unusual, the mundane and the exciting, the domestic and the social, the private and the public arenas of life.
As explained in the section on "Postural Development" (page 397), I do not advocate the use of prams, strollers, long periods in car capsules, car seats or indeed lengthy periods in cars for young children. When a baby first needs to go out into the wider world, a sling at the front is the best alternative. This close physical contact between mother and baby acts as a sort of security buffer between the baby and the big wide world. Once a baby has full head control, better long sightedness and a more natural curiosity (about 6 months), they can graduate to a backpack in which they are close, secure and from which they can see the world. Once a child can walk, they are then happy to explore the world within hand-holding range of their parents. The next stage is walking a few metres ahead or behind, but this doesn't usually happen until after their 2nd birthday. This gradual progression of moving away from mummy's side and feeling safe and comfortable in the social environment is part of the way in which children develop independ-ence and confidence.
It is important during early childhood that you adopt the rule of not putting children on playground devices that are beyond their development. Babies and toddlers in playgrounds with equipment too old for them are a liability both to themselves and others. Even Councils recognise this and often provide different sets of equipment for different age groups.
My golden rule is - when a child can get on it and off it by themselves, then they are safe to use it. Although equipment beyond their own capabilities may be good fun and a nice adrenal hit for them, giving them that experience is risky in so far as the child is likely to revisit that equipment and try to remount it themselves when you are not watching. Many a toddler has received a bad bump on the head and even concussion from a swing seat way too high for them because they have revisited it unassisted to have another go. In addition, a young child's nervous system does not need parentally-assisted rides down a slippery dip that they could not climb the access ladder up; nor see-saw rides while being held by older siblings; nor precari-ously
balanced pushes on swings designed for children twice their age. Premature experience of these rides will also create a child who pesters you to always assist them onto things bigger than they should be on. I believe a crawling child should just be left to explore and enjoy those things at ground level that they can interact with according to their own abilities. The same goes for toddlers. Soon enough they will be able to set their own levels of thrill seeking!
Parents should be considerate in the way they and their children use public play spaces. On many occasions I have seen parents with their young babies take over playground equipment while the older kids, for whom it was designed, wander around kicking the dirt politely yet frustratedly waiting for a turn. Underage, unsupervised children in playgrounds also annoys the hell out of older, bigger, children trying to have play safely themselves, for example when a toddler keeps wandering into their flight path or just sits there blocking the progress of the queue down the slippery slide.
Visiting a childless person's house is an activity which can be of great distress to a young child's parents - and their hosts! Having just rearranged your own whole house to be toddler-safe and toddler-proof, what happens when you visit friends who have no idea at all what it is like to have an inquisitive and clumsy 2 year old rampaging through their house? Normally, there will be either a very tight control of the child's natural curiosity and exuberance by making them sit still in one place, or else a constant chorus of - "Don't touch this" and "Come away from that", neither of which is desirable for the child's natural self expression. A good way to alleviate this is, upon first arriving, spend some time with your hosts and the child all going around looking and showing and exploring everything the child is inquisitive about, taking the time to explain to them which things and places are available and which are forbidden. Then set the child up with some of those things he likes and does not have at home whilst you enjoy the much less anxious company of your hosts. The visit will then satisfy everyone much better since the child will not resent the many restrictions placed on him. If this pattern is repeated each visit, he will soon learn the bounds of your host's hospitality and be more comfortable visiting there.