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Let's Baby Proof!

Anne Cavicchi


From the moment we begin preparations for bringing home a new baby, one of the things most prevalent in our minds is the comfort and safety of our baby as he or she grows and moves about the home. We make sure cabinet drawers are latched shut; we make sure that electrical outlets are covered; we move lower items to higher shelves; we check manufacturer's safety recommendations on products. In short, we attempt to create a baby-proof home.

Nonetheless, we sometimes get careless and slip up. Those little slip-ups once again make us conscious of things we must do to make our home safer for our young children.

I remember when morning when my then one-year-old son was playing on the floor in my bathroom as I was putting on my make-up and using my curling iron. After I had used the curling iron, I set it back on the counter top and commenced to put on my make-up. Unbeknownst to me, the cord from the curling iron hung dangerously low -- low enough for my son to crawl over and grab it, which he did. You can imagine what happened next. First, he screamed. Then I quickly turned and saw that the hot barrel of the curling iron was resting on his leg. I pulled it off as quickly as possible and treated his burn. The burn was bad enough to blister. As I comforted my son, I felt horrible for not realizing what danger I had put him in simply by resting my curling iron on the counter within his reach. He never before had pursued my curling iron, but, on that particular day, he discovered something new. He discovered he could reach things on counters, if he tried. That event made me realize that perhaps my home was not at baby-proof as I thought.

I did what many experts recommend and crawled around on my hands and knees about the house to see things from a baby's point of view. It is amazing what a different (and exciting!) world it is down there. There are so many possible exploration avenues, and, if left in an unsafe manner, they can be dangerous, even deadly, to young, curious hands.

All though not all-inclusive, below is a list of certain things to bear in mind when baby-proofing your home: All doors leading to outside should be locked at all times. Doors inside the home should have a doorknob cover on it resistant to the strength of the child. Or, if necessary, keep them locked. Some doors, however, lock from the inside, and that can be dangerous if a child roams in there and locks himself in. For these types of doors, it is a good idea to keep a key hanging above the door so it can be unlocked should such an event happen. A good idea for sliding glass doors, aside from keeping them locked, is to place decals at the eye level of the child so they do not crawl or run carelessly about and crash into it. Some children may not even notice the glass door there. Make it obvious!

The kitchen is a very dangerous place, yet babies and toddlers will spend a lot of time there. Be sure to keep all hazardous chemicals and supplies in a separate location and on high shelves. Keep security latches on doors and drawers. Keep nonfood items away from food items. When using the stove, be sure to use the back burners as much as possible and turn the handles away from the front of the stove so curious hands won't reach out to grab them. Constantly reinforce to the child the words "hot" or "no" or "don't touch." Never hold a child while preparing a meal. Just for fun, however, keep a lower drawer unlocked and full of baby-proof items, such as empty plastic lids and containers. This will still allow the child to explore and have fun while keeping him from danger at the same time.

In the bathroom, be sure to keep a latch on the toilet seat. Not only is it unsanitary for a young child to play in it, but he could drown in it, as well. Like in the kitchen, keep all hazardous materials out of reach or locked up in a cabinet. Be sure to keep things like curlers and irons unplugged and wrap the cords up when not in use. Most young babies and toddlers cannot tolerate temperatures above 120 degrees Fahrenheit in terms of hot water. The ideal water temperature for them is between 96 and 100 degrees. Anything too much higher can scald. Anything too much lower will seem quite cold to them. Keep in mind, too, that little children can drown in as little as an inch of bath water. When bathing them, be sure to keep one hand on them at all times. Also, use a mat in the bottom of the tub to keep the child from slipping.

Make sure all toys are age-appropriate. Parents should test each toy first for loose parts, hard edges, and age-level standards. Make sure older children in the home know that the younger child cannot play with "big kid toys." Remind the older children to keep their toys away from the younger child. What is appropriate for a five-year-old is not appropriate for a one-year-old. The ideal toy chest does not have a lid. If it does have a lid, make sure it is lightweight and not attached to the box. Make sure the toy chest has air holes in it. Finally, be sure to clean all washable toys with warm, soapy water from time to time to wash away and debris and germs.

