Q. My husband and I are interested in learning all we can about special things to watch for if your child is extra large.
According to our pediatrician, our little boy, now 6 months old, is on his way to being 6-foot-6 and built like a fullback.
We are thrilled to have a big, healthy, energetic baby, but notice that parenting books are geared to the medium-sized child, as are diapers, baby furniture, etc. We are finding that our little fellow is whizzing past the height and weight limits of swings, car seats, walkers and jumpers and is already in toddler diapers.
It's getting hard for me to lift and carry him, but we feel it's very important that he doesn't miss out on this kind of contact, just because he's not very portable. And we love the contact. Although he's now eating solids from a spoon, we enjoy feeding him on our laps rather than in his own chair.
A new dilemma for us is babyproofing. Since our child has already pulled apart several supposedly "indestructible" toys, we are beginning to wonder if the usual childproofing devices are going to hold up. Can you give two novice parents some tips on raising a little bruiser in a safe and enjoyable environment?
A. Your baby is doing so well because he's healthy -- and because he has such caring parents.
Bigger diapers and bigger, better toys and equipment are obvious necessities but extra hugs and snuggles matter at least as much. They are what have made him such a happy little boy.
Since the lap feeding is probably a bit of a mess -- most parents want a high chair to buffer them from the spinach -- you can give your son the same daily comfort by reading to him in your arms. You may think six months is too young for this, but even now he can revel in the lilting cadence of Mother Goose -- the prelude to his appreciation of poetry later -- and the bold and vivid pictures of an illustrator like Brian Wildsmith. Between use, pack the books tightly in a bookcase so he can't pull them out when he's crawling around: a trick he probably can do better than his smaller friends. You don't want him to think that books are for tearing.
Toys aren't for breaking either (although all children break a few), but since your child's size is bigger than his judgment, you can expect him to break more. That's why you have to be particularly careful about what you buy, choosing them not only because they're fun and safe, but because they're made of well-sanded wood, heavy-duty plastic or tightly sewn fabric. Poorly made toys aren't just a waste of money; they give a child a poor image of himself. When they break easily, he'll see himself as a naturally destructive person and he may not try to take care of any of his possessions.
This is true for any child. It is far better to give fewer toys of better quality, than a great many toys that won't last. Look for those that will endure not just through several children, but through hordes of their friends.
Since all little children think of their whole house as one big toy chest, they need to have it childproofed; the bigger and more rambunctious they are, the better the proofing should be. Hardware stores sell dummy plugs to fill empty sockets and strong childproof catches for kitchen cabinets, but it's still a good idea to throw away unnecessary medicines and cleaning supplies, and keep the rest in high cabinets.
People may be the biggest problem for your extra-big child in a year or so. You'll find that strangers tend to think a 1-year-old who is as big as a 2-year-old should think and act as old as he looks -- and then get cross because he can't meet their expectations. Ignore their ignorance.
He also may have trouble when he plays with friends. Most play groups are set up according to the age of the children, but when one child is much bigger, the size matters more. Young children are so clumsy and have so little stability that the bigger child automatically knocks the smaller ones down, and they may treat him like a bully, which could make him feel like one. Have your child play with at least some children near his own size, no matter what their age.
His coordination will be better by then if you bicycle his legs now, crawl on the floor with him and give him a lot of outdoor activity. When he's on his pins, you can take him for short and frequent jaunts to make his legs strong so walking will be a family affair.
Swimming also will be a fine family solution, since he will seem feather-light in the water. Another will be camping: the sort of expansive thing a big child likes to do. He'll also like to play often on a gym set, which his size will help him master quickly. This is just what you want. Parents may judge their child by how soon he learns his ABC's, but it's the way he handles his body that makes him proud.