Q: How do I baby-proof my house without covering it in plastic or foam?
This question made me LOL because as a new mom there are definitely days when you feel like you belong in a mental institution, but you don't want your house to look like one. Baby-proofing is not a one and done event. As your child grows, you will need to reassess the risks. I can't count how many times I've caught my child with something in his hands that I thought was out of reach. Well, maybe it was a week ago, but not anymore. Here are some tips and products that will help you keep you sanity and your style.
- Lock all lower cabinets. Do not store any cleaning products in the pantry. The pantry is one of the first doors your child will try to master. It also becomes a favorite hide-and-seek spot. I recommend Safety 1st Magnetic Cabinet Locks. Installation is very straightforward thanks to their drill guides, but the best part is they are invisible from the outside. I also love that fingers cannot get stuck or slammed trying to pry the cabinets open like with other systems. The lock creates a flush seal. It is also a system that lasts because you can hide the key in a spot that your child cannot reach. My son knows how to use the key and open the locks, BUT he does not have access to the key. Now that he is 2 1/2 and becoming a big helper in the kitchen, I allow him to open certain cabinets to retrieve a pot or pan when appropriate. Otherwise, this system keeps my kitchen from becoming a very loud play zone or worse a nightmare situation because he was curious how Windex tasted. I do have one cabinet that doesn't have a lock on it where I keep my mixing bowls and plastic storage containers simply because I don't mind if he plays with those. We all know that non-toys can be more entertaining than the bevy of birthday presents lining his playroom. I use this same system for my bathroom cabinets. I would recommend it for any cabinet in your home that contains cleaning products or medicines even if they are not the lower cabinets - some kids are part monkey.
- Minimize exposed cords and cover unused outlets. Cords are not only a strangulation hazard, but also a tripping hazard and let me pull this lamp on top of my head hazard. Use your furniture to hide the cords, tie up the slack with zip ties. Speaking of lamps and other heavy table objects, I don't have any. I dream of the day that I can have a beautifully arranged side table next to my sofa, but that day has not arrived. I rather have peace of mind than a piece of flair. For those who already have a lamp they just won't part with, know that you will need to diligently teach your child not to pull/bite on the cord or grab the lamp. They will try to grab things off of tables they can't see. For those who do not have a lamp, but really want one, look into cordless options like these from Modern Lantern and place them as far out of reach as possible. Window blind cords are another type of cord to keep out of reach as they are are a strangulation risk. These can simply be knotted up high. If you have it in your home improvement budget, look into replacing your blinds with shutters. Not only will they eliminate the cord risk, they will increase your home's value. Win-win!
- Soften coffee table corners. I love using ottomans as coffee tables because they tick off both the stylish and child-friendly boxes. If you have a glass, marble, concreate or other heavy stone coffee table, strongly consider selling and purchasing an ottoman. If your coffee table is round and not made of a heavy stone or glass, no need to pad it (in my opinion). Yes, your darling could still bonk their head, but the damage will likely be minimal. I refer you to the classic Modern Family "Run for Your Wife" episode. Finally, if your coffee table has corners, find the closest match in color. I think color matching is a better solution than clear because the clear ain't foolin' nobody. At some point, and this is that point, you will have to embrace the phase of life you're in and not apologize for it. Style is important, but not as important as keeping your child safe.
- Block the stairs. Your baby gate does not need to be white plastic. I used a professional baby-proofer to help select and install our baby gates. He recommended Cardinal gates for their form and function. I have wrought iron spindles and inquired about a wrought iron gate to match. He wisely steered me away from that because it would have been heavy, potentially causing more harm than good. He installed a lightweight gate that is easy to unlatch with one hand. This is an important feature when you are carrying your child up or downstairs. Yet the latch is tricky enough that we have to instruct our adult guests how to operate it. Seriously, we challenge them to try without help, and it has yet to be conquered. Our guests have also given us many compliments on the look of the gates.
Disclaimer: The above advice is solely based on my experiences as a mother, and are not meant to be taken as professional or expert advice. Just real mom to mom talk.
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