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Little Climbers

Toddlers climb up on the kitchen table (or your desk, or the bed) for the same reason mountaineers scale Everest: Because it's there.

"Kids this age are trying to find a balance between risk and challenge," says Karen DeBord, Ph.D., associate professor of child development at North Carolina State University in Raleigh. Of course, you know that the challenge of climbing up the book-case isn't worth the risk, but the average 15- to-18-month-old's ability to reason isn't always in line with his physical prowess.

Climbing is an important physical milestone, though. It'll help your child develop the coordination he needs to master skills like walking up steps.

It's impossible to ban climbing, but you can make sure your child's secure while he practices this new skill. To avoid accidents, keep an eye on your little climber and make an effort to:

  • Provide safe opportunities for climbing. Toss sofa cushions or pillows on a carpeted floor, or let him loose at a toddler-friendly playground.
  • Get a skidproof step stool. With close supervision, your curious kid can step up to the sink to brush his teeth or watch you make dinner at the kitchen counter.
  • Anchor bookcases and other pieces of furniture to the wall, even if you think they're too heavy to topple. Clear shelves of things that could fall on himor that are tempting him to climb.
  • Limit his access. Keep chair seats pushed under the table, and take a closer look at the stove: Could he get to it by climbing up shelves or cabinets?
  • Put the crib mattress at the lowest setting. If he still climbs out, it's time to move to a toddler bed.
  • Set up gates at the top and bottom of the stairs. It's the only way to keep your child from attempting that irresistible—but dangerousascent.

The good news: You'll have a whole new appreciation for this skill when your child climbs into your lap to give you a hug!