You were waiting for this moment for months and now you will wish for the next 17.5 years that this day had never come. I kid… it’s more like 33.5 years.
This article will focus on the products that are great for new crawlers. For the overachievers still in the “expecting” category, big high fives for getting a head start on your baby proofing program!
But for many parents, ahem… moi, an infant can gain mobility almost overnight and parents are caught off guard by the types of products they need in their home. Don’t get me wrong, I was online doing tons of research… for months, but didn’t actually purchase and install the childproofing swag until we were at DEFCON 1 rocking status.
Here’s what to tackle first:
1) Electrical outlets. I believe babies actually have outlet honing devices built into their brains because our son found outlets I didn’t even know we had! News flash – your baby will try to stick their finger into the outlet so outlet plug covers and electrical plate covers are very handy. Parents have a love hate relationship with the electrical outlet caps because many infants are able to remove them quickly and many parents, on the other broken fingernailed hand, are frustrated in the process of trying to remove them. I’m a fan of the outlet plate covers because they were easy to install (1 simple screw and installed in 30 seconds tops) but word to the wise, if you will frequently use the outlet, make sure it’s SUPER easy to access because it was like the stars needed to align and Jupiter needed to be in the 7th house to get the plug in sometimes.
2) Electrical Cords. Not only are they piping with electricity but a baby can yank on these bad boys and if connected to a freestanding light or other heavy object at elevation, cause them to topple over. Kaboom-o. Try to remove cords from the room as much as possible. Obviously, removing all cords isn’t possible, TV – you were my only friend some of those late, late nights. We use Velcro ties to organize and conceal them to keep cords out of arms reach.
3) Electrical Power Strips. A strip protector locks around a power surge strip with multiple outlets or jacks. This is one item my son can outsmart in 1.3 seconds flat, with one chubby hand behind his back. We own two different brands and we haven’t had great luck with either brand. My son figured out how to shimmy the strip down out of the protector and gain access to the outlets and the on-off switch, defeating the entire purpose of the product. I'm going to say: Pass. Try to remove or completely conceal the strip from your child.
4) Cabinets and Drawers. Infants can gain access to chemicals, medicine or sharp objects if located in a low, unsecured space. Let’s all take a moment to let the willies pass. Before you baby proof anything, really think if you need something toxic in the house in the first place. We moved our dangerous cleaning supplies from out under the sink and kept them in a bucket in the garage that’s placed up high and out of reach. If you can lock that space, all the better but the key is complete lack of access for your little. You may need some everyday items kept in the house so make sure to place them up high and secure them with cabinet locks. Always supervise any activity in a room with these toxic items even with baby proofing gear installed. Side note: Many child development experts recommend babyproofing your kitchen cabinets but leaving one “safe” cabinet for your baby to play with child-appropriate pots, pans or other cooking gear. Kids love having their “own” cabinet and may be less determined to get into the other cabinets if they have a little fiefdom for themselves.
5) Doors. While your child most likely won’t be able to get high enough to reach a door knob at this stage, they will be able to open and close doors, and open and close doors, and open and close doors. The concern here is slamming doors and pinching or injuring fingers (theirs and yours). Door slamming protectors are available and usually use foam, rubber or plastic to create an impact barrier. Word of caution, make sure the protector doesn’t lose its shape or tolerance and fall off the door.
6) No-Zones. Do you have a room in the house or whole section of the house you don’t want your child to access? Mobility and determination are a powerful and dangerous combination for little tots without the understanding of “NO!” So block off those no-zones with a tension mount safety gate or hardware mounted gate for any stairs access. Baby gates can also be used in the door frame and extra-long gates can span larger areas to block off entryways to larger rooms. Another option: close the door to rooms you don’t want your child to gain access. When your child is able to reach the door knob, you will need to add door knob covers.
Here’s how to tackle these home zones:
1) Be the baby. Naw, you can’t start throwing food, but it is an excuse to get down at baby crawling eye-level and scope out what would look most intriguing for an infant – hello electrical outlets! Don’t forget stacked objects like books or other things stored under coffee or end tables. If it’s in their strike zone, they will swing.
2) Make a list. Do a literal audit of the home. Count outlet plug covers in any baby accessed room. Count cabinets, drawers, doors… you get the picture. Use your phone to keep a running tally and take photos of any unique elements for shopping purposes.
3) Measure Twice, Buy Once. Don’t forget to write down the widths and heights of areas you plan to install a gate as most gates have unique variances in their widths and heights. My Rookie Move: I bought and returned one gate after not realizing I bought the wrong width for our hallway. What a time suck schlepping and returning that thing!
4) Bring in the Pros. Some parents opt for a baby proofing service to come to their home and professionally audit their set-up. There are local companies that specialize in this and can provide support from simple home consultations to supplying and installing the childproofing products. Many servicers are licensed and bonded (similar to contractors) and have years of experience with a range of unique scenarios – ultra-mod floating stairs you have met your match! We didn’t use a Proofing Service but from my interviews with parents, they are incredibly happy with the results because it takes the “Did I install this correctly?” question out of your head. Heads up, these services can be spendy so make sure you do your research, ask for rough estimates before you schedule an appointment. Because these companies are based locally, a great rule of thumb is to ask friends that are happy with their outcome what company they used. If you do an open search one the web, make sure to put your metropolitan area.
5) Big(ish) Kid Playdate. OK, obviously don’t invite your 2 year old niece over before you have put away your Samurai knife collection but if you think your home is already baby proofed before your little one is mobile, I 100% bet that within 5 minutes, that older child will show you an additional 5 things that need to be moved, proofed or reconsidered from a safety perspective. Thanks to my 13 month old nephew visiting us when my son was 5 months old, we learned that small glass spice jars and refrigerator magnets above adult waist level are a really bad idea for a toddler– that kid has reach!
That should cover the basics but leave a comment below if you have other tips for your newly mobile lads and lasses!