Cribs should be used until the child is 36 inches high. Mobiles should not hang within a child's reach. For infants, do not keep a lot of stuffed toys and pillows in the crib, as they could suffocate. As the child grows older, stuffed toys can provide an unsafe means to climb up and out of the crib. All crib rails should be no more than 2 3/8 inches apart, or the child could get his head stuck between them. If the crib is a hand-me-down, check for loose nails and bolts, any lead-based paint, and any items on it that could be swallowed by a young mouth. If the crib is new, make sure it meets the Juvenile Product Manufacturer's safety certification guidelines. Look for that seal on the product. Additionally, make sure all sleep wear is flame-resistant. When washing the sleep wear, steer clear of those dryer sheets because they can reduce the efficacy of the flame-resistant materials.

Electrical outlets are very intriguing to young hands. Be sure to keep safety plugs in the outlets. Make sure they are placed firmly in there, but make it simple enough for you to take out when you need to use that outlet. My sons were able to pull these out at an early age. As such, in the areas in which the boys mainly play, my husband disconnected the power supply to those outlets. Sometimes, it is an inconvenience to vacuum and I have to use an outlet elsewhere and either rely on a generously long cord or an extension cord, but at least I have the peace of mind that, should my sons' attempt to play with the outlets, there is no power supply engaged there.

Keep furniture away from windows. This allows young children to climb up and attempt to crawl through any openings. Make sure the cords for drapes and blinds are cut short and pulled up. Never place a crib next to a window, as direct sunlight can burn sensitive skin. Be aware, too, that many young babies can crawl through a window that is open no more than 5 inches.

Keep knickknacks and other valuable items out of reach or simply put them away until your child gets older. I have come to realize that many of the items I have temporarily put away have actually been a godsend. First, my children are not tempted to play with them. Secondly, I have less to dust around! If you want to let your child explore but learn limits, place a less valuable item within his reach, and when the child attempts to grab it, firmly say "no." The more he hears this, the less likely he will be to play with the item, and, in time, you just might be able to put your decorations back on the table or shelf! This will also teach the child not to touch things like that when he is in other people's homes. I hate to admit this, but I have been so conscious of what I have told my kids to touch and not to touch and what rooms they can play in as opposed to what rooms they should not, that when they are at someone else's home, they immediately know not to engage in play in those areas. In fact, while at a get-together at a friend's home one day, I heard my four-year-old say to my two-year-old, "Don't touch that. Don't go in there." I felt good that they had been learning what was safe. The hostess also felt relieved that my children were not putting themselves in any harm in her home.

Basically, all it takes is some common sense and a careful look at your home. And, like me, it may take an accident to make you realize that perhaps your home is not as baby-proof as it could be. Before we know it, our kids will be grown and living on their own. Then we can bring out the valuables, unlatch the cabinet drawers, leave the lid on the toilet up -- but, wait -- here comes the new grand baby! Here we go again!

(Some information for this article was obtained from the "Tour of the Baby-Proof Home" web site.)

Ann E Butenas is a stay-at-home mom of three preschool-age boys. She has an undergraduate degree in Communications, a post-bachelor paralegal certificate, and a Master's in Business Management. She earned the latter during her first two pregnancies while running an at-home business at the same time. She has been professionally published as a writer since the age of 12.

Ann currently owns and operates ANZ Publications, a publications business specializing in family-oriented projects. Her most recent project includes a very unique medical and dental records binder.a great way to keep track of a child's complete medical history from birth through adolescence. Visit the site at ANZ is an acronym, by the way, for her son's Alec, Noah, and Zach. It is pronounced as "Ann's," for her first name, but spelled as such to include the boys!

Her website showcases her new book.

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Chris L Mar 18, 2009 05:43:35 PM ET

This is a very comprehensive and well written article. as the infant becomes mobile, i also recommend stair gates and safety gates for high traffic areas. and look for the jpma seal on these products as well.

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