When our children first begin to roll over, we celebrate that tiny success and then we turn our thoughts to baby-proofing our homes. We think we’re smart and that we’ll be on top of it. So we read a different article about keeping our babies safe and then we head to the nearest department store and load up on baby gates, outlet covers, door knob covers, and locks. Then we spend far too much time trying to figure out how to use the things ourselves so we figure our children should definitely be safe. After all, if we as adults can’t get through the gate surely our offspring can’t either.
But we forget that our children view everything as a challenge to be overcome from sitting up, to getting blocks to stand one on top of the other, to dancing on the kitchen table. They are as determined as they are creative. They love to explore their worlds and what better way for them to do that than to figure out what is inside that cupboard or what is hiding behind that door.
Here are 10 ways that toddlers will outsmart your baby-proofing efforts. So when that day comes and you’re sitting in the bathroom enjoying some alone time convinced that your tot is securely stuck in the living room, and they knock on the door calling for you, you’ll know you were not alone.
10 Using the Baby Gate as a Rock Wall
The first five ways your child will outsmart your baby-proofing efforts all have to do with baby gates because there are so many ways these tiny geniuses can figure out a way around them. The first way and perhaps the most obvious way is to simply climb over them.
Some baby gates are designed to look like a lattice. While this may give the interior of your home the feeling of being in a garden, to children those diamonds look like footholds. They’ll put their tiny feet into those small holes and with a disproportionate amount of strength toddlers seem to have, they’ll scale that wall and hop down on the other side.
9 Baby Gate Battering Rams
Watching my son climb over the lattice baby gates, inspired my husband and I to grab ones that simply had vertical bars instead. If my son could talk while he watched us set it up, I’m sure he would have said “challenge accepted,” as he immediately began to plot ways around it.
His method of choice? Using his wheelie toys as battering rams. He’d roll around the living room building up speed and then run straight into the gate over and over until the bottom popped out. Then he’d hop off his toy and crawl underneath if he felt like he was pressed for time, or take the time to pull the top part out too and then walk over the top of it.
8 The Pile of Toys
No ride on toys available? No problem. The keen problem-solving tot has lots of other toys that can be precariously stacked on top of each other in order to climb over the gate. As parents, you might also discover them using this technique to grab cookies from the counter tops, or your phones from the high shelves you left them on.
7 Go Around It
The point of baby gates is to keep your child safe and to prevent her from doing things like climbing up the stairs unsupervised. Well, sometimes it doesn’t work out that way. Sometimes your toddler will decide if she can’t climb over the baby gate and up the stairs on the wide part of the steps, she can still climb up the stairs on the outside of the railing by using that to help pull herself up.
6 Monkey See, Monkey Do
The final way your toddler will outsmart your baby gate is by opening it. You know that latch that you and all of your guests struggle to open? Yeah, your child will figure out how to work it in no time at all. Until you figure out that this is what’s happening you’ll be left wondering how your Houdini-in-the-making managed to get onto the other side of the gate.
5 “It’s Something Called Leverage”
This is a quote from Bill in Curious George “Castle Keep,” and it’s something toddlers will learn without having to study levers in math class. Whether it’s pencils, keys, or Popsicle sticks your toddler will successfully use them to open safety buttons and latches.
4 Press and Hold
Sometimes appliances and bottles come with child-proof locks built it. Sometimes these locks are buttons that you have to press and hold to unlock it. The problem you will find with these kinds of locks is that there are few things more exciting to toddlers than buttons. They can push the buttons at the crosswalk, on your phone, on their toys, and soon enough they will push the buttons to unlock dishwashers, washing machines and any other appliance that has a button lock.
3 Press and Twist
In a similar vein are the child-proof bottles that you have to press and twist to open. Don’t trust the bottles lid to keep your toddler out. While they may not have enough strength to press and twist the bottle with their hands, they are certainly capable of pressing the bottle into the floor or into their feet as they spin it around and around to hear it rattle. The lid will come off, so hide them well and never call the pills candy.
2 Mini Mountain Climbers
If you have started putting things on higher shelves to keep them out of your child’s reach, don’t be surprised when you find your toddler playing with the items again. We ended up taking the bottom shelves off of our bookshelves to stop our son from climbing them. Shelves aren’t the only things children will climb. They might pull the drawers out to create stairs, or they might simply use the handles on the cupboard doors and drawers as hand and footholds while they shimmy on up.
1 Pint-Sized Hulk
There’s something about toddlers that makes them seem unnaturally strong for their size. They will use this to their advantage. Sometimes they will use this strength to desperately cling to railings in order to avoid going home from the park or going to bed. Other times they will use this strength to rip off the locks from ovens and toilets, or, if you are especially lucky, rip the cupboard doors right off their hinges.
No matter what you try to do to keep your child safe in your house, they will find a way around it. This just means you need to stay on your toes as you try to keep one or two steps ahead of them. Who knows, maybe you’ll be one of the lucky parents whose children give you a reproachful glance as they shut the gate you left open, or hand you the scissors you left within their reach. It happens, it could be you.