Household injuries happen to the best of us. But for a curious toddler, the risk of household injury is much higher than it is for adults like yourself. Talking to toddlers about household safety is a small but important part of the overall big-picture plan to keep them happy, healthy, and safe.
How does talking to Baby help?
Toddlers learn through play and exploration, and at this age, your toddler needs constant reminders of the safety-based rules in your home. Plus, any chance you have to talk to Baby benefits their language development.
Because of their age, though, it is hard for Baby to think ahead of time and plan out their actions. Reminding Baby of safety guidelines is important, but it’s equally important not to assume that those reminders will do the trick. In addition to reminding Baby of the rules throughout the day, you still want to carefully toddler-proof your home.
Talking to your toddler about safety
A long, sit-down conversation with Baby is likely impossible at this age. Instead, it’s better to supervise them during play and exploration, and to step in and correct behaviors when necessary. Make no mistake that Baby is hearing everything you say, so your words matter, even if you have to repeat them a few times a day.
When you see your toddler performing a dangerous or disruptive behavior, here are some good ways to frame your response.
- Eye contact: If possible, squat or kneel so that you’re down at your toddler’s level.
- Keep it positive: If possible, keep your language positive. For example, “look how strong you are! Chairs are for sitting, though, not for climbing, so let’s find something safe for you to climb.” Experts recommend this so that parents don’t use words like “no” or “don’t” so often that they lose importance to the toddler.
- Descriptive language: Try using your words to describe cause and effect. For example, “if toys are left around the house, someone could step on them and fall.”
- Show vs. tell: If the situation calls for it, demonstrate the proper behavior to Baby. Toddlers look to others to see how to do things correctly.
Other ways to teach Baby about safety
In addition to supervising your toddler and stepping in when you see unsafe behaviors, there are other ways that you can teach Baby about safety.
- Books: There are a lot of books for toddlers about different kinds of safety, whether it’s wearing a helmet, fire safety, or body autonomy. If you find a few that you and Baby enjoy, you can reinforce safe behavior and have fun at the same time.
- Praise and positivity: It’s really important to give Baby praise and attention when they do things the right way, or safely. Not only does this show Baby the right ways to act in certain situations, but it also reduces the amount of times that they act out for attention, since they get your attention when they do things right, too.
- Make routines a part of your day: Baby is naturally curious and uninhibited. But routines and structure are important for making them feel safe. Consistency helps your toddler make sense of their world, which leads to better behavior and enhanced overall safety.
The bottom line
Your toddler’s full-time job is exploring and learning. As the parent, your job is keeping them safe and reminding them of the rules. Baby looks to you for safety, guidance, and reassurance, and they need to know that you and other trustworthy adults will step in to protect them when the moment calls for it.
Constant supervision, a safe environment, and reminders from adults like you will help keep Baby happy and safe at home.
- “Communication and Your 1- to 2-Year-Old.” KidsHealth. The Nemours Foundation, Aug 2014. Web.
- “Safe Exploring for Toddlers.” KidsHealth. The Nemours Foundation, Jun 2015. Web.
- “Bring Out the Best in Your Children.” AAP. The American Academy of Pediatrics, 2014. Web.
- “Let’s Do It Again . . . and Again! Why is Repetition Important to Learning?” ReadingBrightStart. The Nemours Foundation, 2017. Web.
- “Early Childhood Health and Wellness.” ECLKC. Head Start: An Office of the Administration for children and Families, Early Childhood Learning & Knowledge Center (ECLKC), OHS, HHS, Dec 2016. Web.