My son is almost nine months old. For a while, he was content with staying wherever I sat him down. Then, after reaching for things, tipping over, and continuing to reach for them, he eventually learned to roll. This tended to frustrate him, since most of what he wanted to get to was in front of him, and rolling from side to side just wasn’t cutting it. His first technique for forward motion was to raise one foot off the ground (I guess it was his anchor foot) and push with the other one. His one-legged belly crawl was slow going, but it got him to where he wanted to go. Then came the full-on army crawl. With both legs kicking and both arms pulling, he was surprisingly quick. Now, he’ll get up on all fours, rock back and forth, and just when I think he’s about to start crawling, belly-flop and turn back into a little army man.
Seeing him start to get around is exciting. He’s getting closer and closer to walking, running, bike riding, playing catch, getting dirty, and so much more. But at the same time, it’s terrifying. Moving around and getting hurt tend to go hand-in-hand for little kids. I know I can’t prevent every bump, scrape, and bruise, and honestly, I don’t want to because getting hurt sometimes is a part of growing up. But I do need to make my house as safe as possible and make sure it’s babyproof. Many say that you should babyproof before you even bring your baby home from the hospital, but well, I didn’t, so I’m going to start now.
My son is a grabby guy. He manages to get a hold of anything within his range, including my glasses, my wife’s earrings, the dog’s tail, my phone, the TV remote — you name it, it goes in his mouth. It’s funny, but it’s also dangerous. He just doesn’t know any better, and he could easily come across something, try to eat it, and choke. Now that he’s on the move, his range has increased significantly, so my wife and I have started making a point to keep all potential choking hazards out of reach.
“Anything that can fit inside an empty toilet paper tube is a potential choking hazard,” said Debra Holtzman, author of The Safe Baby: A
Do-It-Yourself Guide to Home Safety and Healthy Living. “Remember to always look for hazards from your little one’s perspective. Get down on your hands and knees and crawl around the room. You will be surprised by what you see. But remember, babyproofing can never be 100% effective. Proper supervision is always required.”
Keep in mind that babyproofing is more than just moving things up and out of the way too. Kids are curious and surprisingly good at figuring stuff out, like how to open cabinets and raise toilet lids. Then they have to see what’s inside. My son loves to just study his toys, moving them around and seeing how the parts work, so I know drawers and cabinet doors aren’t going to stop him.
Since I don’t want him getting into the cleaning products under the kitchen sink, tossing glasses and plates on the floor, running around with handfuls of silverware, or making things disappear down the toilet, I need to lock them all up. Cabinet and drawer latches are easy to install, and, while it may be kind of annoying for me to have to deal with them every time I want something from the kitchen, it will keep my son from getting into things that can hurt him. However, it can be beneficial to his development if one or two cabinets are left unlocked.
“When it comes to child proofing, what I’ve found is that many parents go overboard and don’t let the baby have access to anything,” said Stacy Erickson, Professional Organizer and Child Development Specialist with Home Key Organization. “Kids need to be able to explore their environments freely without too many restrictions in order to build their initiative and ability to seek out new things to do. While you’ll of course want to lock up harmful items, it’s important to keep some things available.” She recommends not securing a cabinet or drawer full of Tupperware, for example, which is good because it can’t hurt the baby and the baby can’t hurt it.
Door knob covers make opening doors next to impossible for children. Their tiny hands aren’t able to grip and turn the knob with the cover in place. This keeps them from wandering into a room or out of the house where they’re out of your sight and can potentially get hurt. This will also keep them out of the bathroom, where they can flush things down the toilet or possibly drown in the toilet or bathtub.
Electrical outlets are also a major issue. Kids are curious, and they’re going to find something, anything, to stick in those tiny, mysterious holes in the walls. Unfortunately, this curiosity leads to numerous children being electrocuted and killed every year. There are various types of outlet covers, including plastic push-in covers with prongs that go into the outlet and are difficult to pull out and plastic plates that fit over the entire outlet. You can also replace your outlets with ones that have spring-loaded covers that automatically close when nothing is plugged into the outlet.
If you have stairs in your home, you must do all that you can to prevent a fall. Installing gates at the top and bottom of the stairs will keep your child from falling down the stairs from the second floor, as well as climbing up the stairs from the bottom and then falling down. You also have to be mindful of the banister railing. If spaced too far apart, your child may be able to get his or her head between the rails and get it stuck. This is especially dangerous if your child’s head gets stuck while they are on the stairs because while struggling to get it free, they may slip and possibly break their neck. I know this is terrifying and no parent wants to think about something like this happening to their child, but it can happen, so it’s better to be aware of it and prevent it. You should never let your young child climb the stairs alone. Even if they’ve reached a point where they can get up and down them rather easily, you want to be there to catch them just in case they slip.
You also want to make sure your windows are secure. If a child can get the window open, they can easily fall out of it. Screens may slow them down, but they are easy to push through. You can install safety devices that prevent the window from being opened at all, or the type that have stoppers that will not let the window open past four inches because studies have shown that children may be able to squeeze through a window if it’s opened more than four inches.
Another thing to keep in mind is that children are clumsy. Even though their head is the first thing to reach whatever they’re crawling toward, or just because they’re really wobbly when they first stand up and try to walk, they’re still going to go full speed ahead. Wipeouts are inevitable, but you can try to cushion the blow. There are pads you can buy that can fit over counter and table edges and corners. While they may still get a bump after hitting the table, the pad will keep them from getting more seriously injured. You should also try to keep the floor clear of anything that may cause them to trip. While they’re running around the house, they aren’t going to take the time to carefully step over a speedbump.
One final thing to be aware of is that children are going to grab and pull on just about everything they can reach, and chances are, they aren’t going to think about the possible consequences before they start tugging. To keep them from pulling something down on top of themselves, there are two things you can do. One is to keep everything away from the edges of counters and table tops. This includes the cords to small, countertop appliances, decorations, and, of course, pots and pans on the stove. While cooking, keep those handles turned inward so your child can’t grab them.
Second, you can also secure any furniture or appliances that may be easily pulled over. For example, you can screw a tall, skinny, top-heavy bookshelf to a stud in the wall. Also, many TVs come with mounts that can be installed on a wall, or you can install straps to the back of your TV and secure it to your entertainment center. The last thing you want is for your 60″ flat screen to come crashing down on top of your child.
Children are curious by nature, and it takes them a while to learn what can hurt them and how to prevent it themselves. Until they reach that point, it’s up to you as the parent to do all that you can to prevent an accident from happening that can lead to a serious injury or worse. However, no matter how babyproof you make your house, you should still never leave your child unattended. Nothing keeps a child safer than a parent’s watchful eye.