Newborn babies are absolutely precious. They're cuddly, warm, and sedentary. That's right; they don't really go anywhere for a while unless you help them to do so. Now, this doesn't mean they won't surprise you with a random roll over here and there, so don't think for a moment that they can be safely left alone on the couch or bed. But for the most part, they stay where placed. This can lull many new parents into a false sense of security because it's simply not going to last. Within a few short months, baby will be crawling, then cruising along furniture, and eventually walking!
As soon as baby becomes mobile, parents face an often times challenging issue... baby-proofing. Baby proofing involves surveying the entire living environment and thoroughly removing obvious hazards and preventing access to any potential dangers. Now, the optimal and number one way to prevent harm is constant and diligent supervision. No amount of baby-proofing can substitute for the full attention of a caregiver when a child is in their care. That said, there are things parents can do to lessen the chances of bumps, bruises, or worse to their tiny adventurers.
When one sets out to baby-proof, there are few obvious starting points like: securing all kitchen and bathroom cabinets (especially any that contain chemicals, solvents, cleaners, etc.), locking drawers with cutlery or dangerous plastics, and using bumpers or guards on all sharp corners. In addition to securing backyard pools or any standing water, parents will naturally look for the widely known, flashing red, danger zones for baby. This is all helpful, but there are always going to be things missed simply because it's difficult to recognize them as dangerous until baby shows interest. What follows is a list of 15 Things People Overlook When Baby-Proofing:
15Small Pieces Baby Can Remove
Often, furniture pieces, particularly the faux wood variety, will feature accents or finishing caps meant to conceal screws and bolts. While these caps are aesthetically pleasing, they can become a serious choking hazard if baby manages to pull them loose. While it might seem unlikely that baby will end up with these items in their curious hands, small protrusions from otherwise smooth surfaces are a beacon of interest. And, as many parents will attest, babies will often go out of their way to investigate anything that looks interesting.
Parents should double check all furniture, appliances, and household electronics for any pieces easily removable. In most cases, some heavy duty wood glue or adhesive can be used to permanently affix small accents, so that their potential for danger is significantly reduced. For other appliances, it may be best to permanently remove any small pieces and place in a safe storage area until children are past the age of exploration.
14Easily Accessible Batteries
If a parent has ever wondered why a screwdriver is required to access the battery compartment of stuffed animals or toys, the answer is quite simple. The item was designed for babies, so extra caution was taken in securing the batteries as they present a serious choking hazard. When baby-proofing, it’s a good idea to check for any items accessible to baby that contain batteries. Remote controls, garage door openers, clocks, etc., may have battery compartments easily accessible to curious fingers.
While the remedy to each of these situations may be unique, some heavy duty tape on the back of a remote control or flashlight might be all it takes to ensure a little peace of mind. Of course, constant and quality supervision is always going to take precedence as the number one way to protect baby from accessing hazards in the home. It’s reassuring to do everything possible to protect little ones from the items capable of causing harm.
13Purses At Ground Level
So much of baby-proofing focuses on the permanent, obvious features of a home. This is a good thing, but many parents tend to forget that their home is constantly in flux as family, friends, pets, and other visitors come and go. Purses or handbags placed on the floor, either temporarily or as part of a parent’s normal routine, can be chalk full of dangerous items to baby. Items like: medication, change, jewelry, makeup, perfume, and more can be within reach of tiny hands, and parents may be lulled into a false sense of security, thinking they’ve diligently scoured the home for hazards.
After all, for many women, they don’t utilize their purse or its contents at all while inside their homes, so it’s almost as though it ceases to exist until it’s time to leave again. For baby, however, it’s an extremely interesting item that mom keeps close and always pulls fun things out of while on the go. To explore it on their own is a dream come true, and something they’ll be keen to do at a moment’s notice. Parents should make every effort to stow purses and bags inside secured closets or out of baby’s reach completely.
12Top Heavy Furniture
This is undoubtedly one of the most crucial aspects of baby-proofing many parents overlook. It’s an understandable oversight, but addressing this issue is simply essential. Many furniture items appear sturdy enough throughout the day during regular use, but babies have an incredible knack for climbing and grabbing onto furniture in a way never intended by the designer and manufacturer.
It’s important to keep in mind that babies are just learning to grab onto things as part of mastering their balance, mobility, and coordination. In order to do so, they often explore mounting anything imaginable, and they’ll climb at every opportunity. If the items they explore happen to be even remotely top heavy, the result can be toppling or falling furniture. This can have disastrous results, so every precaution must be taken in securely mounting every single furniture item capable of falling on baby. Bolts, chains, and straps can be used to secure items including dressers, cabinets, televisions, etc., in order to prevent unimaginable harm to curious climbers.
