Back to talking about toddlers, again. Though this subject applies to all ages, really.
I've mentioned the 'architectural solutions to social problems' concept.
In simplest form, it is just that for many problems, the problem goes away if you alter the environment. Add a gate, and the fights over climbing the stairs go away (though I recommend putting the gate 2 stair steps UP, so the child still gets to explore 'up and down' without having far to fall - yes, gate, but not DENY... the skills will still demand to be explored, so provide a way to do so safely).
But there's really a lot of depth and texture to the idea of modifying the environment.
There are boundary and limits issues: gates, latches, outlet covers, drawer locks, toilet locks.
There are also issues of enrichment: if the child climbs compulsively, enrichment is providing a climbing outlet; if the child cuts up your mail, having mail 'for them' is enrichment, and so is having their own scissors. If they use your tools, enrichment is their own tools (play or real, depending on their age and what it is).
And there is impoverishment. Yep, impoverishment - intentionally culling the environment to remove a problem. This is where we apply the toy library concept. Retain ownership of toys, retain access, limit what's 'out'. Cycling toys is the same concept - the problem of random scatter of toys and 'overstimulation boredom' is reduced by reducing the amount available. More space and fewer things allows greater focus and less distraction. We struggle with this regularly - there's a conflict between 'having enough' and 'having few enough to really focus and enjoy'. Especially with books and lego. (darn lego, such a creative outlet for so many skills that we cherish, but so hard to control!) And books... why does it feel so wrong to put books 'away' even for a while? Sigh. I do it anyway, and it still works - trim them back, and they focus more on what is there. So, impoverish.
Enrichment and impoverishment apply to all the senses - sound, sight, touch, taste, smell.
For sound, enrichment isn't just 'play classical music' but also 'play whatever is good, no matter the style' - it is quality, not cultural elitism (which some of the 'play classical music' spin sounds like), that counts. GOOD blues, GOOD jazz, GOOD country, GOOD rock, GOOD alternative, GOOD folk, GOOD world music. Find the best, play that.
For sound, impoverishment means allowing silence. And allowing a lack of background music (and no background tv), so that other sounds filter in. Rain. Dogs barking. Crickets or cicadas. Train in the distance. Car going by. Listening for what is otherwise 'too small to notice' is important. And being able to be comfortable in silence - not talking, not singing, not humming, just silence - is a gift worth giving ourselves and our kids.
For sight, enrichment is fine art, even for kids. Why should they submit only animation to their eyes? Why not Degas? Putting art down at their level, even just sticking museum greeting cards to the wall in their play space (framed is better - gives it respect), is a kindness to their eyes and minds. Having a garden or a set of indoor plants (herbs are good because there's no worry on eating them) to look at is also a kindness to their eyes.
And impoverishment, again - simplicity, clarity, order. There's a joy in a simple space, in clean lines, in an expanse of floor. Allowing both complexity and simplicity stimulates their brains, and provides a place for that energy to go, instead of having it demand they create it out of your things, or theirs, in ways that might not be so useful to the adults.
Touch - materials are important. So many problems with toddlers come from 'do not touch'. Yes, take the breakables away out of reach and sight. But no, don't prevent them from experiencing the feel of crystal, or the texture of a shell. Supervise the exploration, select a few items for them to touch. But find a way to allow. And speaking of touch, quality materials, with different weights and textures, are worth the price. A good set of unit blocks is worth the expense. Our kids still play with them, all the kids - I'll still find the 10 year old building a city from the unit blocks. (As for crystal, my mom invested in a set of 'training crystal' - inexpensive, relatively sturdy, glass-rather-than-true-crystal stemware, for the kids to practice on at the big formal family meals - three times a year or so, they get to try out the nice stuff, without anyone fretting over the risk of breakage. She picked the prettiest kind she could find, since she wanted it to be aesthetically pleasing, that being the main point of crystal.)
Sigh. Out of time. I'll cover Taste and Smell next time. There's a lot on taste that's important, so that maybe needs more room anyway.