“I child-proofed my house…but they still got in.”
The good news about baby-proofing is that it can be done incrementally from the ground up. When the thought of making the house ready for the baby first occurred to me, I must admit, I was somewhat overwhelmed. My family had moved into a new house. There were boxes everywhere, nicknacks being unpacked, the dog and all of her toys strewn about. Where would I begin? And, what was I supposed to baby-proof exactly?
Thankfully, someone pointed out to me that I could gradually baby-proof, starting with the floor. As my child grows, I could further baby-proof in an upward direction. While it is good to baby-proof in this manner all around the house, it is also a good idea to have one completely baby-proofed room in the house. This will come in handy when you have guests, babysitters, or the need to take your eye off of the baby for a quick moment.
When baby-proofing, it is important to consider the baby-eye view. Everything the baby sees from his perspective. For example, he will see the underside of your refrigerator, cabinets, oven, sink, and furniture. He will also be at eye level with outlets and other electrical hazards. For a great view of what he sees, lay on the floor and look up. You will be surprised by what you find. Do not, however, be surprised if you get the urge to give everything a good cleaning.
Speaking of cleaning, part of good baby-proofing requires extra diligence in the cleanliness area. A well-cleaned toilet area, for example, is a good idea. Sweeping or vacuuming under furniture and appliances regularly will remove potential choking hazards. Pet areas should be kept free from excess dander, pieces of chewed-up toys, and extra food. All are potential choking hazards. Pet food should be kept in an area that the child has no access to. If they have access to the pet food, they will eat it, put it into the water dish, throw it around, fatten up the dog, etc.
If possible, store all hazardous chemicals and cleaning products in a separate room or, even better, outside the home. Somewhere your child does not have access to. I keep everything in a “cleaning supplies” cupboard in the garage that has a secure closure.
Little ones find cupboards and drawers fascinating once they discover that “things” can be found inside them. It is best to secure all of these areas with some sort of cabinet fastening system. There are many types available, and you can find them at your local hardware or grocery store. If you need a securing mechanism in a pinch, you can always use a strong hair band, or two, or three, to bind two cupboard doors closed. (It really depends on your baby’s interest level.) Distraction can work great in these instances. Provide a drawer full of ‘toys’ dedicated to your little one in spaces that have a lot of drawers or cupboards, like the kitchen. A dedicated kitchen drawer, for example, can have baby-safe kitchen items in it that will not hurt the baby, nor will be be destroyed by aggressive handling.
PROOFING AREAS BY HEIGHT-LEVEL
From ground to knee level:
The floor is where most of the clutter lands. Keep this area free from tennis-ball-sized and smaller pieces of debris. Check around the edges of the floor for loose flooring materials. Remove, cover, or repair loose pieces. Check for sharp points and cover them, or remove them.
Tile grout has a tendency to break into small pieces near the outside walls.
Block staircases and off-limit hallways with baby gates.
Cover or plug electrical outlets. Do your best to remove all electrical wires from plain view. If your baby can not see the wires, he will be less likely to explore them. There are a lot of great and inexpensive tools for this.
From knee to waist level:
Make sure that whatever you store on low shelving will stand up to the baby’s explorations. Whatever he finds there, he will most likely put it in his mouth and then drop it on the floor. You can further organize with baskets.
Make sure the pointy edges of the furniture are covered or turned so that your baby does not walk into them. Move household plants out of reach.
Secure accessible doors with baby-proof handle covers.
Look up at the underside of the countertops. Would you lick that? Your toddler will.
From waist-level and up:
It is important to hang hooks to hold window covering draw-strings up and out of reach; otherwise, it becomes a choking hazard.
Move any items away from the edges of tables and shelves.
Make sure items that are free-standing are sturdy enough to remain standing while the baby uses them to pull themselves up or fasten them to the walls with child-proofing cables. There are many options available for this.
GENERAL BABY PROOFING:
Remove any plastic debris, coins, sharp objects, poisonous items, rubbish bins, and items with small parts like ballpoint pens or board games.
Provide dedicated play areas with toys, learning aids, and time-occupiers like jumpers, swings, play centers, play cards, baskets of age-appropriate toys, etc. (Note: this will help with keeping things tidy in general when you can sweep through the room and toss items in the appropriate basket in the corner of the room.)
AS YOUR CHILD AGES, CHILD-PROOFING KICKS IN:
Baby-proofing is a continual process because you will find unexpected items within reach all the time. Especially, if you have pets or frequent traffic in and out of the house. As your child grows into a toddler or preschooler, make sure to double-check your child-proofing. It is easy to become complacent and miss something. While some measures no longer apply, you may discover new limits have been tested. A few additional child-proofing measures you might take include:
Testing the limits of your water temperature to avoid scalding.
Secure toilet lids to avoid drowning or unintended flushes.
Secure the bathing area to avoid slipping hazards.
Provide safe climbing tools, like sturdy step-stools, to allow for big-kid tasks that are higher up (e.g., brushing teeth at the sink that is still a bit too high).
Ensure entry spaces and walkways are free from tripping hazards.
Make sure to teach your child about safe pet handling for your pet as well as pets you may encounter in public. Teach an ask-first policy.
Regularly check your child's toys for broken or worn areas.
Regularly check and maintain your vehicle for worn areas the child may encounter.
Check the Consumer Product Safety Commission website product recall list regularly. Often, you will find that clothing or other items are recalled for various hazards.
Remember, prevention and consistency are key to creating a safe space for your child.
ADDITIONAL RESOURCES FOR BABYPROOFING:
Originally posted 2016