Other children as carers

This is a time when other children are a great source of entertainment and amusement for the baby, but they cannot and should not be expected to be in charge of safety. An adult needs to be in charge of the baby’s safety and should provide constant supervision when the baby is awake. If one adult needs to leave the room for a while to do the washing, cook a meal etc. another adult must take over the watching of the baby. We call this the ‘hand over. One parent asks the other to watch the baby while they are busy. When they return, they say clearly: ‘I’ll take over again now.’ Obviously, if both of you are around, both will be responsible for watching.

As the child grows, there will be more and more safe opportunities for unsupervised play. With practice, parents develop unexpected skills. The ‘parent’s ear’ can hear:

– The quietness of mischief.

– The distinct sucking sound of a fly being savoured.

– The quick gulp that means ‘too late’ — it has gone down the hatch.

Parental intuition develops, whereby parents become inexplicably uncomfortable about their child being with certain people. Or they may feel a sudden urge to go and check the baby. For every 40 times you act on this intuition, with no apparent need, there will be that one occasion which makes it worthwhile.

How to teach babies to stay away from danger Babies love to explore, but modern homes are dangerous places for a stone-age infant. With heaters, power points, hot liquids, high places to climb and objects to swallow, you must be ever-vigilant to prevent your child’s innocent exploration from leading to permanent disfigurement or death. You can make the place safer, but you can’t cocoon them, so you must teach them to stay safe.

If a child is heading for or playing with a dangerous object, act first. Pick the child up, or pull their hands away, and say in a serious voice: ‘Come away’ or: ‘No!’ or: ‘Hot!’ or: ‘Hands off!’ Take them away and give them something they can play with. This is deliberately worded, to tell the child what to do, as opposed to what not to do.

As children learn to understand speech, they will automatically think ‘hands off or ‘stay away’. This is much more useful than what people often say: ‘Don’t touch it’ or: ‘You’ll burn yourself which is programming messages that you don’t want.