baby proof: baby proofing.

October 4, 2017

baby proofing | reading my tea leavesWe’re in it. That mildly mind-wrecking moment when the tiniest human among us is making daily work of investigating every nook and cranny in our apartment and identifying for us yet another potentially hazardous corner in what we’d previously considered a fairly safe space. Babies!

In most homes, baby proofing is a thing that needs to be done to keep kids safe, but also to keep parents sane. It’s exhausting to bring a baby into a space where there are a million breakable or choke-able or otherwise dangerous items within easy reach. 

No surprise, there are a great many products on the market to help you in your baby proofing mission. There are locks and latches and gates and gadgets, all designed to make a space designed without babies in mind to work slightly better with them in it. Some of these items are helpful. Socket covers, for instance, felt like a wise idea for curious tiny fingers. We found a discarded baby gate on the street and for a brief time when she was a baby, we experimented with barring Faye from the kitchen entirely. Our makeshift rubber banding of cabinet doors together when Faye was little worked out just fine, but we’re admittedly a bit more distracted this time around and so we’ve gotten a set of magnetic cabinet locks, which function perfectly well if not flawlessly.

Others of these items are less helpful. Our bed, if the mattress is slightly akimbo, reveals sharp corners. After a few dicey weeks of Silas pulling himself up onto the bed frame on precisely the most dangerous spot, we invested in a set of silicone corners. Two weeks after that, they’d all been pulled off. I still haven’t figured out a way to re-stick the suckers. We’ve been padding the corners with the edges of our blanket instead. Win some, lose some.

In my experience, most baby proofing measures mean at least a bit of discomfort or inconvenience on the part of the parent—whether you have an arsenal of baby-proofing gadgets in use or not. With that in mind, we’ve tried to rely as little as possible on gadgets and in general we’ve been able to find baby proofing solutions that require little expense and little in the way of single-use measures that we’ll be stuck with once our baby proofing days are over. A caveat: Individual spaces and individual kids will mean that everyone’s baby proofing journey looks a little different. With Faye, the timing of her mobility, the timing of the hottest radiator months, and her general interest in other things, meant we got away without investing in radiator covers. For Silas, who will be learning to walk just as the heat kicks on, we might well have to consider getting those radiators covered up or otherwise more securely cordoned off. 

Here are a few rules of thumb for folks hoping to baby proof without buying up the entirety of the baby proofing aisle at the nearest big box store:

Clear the decks: I already have a tendency to keep surfaces in our house spare, but I’ve upped the ante a bit with little guys around. I’ve put jewelry into drawers instead of leaving it out. I’ve moved potted plants onto high, unreachable windowsills. In the kids room, I’ve cleared off Silas’s preferred shelf so that he’s not repeatedly strewing the room with small wooden dolls. Just a few simple shakers and a set of bowls has proved as much fun for him and less tedious for me.

Move the furniture: It’s not always a possibility, but sometimes a hazardous corner or a troublesome spot can be best baby proofed by simply getting obscured. Shift a dresser a few inches to one side and cover up an outlet, for instance. Move a bed a foot and make a lamp impossible to knock over. Turn a crate around to face the wall and every pair of shoes can no longer be licked by a small human. 

Get creative: Beyond the single-use gadgetry there are also perfectly acceptable makeshift solutions. In our apartment we’ve used metal clamps from the hardware store to prevent the sliding closet door from getting opened. We’ve rigged some string to prevent a closest door with a lever handle from getting opened. We’ve rubber banded cabinet doors. We’ve used a series of mug hooks to keep wires secured to the underside of a desk. All of this stuff we already owned; all of it has been easy to remove (and replace).

Go without for a little while: This is never my most popular bit of advice, but as we have in nearly every aspect of our life in a tiny apartment, we’ve found there are cases when just living without something for awhile has been the easiest and most cost-effective solution. James is without his own bedside lamp for the moment, for instance, because Silas is determined to maul it every chance he has and there’s nowhere for it to live but a low table. It’ll stay tucked into the closet for a few months until he’s old enough to ignore or until we’re impatient enough to find a different solution. And so it goes.

What about you guys? Genius solutions of your own that you’re dying to share? Baby proofing challenges?

