There are no two ways about it; babies are dumb.
Before they can even move, as soon as they are able to grasp things, they enjoy putting themselves in mortal danger. They are not to be trusted for a second.
Our primary role as parents is to stop them from reaching a sticky demise so that they can live well into adulthood and realise for themselves what a pain in the arse babies and toddlers can be.
So, if you are the lucky owner parent of one or more small children, please read on for my guide to making your house baby- and toddler-safe.
Newborn – Crawling
For a small baby, baby-proofing is relatively easy: don’t place them on top of things they could roll off of. It is a fact of life that babies learn to roll the instant they are placed on a bed and you’ve nipped out for a wee.
As they start to get a bit bigger, they’ll go through the ‘everything in the mouth’ phase during which old people like to tell you they’re teething or ready to wean even though they blatantly aren’t. Again, it’s pretty straightforward: make sure suffocation and choking hazards (nappy bags, jewellery, small toys that your toddler might leave around…) are out of reach.
Crawling – Walking
The difficult bit starts when they become a bit more mobile. The earlier this happens, the less sense they have. If your baby is like my daughter, and entirely unadventurous, then it’s possible that making sure furniture is fixed to the wall, installing a fugly fireguard and a baby gate or two, and hiding electrical outlets will see you through. We have all our plug sockets and wires hidden behind furniture, but on a serious note, plug socket covers aren’t recommended (see this website and never sleep again).
If they are more like my son who started crawling dangerously early then you’ll probably need to work a bit harder.
The first lesson is keep them contained. Stair gates, cages play pens, travel cots, taping them to the wall; whatever works. You might find your baby does not mind being confined to a smallish space (like child number one) or they might see this as a personal affront and throw an adult-sized tantrum whenever you approach it (like child number two) but even if you have to listen to them wailing while you put the shopping away, cook or pee, it’s better than coming back and finding them on top of the fish tank. Or in it.
Now, much to his delight, the small one is too old for the travel cot or play pen. He hated it before, but when he started to stack toys up against it and attempt escape (a bit like that scary dinosaur in the last Jurassic Park film; he can smell a weakness) we knew it had to go.
Also at this point he really wants to be playing with his sister (she is not keen). It’s been resigned to the garage.
He’s always been a climber. It was cute to start with, now it’s just bloody ridiculous. I have a whole folder of pictures dedicated to my son standing on stuff.
And sometimes I actually rescue him first without even taking a photo (controversial I know).
Anyway, here are some tips for coping with this stage, from one long-suffering parent to another:
1) Lock that shit down.
Drawer and cupboard locks are essential unless you want to pick everything up and put it away a thousand times a day.
Apparently if you leave one cupboard or drawer unlocked and filled with toys or things they can play with, this might sate their curiosity. I’m not convinced. Pot lids are almost certainly more exciting than toys.
2) Attach corner guards to sharp furniture.
They will be distracted for at least five minutes whilst they pick them off leaving sticky marks or tearing the veneer off of your furniture.
3) If something is light enough to be dragged and used to get a leg up then take it out of the room.
4) Maybe just get rid of your furniture and sit on cushions the floor.
Pretend that you saw it on Pinterest and are going ‘Moroccan inspired’. It will essentially make your house like a huge soft play except with nicer tea and less germs.
5) Ensure that any toys small enough to be swallowed are stored in the bin.
This includes anything found in a kinder egg, on the front of a magazine or something your toddler might bring home in a party bag. Do this at night so you have the biggest chance of getting away with it.
6) Remember, there is no such thing as out of reach anymore.
If it’s dangerous it has to go. Scissors, knives, hot tea, semi-automatic weapons. Just don’t bother.
7) As for anything breakable; priceless ornaments, iPads, fishtanks…
Move it or lose it.