Call him “Joe On-the-Go.” From morning to night (luckily punctuated by a few all- important naps), Joseph Arthur Anderson keeps his parents, Patricia and Larry, on the alert. “He’s always been curious, but once he started walking at 13 months, his explorations increased exponentially,” says Patti, who lives in Cincinnati, Ohio.
Their basic strategy is to let him go full tilt within a structured routine. “His routine is, wake up, eat, play and explore, get difficult and cranky, go to bed [for a nap or for the night],” Patricia says. “Anticipating his schedule helps make the full-steam-ahead parts of the day easier on both of us.” The couple have childproofed but give Joe a pretty wide roaming range.
“You don’t want to make everything off-limits,” Patricia says. She allows him to rummage through the cupboards filled with baking tins, measuring cups, and pots and pans, and some of the food-storage areas. “I’ve found macaroni and cheese boxes in some interesting places,” she says with a laugh, “and I spend a lot of time cleaning up after him.” When he gets into something he shouldn’t, such as the china cabinet, she says firmly and in a disapproving tone, “That’s not for Joe,” and leads him away. Sometimes she has to do this over and over to make the point. “It took time, but it really works. He’s trained himself not to go there,” she says.
The Andersons’ tips for living with a high-energy toddler:
• Have a flexible routine. “Having a routine is a good way to predict my son’s behavior— when he gets cranky, I can tell he’s just too wound up and it’s time for a nap. A more-or- less predictable order to the day helps me pace his high-energy times with slower activities, too.”
• Do basic childproofing. “I read everything I could in order to pick up tips or ideas, from magazine articles to childproofing kits to the backs of bottles and boxes.”
• Teach—and have patience. “You can’t expect a little child to know what’s good or safe.
If you tell and show him over and over, he’ll begin to learn, but that takes time. Meanwhile, redirect him.”
• Be proactive. “If there’s something around that you don’t want your child to get into, put it away.”
• Take breaks. “It really helps when my husband spells me for a while. If you don’t have a spouse, it’s worth it to hire a baby-sitter so you can get time for yourself to recharge.”