We have a 13 month old son who's pretty receptive of directions given to him. That's also partly because we don't have a lot of directions to give or "no"s to say in our own house. Anything that can be baby proofed is baby proofed. He's allowed to climb on the couch. He's allowed to drop things and watch them fall. (he only has access to safe, unbreakable things)

But others houses are not like that. He's recently started to get more and more comfortable at his aunt's house, which is in no way a "yes space" (safe space for kids where you don't have to keep saying no). We're worried that he's soon going to start climbing and opening drawers and dropping things. For his safety and their sanity, we'd like to know how we can manage it.

We can redirect him every time he starts to climb etc, but is there a way we can convey to him that the rules are different outside our house? (With reminders as needed, of course) Kind of like a blanket rule instead of constant redirections and "no"s, which he is not used to. What is the appropriate age for this?

Some examples of what his comprehension level is:

  • our router and google home device are within his reach, so he kept grabbing them. We consistently told him he couldn't play with it and physically removed him every time if he didn't comply. One month of this and now he knows not to go there. Sometimes he's overcome by impulse but just needs a reminder. We don't have to physically remove him from there anymore.
  • He used to drop food on the floor after he was done eating. Following a suggestion from this site, I redirected him to use the cup holder as the "i don't want this" space. A week or 2 of constant redirecting and reminding, he almost never throws food now. If he does throw once, he needs a reminder and doesn't throw again.
  • 1
    We used the rulemaker as difference (our son was older, but maybe a younger one would understand this too). We said something along the line "This is aunt's bookshelf, and she do not want to it to be climbed" So he learned, to ask for permission if he do not knows the rules yet (different to households we visit regularly) Feb 18, 2021 at 5:35

2 Answers 2


In my experience, children quickly grasps that rules at different places (at home - grandparents - childcare) or around different adults (parents - aunts) are different.

I would be honest with any aunts/grandparents/friends you visit: "Our house is pretty child safe, our kid will try all kinds of things and all kids can be messy", take a look around for dangerous spots (non parents are IME bad at spotting these and you can't expect people without kids to have toddler-safe flats).

Talk to the adults to come up with rules for the new place and then try to be consistent. Also make sure together that there are things you can enthusiastically allow at the places you visit (like play with the drawer full of tupperware). Just be aware that things adults handle are often more interesting to children than toys.


He's not likely to comprehend the difference between spaces, especially when the same things are in both locations. ie. He can touch power outlets at your house because they are baby-proofed but it's not ok at his aunts house because they aren't.

Even though things are your house may be babyproofed, when he goes for them, you should still stop him. "No" is ok, and might be necessary for a while longer for items that are common within homes in general. He's going to need consistency.

Right now it's all about keeping him safe and the adults around him sane. Once he's a little older and can understand why he isn't supposed to do something, then you can explain more rationally when sometimes something is ok and other times it isn't. Until he can understand the why, it's unlikely he'll be able to rationalize location-specific exceptions to certain rules.

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