Think about the last time you had to crawl completely beneath a table, counter, or bar. Chances are, it’s been a while. Because of this, we tend to forget that these spots, which are completely out of view, are actually prime real estate for babies just learning to explore.
Little ones pull themselves to stand using furniture, bumping their heads on the underside of said pieces almost daily. What parents may forget is that the underside of many furniture pieces, especially larger, older ones, can have jagged or sharp protrusions. Sometimes, even exposed nails from poor assembly or improper finishing are a hazard. All of this to say, parents should get down and thoroughly check the underbelly of any furniture baby may be able to pass beneath. Check for any items that have the potential for causing injury and cover them with glue, foam pads, or bumpers made specifically to pad dangerous objects.
10Fireplace Danger Zone
For many people, the fireplace is an area that only sees action a few months out of the year. It also tends to be in a more formal living space, where mom and dad aren’t regularly placing baby to play or explore. That said, babies have a special ability to navigate to the exact spots we assume they won’t bother investigating. In fact, it’s a good rule of thumb when baby-proofing to assume that curious little ones will eventually encounter every area of a home. Nothing is sacred. Seriously.
The fireplace is a danger zone for several reasons: the sharp and often blunt corners of brick, stone, granite, etc., glass doors or spark shields capable of tipping, and sharp tools meant for managing firewood. There are several kits available on the market to help baby-proof this area, but parents can also explore DIY methods like padding the areas accessible to baby with play squares or pool noodles. Whichever method is preferred, it may be best to temporarily remove the obvious hazards in favor of storing them in a secure closet until baby is of an age to understand their proper use.
9Loose Change And Random Bits
When baby-proofing, there’s a natural tendency to focus on obvious dangers likes sharp corners and access to potential poisons. While focusing on major problem areas makes sense, parents can really benefit from getting down to ground level and surveying their home as any newly mobile child does each day. At floor level, one might be surprised by the hazards that suddenly come into play. It’s an entirely new perspective, and adults must keep in mind that to baby, anything and everything accessible is new and appealing. Things as simple as: forgotten change, pill capsules, hair ties, rogue buttons, etc., love to collect under furniture.
It’s a good idea to thoroughly vacuum and check underneath side tables, chairs, couches, counters, etc., for these items. After that, a regular check should be all it takes to make sure baby doesn’t get their hands on these random, yet potentially dangerous household items.
8 Bathroom Trash Cans
For some reason, it’s incredibly common to overlook the trash can as a potential hazard to baby. Perhaps it’s the adult’s subconscious thought that even a baby will be naturally repelled by trash, but the reality is, they aren’t! In fact, they experience mom and dad taking items from their possession regularly, only to place them in the mysterious can in the corner. At the first chance they get, they’ll be eager to explore the other fascinating contents of that container.
While this may seem like more of a sanitation issue than a safety one, there are often serious choking hazards and even toxins in household trash bins, so parents must be vigilant to keep them inaccessible to children. Consider opting for tall, sturdy bins with either height or weight capable of keeping little ones out. For bathrooms, consider stowing the trash can temporarily on a counter, shelf, or in a locked cabinet out of reach. While it might not be the most attractive spot for it, it sure beats collecting used tissues from throughout the house.
7Unsecured Pet Doors
Any pet owner can attest to the convenience of a well used doggy door. The simplicity of allowing a pet access into and out of the house, without having to manually open doors on demand, is great. That said, curious crawlers can also take advantage of the liberties afforded to the household pet by using the very same door. Many parents overlook this obvious issue, because they’re simply not accustomed to thinking like baby. All it takes is the baby seeing the dog enter or exit, and the game is on for junior! They’ll be eager to investigate and try the escape route for themselves.
While the level of danger involved is dependent on the backyard, and its unique hazards (swimming pool, ponds, hills, ditches, etc.), parents should take care to secure dog doors and prevent baby from getting too close. For some, this may mean temporarily closing off the dog door, or utilizing baby gates within the home to prevent baby’s access to the area which features the dog door. The obvious problem is juggling the dog’s ability to use the door with the use of such gates. We know; the dilemmas are endless.
6Exposed Gym Equipment
Finding time to get to the gym with little ones in the house is more than a little challenging. So, it’s extremely convenient to have workout gear in the home if budget and space allow it. Because of this, it’s not that unusual to find large gym equipment like a treadmill, elliptical, or rower in a house with small children. While using such equipment is awesome for its intended health benefits, there is also the potential for serious injury to small children.