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  • Reply laura October 4, 2017 at 9:36 am

    If anyone out there has tips on baby proofing a wood stove, I’m a desperate Mom that will have a crawler come winter when we have that thing humming. And if it’s aesthetically pleasing as a solution, all the better!

    • Reply Angela October 4, 2017 at 10:07 am

      You could build (or hire someone to build) a beautiful wooden gate. I have seen some really beautiful ideas on Pinterest. For something less beautiful, the regalo playyard gate has worked well for us when we’ve had to block off portions of a room.

      • Reply laura October 4, 2017 at 12:09 pm

        Thanks! Great tips.

      • Reply Sara October 23, 2017 at 11:29 am

        We blocked off one side of our family room that has a radiator and wood stove with brick surround and a step down areas using two Regalo gates. They’re aesthetically inoffensive as far as baby gates go, and being able to make them really really long is so great. We just “end” the room before all the dangerous stuff and that keeps curious toddling Sylvie safe!

    • Reply Carol October 6, 2017 at 8:34 am

      In UK large fireguard, black with brass top rail used to be popular.

  • Reply Jessica October 4, 2017 at 10:03 am

    We tried the outlet covers, but they just became a puzzle for my twins, who quickly figured out how to pull them out and put them back in. We opted for the child-safe outlets instead! We’ve also had to put those hideous plastic door nob covers on a few of our doors, because they also quickly figured out how locks work. We’re just thankful that they seem to have stellar visual-spatial skills! 😉

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE October 4, 2017 at 10:18 am

      Ah, yes. My sister found the same to be true and used those outlets, too.

  • Reply Emma October 4, 2017 at 10:17 am

    Just a reminder for everyone that all furniture such as dressers and bookcases should be anchored to the wall! Too many curious children have died from tipping furniture and it’s so easy to prevent. Luckily it’s a mostly invisible fix so it won’t ruin the beauty of anyone’s home!

    • Reply Sam October 4, 2017 at 12:16 pm

      Yes! We did this with our TV and the bookcase in his room.

      We also covered some open rail at the stairs with large acrylic panels from Home Depot, using zip ties wrapped around the pickets to hold in place.

    • Reply Jennie October 9, 2017 at 9:08 am

      Do you have an anchor that you like and recommend? I’m getting ready to do research on this exact thing, but it seems that they aren’t all made equal!

  • Reply Laura October 4, 2017 at 10:46 am

    If anyone lives in a newer home, you might have child-safe outlets already. The building code around here requires them in all new buildings (don’t know how long that’s been true). It’s not super obvious what they are, but if it’s really hard to plug stuff in, that’s a good sign. You should be able to see a little plastic flap/door behind the slots.

  • Reply Erica October 4, 2017 at 11:15 am

    I had a good chuckle reading this – particularly the park about tiny humans licking shoes – it’s amazing that any of us ever make it out of babyhood in one piece!

  • Reply Diane October 4, 2017 at 11:16 am

    “…every pair of shoes can no longer be licked by a small human.”

    My chuckle for today, possibly tomorrow too.

  • Reply Claire October 4, 2017 at 11:39 am

    Not sure what your radiators are like over in the States but here in the UK it’s often more cost effective to leave the heating on constantly but on REALLY low (low at the boiler and open your radiators max just incase little fingers enjoy turning knobs)…. once bricks are heated they are really good at retaining heat. And a bit of reflective radiator foil ensures that any radiators on outside walls pump most of the heat into the room rather than through the wall.

    I’ve found a good wide lump of white tac in the corner of door frames means that little fingers can’t slam in them. But it’s easy to remove if you want to get snug or keep noise down once the little ones are asleep. Plus it’s hardly noticeable.

    If you can’t keep your little ones out the kitchen we were told that the key thing for hobs (maybe you guys call stoves?) is to keep all pan handles in over the worktop not hanging out over so hands can’t reach up to grab and pull over on themselves. And to keep a tea towel (I’m sure you guys have other word for this too) hanging over the front of the oven door.

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE October 4, 2017 at 11:59 am

      Oh man, old-school New York City radiators typically have just the two settings: on or off. On is very very hot and off is very very cold. Still, depending on how bundled the littles guys are when sleeping, we can get away with keeping the radiator turned off in their room! Yes to handles turned in on the stove! Gotta look into this white tac stuff….

