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Emily Henderson

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by Emily Henderson

I love this house but she isn’t terribly kid-friendly. It’s 2 flights up 27 stairs, to get to the front door for starters, which is wonderful carrying a 28 pound toddler while being 30 weeks pregnant. Inside, as you see above, there are floating cement stairs, wood stairs with no railings, no yard (a big deck with views) and the inside is riddled with ironwork that is the perfect size for Charlie’s huge toddler head to get stuck in. We knew it when we bought the house, but it wasn’t until he was crawling that we were like oh shoot, this house is kinda a baby death trap. 


Brian and I used to have different philosophies on baby safety. I consider every small fall (where he isn’t hurt) as a victory – it means he’s that much closer to understanding risk, danger and how his body works in the physical space. I’ve let him pinch his fingers in the drawer, obviously knowing that whatever he is about to do wouldn’t actually hurt him (It’s not like I let him grab the handle of a boiling pot of water in hopes of 3rd degree burns). I try to rid the floor and house of dangerous things to fall on, but then no, I don’t catch him unless its from high up. But I was raised with lots of kids and I have lots of nieces and nephews, so I’m just comfortable around kids and generally I trust that they’ll be fine. Brian was more of the worrier (remarkably he is so much less so than he used to be when we kid-proofed the house…it’s AMAZING).

So when it came to kid-proofing we were on two different pages. I wanted to do some, but not too much and he wanted to do anything that was recommended. But I was, and am crazy busy, he’s with Charlie more, and it was a hard battle a fight without sounding like a neglectful parent. I showed him the articles about risk and the so called ‘free range parenting‘ (which I’m pretty into) and he got into it and started coming around. But then we went to the pediatrician for our 9 month checkup and I asked him about childproofing.

I thought our Dr. was a progressive, modern pediatrician so I expected to get the answer that I wanted – childproof anything dangerous, but not anything that can’t really hurt them. But he had spent time as an emergency room doctor, and he basically said anything in your house can kill your baby so do anything you can to protect them at all costs. I wanted to shove his mouth full of cotton balls, because I knew that it validated Brian’s concerns and lost me the battle. Ultimately I wasn’t going to force Brian to subscribe to my parenting ideals – we were in this together and we needed to come up with our own strategy as a team.

So when the time came, we did what any wasteful, yuppy, suburban parent with busy jobs and precious weekend time in 2015 do – we called a professional child proofer. This dude came and walked us through every single room, pointing out how our house is dangerous and scribbled down pages of notes. Then we got the quote and it was a cool $2400. In case you are scoffing at how ridiculous that is, we are VERY well aware and had no intention of actually doing all of it, and certainly not paying that dough. It was insane and we felt like massive suckers for even calling the company. That included all the supplies and the installation by the way. But WTF were we going to do? Once someone – a professional – points out all the ways your baby can hurt himself and puts a price tag on it, you feel like the worst parent for thinking uh no thanks, we are not spending that on the safety/health of our child. We should have never called the service in the first place.

I find that so much of my life as a parent is often analyzing and subsequently avoiding companies or philosophies that make me feel neglectful for NOT purchasing their product or subscribing to their behavioral methods for my child. I’ve read about the anti-stroller movement and once you do, you feel a little guilty about putting your baby in a stroller. I went to a RIE class (which generally I like, by the way) but their stance on plastic shiny toys made me feel like a technology loving heathen (which I am). It took all the common sense my post baby brain could muster up to put my child in a stroller to go on a long walk instead of wearing him. It wouldn’t damage him. He will still go on to find love and possibly even a career.

My rant goes further: There are $25 ‘realistic nipple’ bottles that prevent gas, baby nap hats to help them sleep better, and helmets that protect them against your average every day fall. You know these things are ridiculous but then you feel bad because maybe your baby will be happier, healthier or safer if you bought them. But I’m a busy mom (like most of us). Therefore I make fast purchases, and I’m easily manipulated by companies that have done their research on me. They know my particular brain, brand of parenting, tastes and financial situation, and have marketed to me perfectly. Often they are GREAT companies made to actually make my family safer and healthier, but sometimes I just wonder how much of a upper middle class sucker am I being? Do we really need $450 car seats???? Aren’t they all tested A LOT for safety?? Will my baby be damaged if I don’t use organic linen in his crib? I just get so frustrated being sold, sold, sold to, and made to feel guilty if I opt out of a product that will supposedly make the life and well being of my child and family better. There are some things to genuinely worry about and some things that have been manufactured by the ‘parenting industry’ for us to worry about. And discerning between the two can be a full time job.

