My little boy Henry ( 13 months) is now crawling at what seems like 100 miles per hour. Even though we have two older children it doesn’t take long to forget about making the house safe for little crawlers!
‘Whether you have a cuddly baby who’s content to stay wrapped like a burrito in your loving arms or a crawler or cruiser who’s eager to explore, one thing is certain: You have to childproof your home (and fast — especially if your baby’s already a crawler). But tackling the entire house may seem daunting — what do you do when you’re preparing for your baby and what can you save for later? Here are some tips on baby-proofing the house to get you started now — and techniques for later, when your baby turns into a walker.
FOR NOW (baby-proofing the house to to keep your crawler out of trouble)
- Build barriers. When baby-proofing your home, make it difficult for your little one to get to hazardous areas (such as stairways, fireplaces, and bathrooms) by sectioning them off with indoor safety gates — or locked doors in the case of hazardous rooms. When blocking off stairs, be sure to put a gate at the top and bottom of the stairway — a persistent baby may easily figure out how to crawl up the steps yet have no idea how to crawl back down (and possibly take a tumble). Consider putting the lower gate three steps from the bottom so that when your child eventually starts to crawl he’ll have a small area to practice stair-climbing skills (you’ll still need to stay within arm’s reach to be certain he doesn’t take a tumble and hurt himself).
- Redecorate or remove. Breakables are best kept out of your baby’s reach, so stash that vase you love on a high shelf. If any of the houseplants you own are poisonous — say, that fabulous philodendron — gate them off (or give them to a family member to keep for you) until you are sure your child won’t nibble on the leaves. But what about that perfectly safe but huge plant your mother-in-law got you? Baby-proofing the house takes priority, so you can can put it behind the sofa, where it’s difficult for your baby to get at.
- Learn to love locks. When it comes to childproofing your home, locks are a parent’s best friends. To start (while your baby is still floor-bound), invest in enough cabinet locks for all your different rooms that contain potentially poisonous or dangerous products inside (these include cleaning products, medicines, power tools, and alcoholic beverages, among other things). Get ones that lock automatically when you shut the door; otherwise, you’ll have to remember to lock them every time you open and close a cabinet (and why overload your sleep-deprived brain with one more task?). When your child starts to stand and can reach higher, you can put locks on certain drawers too (like the one that holds the sharp knives). Also, if possible, try using hazardous cleaning supplies or tools only when your baby is napping, in a playpen (if he’s content to stay there for a while), or when another adult can watch him.
- Be wary of wires and cords — which are strangulation hazards. When baby-proofing the house, tie up electrical wires to keep them out of your baby’s grasp and cover outlets (don’t give your child the opportunity to realize that his tiny fingers may fit in those holes!). Better yet, when childproofing your outlets, replace the switchplates with ones that automatically slide to cover up outlets when they’re not in use. As for cords attached to window coverings, shorten them, attach plastic covers to the ends, and secure them to the wall with a tie-down device (or think about buying new window treatments that have kid-safe wands instead of cords). Also be sure your baby’s crib is nowhere near these cords — you never know when he’ll learn to pull himself up in his crib and start to expand his reach.
FOR LATER (childproofing the house to keep your cruiser or walker out of trouble)
- Fix furniture. With your tot cruising around and holding onto furniture, or even climbing on it like a monkey, he may be able to unsteady even the sturdiest-looking pieces. So secure bookshelves, dressers, standing lamps, and TV cabinets to the wall (you can get toddler safety products like brackets and fasteners at any baby or home-improvement store). Also, now that your child is pulling up to a stand, wobbling, and probably falling a lot more, you’ll want to pad the edges of sharp corners in your house. This will soften the blow if your little guy comes crashing down. Use childproofing bumpers to cover the edges of square or rectangular coffee tables, low benches, fireplace hearths (if they’re not already gated off), and low windowsills.
- Wise up to window dangers. Your toddler’s increased mobility means that he is now more adept at reaching and (yikes!) opening windows. Childproof your home by installing metal window guards that screw into the sides of the window frame and have bars no more than four inches apart.
- Heed high-hazard rooms. Sometimes the best way to childproof your home is to simply make some rooms off-limits. For instance, you may want to seal off the bathroom (which contains water dangers, cosmetics, and electrical appliances like hair dryers) and the office (which has computer wires and staplers) with a gate or a doorknob protector that little hands can’t open.
- Beware of burns. Your child can reach new heights these days, which means you need to take your childproofing efforts to a whole new level. For example, in the kitchen, keep the oven latched and put knob covers on the stove to block your toddler from reaching up and turning on burners. Use back burners whenever possible; if you do have to use a front burner, turn the cookware handle away from the front of the stove, so your child can’t grab it. Also, keep appliances (like the toaster and food processor) away from the edge of counters where your determined toddler can get to them.
- Deal with drowning risks. Keep your curious tot from having access to water when alone — no matter how much he loves water play. A child can drown in as little as an inch or two of water in just a few minutes’ time, so you don’t want to take any chances on this childproofing matter. With that in mind, keep the bathroom door closed and secured at all times or lock your toilets with safety latches for the lids (this will also save your plumbing by preventing your tot from dumping Bob the Builder into the porcelain pool to see if he can swim). And never leave your child alone in the tub.
Just remember, no matter how much you childproof your home, there’s no substitute for your eagle-eyed supervision — kids can be surprisingly creative when it comes to getting into mischief. So always keep your child in sight (except if he’s in a crib or play yard — and then only for a few minutes, unless he’s sleeping), and be extra alert in the kitchen and bathrooms. While you don’t need to hover at all times (after all, your child needs a little freedom to experiment and learn!), staying close by and observant gives you the chance to teach your tot that some items are off-limits. When you do see your child going for a dangerous item, use the opportunity to firmly say, “No, that’s not safe to touch. Here’s a toy you can touch instead.” And when you can, use warning words like “ouch!” or “hot!” to reinforce your safety lessons. Eventually, your child will start to catch on.’
Thanks to What to Expect for helping us put together these guidelines