A professional baby proofer (yes, they exist) once told me that if your wee one won’t die or be seriously injured as a consequence of not baby proofing something in your home, it’s not worth spending the money. So, that’s basically been my kid-proofing philosophy. But even with that criteria, there are plenty of potential dangers lurking under your roof from which to protect Jr. And seeing as September is National Baby Safety Month, I thought it a prime opportunity to share some of my favorite baby-proofing products.
But keeping kids safe isn’t the only reason to baby proof your home. Children develop a greater sense of self-confidence and security if they can explore their home without hearing “no” every five seconds. Kids who are constantly told “don’t touch this” and “don’t open that” learn that curiosity is “bad”. Of course, this isn’t the intent of the parent. But, think about it. If every time you tried a new approach at work you were given the feedback that you shouldn’t to that, it’s an inconvenience to your boss, etc., you would stick to the way things were always done and stop thinking of new, innovative approaches. Children’s work is play, and an important part of play is exploring their environment. Giving them a safe home to explore within limits contributes to the development of creative, thinking kids.
So, when I baby proof something that doesn’t pose a life-threatening risk, it’s because I want to give Jax freedom without me having to hover over him so he doesn’t pull all the spices out of my spice cabinet 50 times a day (because he would if I let him, and putting them away would render me with little time to do anything else). Of course, teaching your little one to avoid a couple things (the DVD player buttons) is just fine. It’s when so many things are off limits that it begins to feel oppressive — I trust you get my drift.
Danger, danger! The kitchen probably poses the greatest danger to youngsters. And because you probably spend most of your time there, you little gal does too. Here are some of my favorite baby-proofing gadgets for the kitchen (all products are linked to Jax in the Box if we have it in stock, or Amazon.com if we don’t).
TotShield Stove Guard. We have a gas stove with front knobs. I needed a solution that 1) prevented Jax from igniting the gas burners (turning the knobs), and 2) stopped him from reaching to touch the pretty, glowing blue flame when the burners are on. The TotShield has proven the perfect solution. It was a cinch to install, and easily removes when opening and closing the oven door. The downsides are: 1) it is large and prevents us from opening drawers directly next to the stove if the shield is shifted too far in one direction, 2) it’s a pain to wipe clean. But, it’s the only gadget I’ve tried that actually solves my two issues, so it’s a definite keeper and one that I would readily recommend.
Oven Lock. The lock prevents curious kids from opening a hot oven. Unless you plan to stand guard for the entire afternoon while your roast cooks, I highly suggest this investment.
Tot Lok Cabinet Locks. We had these in our Texas home and loved them, so we installed them when moving into our Wisconsin house. I like them because 1) you cannot see them when the cabinets are closed, 2) children do not learn to open the cabinet unlike with spring-action locks, 3) they are easier to unlock than external sliding locks, and 4) you can deactivate the locks (without removing them) when you no longer need to secure the cabinet. However, we learned that they don’t work equally well on all cabinets and drawers. While they work beautifully on our cabinet doors, the drawers in our current home have thicker lips than our TX ones, so the standard Tot Lok magnet isn’t strong enough to unlatch the lock. So, we ended up using safety straps on our knife and “junk” (with super glue, tacks, wire cutters, etc.) drawers. Not beautiful, but they do the trick.
Securing the cabinets where you house your knives and cleaning supplies is a must. Beyond that, it’s up to you. When Jax was 12-18 mos. I also secured several cabinets that had glass bowls, jelly roll pans, etc., because I didn’t want to supervise him with these items when cooking. I left ones with plastic containers and pots and pans open. Now that he’s 21 months, I’ve disengaged the locks on the other cabinets (except cleaning supplies and knives). I’m fine with him moving around my bowls, measuring cups, cooling racks, etc. now that he has the control to hold them without dropping them. And if he does, well, so be it. I’ll just clean it up and move on. Just know yourself and the limits of your patience. If missing measuring cups and a broken glass bowl would drive you nuts, then keep the cabinet secure (and wait until you have baby #3).
Cabinets. Instead of locking my bathroom cabinet doors and drawers, I simply moved any cleaning supplies and other dangers up high. I
keep toilet paper, tissue boxes, and the like down low. But, lock your cabinets if you keep toilet bowl cleaner and other tempting toddler drinks under your sink.
Toilet Seat Lid Lock. Young walkers are top heavy (big heads, little bodies) and can fall head first into the toilet when peering inside — I’m not kidding. And if you can picture that scene, you know that they probably can’t position themselves right-side up without assistance. Bottom line, an open toilet is a drowning hazard. Plus, Matchbox cars and sewer systems are poor bedfellows. Locking your toilets will likely save yourself a hefty bill from your plumber.
We’ve tried this fancier toilet seat lock, but it breaks easily. We went through two of them before we gave up and bought the Mommy’s Helper version. While it is a hassle to clean, we find that it stands up to the abuse our family of five dishes out.
Your little one is unsupervised the most in this room, so it’s important it’s safe. The place that houses the most danger is his crib.