Now you know how I really feel…at least today.

But baby/child-proofing is something that you have to do because there are everyday dangers in the house that they need to avoid (big falls, knives, chemicals, etc). The question becomes – to what extent do we make our homes unlivable fortresses to prevent small injuries?

Well Brian and I kept debating about it – I wanted to do just the drawers with knives and he wanted to do all of them. I wanted just a few gates at the top of the stairs, he wanted top and bottom, etc. The day the guy came to install I was in New York filming The View. Brian called me in a panic because we hadn’t really decided on where to stop but I was about to go on camera and I just said ‘do whatever you think’.

So he did and tried to be conservative, so we didn’t do all of it but we definitely did a lot – I think it was especially hard with a professional safety expert staring at you, judging you for opting out of safety. The guy was there all day – 2 guys actually, and now our house is pretty much a fortress. A very safe, very kid-friendly fortress.


When I first got home and reached for a spatula I was like … oh for the love of god, how am I going to live here??? But now that Charlie is a rambunctious toddler I have no idea what living in a non-kid friendly house would be like. It does reduce stress and that is worth something.


The problem with this whole debate is that it just takes one major preventable injury or death to make you wish you had done something that you didn’t. And that is why we lost our baby-proofing battle. We have too much information now and because of that we make decisions, expensive decisions that we will laugh at later. But at least I’ll laugh whilst holding my non-injured children (hopefully…although if they never learn to hurt themselves at home then they never will!!).


Quite the intro to a post, eh? Lets get into what we actually did to make this house baby-friendly, safe and most importantly, less stressful than it was.

Plexiglass on the railings. This is where at least $500 came from (I think we ended up spending $1500, by the way). Worst case scenario is that Charlie gets his head stuck in between the bars and we have to call the fire department to have them cut him out of it with a blow torch. The guy has seen it happen and just knowing that made it an absolute must even though i’m sure the statistics were one in a thousand. So, there are sheets of plexiglass that are secured with zip ties to the railing and you don’t really notice it. It’s fine.

The childproofer did recommend that we save money by only doing the top floor and not the middle part, saying that maybe that area should be just generally off limits to Charlie. We agreed, so we didn’t put baby gates at the bottom of the stairs or the top of the living room stairs (at first) or the plexi on the bars.

Am I glad that there is plexi on the top level of stairs? I think so, but thats only because it’s the life that I have now, so I don’t know how stressful it would have been to not have it. Ultimately was it worth the $500? Absolutely not. We should have done it ourselves. But when you are really busy and you have only the weekends to spend time with your baby you don’t exactly want to spend that time at home depot cutting plexi and then installing it. This is a modern champagne problem, I realize, but we threw money at the problem because I just wanted it solved.


Our dude changed all our outlets to the baby-proofed ones, which you have to slide over. For the most part we are happy with this as they aren’t full of hideous plugs. But some of them didn’t work afterwards (I guess they were loose or something so I had to actually put the old outlets back in order to plug in a lamp and we had an electrician fix a couple of them). I think these cost around $15 each to do (for the part and the installation).

Would I do this again? I think so. Charlie goes for outlets a lot. I do worry that when he’s not in our house he will stick a fork in it because he’s not being taught on a daily basis to avoid them. These are the risks of providing no risks.


Drawers and cupboards. Ugh, this one is so annoying. We ended up doing every single drawer and cupboard and have since taken some of them off. Here’s my advice – do whatever you feel comfortable with, and if you hate messes then do all of them. But I personally think it’s fun for kids to play in drawers and ‘organize’ them, so if they are safe to play in then I let Charlie. When I’m cooking he unloads and reloads the tupperware drawer or bangs on pots and pans and it’s cute and fun and we somehow feel like we are doing it together. You must do the knife drawer and the cabinet under the sink if you keep any chemicals there, but otherwise I say don’t worry about the cupboard that houses your salad spinner collection – they will all survive the wrath of a toddler just fine.

GATES. Probably the most annoying and yet often the most necessary of all the child proofing. My friends/employees get driven crazy by these things as often NO ONE can figure out how to get through them. Welcome to our inviting home!!!!

