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Change Their Environment

Our youngest daughter is 3. She is the definition of curious. She also struggles with sensory things and is always needing to be doing something with her hands. We made adjustments where we could when we are out running errands. We started bringing along fidget toys and giving her hands something to do to help her sit still in a shopping cart and at appointments.

While these were all helpful, we still struggled at home. Anytime we turned around she was getting into things. If she found a pen or marker she would not only color on anything in site but she would also color ALL over her body. It was stressful to keep an eye on her at all times during the day. Especially when she was a busy two year old. I was left feeling overwhelmed. Even during nap and bed time she would crawl out of her crib and empty all the clothes out of her dresser drawers, turn the light on, and come out of her bedroom.

I tried being consistent like they suggested, putting her clothes back away, turning her light off and putting her back in bed. But it wasn't working. It just had me spending her entire nap time undoing all the things she was doing. I was frustrated and unable to get anything done. And what I didn't realize at the time, was that I was greeting my daughter in the mornings and afternoons with disappointment.

"Why are you out of your bed?"

"You need to stay in bed until Mom comes to get you."

"I asked you to leave your clothes in the dresser."

Etc, etc, etc.

We started working with a brain specialist and behavior therapist to find where we could help her with some of the things she was struggling with. This is not only where I realized that I was greeting her with disappointment each day, but that I was also asking something of her that she just physically and mentally could not deliver on. I was unintentionally setting her up for failure each day.

The BEST advice they gave me:

Instead of expecting her to abide by all these rules that are virtually impossible for her, change her environment. Set you and her both up for success. They told me to put together a list of things I needed and wanted from her and to adjust accordingly to her needs. Which meant we put our bar stools (that she often got hurt on) downstairs, put safety latches on our drawers, oven, and cupboards with cleaning supplies. All that was left was her bedroom.

Here is what I needed and the adjustments we made to set us both up for success:

- I needed for her to stop climbing out of her crib and risking getting hurt.

- I removed her crib and placed her mattress on the floor.

- I needed for her to stop taking her clothes out of her dresser so I wasn't constantly refolding and putting them away multiple times a day.

- I removed her dresser and put her clothes inside plastic drawer organizers inside her closet. We also made it so she could not open the closet on her own.

- I needed her to stop turning her light on in the middle of the night and during nap time.

- We bought a light switch cover that snapped shut. If it was open, she could use the light switch. If it was closed (at night and during nap) she was unable to open it.

- I needed her to stay in her room at night and during her nap.

- We put a doorknob cover over the inside doorknob.

I had now covered all of my needs. This created the opportunity for me to greet her with the happy greeting she deserved. Although she was now in a totally safe environment, I felt so much guilt over the fact that her room was completely empty. I wanted to create a space that would cater to her sensory needs and be somewhere she could play and enjoy herself.

We decided to create her own "sensory room" for her in her bedroom. This included:

She now has a room catered just for her! There is nothing she can do during nap time or bedtime that would bother me or that is not safe. If she runs around her room and jumps on her mats, I can rest assured that she is safe and cannot exit her bedroom. We put her swing and balance pods in her closet when she's sleeping because she would throw them at the wall. So again, instead of scolding her, we changed her environment and removed those items during sleep times.

If any of these struggles sounds familiar to you, I highly recommend changing your child's environment so you and your child can both be set up for success! If you would like the links to any of the other safety products that we found work for an older child who is very smart, please reach out! I am happy to help you through your process!

K Monsma

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