      • Reply Connie October 4, 2017 at 2:25 pm

        Keeping handles turned inward should be a habit for everyone, every day, forever. Adults or teens can knock the saucepan’s handle with a hand or elbow as easily as a small child can grab it from below.

  • Reply Emily October 4, 2017 at 12:25 pm

    My proudest baby proofing moment was covering up the opening of our old gas fireplace. There are so many terrible things for babies in that small space! We had the hardware store cut a piece of plywood to size, spray painted it black, and screwed strong magnets to the back to hold it to the metal fireplace. Now it looks great and I don’t think my babes have any idea what’s behind there! Of course it would be easy to take the cover off and on if we wanted to since it’s just magnets.

  • Reply Ana October 4, 2017 at 1:33 pm

    We live in a 2 bedroom apt and have done very little in the way of baby proofing. Mostly, like you mention, we’ve just moved stuff up and out of reach. We do have magnetic locks for our kitchen cabinets, which I highly recommend. Now that our daughter is a little older we keep the door to the garbage can unlocked because she likes to help put trash in the garbage. We also have knob covers for the burners on the stove. This was a big one for me. The stove makes me incredible nervous and our is gas. And finally we have two silicone corner bumpers on the TV console because its at toddler head and eye level and is just the left of a doorway and around a corner.

  • Reply Susan Magnolia October 4, 2017 at 1:50 pm

    I will never forget my daughter inching closer and closer to the Benjamin Franklin stove in our living room saying “hot, hot!” Not sure how we got through it but truly wish you the best of luck!

  • Reply Kari October 4, 2017 at 2:02 pm

    If you’re a knitter or crocheter, or know one, you can make doorknob covers that look way better than the plastic ones. Just pick a nice neutral, make sure they’re cinched tightly enough so they can’t be pulled off, but are loose enough around the knob. Little hands can’t grip tightly enough to turn the knob through the yarn, but adult hands can.

  • Reply Debbie October 4, 2017 at 2:27 pm

    Hi Erin, I’m curious about the clamp you use to keep the sliding doors shut. We have tried a number of babyproofing gadgets for those pesky doors but nothing seems to work.

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE October 4, 2017 at 3:34 pm

      Oh, it’s just a metal clamp like these: We just clamped them onto the glider rail, if that makes sense! It’s not totally foolproof, but it prevented constant opening when our nephew was in his very intent-on-opening-everything phase!

  • Reply Marisa October 4, 2017 at 9:52 pm

    My son pulled the outlet covers out also. I used clear packing tape to cover the outlets and folded it over on top as a little handle for us to pull it down when we needed the outlet. He never figured that one out, as far as I know. We also used a baby gate to block off the fireplace. It was an eyesore, but also a conversation piece, and worked well even when he tried to scale it!

  • Reply Nancy October 5, 2017 at 12:41 am

    I laughed at your rubber corner cover comment. I bought those to cover up the corners of a hearth, and a coffee table. Useless. 🙂 We got rid of the coffee table, and decided not to worry about too much about the hearth.

    We didn’t do much baby-proofing either– put things on high shelves, get rid of things we probably didn’t need anyway, etc etc. I’m with you on this one.

  • Reply Laurie October 5, 2017 at 9:42 am

    We’ve been living without a coffee table for four years now. I’m a big fan of living without vs. baby proofing. My mom always tells a story of the coffee table my brother injured himself on, then my sister and when I finally did she just threw it on the curb!
    My son also always seems to find the one shoe that is not stored away and puts it right in his mouth

  • Reply Virginia October 5, 2017 at 12:00 pm

    With our first, we went into babyproofing with the idea that if something was imminently dangerous (like a tipping dresser), we would take care of it, but otherwise we would try to teach them early to listen. So, from about 6 months, we started to teach our first , “no,” “hot,” “not now” for opening the bathroom at any time, “slow down”, “that can hurt” for sharp corners, etc. It worked really well! We were pretty sure we had mastered parenting and were happy that when we went into places without any babyproofing, like Grandparent houses, our child knew how to be responsible.
    Then our curious, strong-willed, climbing second came along. We tried to do the same, but it just didn’t work as well —
    especially when we didn’t have as much time for the amount of time and consistency teaching took. I learned that my second was naturally inclined to believe “that can hurt!” only after he experienced it for the 20th time. To save my sanity, one day I found myself buying the biggest box of babyproofing supplies at our Home Depot.

