Homes transform when babies enter the picture. Kitchens, doors, staircases, windows and large furniture are all adorned with various contraptions to keep curious little ones safe.
We have an archway dividing the front and back of our house. When my daughter turned one and started walking, she thought it was a lot of fun to travel all the way to the front door, especially if she managed to leave my line of sight. A safety gate was the perfect solution to keep her in my vicinity while also giving her the freedom to explore her surroundings.
I assumed my child would view this barrier as a frustrating deterrent, but I never expected she would consider it a fun challenge. These are the reasons why a safety gate surprisingly became one of my daughter’s favorite activities.
1. Increases Her Gross Motor Development
As soon as we installed the gate, my daughter was delighted. There we were, staring at her through a makeshift baby prison door, and she was grinning ear to ear. She grasped the bars with her tiny fists and jumped, squatted and played peek-a-boo with us for several minutes.
From birth until age five, children are expected to meet monthly gross motor skills milestones. By 15 months of age, toddlers should be able to squat and stand back up with ease. Our safety gate was installed just after her first birthday, so she was in the early stages of figuring out her body could make this motion. Gripping the gate bars enabled her to practice the move while maintaining balance (and keeping a big grin on her face).
2. Helps Her Master a New Trick
At this age, children have a tremendous sense of accomplishment when they master a new trick. While stepping over the gate’s threshold may seem like a small nuisance to an adult, a toddler views it as a fun obstacle to conquer.
My daughter spends several minutes going back and forth through the gate, opening the door, stepping through, and closing the door behind her. She is so proud of this act that she shrieks with joy and even claps her hands! Meanwhile, I do a silent cheer watching from the sidelines, thrilled that she is happy and occupied, and I got to enjoy my coffee while it is still warm.
3. Exerts Her Independence
Raise your hand if your toddler’s favorite word is “no.” My kid likes to respond to every question I ask her with “no,” even if she doesn’t really mean it. Every toddler goes through the no phase at some point to feel as though they have control in a big world where they are always told what to do.
With supervision, my daughter can manipulate the gate however she sees fit. To her, the options are endless: the gate is closed, now it is open! She is on one side, now the other side. The dog is locked out, now the dog is let through. You get the picture. Collectively, my little one has spent hours over the last six months interacting with an inanimate object that gives her a sense of accomplishment, control, and joy.
Best of all, she still finds a way to have fun with it even when serving its purpose in a closed position. Do your children find joy and satisfaction in the small things too? Out of all the objects they have discovered and love, which has surprised you the most?
Katie McCall is a lifestyle portrait photographer, content strategist, and producer based in San Antonio, Texas. When she isn’t behind a camera or laptop, she's exploring the world with her husband, darling one-year-old daughter and tiny pup. If you’d like, please follow their adventures on Instagram (@hersideproject)!