Can a baby be hyperactive?

dueling mouse.jpg

Can a baby be hyperactive?  Our son Morton is only ten months old and already walking. What’s worse, he's learning to climb. He pulled himself onto the coffee table and then crawled across to the other side, knocking over a bowl of flowers I was sure he couldn’t reach.  I feel as though I can't take my eyes off of him or he'll be in trouble. I find myself yelling "No!" all of the time, and sometimes that stops him, but other times he ignores me or laughs!  No one else I know has a baby anywhere near as active as Morton. We don’t even know where to begin!

No one knows fear like the parent of an active, climbing “toddler”.  Morton is very advanced..  Most babies don’t begin walking until after their first birthday.  Your little guy is way ahead of the pack in his motor skills at a time when his ability to follow any kind of rule is almost non-existent.  

It would be nice to think that you could make him understand why he can or can’t do certain things, but you can’t.  Your experience with him is going to be very different than your friends, although their babies may catch up with Morton soon enough.  In a few months you’ll be the expert they’ll turn to. 

The urge to climb is natural in all children, and once they can they will climb on chairs, stairs, sofas, tables, up on counters and anywhere that they can reach.  It’s not just that he wants to move and stretch.  He’s also driven by curiosity to need to touch and investigate everything that he sees.  Every time Morton watches you do your daily tasks he wants to imitate you, whether you are flipping a light switch, talking on your cell phone, working at your desk or cooking iat the stove.   Whatever he sees, he will want to do.

Some children have additional characteristics that make their explorations particularly difficult to restrain.  Toddlers who are active,  well-coordinated and have the inborn temperamental trait of persistence will be able to climb almost anywhere and are not easily be distracted by your efforts to distract them.

Now that Morton is moving and climbing you'll have no choice other than to supervise him almost constantly to keep him safe. Before long he may figure out that he can push a chair to a place where he can climb up to a table or counter.  You will get very good at be listening for the sounds of scrambling as he prepares for his next assault on the bookcase and even better at listening into the most dangerous sound--silence.  That’s when you’ll know Morton is really getting into mischief.

Morton may even try to climb out of his crib, so now is the time to plan.  Make sure his mattress is at the lowest level and that he doesn’t have anything in the crib to boost himself up over the railing. Keep the crib away from any furniture that has interesting items, from windows with cords, and remove hanging mobile structures that might tempt him.  Place a thick pad or rug around the crib should Morton figure out how to climb over the side rail. If you ever see him try to climb out, use your most stern voice to discourage him. (Fortunately, many children who can climb quite well enjoy the cozy confinement of their cribs and won't attempt to climb out until they are much older.)

Morton will have to be restricted to areas of the house that you can childproof.  Placing gates at the top of stairs and at the doorways to bathrooms and the kitchen will protect him from the most dangerous ares when you can't keep your eyes on him every moment.  A gate in the doorway of Morton’s own childproofed room can create a safety zone for when you can’t watch him. If he gets used to the gate now, he’ll abject to it less when he’s an even more active one year old! 

You can certainly say "No" to a ten month old,  but the more that you say it the less effective you will be.  Try to save the forceful "No" for the most dangerous acts that you want to shock him into not repeating.  Most parents find that an angry and and sharp reprimand to a child trying to touch a stove to a stove is a very effective way of keeping the child from exploring in that direction again, unless the parent has already been using the same forceful voice for other misbehavior.  Overall, your best approach will be remove him from dangerous situations in a calm, boring way or to distract him with a more interesting activity.

It's also a good idea to provide Morton with fun and safe ways to exercise his innate desire to climb.  Indoor climbing structures are great, and they will be a better investment for your money over the years than most toys.  Get him a safe stepstool to carry around and use when he wants to reach something that you allow him to have.  You can allow him to do some climbing on the furniture in some part of the house.  You can place a mattress or futon on the floor of his room so that he can climb and jump in a safe way. If you have stairs, teach him to crawl down backwards with supervision, before he decides to try them on his own.

When you are at the park or playground, Morton will probably want to climb on the equipment there, too.  If the surface below the equipment is padded and the structure is designed for toddlers, let him climb.  It is safer to let him climb from the ground up on his own..  When young children are lifted to a surface that they did not climb to on their own they may not understand how high up they are. They will sometimes walk off a platform or fall off a ladder because they think they are still on the ground!

Your next year with Morton will be a lot of work! Try to have outings to child friendly settings where you can relax and let him explore, run and climb freely.  He will gradually learn your rules and expectations, but at his young age you will find that the learning comes slowly.  Good luck!