It can be difficult to let our toddler play effectively. Letting a toddler play with locks is a great teaching and learning opportunity.
Why I Let My Toddler Play With Locks
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When you have a curious and daring toddler running around, it’s the natural mama instinct in us to keep them safe. To do this, we say “No” a lot.
Don’t touch that. Don’t climb on that. Careful…don’t knock that over. Leave your brother alone. Don’t go in the toilet. These are pretty common occurrences for any stay-at-home mom.
And while I don’t let my little ones play with the knobs on the stove or dig for treasure in the toilet, I’ve been trying this thing of saying, “yes” more.
Recently, a situation happened where I was extremely grateful that I began saying “yes” to allowing my toddler to play with locks.
The Busy Board
When I first discovered busy boards on Pinterest, I got lost in all the possibilities (as it’s so easy to do on Pinterest.) I was fascinated by all the little gadgets that could be added to a board and imagined how they would intrigue my little ones’ mind and body.
So for my daughter’s first Christmas, I compiled a bunch of Pinterest Busy Board ideas. My Pinterest projects don’t usually turn out as pretty as planned, but since we are a super frugal family, my husband and I tackled it ourselves instead of shelling out $200 for a premade one. Along with wheels, a light switch, and buckles, we put several locks and door handles on our busy board. So from before our kids could walk, they’ve both been introduced to locks they might encounter in real life like chain locks, door handle with locks, and lever handles with locks. When my toddler was tall enough to reach the locks on real doors, she was not intrigued by a completely new, enticing object.
Fine Motor Skills Practice
Between the ages of 8 and 12 months, babies are learning and practicing fine motor skills like grabbing objects, pinching small objects, and banging objects together. Busy Boards are an easy way to expose babies to different textures and motor skill movements. Things that spin, turn, dangle, have buttons, open and close, and more can be added to a busy board.
Our busy board is screwed to a wall in our toy room. Both our kids and visiting friends like playing with the locks, opening the small wooden doors, removing and reattaching pictures with velcro, using the light switch night light, and more. By having this board accessible, my kids have had lots of fine motor skills practice – which came in handy later.
Discuss When To Play With Locks
When I first saw my toddler reaching on her tippy toes for the real locks on doors, I told her, “You don’t play with locks, only Mom and Dad can.” When I realized that was not realistic nor necessarily wise instruction, we chatted about how it’s ok to play with locks when Mom or Dad are in the room with you.
For several months, if a door was locked on our way out, she’d ask, “Can I unlock the door?” and I’d let her. It took patience; I definitely could have unlocked the doors faster myself, but I had a feeling this was going to be a good life skill for her to have. Like getting dressed and brushing her teeth, toddlers need time to practice new skills.
Thankfully, she followed these instructions and only practiced using real locks while she was in the same room with my husband or me.
Problem Solving and Building Confidence
As a new mom, I was very cautious. I hovered over my precious daughter, inside and outside, ready to protect her from any perceived threat of harm. In her 3-years of life, she has picked up on my fears. I recognized that she’s cautious, leery of taking risks, and lacked confidence in what she is capable of doing physically.
So when I read the book Barefoot and Balanced a few months ago, I intentionally started to say “Yes” more, to hover less, to lighten up, and to allow her to take more risks and make more messes. She climbs on things that are not 100% safe. There are places she can move around, climb on, and jump off our furniture. She has plenty of space in the house where she can throw balls, babies, and hula hoops. My daughter can walk, run, or ride her bike barefoot outside. She can climb on tree stumps, hang from tree branches, and jump off the couch if she wishes. And what’s been the outcome?
She’s’ more confident than ever before. She’s been using her body to pull, climb, stretch, throw, jump, spin, gallop, find her balance, peel hard-boiled eggs, and put stickers all over the house. She’s learned how to gauge risks and discovered her body can do more than she thought (Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?).
One mundane day, my daughter went to the bathroom. She closed the door so baby brother wouldn’t crawl in and bug her. I heard her wash her hands and waited for her to come out with her next idea of what we should play.
Except instead, she started banging on the door screaming, “Let me out! Open the door!” I quickly recognized the fear in her voice.
With baby in one arm, I walked at mall-walking speed to the bathroom. I jiggled the handle and my heart began to race. It didn’t budge. She had locked the bathroom door.
Apparently, our rule about only practicing the locks when Mom or Dad are in the room was being tested or had been forgotten.
To make matters worse, our bathroom doorknob does not have a keyhole. It’s just a solid metal knob. There is absolutely no way to get into this locked room from the outside without breaking down the door.
With both of our hearts racing, I could hear the panic in her little voice. I wanted to scold her for not listening to my genius rule that was in place for a reason, but instead, I said, “You know how we practice turning the locks? Turn the lock now.”
I listened and said a silent prayer. Within a few seconds, on the first try, she turned the lock and I opened the door. At that moment, we were both filled with sheer relief.
I’d never imagined I’d be so grateful for that silly Busy Board, that I changed my mind and said “yes” to playing with the real locks, and the time we spent practicing locks together.
Moral of The Story
Being a stay at home mom and working from home with a baby and a toddler is a complete blessing, yet in reality, toddlers like to do things like throw phones in the toilet and lock doors they’re not supposed to. And even though that situation could have turned out much worse, I am grateful it didn’t. Letting my child play with locks turned out to be a blessing.
Yes, she got herself into that scary situation by turning the lock when she shouldn’t have, but she also got herself out within seconds because of all our practice beforehand.
So take this lesson to heart: It’s ok for kids to explore, climb, take risks, make messes, and yes, even play with locks. As long as you’re there giving a little guidance along the way. And mamas, I know you are. You’re doing a fantastic job.
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Val Breit was a school counselor turned stay-at-home mom. She crushed over $42,000 in student loans in less than 3 years on a teacher’s salary with her intentional, simple, and frugal lifestyle. Now she’s on a mission to show moms how to make money while pregnant or as a stay-at-home mom, as well as sharing easy ways your family can save money.