I am going to do my best to explain this concept. When I talk about safety awareness in this context it is in relation to falling and knowing when they are at risk of falling. The challenge is, kids develop this by actually having the experience of falling. If they never fall, they never learn that there is a fall risk and then are completely unprepared for when they do fall.
Talking with another mom, we have discussed how there is a difference between getting hurt and getting injured. I thought that was a really good way to phrase it. It’s okay for kids to bump into things and trip and fall, we don’t want them to get injured but if they get ‘hurt’ they start to learn that they need to work on different strategies.
You can start this early with them even in sitting on the floor. When they start to lose their balance, instead of holding them so they don’t move, let them topple onto pillows or use your hand to lower them to the ground. And then you can use that opportunity to help them get back into sitting. This is also a great skill to work on with early standing. When they first learn to get out of standing they will want to ‘plop’ down. They need to do this so they develop the control with repetition. This post talks about it more.
We worked on this a lot on the couch or on cushions. As he got more mobile he would try to go head first when moving off of an elevated surface. If it wasn’t too high I would let him and he wouldn’t be able to control it and he would ‘crash’. If we were on the couch I would use words to say feet first and help him turn around to get down. I talk about this in another post.
When he was crawling and moving and sitting on the couch, if he got to the edge, I was right there to make sure he was safe but I would let him start to lose his balance. I could always stop it if I needed to, but often I would let him have a controlled fall with me doing the controlling. Pretty quickly he started to self correct when he was at the edge and felt his balance at risk!
That’s not to say that he still doesn’t fall. Early on kids have to focus on new skills. So if he is focused on getting to the cat he isn’t paying as close attention to what his body is doing because he is distracted. This could result in a fall but each time, learning occurs.
You want to make sure your little one is supervised when they are up on a higher surface or near dangerous objects but it’s important that they have the opportunity to learn about safety awareness so that when they are able to do higher level skills they know their boundaries!