Ever since my daughter was a baby, we decided to make most of our house a YES space. A YES space is a room in the house that a baby or toddler can explore independently without you ever having to say, “No.” It is completely, 100% baby-proofed, and everything he or she can access is safe to play with and touch. Anything that you’re not okay with your baby or toddler messing with is out of reach or put away in an inaccessible cupboard, closet or room. We ended up making our entire house, except for two rooms, a YES space.
For us, creating a YES space was a continuous learning process. As our baby started standing, walking, and growing, she was able to reach and discover more things. More cupboards and drawers needed to be locked, books needed to be removed from the lower bookshelves, and dangerous furniture and decor needed to be removed. The result is kind of a minimalist space and so much less stress!
I never realized how much stress our space saved me until I went on a two-week trip with our toddler to visit various relatives. Obviously, none of their houses were baby-proofed, and even though I had more people to help me with my daughter, I found myself constantly having to follow her wherever she went. I felt like I was always hovering and saying, “No.” I frequently had to move her away from potentially dangerous situations, whether it was dangerous to her or to the homeowner’s belongings. On our trip, it dawned on me that this is what many parents of young toddlers complained about! I felt like I couldn’t do anything unless I had someone else specifically watch her for a moment.
Being intentional about creating a safe space for my daughter to be independent saves me from saying “No,” more than I have to. A great majority of our day involves me playing with her. But those few moments when I need to step away to make food or clean up a mess, I’m able to do so without stressing about what she’s getting into. She can safely concentrate on uninterrupted play while mommy manages the home.
How to Create a YES Space
Turning a large portion of your house into a YES space isn’t for everyone, but if you’re interested in it, here are a few things to consider.
- Begin with your typical baby proofing. Add locks to cupboards and drawers that you don’t want your baby opening. Put covers on outlets. Secure tall furniture to the wall with furniture straps. Put baby gates at the bottom and top of stairs. Put covers on doorknobs if your toddler knows how to open them. Put a door jam on sliding closet doors. Put covers on low stove knobs. Secure long cords for blinds and remove long curtains. Remove poisonous plants. And so on and so forth.
- Next, physically remove anything that your toddler can access that you don’t want her picking up or moving. For us, it was a coat tree that she could tip over, books we didn’t want her to rip or chew, end tables she could easily move and tip over, and an armful of breakable decor. Let’s just say our office is now also a storage closet.
- Give your toddler independent access to things you don’t mind her accessing. For example, we kept a low kitchen drawer unlocked that contains all of her plates, cups, and utensils. I also want to get a kitchen helper so she can safely reach the kitchen counter and sink to help me prep food and bake. We have a child-sized table and chair at which she eats her snacks and does art projects. Soon, I want to add a water source like a water dispenser so that she can get her own water throughout the day.
Providing my daughter with a YES space not only allows me to relax, but it also helps her gain more confidence and independence. She knows that this space is for her too. It also saved us from having to buy restrictive baby gear like bouncers, walkers, and playpens. Our whole main floor is a playpen! This allows for more freedom of movement and exploration without fear of being told “no” or getting frustrated in the environment.
Want more examples? Take a tour of our real-life, toddler-friendly bathroom!