Let me remind you what my house looked like:


Not ideal. Again please notice the cement stairs and the lower stairs with no railing (and I don’t want a railing). Once he started crawling, and then walking, it was stressful and neither of us wanted to be the parent constantly chasing after our kid, telling them no, worried that they were going to tumble and break their neck if we happen to turn our attention elsewhere for 25 seconds. So we decided to put up 5 dreaded and rather expensive baby gates. One gate lives at the bottom of the stairs in the living room (that we quickly moved to the top of the stairs by the bookshelf because we felt that there was more danger in him falling down the stairs from the second floor, than falling backwards as he was climbing up to the second from the first.

We put one at the top of the stairs on the bedroom level that we are VERY glad we have because those are the cement stairs – sorry, you can’t see that one and we didn’t take a photo of it because the laundry room was, like REAL messy.

Kid_Poofing_Gate Charlie_Henderson_Kid_Safety

That picture kills me. Its just the cutest and most pathetic thing that I have ever seen.

We decided to basically create a big cage on the middle floor for him that encompassed the kitchen and family room. This is less for safety and more for our sanity while trying to get things done, like cooking or cleaning. This forces him to stay in those two rooms when they are closed. Again, this is probably not necessary but now that he can run really fast and open doors (like the front door with the 2 story drop) its nice to know that if/when we need to he can be lovingly detained in that area.


The last gate is attached to the sliding glass door, on the front deck – which you can barely see in that photo above. This one is absolutely crucial and there is no way I would be able to sleep without it. This gate was custom built and it had to be drilled into the deck in three different places, which cost about $275. I wasn’t psyched about it but Brian or I didn’t know how to do it ourselves so we just let them keep that on the invoice. We did find out that the glass is tempered, thank god.

The things that we didn’t do are as follows:

1. Doorknobs. We may find that we need to do this, but I couldn’t bear to do it yet as they are so annoying to deal with. I honestly doubt we’ll do this.

2. We did do the toilet seat things but they have both broken now so that was a big waste of money (probably like $40). I have a friend whose baby threw her iPhone into the toilet, which is the most compelling reason to get one, but they are so annoying – especially as a pregnant person that needs to go to the restroom like 29 times a day. When you are desperate and trying to get that thing open it’s just a real bummer.


3. We didn’t have them put any foam corners on all the things that they wanted to. I hate those things and aesthetically can’t handle them on my pretty furniture. Instead we stored our coffee table and brought out this pouf, got rid of all sharp cornered tables for the time being and have mostly rounded furniture. All of the furniture in the room is now pretty safe (and hard to stain as its leather and Sunbrella fabric) and I’m still proud of how it looks. We have removed almost all accessories at toddler level except pillows, books and globes (which he plays with and I’m fine with).


So that is how we baby-proofed, or should I say toddler proofed, our house. I guess my thesis is this:

Toddler-hood is a temporary stage in the timeline of life, and spending real money on toddler-proofing your house (like we did) might be a bit insane and wasteful, especially retrospectively. The more we eliminate risk from their lives the more we are just putting off injuries or just making them happen elsewhere. At the same time parenting is stressful and I’m a fan of reducing stress in ANY WAY because I think that it makes us a happier family. Those gates reduce my stress when I’m with Charlie and I’m trying to get things done. If he fell the wrong way and really seriously hurt himself I would never ever, ever forgive myself because this was in my control while playgrounds and other people’s homes are not. So I’m less preventing the injury and more preventing my involvement in the injury. I think you have to gauge how much that is worth to you. We did forget to close the gate one day while we had a bunch of friends over and he fell from the top floor to the middle. He cried for around 15 seconds. Thank god I was the one that found him. But he could have fell wrong and that would have been devastating and no matter how optimistic of a person you are in life (me being VERY) as a parent you see the worst case scenario play out in your imagination all the time. And the modern parenting industry is marketing and banking on that fear.

Ultimately call someone who loves you to do that kinda of stuff, or if you have the time and desire do it yourself, go for it. I wish we had asked Brian’s dad because, had he been around, he would have done it in a second. I selfishly didn’t want Brian’s weekend time, the time that we spend as a family, to be spent drilling holes into our cabinets, and I had no interest in doing it at all. But hiring a professional to do it is definitely expensive for fairly easy tasks. This is what grandpas are for, and had ours been here when we did it he would have insisted on doing it for us.