Many of these machines make for appealing climbing structures, but their hard and unforgiving surfaces are not tumble friendly. Also, small hands and limbs can become tangled in the moving parts of equipment, regardless of whether or not they are powered on. Parents should make every effort to prevent access to these machines, especially when in use by other family members. Baby gates and close supervision are key elements of preventing injury.
5Too Hot To Handle
Baby-proofing often focuses on the tangible elements of a home that pose a risk to young children. This makes obvious sense, but there are also unseen dangers, which only make themselves apparent when it’s nearly too late to prevent harm. One of these is the potential for burns to baby from water that’s simply too hot for human contact straight from the tap. Experts recommend parents baby-proof their water supply by setting water heaters to below 120 degrees F (48.9 C).
This will help to protect against scalding water coming into contact with children, which can happen despite a parent’s vigilant efforts to prevent it. Something as simple as a toilet being flushed while baby plays in the bathtub can dramatically alter the temperature of the water flowing over tender skin, so it’s essential to check this item of the baby-proofing checklist, even if mom and dad are careful to monitor all water use.
Houseplants are a great way of adding life, color, and visual interest to any indoor space. Many people use them generously to decorate, and it’s easy to forget that they are all unique, and some have the potential for being unsafe if small pieces are bitten and consumed by curious babies. As any parent of a teething baby will confirm, if a plant is accessible, there’s a good chance it might become an afternoon snack, so making sure that any greenery in the home is 100% non-toxic is essential. Similarly, any heavy planters or containers will need to be secured, and if there is filler or small stones present in the soil, those will need to be secured as well.
Surprisingly, some of the most popular household plants, such as Philodendron and Pothos, have potentially poisonous results in both humans and pets. For this reason, this must be kept completely out of reach of both at all times.
Securing outlets and cords is at the top of the priority list for parents focused on baby-proofing. Preventing curious fingers from gaining access to outlets and dangling cords is vital, but parents often overlook one electronic device that frequently has a prominent spot in parent’s lives... their cell phone chargers. Again, it may be the daily use of these items that makes them somewhat invisible to parents when considering potential dangers. In fact, cell phone and laptop chargers, are sometimes thought of as a simple extension of the phone itself.
To baby however, the cord and charging device can be an appealing chew toy. Every effort must be made to keep electrical cords of any kinds out of curious hands. This includes the cords on baby monitors. Instead of charging devices at floor level, parents should transition to using kitchen counters or outlets completely out of reach to baby. It's a good practice in general, and mom and dad can rest easier, knowing that baby isn't deleting apps and e-mails while they aren't looking.
2Pet Food and Water
Pet food is generally safe in regards to not posing a toxicity risk to children, however many varieties marketed toward small, or toy breeds, will contain small pieces. These small bites have the potential for being a serious choking hazard, especially when baby discovers their unpleasant flavor after ingesting a handful. In addition, babies can suffer serious harm in as little as one inch of standing water. For this reason alone, pet food and water bowls should be strictly off limits to little ones. In addition, many animals startle or react negatively toward anything interrupting their eating. While this behavior is not acceptable, it is an instinctual response to defending their food supply. This is further motivation to training babies and young children that a pet's eating environment is a no-go at all times.
Pet food also has the potential for containing food born illnesses or bacteria from the pet itself. Parents should consider slowly transitioning their pets to a different eating location in the home that is off limits to baby. This transition should begin early, preferably before baby's arrival, but ultimately, whichever solution works best for the family is the one that should take place.
For many parents, the baby-proofing process feels complete once all potential hazards have been addressed. It doesn't make a lot of sense to consider the very toys they've purchased for their children to be something they should also now inspect, but this is just the case when a young baby has joined the ranks of the family. Many toys marked for older children contain small pieces which can be choking hazards. Experts suggest being wary of any toys marked for children ages 3+. Generally, children under three are most likely to place everything in their mouths, so toys marked from that point on are likely to contain smaller pieces.
Most notably, parents should look for and remove: small balls, marbles, balloons, or anything with removable pieces or accents with a diameter smaller than 1.75 inches. It's also a good idea to teach older siblings that baby should not be allowed access to small things. After all, they are another set of eyes, and this knowledge makes them an active part of the supervision process for their small sibling.
As a whole, baby-proofing is a sobering and necessary part of raising children. The responsibility to protect them from preventable harm is immense, but babies will be babies, and it's important to understand that a bump or bruise here and there is a normal part of growing up. So long as mom or dad are there to kiss a boo-boo and help baby back up, all is well.
Sources: Child Safety Central, Mayo Clinic
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