Google ‘childproof your home’ and you’ll come up with a list as long as your arm with reasons why you should childproof, how you should childproof and what you can buy to childproof. There’s very little, however, on the dangers of childproofing your home.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not recommending that you allow little Johnny to run around with a pair of scissors on wet floors surrounded by glass shelves and coverless plug sockets, but I do think that there is such a thing as too much protection.
So lets get the basics out of the way:
- Before your child starts crawling, I think it’s important to go down on your hands and knees, or your belly even, and survey the world from your baby’s view point. See what they can see, reach out for what they would reach out for, and remove dangerous items.In our house we had a doorless display cabinet filled with antique glassware and a special occasion dinner service. Apart from containing precious items, the cupboard itself wasn’t overly stable. So we moved it. There’s no point in being foolish and my baby pulling a rickety cupboard full of glass down on herself. But we did leave out the CD rack full of CDs and DVDs. Why? Because a CD cover falling on her toe will cause enough shock and pain to learn from, without causing injury. (The shelf itself was also stable, so wouldn’t fall over if a child decided to pull themselves up on it.
- The cupboard under the sink contains poisonous substances. It has a childproof lock on it. We’re actually working on replacing most of the items with natural alternatives, but we’re not all the way there yet. Added to which, even natural isn’t always meant for consumption by nosy babies.The tupperware cupboard, on the other hand, doesn’t have a lock on it. It annoys me endlessly when Ameli unpacks it all, yes, but packing it away together is a learning experience, and she’s not going to break or damage anything in the process. The crockery cupboard doesn’t have a lock on it, and although she has at times opened it, I’ve always told her there’s nothing in there for you (we try not to say NO too often) and so far she’s always been good at listening.
- We don’t keep an eye on her every second of every day, so it’s important that we know what’s in the room, what’s available, what’s at her disposal. I never leave water in the bath, so that I never have to worry about her walking in to the bathroom. We never leave the toilet seat up, so we don’t have to worry about what ends up in the toilet â€“ although that plan, we’ve discovered, has flaws.Now that she’s taller and can reach table tops, stove tops, counter tops and so on, we’re very careful about where we leave things, and what we leave there. Medicines that shouldn’t be chewed like candy go towards the sink wall, so she can’t reach it. Pots and pans always have the handles pointing backwards, so she can’t drag them. Hot cups of coffee are always near the centre of the table so they’re still out of her range.Our mindfulness, our consciousness of what we’re doing protects her, but also helps in not having to say ‘no, no, no’ all the time.
- Plug sockets are a funny one. In England plugs are square, which aren’t as easy to stick your fingers in as other countries where they are round and perfectly infant finger sized, so I’m not really sure about the point of socket protectors in the UK â€“ but like all ‘good’ new first time parents, we bought them. Which is fine, except….
and this is where I think the danger in over baby proofing comes in.
By covering every plug socket in the house, your child goes to a new environment which doesn’t have plug sockets and suddenly they look different and new to the ones in your home â€“ which makes them interesting. Rather than your child having been exposed to plug sockets and learnt not to touch them, in a less protective environment, they’re in greater danger.
The same goes for exploration and discovery. How often have you visited friends without children and had them comment on how â€œnon-baby friendlyâ€ there home is?
We had a stairgate at the top of our stairs, and Ameli would lean against it, shake it and try to get to the stairs. Of course, I wouldn’t let her. Now she loves and is rather obsessed with stairs! She’ll pick two and climb up and down them for ages. I’d like to think that’s because when we moved into a house with two steps, we took the time to teach her how to climb them, and went through the repitition of doing it with her often enough till she was comfortable with it.
Obviously common sense should prevail, but allowing a child a little freedom to explore, in a safe environment, i.e. home, prepares them for other environments.
At least, that’s what I think. We’ve been pretty permissive, and it’s worked well for us.
How about you? Did you babyproof? Were you more permissive? What babyproofing do you consider essential?