Development FAQ: 6-12 months – Behaviour

At 8.5 months old my son is crawling fast and into everything

Although I was excited when my son began to crawl at 7.5 months, I had no idea how much chaos he would begin to cause. I seem to be constantly tidying up and putting back the books and videos he pulls from the lower shelves. I don’t want to keep saying no to him but the house always seems to look a mess and it really gets me down at times. How do I balance his need for freedom and my need for some domestic order?

Once a baby learns to crawl it is quite amazing to see how quickly he learns to empty shelves and cupboards and delights in doing so. Getting the balance right is a very personal thing. Some people can live in the chaos and it does not worry them at all. They may decide to have one big clearing up session once a day, or not at all. Other women find it hard to see their house strewn with toys and the contents of their shelves and cupboards and are constantly running around picking up. Taking the middle road is the best option.

Decide if you are going to have some “baby free” areas. Shut these off using doors or stair gates. If you have enough room you may be able to keep a sitting room free in this way and so know that one room is suitable to show unexpected visitors into, should they arrive.

Having somewhere as your own personal space is important. It maybe your bedroom or your own desk but whatever corner of the house you decide on, be prepared to be firm and consistent in keeping it for yourself. Although you will not want to constantly say “no” your son does need to learn the meaning of the word and will do so if it used for a few areas and items consistently.
The areas of the house where you spend most time are likely to be centred around the kitchen. Although your baby will like to be near to you, you may decide that the kitchen itself is too small or dangerous with hot stoves to allow him to crawl around and possibly trip you up. Again use stair gates to prevent his entry. He can play beyond the gate and still have you in his sight. He may protest at this until he gets used to the idea but it is better there are a few tears than having to deal with a nasty burn or scald. If you make the area beyond the gate interesting and child proof he will learn how to amuse himself there.

Babies love to empty shelves and drawers. By providing him with a low shelf and or drawer of his own filled with things which will not hurt him if he pulls on them he can be taught that yours are off limits. One way to prevent shelves being emptied is to pack books or videos really tightly so he is unable to pull one out and so clear the lot. Having a drawer of his own will keep him occupied for a time. Fill it with household items such as plastic boxes and lids, wooden and plastic utensils, cardboard tubes from loo rolls and kitchen roll, an old saucepan and other things which you know will appeal to him.

There are plenty of child-proofing items on the market such as door- and drawer locks, film to protect glass doors, video locks and plastic table corners. Look at the room or rooms that your son will spend most of his time in whilst down on all fours and you will be able to see it from his point of view. Use these products to provide a safe but interesting area for him to spend time in.
It is very tempting to constantly clear up behind an exploring baby. You should keep certain areas of the house clear: such as the stairs, hallways and frequently used passageways to prevent accidents. To begin to teach your baby that tidying up is part of the day decide to do a general clear up at certain points of the day. These may be before lunch time, before you go out and before bath time. He is still too young to really grasp the idea yet but if you tell him every time that it is “tidy up time now” he will begin to realise what you are doing. Ask him to hand you a brick or toy to put into a basket or box. Keep his toys in order using baskets or plastic storage boxes for different things rather than a jumble of everything in a one big toy box. Watching you daily he will begin to grasp the idea although he may not be of much help yet. You may have a quick tidy whilst he is around and then a more intensive one once he is having a nap or gone to bed in the evening. He will be able to play more contentedly if he is able to find his toys in the same place rather than living in constant chaos. Let him explore during the day but teach him that some order is a good thing.