Children are born with an innate drive to explore and master the world.

Just watch a time lapse of this nine-month- old baby as he explores the dining room of his home.

As you can see, this little guy explores every square inch of the room, from the cobwebs in the corner to the empty cardboard box.

Children who are encouraged to explore and master the world develop a sense of “autonomy.” They approach life with a sense of confidence and competence, knowing that they are able to do things for themselves.

Autonomy does not mean that a child is allowed to rule the roost and do what he pleases. It means that the child is encouraged to try new things, take risks and explore.

Autonomous children approach learning with confidence; an “I can do it!” attitude that motivates them to embrace school with gusto.

They aren’t afraid to ask for help when they need it, but they are able to navigate the school day with relative independence.

How do parents encourage autonomy?

It begins in infancy by creating a child-friendly home that encourages exploration and discovery. Baby gates should only be used to protect the child from danger, not to maintain the pristine appearance of the home.

The goal is to create an environment where you can say, “yes” most of the time. Enriched environments don’t have to be expensive and parents don’t have to run out and buy all kinds of gadgets and gizmos with flashing lights and sound.

The normal, everyday objects found around a typical household provide a wealth of things to explore. Remove anything that would be harmful as well as things of personal value that you want to protect. Otherwise, allow your child to safely explore the ordinary contents of the home.

For example, rearrange your kitchen so that the lower cabinets contain plastic ware or other kitchen items that are safe for your little ones. When my daughter was an infant her favorite “hat” was the Tupperware lettuce keeper that she dragged out from the cabinets.

Playpens and other baby contraptions that confine infants should only be used for short periods of time when the safety of the child is the primary concern – not the convenience of the parent.

What do YOU think about this?

(Stay tuned and SUBSCRIBE for Part 2!)