Thinking about baby proofing? Let’s talk about the biggest safety hazards and explain how to reduce the amount of trouble your child can get into.
As thrilled as parents are when baby gets mobile, there’s a downside to having a crawler or cruiser. It’s time to think about baby proofing. No amount of futzing with your space will ensure it’s perfectly safe, but the goal of baby proofing is to reduce the amount of trouble that your child can get into, so that (just maybe!) you’ll have time to eat, shower, and pay your bills.
Why Baby Proof?
The typical house does present some very real hazards, and no conscientious parent would make light of these. Taking care of window blind cords and open electrical outlets, for example, is as much a part of safe parenting as car safety seats.
Other hazards—open trash cans, the edge of the coffee table—are less serious but still worth addressing.
No matter the extent to which you decide to formally “baby proof” your home, parental vigilance is the most important ingredient in child safety.
Baby Proofing for a Crawling Baby (Around 6-10 months)
If you’re wondering how to baby proof your house for a crawler, you start by getting down. It might sound silly, but it’s easier to see dangers that might otherwise be missed when you’re at baby’s level. (I suggest that you get your husband or partner to do this task, while you surreptitiously film the process.?)
Here are a few items that a parent will discover when looking at the world from a baby’s eye view:
One thing you’ll realize is that electrical outlets are at just the right height to be accessible to babies who can crawl and sit up. Thank goodness it’s fairly easy to baby proof electrical outlets. For outlets that are not in use, the standard, inexpensive outlet covers work just fine (where to buy). Outlets that are in use pose a hazard, too, as children may work the plug out enough to make contact with the metal prongs. Position furniture in front of outlets that are in use. For spots where that’s not practical, consider using child-resistant outlet covers.
If you have stairs in the home, safety gates are essential. Luckily, baby gates no longer have to be ugly plastic affairs. Today, you can buy steel baby gates that are downright handsome and easy to use, too. Many baby gates come with two mounting options: pressure-mounted or mounted with hardware. For the top of the stairs, the safer hardware-mounted system is the only way to go.
You can further baby proof the stairs with a banister guard. Children shouldn’t be able to fit between stair rails, but they can sometimes get a body part wedged. Banister guards also increase safety for adults, as they keep kids from pushing or throwing items through the stair rails.
Baby proofing the fireplace should also be high on your checklist. Of course, you’ll have a fireplace screen and be extra vigilant any time there is a fire in the fireplace, but hearths can be hazardous even when they are not in use. If you have a raised hearth made of brick or stone, you may want to install edge and corner guards. Also, store fireplace tools and lighting devices out of baby’s reach.
Cabinets and Drawers
Baby proofing cabinets is easy with a magnetic locking system. The same devices can be used to baby proof drawers. You don’t have to secure every single area, though. Lots of moms keep one kitchen cabinet unsecured and fill it with safe kitchen items for baby to play with. You wouldn’t want to miss out on a pot-and-pan percussion solo!
Do you have a backyard pool? Lucky you! But you will need some safety measures in place. A pool alarm will sound if someone or something falls into the pool. You can also buy a cover for the pool when it is not in use. Don’t forget an alarm on the pool gate and on any doors that provide access to the pool.
Baby Proofing for a Cruising Baby (Around 8-11 Months)
One day you’ll discover that your child has graduated from crawling to cruising. Cruising—pulling themselves up and holding on to furniture—is the last step before baby starts walking. Once baby starts to cruise, you’ll have to bump your childproofing up a notch.
While coffee tables are the perfect height for cruising, many have sharp edges and corners. Because babies practicing this skill take a lot of falls, the chances of a collision between the coffee table and baby’s head are fairly high. Some moms put their coffee tables away during this stage or trade their rectangular tables for round ones. Others use edge and corner guards.
Traditional window blinds and shades with long cords are hazardous. If you have the old-style blinds in your home, you can cut the cords and install window blind tassels that will break away under pressure. A far better idea, however, is to buy cordless blinds and shades. You can buy inexpensive ones and replace them with nicer ones, one room at a time.
