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Baby Proofing: Hidden Dangers

Ann E. Butenas


On New Year's Eve, I attended a party at the home of one of my friends. She and her husband had recently moved into this home and was eager to give me the grand tour. As she led me up the stairs and into her young son's room, I marveled at how beautifully she had decorated it. However, I noticed that on the bookcase that was part of the headboard of her son's little bed, there were two bottles of children's medicine. I thought to myself, "Why does she keep those there?" The thought slipped my mind as we continued on with the tour, but then I noticed a few other things lurking in her home that could spell danger to a young child, such as an open bag of kitty litter on the laundry room floor, and dozens of electrical cords haphazardly placed in her "under construction" home office. Then my thoughts turned to how I had things placed in my own home and decided to re-evaluate what potential hidden dangers we as parents need to be aware of and to take into careful consideration.

I like to think that I make my home safe for my children. After all, when out in public, I do all I can to keep them from harm. Why should things change in my own home? Nonetheless, we can often take certain things for granted when our children play and live inside our homes. We all are aware of the basic child-proofing measures, such as gates at the top and bottom of stairs, locks on cabinets, adhesive non-slip decals in the tub, etc., but what about those hidden dangers of which we might not think?

For instance, my husband and I have always kept a needle and thread and a spare pair of scissors in the upper drawer of the bathroom vanity. My boys are now able to reach that drawer, and the other day, I discovered one of them had been in the drawer and was using the scissors to cut a dangling thread from his shirt. That scared me to death! I wanted to reprimand him, but at the same time, I realized it was more my fault for leaving those scissors in that location. It also reminded me that while we think our children do not notice everything we do, they usually are absorbing all of our activities and will be quick to imitate what we do.

This takes me back to the medicine bottle dilemma. My friend was most likely assuming that since the bottles of medicine have "child proof" caps on them, then they are safe. I have learned that sometimes a small child can snap the lid off the top of a medicine bottle much quicker than I can. What if her son attempted to do that with not just one of those bottles, but with both, and then proceeded to drink the medicine? That could be deadly in an instant! I, too, keep a drawer full of medicinal odds and ends, and have learned as of late that my three young sons find this drawer fascinating. As a result, I have been forced to restructure the anatomy of my bathroom essentials.

What I was once told to do in preparation for childproofing my home was to crawl around on the floor on my hands and knees and ascertain just what potential dangers may be lurking. Aside from the many dust bunnies I discovered under my bed and the half-eaten peanut butter sandwich shoved under the refrigerator, I realized that from this particular level, a child's curiosity would be put to the test.

*Be sure there are no loose electrical cords within easy reach of young hands. A child could either pull on one and knock a lamp off a table and get hit with it or he could even accidentally strangle himself with the cord.

*Keep the crib away from the mini-blinds. A young hand can reach out and grab the cord on those.

**Keep all medicines in a locked cabinet, up high if possible. The same goes for any and all poisonous and other household chemicals. Remember to store your household cleaning supplies out of sight and locked up.

**If you have tables or a fireplace hearth with sharp edges, get those little rubber wedges to put on them to keep young heads from coming into contact with the hard surfaces.

**If you have your television on a stand, be sure to have it fully secured. I have a friend whose young son incurred a severe head injury when a television fell off the stand onto his head. It took nearly two years for this young boy to recover. We used to have a television stand with two glass doors on it, which could be opened and into which we placed videotapes. One day, however, I discovered that my two preschoolers had shoved my toddler into that stand and closed the doors. While it was not airtight, he could have been severely hurt. We have since replaced that stand with an open stand.

**Be sure to avoid toy boxes that have lids. A small child could crawl inside and become trapped. Make sure all toy boxes do have some ventilation to them.

**If you have older children and younger children, please remember that older children's toys have smaller parts onto which younger hands can grab and attempt to swallow. Exercise extreme caution when your older children are playing with their toys and make every effort to keep those toys separated from the toddler-friendly toys.

**Keep all electrical outlets securely covered. Little ones love to see what they can shove into those tiny holes.

**Make sure your electric garage door has a motion sensor on it. If it senses something in its path while closing, it will automatically rise back up.

**Be aware of what you put into your household trashcans. Toddlers are very curious and will rummage through trashcans, if given the opportunity. I only keep one trashcan in my home, and it is in the bathroom. I use it mainly for tissue and cotton ball waste. I try to keep it out of reach and out of sight of the children. I don't even have a trashcan in my kitchen. I walk the few extra steps to the garage to dispose of trash and then lock the door. I would much rather spend a few extra seconds doing that than to find my child going through the garbage and potentially choking on something or injuring himself with something found in there.

**Try to avoid using potpourri. While it smells nice and looks nice, to a young child, it can look tempting. A toddler could potentially choke on potpourri.

**If you are vacuuming and become interrupted by a phone call or something, don't just turn off the vacuum cleaner, but unplug it, too. A toddler can very easily go up to the vacuum and turn it on again. This could spell serious danger if the child happened to roll the vacuum over his foot.

**Never leave a child unattended in the tub, even to dash off to answer the phone. A child can drown in as little as two inches of water. Let the answering machine pick up the phone.

While these tips are not all-inclusive, they do offer some insight as to what precautions parents must take when assessing the overall safety of their home environment. We all know the saying that "most accidents happen in the home." By carefully taking stock of any hidden dangers in your home and remedying the situation, you will greatly lessen the risk of accident. By now, the only accidents that seem to happen in my home are the ones that end with "Oh, oh." as in, "Mommy, Noah spilled his juice!" or "Mommy, Zachary wet his pants." I can handle those kinds of accidents any day over the perilous things that could happen if I did not carefully child proof my home.

As a post-thought, be sure to share this information with any friends, relatives, or caretakers who may watch your child(ren) in their home from time to time. Every environment is different, and we need to take measures to ensure the safety of our child(ren).

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-riented 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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