How Safe Is Childproofing In The Long Run?

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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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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 – 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.
  4. 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 – 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 – 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 “non-baby friendly” 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?

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9 thoughts on “How Safe Is Childproofing In The Long Run?

  1. We opted for normalcy, and we’re not really baby-proofing anything. The wall sockets are open, the entertainment center with the game consoles and dvd’s doesn’t have a door on it, the drawers and cupboards are filled with crockery, cleaning supplies (minimal, since I make all my own cleaning agents with all-natural stuff).

    But she’s always within 2 to 3 feet of me, and has always been allowed to play at my feet and explore wherever I’m working, so she’s grown accustomed to what things she can get into without me spoiling her fun and redirecting her.

    I figure it’s better to teach her how to navigate her environment with guidelines and boundaries, rather than let her learn she can have free range now and have to learn something different later. Of course, I’m always in the same room as she is; it’s not like I’m letting her run around without supervision. =)
    Delena Silverfox’s last blog post ..Potty Training Babies- How to Deal with the Negativity Pt II

    [Reply]

    Luschka Reply:

    @Delena Silverfox, I love the thought of making my own cleaning supplies – it doesn’t NECESSARILY reduce their risk if ingested, but its just something I really would like to get in to.

    Your comment is why I love attachment parenting: “she’s always within 2 to 3 feet of me”, “allowed to play at my feet”, “explore wherever I’m working”, “teach her”, “always in the same room”. It just fills me with visions of safety, acceptance and boundless love. Thanks for sharing that, and thanks for commenting!

    [Reply]

    Delena Silverfox Reply:

    @Luschka, I totally agree! My younger brother recently asked me how I keep such a happy baby, and basically I told him it was all the things about attachment parenting. My daughter’s never been more than 2 or 3 feet away from me at any given time in her life, so a baby’s bound to feel happy when she feels so secure. =) I love it!

    As for natural cleaning agents, I love those, too. They smell better (I have asthma, and I was getting too many asthma attacks during cleaning using so many chemicals), and I can mix up just enough to use right before I need it. There’s no real harm in apple cider vinegar, baking soda, or lemon juice. I keep the essential oils out of reach in a high cupboard, so there’s no worries! And my house smells fabulous, lol.
    Delena Silverfox’s last blog post ..Potty Training Babies- How To Deal with the Negativity Pt I

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  2. Our apartment isn’t very childproof. I’ve done the basics, but I never want to get to a point where I think, “Oh, he’s fine, what’s he going to get into?” Because there’s always something. So I stay within earshot and if I hear an eerie silence, I go and check on him. Invariably if the babbling has stopped, it’s because he’s discovered something interesting (like the toilet paper or the cat box!). At his age (11 months), he shouldn’t be unattended for long anyway. And once he gets a little older, I’ll be able to teach him about safe and dangerous things. I can’t trust my childproofing to keep him completely safe.
    Sheila’s last blog post ..Counter of days

    [Reply]

    Luschka Reply:

    @Sheila, Again, I think you’ve hit on a very valid point too. I am often out of EYE-sight of Kyra, but never out of EAR-shot. If I can HEAR what she’s up to, I’m not worried. But the moment there’s no sound I have to go and peek, even if I don’t always let her know that I’m peeking.

    I agree though, that 11 months is a bit too young for TOO much independent play. That’s one benefit of a very open plan house though – you can see almost everything from one spot!

    Another point is about trusting childproofing. I think you’re totally correct. It’s not a substitute for parenting.

    Thanks for commenting!

    [Reply]

  3. I think we’re a lot more relaxed second time round, though even first time round we were a gazillion times more relaxed than some friends. We have plug sockets, though not on all of them. We don’t have any cupboard locks – in fact, the sink is completely open and full of ridiculously dangerous stuff. But, actually, now all Eleanor does is get the new sponges out of their packets, get the basin out or get the washing powder/softener out and put it next to the washing machine to say ‘put some washing on mum’. I am planning on moving things round so they’re out of reach, because I suppose there may be a time when she decides to explore these things a bit more. But I’ll probably not get round to it until she’s Rosemary’s age and completely capable of knowing that it’s poisonous.

    We don’t have stairgates, though we do have doors on the stairs. We do have one thing that could really do with childproofing and that’s the window in the office. It’s at child height and we’ve got to the point where we just don’t bring Eleanor up here for more than a few minutes, because she always goes over to open the window. If we just got a lock on it, we’d be fine. But perhaps I’m putting that off because then there would be more chance that I’d bring her up and work, instead of actually playing with her!
    Tasha Goddard’s last blog post ..Joanna Lumley thinks our kids have no morals

    [Reply]

    Luschka Reply:

    @Tasha Goddard, I guess that’s true. Before your first baby you buy every item in the book, cause you think you have to. By the second time you realise what a crock the ‘book’ is and just go with it. Fortunately for me, we never got the metaphorical ‘book’, because it didn’t make sense to me.

    I have much less of a problem with Kyra taking things out the cupboard than I do with her refusal to put them back. When she’s being cooperative, I’ll say pack away and she’ll put everything (sort of) back in it’s place. When she’s NOT, however, she’ll just drop her head but keep her eyes on me (so she’s peering at me out the top of her eyes) say NO in a really short, staccato way, and then avert her eyes, OR look ANYWHERE else in the room and pretend she can’t hear me! LOL.

    Good point about the window in the room. Maybe it’s your subconscious preservation method. We did have a stairgate at the top of the stairs (we lived at the top) and where we are at the moment in my dad’s house, he put a stairgate at the bottom (since she has no business upstairs), and I’m glad we did because she could climb stairs long before she had the cognitive ability to understand the possibility of pain, if that makes sense.

    I think, now that I say all that, that in reality, you have to monitor your own situation and like everything else in parenting, see what works best in your four walls. Thanks for the comment!

    [Reply]

  4. Hannah Wallbanks

    I’m the same as you. I’ve babyproofed *to a point* but left a few things untouched. The CD cupboard is still there. The cabinet with books in is still there. Annoying as hell when she pulls all the CDs out, but it’s not doing any harm.

    I did buy plug socket covers when she was younger but they have gradually been less used. I don’t see the point and she’s never really cared much for plugs. She does have an obsession with switches, but nothing can be done about that.

    I don’t have any locks on kitchen doors or drawers. She opens them all but knows which ones she can root around in and leaves the others alone.

    I think a certain amount of normality is a wise move. You don’t want to completely bubble wrap your child, else they will be completely baffled by the real world.

    x

    [Reply]

    Luschka Reply:

    @Hannah Wallbanks, I think you hit on a key point, Hannah: It’s not doing any harm. And I think that’s the point with especially kitchen cupboards. There are some that I react quickly when she goes into, and now she knows they’re not ‘allowed’ and others I don’t fuss about much, so she likes playing in those. The main thing, however, is that even when I can’t SEE her, I can HEAR what she’s doing. AH! Now I know how my mum always used to know exactly what we were up to!

    [Reply]

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