It’s official… the Twins walked. A few steps counts, doesn’t it? We have been waiting for this day for months – they’ve kept us hanging, but they both broke the seal on the same day at 15months. Although the excitement of those first few steps in huge, it’s closely followed by panic, because when babies become toddlers, the falling begins. This has led to a little reassessment of how to baby-proof the house – stay tuned, we’re delving into the exciting world of risk management…
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How far you go with baby-proofing is a personal choice, and a difficult one for many. The more you look around, the more corners and pointed objects you see; and every cupboard you open seems to contain a machete and a tube of superglue. Babies are magnetized to these things, it’s a fact. And toilets… as I’ve mentioned before, babies love toilets, dog poop and pretty much anything that makes you want dry heave.
When you’re dealing with risk management of any kind there are two main factors to assess:
- How likely is it to happen?
- How severe would if be if it did?
It is extremely likely that the Twins will make it to the toilet yet again this week. However, I keep the toilets clean and once I’ve found them, dry heaved a little, and told them off, I can thoroughly wash the Twins’ hands and the risk of infection is low. That is of course as long as they don’t… I’m not even going to think about it.
According to The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (UK):
‘The most severe injuries are associated with heat-related accidents and falls from a height. Older children are more likely to sustain fractures than younger counterparts. Younger children have a higher percentage of burns and scalds as well as poisoning and ingestion accidents.’
I would say this is a good place to start. I’ve recently noticed that my 96th percentile boys are tall enough to run their hand along the edge of the countertop already. It will not be long before they can touch the hot plate on the cooker. They are also working on opening the oven door. As for falling… will someone please tell me how to stop them playing peekaboo with each other over the back of the sofa? I just know one of them is going to topple over the back onto the hardwood floor… eek! And poisoning, gah… I caught Arthur sucking on a can of spray paint the other day. Thank goodness the lid was still on.
Statistically, the kitchen and the stairs are where your child is most likely to do some serious damage, and it’s most likely to happen when your little one is starting to get tired in the late afternoon / early evening* When thinking about how to baby-proof the house, the first thought that comes to mind may be socket covers and stair gates, but there’s a lot more to consider that does not involve turning your home into a padded cell.
Three different approaches to baby-proofing:
- Baby-proof everything in sight and let them run wild;
- Create baby-safe zones and impound them as much as possible;
- Teach them about rules and boundaries from the start;
In all honesty, I never did any of the first two with my first born. We were in the house a lot less than we are now; and she was not adventurous, and pretty much stayed where I put her. I believed it better to watch her carefully, and correct dangerous behaviour… in essence I baby-proofed the baby. Having said that, there is considerable risk in this approach. If Elsie came into the kitchen, opened the cupboard door and pulled out a bottle of bleach, I sternly told her ‘no’ and she would put it back. Slowly over time, she stopped going into the cupboard altogether. This worked because when I was with her at all times, I could give her my full attention, and she was one of those obedient babies that didn’t generally break rules once she knew they existed.
The Twins on the other hand know fully well they are not allowed to play in the toilet. Do they care? No. I am busier now I’m a mom of three, and can’t watch their every move – I need back-up. In reality, not one of the above approaches works well on it’s own. Your house is never going to be perfectly baby-proofed, but you should do your best to address high risk areas, as well as teaching your children about rules and boundaries. Despite the Twins defiance, I am still a strong believer in the last approach. If you do not teach your children boundaries, when your back is turned and the baby-proofing is breached, those littles Tikes will get themselves into all sorts of trouble.
How to Baby-Proof the House by Age
|Challenges and Measures to Be Taken
|Baby-Proof the Parents
|When parents are exhausted from feeding and sleepless nights, it is easy to make mistakes. All I can suggest is double check… Have you left them on the countertop in their bouncy chair? Have you left them in the car? Is their sleeping arrangement safe? Have you left the dog alone with the baby? It all sounds obvious to people in the land of the living, but new parents are on a different planet, and sadly, accidents do happen.
|Baby-Proof the House
|Baby is pulling up to stand, crawling and drawn to sharps edges. Corner padding, foam play mats, carpeting and rugs will all help. You do however have a bigger problem… everything goes in their mouth. Everything. The only way to baby-proof this properly is to keep things tidy and small objects out of reach. As Baby’s vision gets better, they can focus on tiny details for the first time. This is a very intriguing new skill, and when they master the motor skills to pick up those tiny pieces, the automatic questions is “I wonder what it tastes like?”
|Baby-Proof the Baby
|Once baby becomes toddler, they mean business. They will surprise you everyday with the trouble they can get themselves into. They love exploring little nooks and cupboards, and they can climb with impressive agility. They will grab your hot cup of coffee in the blink of an eye, and they will work out how a door handle works. At this point stair gates and cupboard locks will help; but your toddler is also beginning to understand the concept of what is right and wrong. They understand a stern tone in your voice and the removal of their hand from a door handle. It is time to start teaching them boundaries – it will not only serve as back-up for house baby-proofing, it will make your life a whole lot easier when you visit the relatives.
Baby-Proofing I Couldn’t Live Without
There are endless products out there designed to take your money and make your baby safe. However, most serious accidents happen because of distractions and lapses in supervision. Not because the house wasn’t filled with expensive baby products, but because we’re moms, and we’re still human. Here is a summary of baby-proofing interventions I couldn’t live without:
- A safe enclosure. This can be a play pen, a playroom, their bedroom… anywhere really. There needs to be one space that is totally safe where you can leave baby alone for a moment. You need to pee, and shower, and make tea… do this alone. We are lucky enough to have a playroom, but because the Twins share it with Lego mad big-sister, we have a partition splitting it into two zones. Despite this, Arthur did poop out Barbie’s ballet slipper some time back.
- A stair gate. Babies love to climb stairs, and they are one of the biggest culprits for bad accidents. We have a gate at the top (where their safe play room is) but at the bottom I have chosen to ‘baby-proof’ the babies, which means I am slowly teaching them they are not allowed to climb up on their own. Obviously you can get a gate for the bottom too but I personally chose not to.
- Doors that lock. I have had to baby-proof myself into remembering to lock the external doors. Arthur has shut himself into the garage twice, because the door is on a self closer. The Twins both let themselves out into the back yard, and if they made it out of the front door I hate to think what could happen.
- Move dangerous items out of reach. You can invest in clever cupboard locks, but all it takes is that one time you forget to lock it for the baby to find it. Do you trust yourself to always close it properly to catch the lock? Do you trust the baby not to lick the cleaning products under the sink? There is a simpler option… move the really dangerous stuff somewhere else.
Once you’ve baby-proofed yourself, the house, and the baby, life will be a breeze… that’s what I keep telling myself anyway! I left some links below to some products to make baby-proofing easier, just remember it takes more than stuff to keep Baby safe.
*Great information on child safety can be found at The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents
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