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We have a fireplace and we're trying to get her to stay away from it but she's infatuated with closing the glass doors which is dangerous for not only her but the rest of us since they have to remain open. We first had a gate around it which worked but we felt as if instead of teaching her about the dangers we were hiding her from them which might work here but not at the other houses she goes to so we'd rather teach her to stay away from fire.

Anyway, like most toddlers she thinks us yelling and picking her up when she goes near it is a game so she continues to do it so much so she'll slowly walk over to it, peak over her shoulder to see if you're watching and continue. We think she knows what she's doing but we don't know if she understands timeout. Is there a better way to approach this?

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3 Answers

At 15 months she's probably too young to really grasp "fire hurts" without directly interacting with the fire, and you REALLY don't want that, so you'll need to attenuate the dangers and teach as if the gate weren't there. Put the gate back up and sternly tell her 'NO' when she gets near it. Use the short attention span of the toddler to your advantage; try combining 'NO' with a distraction such as playing with a different toy. Make sure that the 'NO' part is plain and boring, and the distraction is fun and intriguing.

When you are at a home where there's a fireplace and no baby gate, station yourself or another adult near the fireplace where she can be easily intercepted and redirected. Make the interception as boring as possible: no picking up and swinging, no 'happy' redirection like tickles or giggles, just a boring 'NO' and a turn-around to point her in the direction you want her to go.

Sounds like she's getting the reaction she wants: attention. Since she's 15 months old, and timeouts might not really work yet (at least, they didn't kick in for either of my two until they were closer to 30 months), you'll probably need to go back to prevention until she can really grok what you're telling her.

Anecdata: my son (now 32 months) was fascinated by the oven and stove and always wanted to touch it. We handled it by saying "HOT! NO!" when he'd get near it, and mimicking pain (wincing, shaking the 'burnt' hand, etc). He quickly grasped that we didn't want him to get near the stove or oven when it was working, and would back up and say 'hot! hot!'. This was around 20 or so months, IIRC.

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We did something very similar, but additionally (while being right there) let our eldest reach out quite far towards the fire until he went "Ow, hot hot hot." This was still a good few inches away, but he never went close to a fire again. –  Rory Alsop Dec 10 '13 at 21:22
    
@RoryAlsop You might want to turn that into an answer; I know I'd vote on it. (Controlled) experience is a good way of teaching. –  SQB Dec 24 '13 at 13:44
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We did something very similar, but additionally (while being right there) let our eldest reach out quite far towards the fire until he went "Ow, hot hot hot." This was still a good few inches away, but he never went close to a fire again.

Giving that element of controlled danger can embed a caution response quickly.

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We used food. Early on, after cooking a meal and setting the plate in front of our daughter, we would tell her not too touch it because "It's hot". Eventually she would get curious and touch the still hot food. It would be hot enough for her to let it go and understand "Holy moley, that hurt", but not hot enough to burn her and scar. We would then reiterate "It's hot".

We would also practice this too. If my wife or I accidentally burned myself in front of her, I would say "Ouch! It's hot". She finally picked up on the words we were saying and now every time we say "Don't touch. It's hot" she looks back at it, points at whatever the hot thing is, and says "It's hot" and she doesn't touch it. Begin establishing a vocabulary now and use food or something else that's hot but not fireplace hot to explain that if you touch it, you will be in pain.

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