So, that’s how we baby-proofed our modern home. I wish I could have written a ‘How You Should Baby-Proof Your Home’ article but I don’t really know the answer and besides, it’s just such a personal decision to make and different for every parent. Gauge the level of stress/worry the ‘danger’ gives you and then decide whether you want to reduce that stress or live with it.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this, especially more seasoned parents. To what extent did you baby-proof? Is your house a fortress? And if not, are you happy with what you did or didn’t do?

**All pre baby-proofing pictures from Tessa Nuestadt and all post baby-proofing pictures from Jessica Issac for EHD testtest

  1. I love this post! I’ve thought a lot about what happens when you eliminate risk, while still needing to keep your children safe from things that are really and truly dangerous.

    When my oldest was a toddler, we lived in two different one-story apartments. We just didn’t buy any furniture with sharp edges and kept anything dangerous up very, very, high. We had things on doorknobs, but he learned to dismantle them anyways.

    By the time my daughter was born, we had bought our house. it has two sets of stairs. We do have gates at the top and bottom of the main stairs and at the top of the ones to the basement. They’re not very nice looking, but I agree that it’s worth the money in just not worrying about falls. We also have the cabinet with cleaning supplies child-proofed and all of the medicines up very, very high .

    Furniture-wise, we still don’t have things with sharp edges, and all of my breakable accessories are up high. The thing I’m actually most worried about now with baby # 3 (on the brink of mobility any day now) is all of older brother and sister’s tiny, choking-hazard toys. We did put a few of the worst offenders in the closet so that they have to ask to play with them now, but they get stuff out faster than I can even see it.

  2. My kids are now 9 and 12. Back when they were little, we probably spent $300 babyproofing the house ourselves. Plastic covers over the electrical outlets, a few baby gates, doorknob covers and drawer hinges. Just enough so I could control most of the dangers and relax from time to time. Well worth it. We have a community swimming pool, so I never had the stark terror involved with having a large body of water within toddling distance. But so much of the whole parenting thing is luck. Like when my 2-year-old fell two feet off a toy horse on to the carpeted living room floor? Broke her arm. No luck there – not even a smidgen.

  3. I am on baby #4, so for us the baby-proofing stage has lasted like, 10 years. We did the same thing you did with the “safe” zone in the living room/kitchen. All of the older kids’ choking hazard toys are kept out of the area because I can’t police the whole house. Gates only at the top of the stairs for us and I will keep those gates up until all of my friends’ babies are done needing the gates, too. The worst is having a friend over and then you can’t enjoy yourselves because they are constantly getting up to save their baby from imminent death.
    The best invention ever is the magnet locks for cabinets. You can TURN THEM OFF! If you only need the cabinets locked when your family comes over, BOOM- flick the switch.
    Last, lock up your medicines. Kids climb. My daughter can reach her arm inside our child locked medicine cabinet and get her toothbrush and paste. She ate the whole tube. Lucky it wasn’t the gummy vitamins. Now I keep all medicine locked in a separate container on a high shelf in the closet.

  4. I’m on my fourth and I have pretty much have never baby proofed anything, ever. Well, at one point my brother in-law built a baby gate for the bottom of my stairs, but it was lopsided and ugly, so I got rid of it. We only use natural cleaners, so I never even bothered putting a lock on that cabinet. What’s the worse that could happen, some ACV to the eye?
    I am a pretty big proponent of free-range parenting and I read Last Child in the Woods when my first was young, and I have taken the attitude that they’re built pretty strong and smart, but we have to give them a chance.
    But I’m generally rather laid back. If it had been stressing me out and I could have prevented the worry, I probably would have. As long as it wasn’t too ugly. Those plastic door knob things are the WORSE.

  5. I love this post! I think you’re so right about the reasons we childproof – on one hand, if kids never hurt themselves or fall, they don’t learn how not to. On the other hand, I mean ‘hurt’ as in ‘pinched finger in a non-slam drawer’, not ‘able to put your hand on a stove’. Naturally, I want to prevent serious injuries and actual pain (my baby!!)

    We just moved into our house with our 15-month-old. We didn’t have your banister issue (though we probably would have plexi-ed over it too, honestly). We put gates at the top and bottom of the stairs both as a safety measure (our girl tries to go down head-first) and as a baby-containment mechanism. Blocking the plugs: big yes, since she tries to poke her fingers and tongue into them (eek). Kitchen drawers and cupboards : we blocked the knives, the cleaning supplies, and the pantry (mostly to stop her from upending the flour on the floor) but I genuinely don’t care if she takes out all the tupperware and/or pots and pans, I really don’t. The only other thing we did was spent 150$ to get a gate to block off the woodstove, because mental images of a baby trying to catch themselves on red-hot cast iron was a NOPE.

