|Yep - darts with daddy.|
Since my mind's been wiped and, in general, has been a bit hazy all year long, forgive me if I start to repeat myself in blog posts. I've had lots of blog post ideas swimming around in my head all year and often did not have the time or internet access to post promptly while those ideas were fresh in my head. So, onto parent proofing the house. I recall last spring, while I was still pregnant, a friend's sister coming over to our house. She took one look at our house and nearly had a panic attack just thinking of all the "necessary" changes we would need to make to our home in order for it to be safe for a baby/toddler/new person. Let me walk you through our home and discuss the "changes" we actually made. I read a book (well, actually listened to the audio book while driving in the car, but I digress) called "Free Range Kids" by Lenore Skenazy. She has been dubbed the worst parent in America and wears this title proudly. The reason she wears said title proudly is because the title is ridiculous and, of course, untrue. She allowed her son to ride the subway by himself, to let him figure out how to get around, because he asked her to. She let him go. She let him figure things out. Terrible, I know (note the sarcasm). Skenazy cites research having to do with the actual rate of child abduction (quite low, but well publicized), the occurrence of razor blades in apples on Halloween (never actually happened, just theorized by Dear Abby), and other widely believed scare tactics designed to get people at most vulnerable points in life (for example...new parents) to buy more stuff.
|Where's the chalk?|
We'll start with the obvious - stairs. We did get a gate for the top of our stairs, which turned out to be the most dangerous item in our home. Our stairs have a metal railing on one side and a wall on the other, but without making modifications, we were having difficulty finding a gate that would be truly secure at the top of these stairs. We bought one that was designed to screw into the metal railing only to find that it was too tall as it was an "extra tall" top of stairs gate. We returned it. We also bought a pressure mounted gate with this in mind for the top of the other stairs (sprially and scary to all except for we who live here and love it to bits) and office entrance. As it turned out, that one was too wide for that area upstairs. We did measure. Anywho, we tried the pressure mounted gate at the top of our stairs and would squeeze it in there and once Cecelia was on the move (crawling) she was obsessed with it. All she wanted to do was go to the gate. I swear if there was no gate there I don't think it would have occurred to her to approach the top of the stairs but that was a gamble that even I was not willing to take. Once she was pulling up, the gate was even more desirable as it was just the right size for her to hold on to and rock. Now, we removed her from the site of potential danger. But once, and I was right next to her, she was too fast. I had decided that if supervised, she could stand at the gate because my thinking was that she would get it out of her system, all this gate loving, and move on to some other part of the house to be obsessed with. She pushed and she pulled and she pushed and she pulled and the gate gave way. I hate the gate. I promptly decided that the pack and play we never use was just the right size to blockade the top of the stairs and has resided there ever since. This was my first thought before getting any gates, but we thought we'd try it out. Now, a pack and play might not work in every home, but for us, it has been the perfect fit. We can move it easily, but Cece can not move it easily. She can still see through it when someone is coming up the stairs (fun) and she can still stand up near it with no chance of it being used as a sled for the stairs.
|Working on my core muscles.|
As for the other stairs (spirally), there are two ends to contend with - the bottom and the top. At the bottom, I wanted Cece to experiment with climbing stairs so originally there were no impediments. And experiment she did. She was able to get up and promptly would try to get back down by sitting on her bottom. Mom fail. So, the toy box moved to blockade the bottom of the stairs. We have since moved it out of the way to practice climbing stairs and back again when Cece is playing. Did I mention we practice on these stairs and she is a master spiral stair climber. I'm right behind her when she does this, don't worry. At the top of the stairs, we've utilized that lovely pressure mounted gate leaning against the doorway since it's too wide, but once Cece could stand she would have just pulled it on top of herself anyway. What I found is much more effective, if we're up there for an extended period of time, is to use the printer cart. Our computer printer is on a rolling cart from IKEA. It's carpeted and does not roll at all easily (i.e. Cece cannot move it) but easily enough for me to slide it in front of the doorway/top of stairs gap. It is just shy of the width of the opening, but perfect for blocking access.
