Making Your House Safe for Toddlers and Children
Infancy – which is best described as the time when your child is too helpless to cause any trouble – is so peaceful. Babies stay right where you leave them; they don’t try to electrocute themselves by sticking metal objects into electrical outlets, or poison themselves by ingesting household chemicals. The worst thing they do is pick inopportune moments to remind you of their needs (as if you’d forget!).
Perhaps because no such precautions are needed during infancy, parents are often bewildered when their once-peaceful babies start crawling, walking, and happily getting into everything. To prevent such a rude awakening, it’s important to plan ahead, and start baby-proofing your home long before your child takes that first step.
Keep Baby Right Where You Want Him
Although a blanket on the floor and a few toys once seemed enough to keep him happy, you’ll find that once he has discovered how to get around, your baby will be everywhere. Even if you are supervising your child closely, it’s a tedious task to pick him up and carry him back into the room a dozen times or so. That’s why they invented baby gates: so that you can easily confine your child to a specific room.
Besides keeping your child under your supervision, there is another reason why babies and toddlers should not be able to roam freely: stairs. Little kids love to climb – but although the stairs may seem appealing, they can also be dangerous when an adult isn’t present. Even if you don’t use baby gates to corral your kid into one room, blocking off the stairs with a gate is advisable.
Keep Baby’s Toys Low, and Everything Else High
Basically, you have to assume that your baby is going to get into anything that is within her reach. (And believe me, she will!) Make sure that everything that is okay for your child to play with is stored close to the floor – in toy boxes, lower cabinets and drawers, etc. All the rest should be stored far, far above her head.
Items that should be kept out of your child’s reach include chemicals, sharp objects such as scissors and knives, and anything small enough to swallow if she put it in her mouth. Even if it’s not particularly dangerous, anything that could make a bigger mess than you’d want to deal with should also be stored away from your baby’s grasping hands – as well as anything particularly valuable, breakable, or sentimental.
Shut Baby Out
…Of the cabinets, that is. When you can’t store everything out of a child’s reach, you can buy plastic cupboard locks that will prevent your child from opening cupboard doors. You can also get plastic doorknob locks to prevent your child from getting into certain rooms or closets. All medicines should be stored in bottles with childproof lids, and outlets should have plastic covers on them.
Not everything needs to be off-limit; use your judgment. Many a child has thrived on banging pots together, but decisions like that have more to do with your sanity than your baby’s safety.
When you have a baby or toddler making the rounds every day, it’s important to keep her areas clean – particularly the floor. Vacuuming or sweeping will pick up sharp objects such as carpet tacks or stray nails, which can often appear as if out of nowhere – particularly when your little one’s face is that close to the floor! Cleaning regularly will also keep the floor’s cornucopia of dirt and food crumbs to a minimum – remember that young children put virtually anything into their mouths.
Be Mindful of Choking Hazards
Precisely because of the children’s tendencies to taste everything, parents need to be conscious of choking hazards. When your child is a baby or toddler, anything small enough to go into his mouth and be swallowed – and consequently be choked on – should be picked up and put safely away. A basic rule of thumb to follow is that a child can choke on anything the size of a marble or smaller. Even food should be cut into tiny pieces, no bigger than the tip of your pinky finger, before being served to your baby or toddler.
Try to Anticipate Anything and Everything
Kids have an incredible knack for taking adults off-guard. Whatever you wouldn’t think of in a million years – that’s what your child is getting into, right at this moment. Therefore, the best method of baby-proofing your house is to systematically go through each room and think, “If I were two feet tall, what could I get into in here? What would be dangerous about this room?”
Have a bookshelf that leans precariously? You’d better find a way to anchor it, because your toddler will no doubt choose that shelf to test his climbing skills. Think the tops of the tables are safe? Don’t be so sure – your child isn’t going to announce that he can climb them now, after all. It’s the parenting rule of thumb – you’re always going to find out about your child’s new skill in the worst possible way.
…Unless you’re prepared. While it’s not possible to prepare for absolutely every possible situation, you can at least teach yourself to look at the world through your child’s eyes – and anticipate accidents before they can happen.
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