My two-and-a-half-year-old twins can open the back door. The first time they did it, they brought me the mail... while I was in the shower. It was a scary moment, knowing that they'd wandered out to our unfenced front yard while I was unaware. They loved using their little yellow chair to reach the doorknob, and it was obvious that some quick fencing work was required.
With our backyard secured, they've enjoyed the freedom of not having to wait for help to go outside, and it's helpful to be able to ask them to open the door when I'm carrying laundry. I'm completely happy for them to go in and out, so long as they are dressed appropriately.
There are some problems, though. The first is that they can't shut the door behind them, and with the colder weather this is becoming unpleasant. Another problem is that if they're outside and see that I'm inside while the door is shut (for example, if I'm doing dishes while I watch them through the window), they get upset and come crying to the back door.
I'm also fed up with tripping over the yellow chair every time I go past the back door. If I remove the chair, Finn's inclined to try to scale the door's window frames like a ladder! He's quite the little muntin climber. He'll climb every muntin. Ain't no muntin high enough. (Okay, okay, enough muntin puns. I only just found out what they are called, and I love the word. Muntin muntin muntin.)
I found the solution today, though. All I needed was two pieces of string.
You see, we have the lever-type door handles. A piece of string tied to the handle made it easy for them to open the door to go out, without using a chair. They can now shut the door behind them as they go out, and open it again to come in.
I had to shorten the outside string so that they could reach to push the door open while pulling the string, but after that change, they immediately got the knack. Now they are happy for the door to be closed while they are outside. No more cold breeze; no more tears (until "Finny snatched my ball!", anyway).
I know it sounds a bit cheesy, but I can tell they feel... empowered? by being able to do it by themselves.
There are other things I've done to make life in our house easier for them until they grow. Like many families, we have a step at the bathroom counter so they can wash their hands on their own. In their old room (I've just rearranged) they had a small bookshelf. It was laid on its side so they could reach the light switch. In their new room, the yellow chair is their step, and I don't have to trip over it any more.
It's their house, too, after all. If small adaptations make it more user-friendly for them, I'm all for it.
What changes have you made in your home in order to make life easier for your kids?
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