, so I bought him a plastic toy. He enjoyed this endlessly and even went to bed with it.

Once I realized that it is in his nature to run, climb, and jump, I found it easier to cope with the situation. By taking him to places where he could enjoy these activities without hurting himself, I freed myself from running after him all the time. I also made our yard a safe place where he could experiment. He loved walking on the wall and jumping from there. Although he often had bumps and bruises, he never sustained any serious injuries.

You might find it helpful to observe your son very closely and find ways to incorporate active pursuits in his life in a place where he is safe and secure. A small trampoline might also be a good option for a physical child like this.

One advantage of having a daredevil is that you do not have to chase him away from the television all the time!

Esmé Nel
Wolseley South Africa

Response

I’ve had one daredevil and one klutz. Invest in bandages! I found that absolutely nothing I did would curb my sons’ urge to climb. I found it was best to let them explore. Otherwise, they would wait until I turned my back before they attempted to do anything. I knew that’s when they could really get hurt. I kept a "booboo bunny" (ice pack in a stuffed animal) and lots of bandages on hand! Your son might stop climbing so much once he learns respect for things and the "no fear" factor curbs a bit. You might be able to discourage climbing on tables and counters by explaining about germs and the importance of eating and preparing food on a clean surface. You can also make an obstacle course out of the couch, an ottoman, and a chair when he’s in the mood for climbing and being active and you can’t get out to a playground. The cushions are soft and he’s less likely to get hurt.

Also make sure he has good shoes on because running or climbing in loose sandals, slip-on shoes, or flip-flops is a recipe for disaster. Well-laced and double-knotted tennis shoes that aren’t too big or small or sandals that go around the ankle and across the top of the foot are your best bet. Be sure to always use good footwear. That quick trip to the market may well include running down the aisles or climbing on the carts when you aren’t looking.

Tracie L. Tackett-Penrod
Tracy’s Landing MD USA

Response

My daughter was climbing well before she was walking. At nine months old, she was pulling herself up on a chair and standing at the window. We decided that since we couldn’t watch her every second, we would help her learn to be a better climber. We encouraged her and taught her, and at six years old she is the most able-bodied child I know. She excels at sports and loves to climb.

My husband spent a good amount of time teaching her how to fall and giving her hints on how to climb or wrestle better. The bruises came with the territory, but my daughter learned how to do things the safe way.

Allison Laverty
Van Dyne WI USA

Response

One thing I’ve learned with three children is that they have different abilities and activity levels. Comparing your toddler to others may often leave you feeling uncomfortable because you notice things out of context without a full understanding of that child. One person rarely has extensive exposure to a wide enough group of other children to be able to form reliable conclusions based on those observations. Try not to worry about what you see in others.

As a parent, whether your child is a daredevil or not, it’s important to make your home child-safe and to provide safe outlets for our children’s energy. I’ve found that running around outside can help a great deal. Playgrounds with good climbing structures work wonders, too. They can help develop climbing and other physical skills. Supervision is the key. Parenting is truly a hands-on, full-time job. Supervision can prevent the preventable accidents and help children learn important safety rules. We are there as their safety net.

Not all bumps and bruises are preventable even by the most thoughtful, vigilant parent, so we also have to be realistic about our ability to keep them safe. We cannot wrap them in bubble wrap, nor do we really want them to live in a bubble, no matter how precious they are to us.

Learning to keep themselves safe and to deal with the bumps and bruises is part of life, no matter how much we would prefer to spare them from those lessons. Over time, children tend to develop better skills and learn more about safety, particularly as they develop better balance and coordination. In the meantime, you can try to do the best you can to protect your child while encouraging his wonderful sense of adventure. You can be there with hugs, kisses, and bandages when needed!

Debra Rosenberg
McAllen TX USA

Response

Take a deep breath and assure yourself that your son’s behavior is perfectly normal. He is taking in the world through his senses. Of course, this type of child requires vigilant parents and physical outlets for energy. Provide a lot of active opportunities for him in your daily life—for example going to playgrounds, walking, and playing with balls.

My now-adult son, David, exhibited similar behavior throughout his childhood. He loved a physical challenge -- bicycles, martial arts, and other sports. Guess what he became? He was a Special Forces Green Beret medic with nine years of Army-supervised jumping from helicopters, swimming with sharks, and endless hikes. While he continues to enjoy a physical challenge, David is now in medical school pursuing a demanding intellectual path.

Your son’s current energy puts him a position to make wonderful contributions to the world. Oh, and take your vitamins and enjoy the workout with your toddler partner.

Cecily Harkins
Portland OR USA

Response

My son started climbing before he could walk. At around 16 months of age, I found him sitting on top of the refrigerator helping himself to a box of crackers I had stashed up there! At four, he is still a daredevil to some extent. He loves jumping and almost always has a few bruises on his legs or arms. Here are some things we did to enable him to jump around and be active without hurting himself so much:

We allowed him to jump on one of our older couches—he likes to pile pillows (my body pillow and pregnancy pillow are getting a lot of use) on the floor and jump from the couch onto the pile of pillows.

We let him make a slide by leaning the tumble mat again a couch and sliding down it.

These activities seemed to help him have the kind of fun he craved while he was indoors where I could watch him. When he tried to be a daredevil out in the yard, it got him into more trouble because he was trying dangerous stunts such as climbing the roof of his playhouse and jumping off. We plan to get a wooden play set with a rock climbing wall, large slide, ladder, rings to hang from, and other equipment when we can afford it. He enjoys a similar play set when we visit his cousins. This might be another option for you, if you are able to afford it.

Margo Trueman
Ridgecrest CA USA

Response

I think it’s important for children to have a safe outlet. With my oldest daughter, we came up with the term "wiggles." She could tell me she had this feeling -- that the "wiggles" were building up and she needed to move to get them out. It’s so great for her to be able to use words to express her feeling, and it served as a warning for me. I know I need to watch her so she will be safe.

My daughter wasn’t so much a daredevil, but she did have a lot of excess energy. So I came up with the idea of "bouncy pillows." These are three old couch cushions from a long gone couch. These cushions have removable covers so I can wash them. My children love these pillows. They spread them out and jump from one to the other like "lily pads," they stack them and sit and bounce, they spread them out and do a small jump from a low step stool, they pretend to "go swimming" on them. It seems every week they come up with something new!

Loree Stickles Noonan
Baton Rouge LA USA

Response

My two-year-old is also a daredevil with excessive amounts of energy. Sometimes I find it hard to refrain from hovering over him to prevent him from hurting himself. However, I believe that allowing him more freedom to make mistakes can actually be beneficial, provided he is not able to run into traffic or fall over a cliff! In my personal experience, when children are given more freedom to tumble, they tend to become more sure footed. Bumps, scrapes, and bruises heal quickly in toddlers. Accidents involving broken limbs usually happen when vigilance would not have prevented them. As mothers, we naturally want to protect our children from physical harm, but perhaps if we equip them better by allowing them to learn from their own mistakes.

Barbara Higham
West Yorkshire England

Last updated Thursday, October 19, 2006 by njb.
Page last edited .


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