“Toddler” is one of those misused words that I'd like to can forever. The actual “toddling” stage lasts 2 days max at my house. Each of my boys have gone from slithering belly-crawlers to expert rock-climbers in less than a week – and each have left me breathless and paranoid of all the dangers they could soon get into.

While each child will be more cunning than the last, there are some basic precautions that parents and caregivers can take to ensure at least a fighting chance of containing the monkey-like tots. Here's what I've learned thus far....


Contain the mess early on. You must know that it is not a matter of “if” you're child will pull all the drawers from your kitchen cabinets (sending a pound of pecan pieces flying into every nook of your cooking space), but rather “when.” Mess will happen, so limit the amount of space the kid can possibly trash, and remove as many treasured items from the area as possible. They will find something they aren't supposed to touch, and will try to fit it into the keyhole of your bedroom door or the USB port of your laptop, so keep them away at all costs! Playpens work well for this.


Take away temptation – period. While I do respect those dear friends who still believe that children should and can be trained to respond to a “no” when reaching for those “off-limits” items, I prefer to not take my chances. I have very well-behaved kids, who usually follow my instructions. But one cell phone in the toilet is too many. If you managed to inherit your Great-Great-Grandmother's favorite jelly jars, don't be a dope – put them up high and wait until the kids leave home to ever bring them out (and then be on alert for similarly destructive grandchildren.)


Little minds can overcome matter. My son is only 18 months, but possesses abilities I've only read about. If bound and determined to reach something, he can schooch his playpen (with the wheels firmly locked by brakes) 10 feet across any floor and tip the whole thing over to bail out to reach the sweet, sweet freedom he's dreamed of. He can remove his diaper and replace it with a t-shirt. He can stash tiny shampoo bottles in his shorts until he is alone enough to try to drink them. He must be part Gremlin. (And so my opinion that he should never, ever, be left alone even for a minute, and might also be better off not eating after midnight.)


Caging children is largely frowned upon by our society (although at times I have admittedly been tempted to devise a baby-friendly restraint for this very purpose.) And while I can recommend some very nice crib tents and a couple of rather effective baby gates, the fact still remains: My kid is mobile – very, very mobile, and I have a very long road ahead of me.