So. You're pregnant with your first child and you've got to "childproof" the home. "Childproof the home" - what does that even mean?
Well, strap yourselves in fellow dads, as there is much to learn and even more to do when it comes to making sure you’re dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s when it comes to keeping baby/toddler happy, healthy, and most importantly of all, safe from mishap.
Even more importantly, this is all coming from a self-confessed DIY rookie. Quite frankly, I have NO idea when it comes to DIY, so if I can manage this motley lot of childproofing tips and tricks, believe me, you can too!
Before we start
Let me reiterate that your first six or so months are pretty safe. They don’t move much. Babies generally crawl from six months on, so that’s when you REALLY need to be ready with what I’m about to divulge.
Most of these “alterations” are temporary, although some might require fitting wall fixtures and the like. Obviously, if you’re renting, you’ll need to check in with your landlord as to what you can and can’t do.
There’s always horrible stories of kids pulling down chest of drawers, wardrobes, even cabinets, so the first thing you should look at is fixing anything that can be pulled down. Most furniture and storage cabinets you buy these days should come with the appropriate hardware to fix it to a solid wall, but if not, your local hardware store have a heap of options to check out.
This is probably as “DIY” as this guide is going to get, as you’ll probably have to drill some holes and possibly fit some wall plugs. If you’re not comfortable with a drill, ask around. There’s always some alpha male in your life who loves a good bit of DIY.
Triple check everything around the house. We’re in a much better space when it comes to TV’s and the like (they used to be so much heavier), but you still don’t want bub ripping that down on themselves so ensure that it’s all fixed to a wall or something solid.
If in doubt, call on that DIY mate or hire a handyman. You can’t be too careful when it comes to this.
There are a few places you don’t want bub to investigate. The medicine cupboard comes to mind. As does the cupboard under the sink and the (ahem) liquor cabinet.
Fortunately, there are a multitude of adhesive “locks” that fix straight to the cupboard door and “latch” to the other side. You can buy them independently or better yet, buy them as part of a “childproofing kit”. You can get these at most hardware and department stores.
I used these for all three of my kids, and they worked a charm. A little inconvenient when I was rushing to the liquor cabinet for a relaxing whisky after a hard day’s night, but you’d take that any day of the week to ensure your kid’s safety.
There’s now even magnetic locks, that use the wizardry that is magnetism to keep drawers and cupboard doors shut. Again, available at most department and hardware stores.
You can also get handy “locks” to stop the toilet lid being opened (vital if you want to keep your car keys from being flushed down the toilet), as well as hot tap “locks” you can fit, to stop baby turning on the hot water and burning themselves. It can happen so easily, so anything you can do to mitigate the risk is a must-do in my book.
The last point I will make about locks, actually relates to every lock, on every door in the house. You need to ensure that for every lockable door in your house, you have a key or a way to get in from the other side of the locked door. It’s happened to me on numerous occasions, particularly in toilets at other houses, where one of mine have gone into the toilet and locked the door, with no way of getting in from the other side.
It even happened again this time in an adjoining hotel room in Malaysia. One toddler stumped mum, dad, and five hotel employees until some genius flicked up the door chain from the outside. Phew!
There is no conversation more frustrating (and a little unnerving), than trying to explain to a toddler from the outside of a locked door, what they have to do in order to unlock the door. Believe me!
This also relates to the front and back doors of your house. Make sure you keep a key on you or have a spare key hidden somewhere. Otherwise, you might be locked out of home, literally (again, speaking from experience).
There are a few other “guard” type devices that are important things to consider. You can buy “power point guards”, simple plug-like bits of plastic that plug into the outlet holes of your power points, preventing baby from sticking anything unwanted into those gaps.
Also, consider buying some U-shaped finger guards for the doors in your house that tend to slam. They fit over the door’s edge and allows enough of a gap between the door and the frame that, when shut, fingers won’t be trapped. Absolutely essential for active kids.
One more thing – check all your benches and tables for sharp edges. Kids grow up pretty quickly, and that island bench of yours becomes a head-high hazard for your toddlers before you know it.
You can buy adhesive plastic guards that fit on each corner of the benches that could provide a risk. We used them, and believe me, they prevented more than a couple of potential hospital visits.
For other furniture with potential sharp edges, such as coffee tables, if it’s too much of a worry, it’s probably best just to get rid of them and get something a little more child friendly. This could apply to coffee tables made from glass too, you just never know.
Staircases. Lots of us have them in our house and they are a nightmare for parents with active kids.
I can’t advocate enough, how important it is to install as many “gates” as needed to stop kids from inadvertently taking a fall down a flight of stairs. That is an absolute no-brainer.
I’ve used both the semi-permanent and temporary versions of said gates, and all have been effective in keeping my kids safe. That said, you’ve still got to supervise them as much as possible, as kids are persistent little things. The best thing you can do after installing the gates, is to give them a good old robust test. Push on them, pull on them, do whatever you can to break them down. If the gates survive that test, you should be right.
Heaters / Fires
Again, you just can’t stress enough how important supervision becomes when you’ve got appliances or devices running that can burn unsuspecting kids. This is where you need to fit more temporary preventative measures or devices to stop baby touching hot surfaces. Trust me, it can happen. My poor daughter burnt some grill marks into her bum when she got too close to our heater’s grill after a bath. We laugh about it now, but it was no laughing matter then.
Another obvious inclusion, but you’ve got to ensure that you always drain the bath when done. Same goes for laundry troughs and sinks in the bathroom/kitchen. Kids can and do climb everywhere, so you’ve just got to keep vigilant on the subject.
Same goes for pools/ponds/paddle pools. You just can’t be too careful. It makes sense, especially here in Australia, to get them into swimming lessons as soon as you can. You wouldn’t want to wish that on anybody.
Another story you tend to see a bit, which breaks my heart every time, is when kids have been inadvertently run over in the driveway. We have a car that didn’t come with a reversing camera, so we had one installed. They basically replace the rear vision mirror with one that also displays the view from the rear-facing camera that sits on the back of the car.
Peace of mind is tantamount when it comes to things like this, so to me, it was almost an investment in my child’s protective safety.
Other tips and tricks include:
- Ensure to tape up remote controls and other devices that house batteries. You don’t want baby going anywhere near batteries. Where possible, remove any device in the house that need button shaped batteries. An absolute no-no with toddlers around.
- Keep sharp knives in knife blocks (or locked drawers) and ensure to keep the knives/knife block far away from bench edges. Same goes for glass and ceramic vessels.
- Hide your wife’s make-up bag. Trust me, they’ll find it and find the lipstick, no doubt about it.
- Same goes for the nappy cream. Every parent you know probably has a nappy cream incident they’d rather not re-visit. Keep it high, keep it locked, keep it out of reach!
- Always supervise your kids around your pets. You just never know.
This is a massive list, and we’ve covered a lot, but I do need to stress that these devices work much better with appropriate supervision. The moment you assume that your kids are fine, is the moment you need to avoid. Kids are curious, smart, active little humans, who can and will find ways to test your preventative measures.
Hopefully, with the above guide as a reference point, you’ll have many joyous moments with your little ones, incident-free.
Keep safe and good luck!