|No, we didn't turn it on...|
Onto chemicals and other Mr. Yuck sticker worthy items! One simple solution is to get rid of all the chemical cleaners in your home. We try to clean with only natural items like vinegar, baking soda, olive oil, lemon, etc. Past that, we keep cleaners (even those natural ones) in a caddy in the outdoor closet that Cece does not have access to. In the kitchen, everything that was under the cabinet (soap, dishwasher detergent, etc) was moved to the cabinet above the sink (well out of reach of Cece, and Jeff and I :) and moved all tupperware and storage type containers under the sink. This is one of Cecelia's favorite places to explore, so why deny her the pleasure? Pots and pans are also at baby-level and there are drawers next to the refrigerator with paper plates that she can pull out and have a ball with as well as plastic utensils and straws that she adores. She enjoys pulling items out of our recycling bin which does reside in the kitchen, so we make sure things are well rinsed. I've begun to just turn the trash can around so that the open end is facing the wall. It's still easy enough to deposit trash, but (at the moment anyway) a conundrum not worth the time to a one year old. Similarly, metal mixing bowls are on the bottom shelf of a wire rack and cookbooks are accessible for her to peruse. Because...why not?
|Sorting plastic and glass|
We did remove our table cloth because Cecelia, being the problem solver she is, realized that if something was on the table, all she had to was a swift magic trick to get it back down again.
|Power tools are a must.|
|Navigating the bridges of life|
As for sharp corners, we moved our coffee table out of the center of the room. Our fireplace offers a fun challenge. There is one REALLY sharp corner and edge, so we took a body pillow and laid it around the edge of the fireplace while Cecelia was learning to crawl. Once she was steady, we removed the pillow. Because Cecelia has always had the fireplace there, it's no longer such a novelty. She does, at times, like to play with the mesh, or touch the edge, but she's never tried to crawl in (yet) and she's never knocked her noggin on that edge. I'm not ruling it out as a possibility in life, but I think because she's been around it, it's a non-issue. We did remove the fireplace tools because, well, who needs the weaponry, am I right? Same thing with the tv stand edges and corners - pillows do wonders.
|I was told there would be candy in this basket.|
The bathroom is one of Cecelia's favorite places to hang out. Under the sink there, I've made sure there are plenty of things for her to pull out and explore and anything I wouldn't want her near is either above the sink, completely gone, or way in the back blocked by all the fun baskets in the front. She loves brushes.
|But I needed it!|
We don't have any locks on drawers or cabinet doors. I figure cause and effect - she opens a drawer, she learns how a drawer opens. She closes a drawer, she learns how a drawer closes. She pinches her fingers, she learns not to stick her fingers in a drawer and close it. Cause and effect.
|Mom, this is NOT amusing.|
And, everyone's favorite: electrical outlets. We don't have outlet covers. Why? They are plastic (bad for you and bad for the environment) and one friend told me that they could be a choking hazard. I can guarantee that if we had outlet covers, Cecelia would make it her mission to pry them out. Then she steps on them, ouch, the outlet would be uncovered anyway, etc. Now, I'm going to be blunt here - if you don't give your child a metal object that he/she can stick into an outlet, then there should be no problems. If you do give your child a fork, knife, metal coin (penny, nickel, dime, quarter), or other small metal object, then they might stick it in an outlet. Don't let them do that. Keep all coins (another choking hazard) out of reach and same thing with metal cutlery and voila problem solved.
|I'll just plug this in here...|
I'm sure that I'm forgetting some other "essential" baby proofing products - there are so many out there, baby knee pads...don't even get me started...but off the top of my head, this is how we evaluated our home. Another thing to think about is your individual child and your individual family. For example, I observed when Cece was learning to sit and once she became more steady. I would seat her with cushioning around her on the side she might roll to. When she started to crawl, I could see if she was likely to bobble or how steady she was, and likewise, with pulling up and, now, walking. I am certain that new challenges will surface and it is important to keep your child safe. But, it is also important not to bubble-wrap them and assume that you can protect them from everything. If children aren't given the opportunity to explore when they want and need to, they'll find a way. It's in their nature, and it's an important learning process. You also need to know your tolerance level. If you won't be able to handle having EVERY container pulled out, then you should probably lock that cabinet drawer. Know yourself and know your kid.
|Just add bubble wrap.|