My oldest is 23 months. We live in a split level house and ever since he could crawl we have made the living room the "kid room". Everything is safe - locked, strapped, gated, kid-friendly - and it is where we spend 99% of our time play. Our kitchen is also safe (dangerous drawers and cabinets locked) so we sometimes let him play in there. But when we do it is endless annoyances...banging on pots while my 2 month old is napping, spreading plastic containers from one end of the house to the other, standing in drawers, playing in the dog bowl...heaven forbid we forget to take the mail off the table, because that would be in shreds! It has become so irritating we more often than not close off the kitchen with everything else. I go to my friend's house and her 2.5 year old is happily wondering around her house completely unencumbered playing nicely and not destroying anything, and she has been for months.
And therein lies my question - at what point is it ok to let my child have free range of our house? I feel like I can't leave him for even a minute if he isn't contained. During bedtime last night I had to put my infant in his bassinet, so I left my toddler in his room for 30 seconds. I come back and he has been pulling things off shelves and playing with a lamp. I can't remove every lamp, shelf, drawer, closet, and rug from the house. And with an infant I can't just spend all my time following him from room to room making sure he doesn't grab, break, pull, climb, tear, and destroy everything in our house. I feel bad...it's technically his house too but he isn't allowed anywhere.
How am I supposed to potty train if I can't let him up or down the stairs to the bathrooms? How am I going to transition him out of his crib if I can't trust him to be alone in his own room for 30 seconds? How can I ever teach him any independence at all if every single time I give him even the smallest leeway he is instantly grabbing, climbing, and wrecking everything in site??
Am I just jumping the gun and the fact is he is just still too immature to have that kind of freedom? Should I discourage it since I have one right behind him who will need all this same containment in 6 months? Have I gone containment overboard and the reason he destroys everything is because he never has a chance to explore anything?