Take a look around the room in which you’re sitting right now. What do you see? Odds are good you saw at least one or two things which to you aren’t the least bit threatening, but which to a curious toddler can be very dangerous. The power cord that is charging your phone and dangling from your side table, a curtain that drapes down just far enough for little stretched fingers, a top-heavy stool — any of these is a potential hazard to a child. But what can you do about it? Follow these do’s and don’t's for some tips and tricks on how to child-proof your home.
Do get down on your hands and knees
The best way to child-proof your home is to think like a child, and the best way to think like a child is to see the world from his eyes. Get down on your hands and knees and look around for a bit. What are those things on the wall that look like smiley faces (and, more importantly, what’s around here that I can stick in them)? What can I reach? What can I get tangled in, fall over, or bump into? What can I put in my mouth? What can I swallow? It won’t be the most comfortable experience of your life, but it just might be the most important one.
Do be firm with your baby about what is, and what is not safe
Babies understand more than we often realize. They pick up on tone and body language just like adults do, and they learn things fast. If something is never safe (the stove, the cupboard with the cleaning supplies, etc.), don’t be shy about telling your baby. Our daughter knew which cupboards where safe and which were off-limits by the time she was eight months old, just weeks after she learned to crawl. Child locks and baby gates are fine, but you can’t always take them with you, and there is simple no better child-proof precaution to give your baby than the authoritative voice you can take with you.
Do be proactive with your lessons
Teaching your baby safety words (hot!, danger!, etc.) even well before he can get into trouble is a great way to child-proof your world. But don’t stop there. Before our baby could even crawl, my wife was demonstrating a safe way to crawl off beds and couches by physically taking her through the motions. She wasn’t physically able to perform the act yet, but she was learning, and as soon as she could get down safely, she did!
Don’t go overboard with overly difficult or expensive gadgets
If you have any friends who are overly protective parents, you’ve probably had the experience of using their restroom, only to be unable to open any of the drawers or cabinets, despite hours of effort. The truth is, while many child-proofing gadgets are helpful, many are as cumbersome as they are effective. So be careful what you buy.
Don’t stress too much about it
I am an overly protective parent. Anytime my baby (who is now 14-months-old and no longer a baby, by the way) is on top of something — a kid’s rocking chair, the bed, the couch — I get nervous. I hover and I fret and I worry. But despite the stress and anxiety, I can’t be with her all the time, and she has fallen twice: once off the bed in her sister’s room onto a pile of dirty laundry, and once down one step off our porch. It happens. Kids will be kids. Minimize the danger, correct it when it happens, and move on. It’s all you can do!