The Crawler and the Tree
Tips for Holiday "Yes" Spaces for Mobile Babies
It can be a wonderfully festive time of year and many holidays include decorations. Some of which are a bit easier to navigate than others for mobile babies. Once babies start to move, they move a lot and for those decorations that tend to live on the floor (*ahem, a tree for example), you might be looking for ideas about how to balance your very active baby and your holiday decor. Look no further - we've got you covered.
The Importance of a "Yes" Space
Mobile babies are in a wonderful stage of development when they start to venture out on their own and this sets in motion some wonderful advancements in self-confidence! You see, when babies are first born, they are entirely dependent on us to meet their every need and they learn to trust us for that (that's important!). But by the time they start crawling, they are far more capable and start to venture away. Initially, this time is wrought with anxiety as being “separate” means “being apart from those who meet my needs.” Babies are learning whether or not they are ok on their own - can I ask for help if I need it? Can I go get the things I want or need? The more opportunities the child has to direct themselves during this time, the more confidence they gain in themselves!
A "yes" space is simply a space that has been safety proofed for the mobile child in mind such that they can move around more or less freely (and avoid "no, not that!" "Oh, not mommy's book!" "Whoops, not my shoe!"). This doesn't mean that "no" is a bad word - it is necessary and important for their social development to learn things that are acceptable or not acceptable in our society. The "yes" space is more about taking a little extra time to move the obvious "no's" out of reach so that the child can learn that they can figure some things out on their own.
A Tree and Other Holiday Decor
The "yes" space is all well and good before holiday decorations start being hung and put in common areas. If you have a holiday decoration that lives on the floor (for the purposes of this post, I'll use a tree), a common way to protect it from total annihilation before the season even starts is either gate the baby or gate the tree.
- Option 1: Gate the Baby: This might be fine, but two issues might come up. One is that a crawling baby simply won't be content with so little room. They want to explore and coordinate their movements, be in charge of themselves - a play pen simply doesnt have the space to provide that. The second is that it separates the baby from the community. Part of holiday festivities is the feeling of being together, an important environment for the child to be a part of. Feeling a part of a community is what incentives positive social development.
- Option 2: Gate the Tree: Ok, so maybe we won't gate the baby, how about the tree? This, again, might be fine but there are a drawbacks to this. One of the few certainties in life is that the baby is going to go toward the tree (or any holiday decor on the floor). Its bright and festive, sometimes with lights and shiny objects, its very attractive. What typically happens with a gate is that once the baby reaches the gate, they have nothing to do but try to climb it, push on it or bang it. If they knock the gate over - it knocks over the tree. All the banging and pushing at the tree doesn't always feel like the right preparation for when the gate disappears.
So what do we do?
The third option is to have two (or so) activity shelves for the baby positioned in front of the tree. This creates the necessary barrier to protect the floor decor while giving the baby something to do once they have been blocked. They approach the tree and while fascinating, their toys are right there for them to use. This uses the best of both worlds while continuing to give the baby free roam of the communal space. A low, open shelf is a great investment for the play space even outside of holiday times so that the toys are visible to the child and they have an easier time making choices (better concentration) and its easier for them to put away (personal responsibility).
May your holidays be full of cheer and your spaces be full of "yes!"