Breathable Baby Bumper. You probably know that traditional crib bumpers, while cute and O’ so cozy looking, are dangerous. In fact their sale is outlawed in select US cities and states (like Chicago and Maryland) and in whole countries. Babies risk suffocation and toddlers use them as a step stool to climb out of the crib. Granted climbing isn’t all that risky, but suffocation is.
We chose not to use bumpers of any sort with our older twins. We had them in sleeping sacs, so the risk of legs getting caught in the rails was minimal. They didn’t use pacifiers, so we didn’t have the hassle of them falling to the ground.
But Jax uses a paci. In fact, we can see him on our video monitor wake at night, search for a paci, pop it in, and fall back asleep. Beautiful. When the paci’s (all three, four or five of them) would fall through the rails, he had nothing to sooth himself back to sleep. Upon noticing this problem, we quickly ran to the store and bought a Breathable Baby Bumper. Now we all sleep through the night (mostly).
Sleeping Bags. We think these are genius. I was first introduced to them by my best friend from the Netherlands more than 12 years ago, long before they were commonly available in the U.S. In fact, I ordered them from Europe when my twins were born because I couldn’t find cozy, warm ones here. Now, however, we have lots of options right here in the States.
Sleeping bags offer so many benefits: 1) Along with putting babies to sleep on their backs, they reduce the risk of SIDS, 2) They keep babies warm all night long because they can’t kick them off, and 3) They postpone toddlers’ ability to climb out of their cribs. It’s hard to lift your leg over the railing when you’re in a bag. Granted, one of my twins eventually did, but by that time he was almost three and plenty capable of landing safely.
Guardian Angel Window Guards. Young kids really do fall out of upper story windows. All it’ll take is a Google search and reading the heartbreaking stories to convince you that it’s well worth the time and expense to install window guards. We have them in both the twins’ and Jax’s second story rooms. They are expensive, so try to find them used (we did).
Tamper-Resistant Nightlight. Okay, this isn’t a life or death issue, but all my kids sleep with a night light. The trick is finding one that toddler’s can’t yank out of the socket. Safety 1st used to make one that screwed into the outlet and offered a swivel second outlet, but I can’t find it anywhere. So, this option is the next best thing. You still have to put an outlet plug into the second socket, but we love that it’s permanently fixed and that the light is operated via a sensor.
Other Danger Zones
home, and, while they are just as safe, they are not as easy to use. Do not be tempted to use a pressure-mounted gate. They are easier to install to be sure, but they can come dislodged from the wall, and you and baby can trip over the floor bar.
If you have an oddly shaped stair opening, we love the Retract-A-Gate. It retracts into itself when not in use, and easily adapts to funky angles. The only downside is that you have to remember to extend it in order for it to keep your babe safe. Eight-year old twin brothers do not always remember to secure this type of gate. By the way, there are cheaper brands. We bought it for our patio stairs in the backyard. But is doesn’t offer the quality of Retract-A-Gate.
Lofts in second story homes (where you have a stair rail overlooking the first level) require a Banister Rail Guard. The clear material prevents the “we have a baby” look, while ensuring arms, legs, balls and other items stay on the second story.
Outlet Covers. You need to cover your outlets or toddlers carrying forks will try to
stick them in the holes, because toddlers try to stick everything into any available opening. There are outlet covers for just about any outlet situation you face. We love swivel covers because they keep tiny fingers out, but allow adults easy access to often-used outlets (say for vacuums). Let’s face it, outlet plugs are so good, they are often adult proof! We love double touch outlet covers for things like lamps that are always plugged in. You don’t need ready access to these outlets, and you don’t want Jr. to unplug them. Similar, but larger, covers are available for appliances with adapter plugs.
We have power strips by our computer and TV areas. Power strip covers keep little fingers from exploring the super-cool looking plugs lined up on the power strips. They are expandable, and while a bit of a hassle to open and close (because, isn’t that the point?) we seldom have a need to dig inside.
Furniture Straps. These easy-to-install straps ensure that heavy furniture doesn’t fall on top of curious, climbing toddlers. Imagine a 50+ lbs shelf or dresser falling on top of a 20 lbs baby – it happens more often than you think. Straps are inexpensive and an easy, preventative step to ensuring your tall furniture items stay upright.
So, there you have it. My must-have baby proofing items. I’ve field tested all of these (and plenty I haven’t listed and don’t make my cut). If you only have one kiddo, you might get away with monitoring his every move (but probably not). But, if you’re a mom to multiple kids, you know you can’t be always be there to prevent a disaster. Bread flour spilled all over the kitchen floor is one type of disaster, but a toddler falling through a second story window screen is quite another.
We’ve all heard moms of adults roll their eyes and comment that their kids are just fine, and they never did any baby proofing. In fact, they let Jr. sit on the floor boards while driving cross country. Well, they were lucky. There are hundreds of kids every year that aren’t.
A few dollars and a couple of hours can deliver piece of mind and prevent life threatening injury.