We seldom think of trash cans as a hazard, but they are depositories for all kinds of yucky stuff. Trash cans with sliding locks are safer for kids and keep out household pets, too. Another option is simply to practice safe discarding. Put can lids inside the cans. Secure broken glass inside a container before you throw it away. Also empty the can before the trash gets to the top. An overflowing trash receptacle is the most tempting to babies and also the most hazardous.
Top-heavy furniture, such as bookcases and chests-of-drawers, should be secured to the wall using safety straps. Any piece of furniture that a child can climb on is a special risk. Televisions are also tip-over hazards, although the lighter LCD screens are safer than older models. TVs that are mounted on the wall should be okay. If you have a free-standing TV, consider baby proofing your TV stand with safety straps.
Drowning is a concern anywhere that water is used. Empty the bathtub as soon as a bath is over and use a toilet lock to keep your child safe. Accidental drownings have occurred when children tip headfirst into a toilet.
More Bathroom Safety
You can baby proof your bathtub by using a slip-resistant, non-toxic mat. The bathtub faucet is another hazard, since it tends to be right at baby’s head level. Protect that little noggin with a soft faucet cover. Use rugs on bathroom floors to soak up spills and prevent slipping.
Baby Proofing for a Walking Baby (Around 8-16 Months)
There’s nothing cuter than a toddling baby, but it’s amazing just how fast they can go once they get the hang of walking. Many walking babies also like to climb. It’s time for another round of childproofing checks!
Windows and Doors
About this age, your child may begin moonlighting as an escape artist. Doorknob safety covers can keep toddlers from opening doors. Window guards and locks are also available, as are stops that allow windows to open only a few inches. Baby proof door stoppers can keep doors from slamming on little fingers.
All parents should know that medication packaging is child-resistant, not childproof. Child-resistant packaging can still pass the required testing if less than 20 percent of the children in the test group can open it within 10 minutes. (Source) Assume that your child would be in the 20 percent. Keep your medication out of reach, or better yet, use a locking medicine box.
Corners and Edges
Most toddlers are about the right height to strike the sharp corners of tables and cabinets. You can’t encase your child in bubble wrap, but you can use clear corner guards on the most hazardous spots.
Personalizing Your Baby Proofing Strategy
When it comes to baby proofing your home, parents fall along a spectrum. Some parents want every single hazard addressed, while others will address major dangers but let minor ones go. Much depends upon your own personality. Some parents are more risk averse than others.
Your child’s personality also affects how much baby proofing you will need to do. A laid-back child doesn’t need as many safeguards as an active, inquisitive one may require.
Your home is also a factor. Some homes simply present more hazards, with features like split levels, hard floors, and low windows. You can download any number of baby proofing checklists, but perhaps the best checklist is the one that is created by you, to fit your individual space.
Rather than pad your entire home without explanation, turn your baby proofing strategy into a teachable moment. Even if baby doesn’t quite understand, it’s never too soon to teach children about safe practices.
And your child isn’t the only one in your home. Older children can be taught to keep toys with small pieces away from younger children. They can be taught to keep toys and shoes out of walkways and off the stairs, a practice which is especially important if they have grandparents who come to visit. Mom and dad may be skilled at navigating around obstacles, but grandma and grandpa probably aren’t as agile.
Although a 100% childproof home probably isn’t attainable, a child-friendly home is. A child-friendly home is one where hazards are kept to a minimum and where good safety practices are in place.
Your Best Baby Proofing Asset: YOU!
At the end of the day, however, your attention to your child is the best defense against harm’s way. The more present we are with our children and more aware of their whereabouts, the safer our home will be. All moms get distracted, and all moms need breaks. If you have pressing work to do or just need a breather, find a friend or mom’s helper to step in. Or place baby in a safe, contained area with toys while you sit down and relax (keeping your child in your view). Be as intentional as you can about needing breaks and honor them. This will keep everyone safe and sane.