Friday, May 08, 2009

The Kitchen Floor Rule

Smiley is now obedient to a fairly abstract rule: he is not allowed to crawl in the kitchen.

For many months this was simply too abstract for him to understand and we used a baby gate to keep him out of the kitchen when we were in it more than momentarily. But since mid-April the rule has "clicked".

The main issue is the dirt and bits of dropped food that accumulate at the edge of the kitchen floor under the counters. We don't want him trying to eat that. Since his first birthday it is less important because he is now allowed to eat nuts, but still...that gunk can get quite gross in less than a day.

We also don't want him underfoot while we're baking or carrying a full pot between the sink and stove.

So if Smiley is on his scooter or cruising while leaning on the cabinets then he is okay. It is only while crawling that he puts floor gunk into his mouth or sneaks underfoot.

I'm not sure how he learned the rule, except through repeated kind and patient moving him out of the kitchen when crawling. As a rule it was certainly too abstract for the type of "training" I wrote about earlier.

He was especially cute on Wednesday morning, when a toy rolled a short ways into the kitchen. He sat at the border between the dining room and kitchen and reached and strained to grab the toy without violating the rule.

Sometimes he cruises to keep us company in the kitchen. More often he sits on the border and watches from there. (His scooter has not been upstairs for a couple weeks.)

When the rule first "clicked" in mid-April he began to experiment. He tried sitting at the border and then came into the kitchen scooting on his bottom rather than crawling: nope, that was not allowed. He tried cruising to a certain cabinet and then sitting: nope, that was not allowed. He tried riding his scooter to a certain place and then getting off and sitting: nope, that was not allowed. He tried walking into the kitchen by pushing his little wagon: that was okay.

What prompted a blog post today? The baby gate has been leaning, unused, against a dining room wall for about a month -- until today. It was a sunny day and we were playing in the back yard. I needed a way to keep a muddy boy pushing a wagon full of collected grass, moss, and dirty leaves from following me from the deck into the kitchen when I darted in to get more tea.

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