    • Reply Julia October 6, 2017 at 3:29 pm

      I’ve never had a seriously curious child, although they’ve each had their idosyncrasies, but the training method has been our most effective baby proofing tool too. It takes vigilance on the front end, but all three of mine quickly learned which books to leave on the shelf (THIS shelf has your books!), which corners were off limits, and even that the oven is hot and one must back away when it’s being opened. The best part of this method is that it works in public too, because baby is familiar with the command to not touch. The down side is that some things just have a siren call that no baby can resist…like Mom’s purse…and keys.. (thank goodness for child safe outlets, even if they do look like keyholes!)

  • Reply Anna October 5, 2017 at 1:28 pm

    I remember gaff-taping chunks of heavy wool felt to the corners of things to keep my daughter from banging her head. She was an early walker and not always very steady on her feet. She’s four now, so most of the baby-proofing isn’t as necessary, though we do still have doorknob covers on a few things. We live in a basement suite and the place was designed so that the hot water heater and furnace for the upstairs are in a cupboard in our suite, and our hot water heater is in a separate cupboard. Both have doorknob covers to keep her out, though she mostly is no longer curious about them.

  • Reply Cate October 5, 2017 at 4:02 pm

    It’s the thing you don’t anticipate that will be the problem. We had a tea cozy that looked like a cat. 2-year-old pulled it off the counter and got badly scalded by hot tea (20 years ago – thanks to first aid and good care he’s fine now). We had baby proofed EVERYTHING, but didn’t think enough like the kid and didn’t realize he’d grown that little bit extra that put counter top stuff in reach. My point is: you can do the best you can, but still miss something. Kids are intent on getting at it all, no matter what you do.

  • Reply Lucille October 5, 2017 at 4:45 pm

    When we were house hunting once we were shown into an impressive living room with a grand piano in it – with disposable nappies (diapers) wrapped around each of the piano legs as a bumper for their crawling baby’s head. Desperate measures. The agent was not pleased.
    As a grandparent I’m aware that our house is very difficult to completely re-child proof. We filled in the ponds though and I removed all chokeable objects and household cleaning fluids out of reach. Luckily we don’t have too many breakable knick knacks. For the rest I rely on having time to be very vigilant by day and there is a stairgate on her bedroom door here in case she wanders at night.

  • Reply Jackie October 9, 2017 at 10:52 pm

    Great tips everyone! Thanks for sharing. I recently had a baby and these posts will go a long way in helping me childproof my home. Also, I recently found a good website for a lot of the child safety products you’ve alluded to above:

    Thanks again

  • Reply Liz October 16, 2017 at 3:26 pm

    This! “every pair of shoes can no longer be licked by a small human”

  • Reply Denise October 16, 2017 at 5:44 pm

    What about bookshelves? He loves to take books out and paper is his favorite snack! Any tips?

  • Reply Janett March 8, 2019 at 8:08 am

    I do agree that all very dangerous things should be out of reach for children, so there are many useful tips in this article and in the comments. I just want to highlight one thing my mum said to me, which somewhat got stuck in my head:
    “For you kids, the living room side boards were off limits, because I kept on saying “no” patiently and over and over again. Eventually, you stopped trying and it was just clear that you don’t play there.”
    Teaching a kid the word “no” early on and the patience required to do so, will pay of later.
    My one year old now does understand and listens 50% of the time, when we say “no” (which doesn’t mean she will not try again later or ignore it some day in the future). But of course with this strategy the most important things is not saying “no” at all times. The word becomes meaningless very quickly. I try to choose when I really need to say “no” and when just putting things out of reach or distract her with something else is enough.
    I do change what’s in my bottom kitchen cupboards or wonder how I can stop her from putting those unplugged cables in her mouth, but I also don’t want to require a thousand little items (especially when I need to buy them) in the house to make it safe for her. Whenever the urge arises to buy something that is claiming to be super useful for your baby or toddler, I ask myself how much peace this really will give me and how people 50 years ago lived without it. Then (maybe most times) I decide, that I don’t need it. Other times I really do find something that makes life a lot easier.

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE March 8, 2019 at 8:12 am

      I think we agree entirely.

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