Safe Physical Surroundings

Young children need the support of adults to keep their developing brains safe from injury. As children reach the toddler stage, they become increasingly aware of the world around them, and are interested in learning about their environment. At the same time, they are developing motor skills that enable them to explore independently — but they do not have the judgment yet to recognize and respond appropriately to dangerous situations.

It is important that infants and toddlers have plenty of time to explore the world around them. The repeated experience of exploring in safe surroundings teaches young children that they are not likely to get hurt, that they can trust their caregivers to keep them safe, and that new experiences are enjoyable. If the environment is not safe, the developing brain will focus on survival behaviors, and will have less opportunity to create and strengthen connections for higher-order skills like learning and developing relationships.

Adults can do many things to control dangers that could lead to injury, permanent disability, or even death. Check carefully to ensure that the home, indoor and outdoor play areas, toys, and equipment meet established safety standards. Supervise young children carefully at all times — unintentional injuries can happen in seconds. Transport children in approved child safety seats that are appropriate for their age and size. Many businesses and communities sponsor car seat installation checks; go to the Safe Kids USA website to find a child passenger safety technician or an installation station near you.

A sense of security is also important for young children’s developing brains. Young children feel secure when they know that they can depend on adults to provide sufficient food at regular times, to hold him safely, and to comfort him when he is distressed. Adults create this sense of security by responding sensitively to young children, and by creating predictable routines for their lives. With predictable routines, young children knows that mealtime, playtime, bath and bedtime happen in a certain order. Having consistent routines like these is comforting, and helps form the foundation in the brain for skills such as emotional control and secure attachment.