Whether your baby is just starting to crawl or in full-toddle mode, you may feel suddenly stretched to the limits once your previously unmobile child gets moving. Suddenly, you can’t plop him down in one spot and expect him to stay put. More than likely, your baby has gone from a sweet cuddle bug to explorer extraordinaire seemingly overnight. To help you get through this new phase when baby won’t sit still, here are some of our favorite tips and tricks for coping with a newly crawling or toddling baby.

Photo: Sal via Flickr

1. Safety First
Baby suddenly on the move? First order of business is baby-proofing. The obvious fixes are furniture corners, electrical outlets and stairway gates, but there are plenty of less-obvious spots that need to be secured. Add locks to toilets and bathroom or kitchen cabinet drawers or doors that conceal electronics, toiletries, cleaners or glassware, and be sure to secure large furniture to the wall to prevent dangerous tip-overs. Bonus Tip: To get a real look at what your baby can get into, get on his eye level. You’ll see baby-proofing spots you may have missed from your adult vantage point.

2. Toilet Paper Size-Up
Crawling Baby Fact #1: Their newfound goal in life is to put everything in sight into their mouths, whether that’s days-old Cheerios, your latest subscription to House Beautiful or a sibling’s small toy. Not sure how small is too small for safety? Use the toilet paper tube trick. If the item fits through the tube, it should be kept out of Baby’s reach.

3. Skin Saver 
Hard surfaces — from tile to concrete — can do a number on a crawling baby’s delicate skin. Rough floors, concrete playgrounds or even carpet can cause scraped, bruised or raw knees from frequent contact. Save your baby’s knees — and her clothes from wear and tear — by slipping leg warmers or baby knee pads, like the above from Crawlings, over baby’s skin or pants. Bonus Tip: Baby knee pads are also a great option for wobbly toddlers who take frequent tumbles.

4. Stay Alert
Baby-proofing your home is the first step in keeping baby safe, but any time you venture out and about with a mobile baby, you’ll have to stay on kiddo watch like your baby’s life depends on it (because, duh, it does). Even new crawlers are shockingly quick. If you have any doubts about whether you can stay fully focused on your explorer, play it safe and strap baby into a stroller or snap her into a carrier.

Photo: DJuliet via Flickr

5. Remember Redirection
A crawling or toddling baby can leave quite a mess in his wake, thankfully most babies at this age have short attention spans. Keep a small basket of toys and books in each room to capture your littles attention whenever necessary.

6. Timing is Everything
If you find yourself having trouble accomplishing your usual tasks while your baby is newly mobile, adjusting your schedule though this phase can be a lifesaver. For example, cut down on time in the kitchen by relying on quick prep or slow cooker recipes. Consider showering at night after Baby’s bedtime and saving certain tasks for naptime or moments when you have someone else to watch your little mover.

Photo: Carl Hancock via Flickr

7. Keep a Surprise Toy Stash
Consider keeping a stash of “surprise” toys that stay out of your regular toy rotation. Pulling out the basket of “new” trinkets can keep your mobile mini-me entertained for a few minutes while you take a phone call or respond to a few emails.

8. Get Germ-Friendly
We’re not suggesting you let your little one loose in a public bathroom, but accepting that your baby needs to explore during this newly mobile stage requires a requisite understanding that there are going to be some germs in the places he explores. The good news? Most of these germs are harmless – and research suggests that they can even help boost your child’s immune system. To keep your baby’s mitts clean on the go, keep a stash of wipes and sanitizer in your diaper bag for those post-playground romps.

Photo: Lynda Giddens via Flickr

9. Jumparoo to the Rescue 
Although your on-the-move tot won’t want to be slowed down for even a minute, sometimes a mama just needs a shower. Enter: the baby jumper. (Bonus points if yours has a snack tray.) Simply move the jumper into the bathroom and let baby jump (or snack) to her hearts content at shower time. Short on space? Opt for a doorway jumper (again – snack trays for the win!) instead.

10. Pool Party 
Make your blow up pool do double duty by skipping the water and tossing in a bunch of toys. Think of it like a play pen on steroids. Baby will have room to move freely while exploring all of her favorite toys, and you’ll rest easy knowing baby is contained and entertained.

Photo: Garrett Ziegler via Flickr

11. Cook Up Some Quiet
If trying to prep pasta primavera with baby running amok (or attached to your leg) sounds like a  recipe for disaster, let your wee one hang in his high chair. Keep him within eyesight and give him an assortment of finger foods to keep him busy. Think of it as a baby appetizer.

12. Save Your Sanity
If you find yourself frequently cleaning up a certain area — whether Baby is obsessed with pulling books off of your shelves or shoes out of your closet — save yourself the constant cleanup and shift your belongings upwards. Consider this phase kind of like the flooding stage of parenting. As your baby flies through the house like a force of nature, you’ll need to move items upwards to keep them out of Baby’s wake.

Photo: Donnie Ray Jones via Flickr

13. Repeat after Us
If snagging your baby as she heads to the curb for the millionth time or floating your valuables ever-higher in your home has you ready to pull out your (now graying) hairs, remember, it’s just a phase. Trust us, “It’s just a phase,” will become your new favorite mantra. (Bonus: this useful phrase is surprisingly versatile! You’ll likely be using it for one thing or another for, oh, the next 18 years or so.)

How did you handle your baby once he became mobile? Share your strategies below.

–Suzanna Logan