    Honestly, the thing most of my friends have done that will not come into my house: foam floor mats. Yes, we have wood floors. Yes, babies sometimes fall. But non-cleanable floor mats are GROSS. And ugly. And gross.

  6. I love this post! Childproofing is so stressful, and some of it is so much work! I think outlet covers and locks on the knife drawer are non-negotiable. We moved all of our cleaning supplies out from under the kitchen sink…our pediatrician recommended we do so, even with a lock on the cabinet. But other than that, we have been relatively laid back – our 15 month old has free reign on the tupperware and pots and pans.

    One thing you didn’t mention that I think is essential is attaching furniture to the wall. We have all of our tall bookcases bolted or strapped to the wall, and the dresser in our daughter’s room as well. There are plenty of horrifying stories online about furniture falling on kids.

    1. Good point, Julia! I bet it’s commonplace in CA to anchor furniture, but I’m alarmed that 0 of my friends in MN anchor even their kids’ dressers, when it’s such a simple (and cheap) way to prevent a fatal risk.

      1. As a mom in MN, I have never heard of anyone anchoring their kids’ dressers. Bookcases, yes, but dressers? No.

        I kind of wonder where does it all stop? People have side tables in their living rooms with drawers that could be climbed up onto and pulled down. Do we anchor everything? Not put anything on top of anything because my kid might pull a lamp down?

        Isn’t that what the word no is for?

        1. Ikea recently recalled a big portion of their Malm dressers and chests because 2 children died when it fell on them. Drawers make the perfect staircase for a toddler. http://www.usatoday.com/story/money/2015/07/22/cpsc-ikea-repair-recall-chest-dresser-tipovers/30497445/

        2. The dresser turned over on our son as he used the drawers like stairs to climb up! Twice. Very scary! Wish I had known to anchor! Kids are wild animals!

        3. As a mum in Australia I don’t know of anyone that does NOT anchor all heavy furniture. We also do it with TVs. And it must be so awesome to have your kids respect “no” every single time. Congratulations.

        4. How about just the stuff that could kill them if it topples over?

    2. Doesn’t that depend on the dresser?

      Like, obviously you anchor bookcases and things that can actually tip over, but the dressers in my kid’s room are 4-generation-old squat solid maple that I can’t tip over and we need 2 people to move. Clearly they don’t need to be anchored, because they’re not actually a risk. I’d be more worried about her tugging a drawer out onto her foot or something.

      1. I’m generally a houseproof the baby type of person rather than a babyproof the house person.

        However. When my daughter was a toddler I read a blog post about a little girl who died when her dresser fell on her in the early morning hours while her parents were sleeping. It was one of those low/high changing dressers that I would have thought could not tip over from a toddler standing in the bottom drawer, but it did.

        Its so easy to anchor furniture I don’t know why one wouldn’t do it. I suppose if you open the bottom drawer of your dresser and push hard on it and it doesn’t budge, you’re probably right that your dressers aren’t a risk. I think most dressers will probably tip.

      2. In California people anchor furniture due to earth quakes

  7. My house (an old firestation!) has many many many hazards – in addition to the building’s hazards, it’s loft-like layout means there are few ways to shut off areas so it’s nearly impossible to have off-limits zones. What we’ve done, apart from gating off the bathroom (which has no door of its own) and securing some shelves to the wall, is just take turns following the 16-month-old around all the time forever always. It is getting a bit wearisome, and when we have another we’ll certainly need some more physical solutions…

    1. Ha, that is/was my method (out of necessity) with Baby No. 2. Tiresome indeed! She still managed to tumbled down the stairs, fall off the bed, eat stickers/chalk/beads/crayons/paper/playdough/etc, and stick something in an electrical outlet, but we’ve both survived thus far. This kid is one tough cookie.

  8. “The more we eliminate risk from their lives the more we are just putting off injuries or just making them happen elsewhere. ”

    I understand your basic idea but I don’t agree with that. Kids learn spacial relationships without falling from heights. They learn that sharp things can hurt without actually cutting themselves. Injuries aren’t a requirement of learning, or even inevitable.

    1. I completely agree with this. As the mother of 5, we’ve pretty much never baby proofed. We did move the chemicals up but that’s it.

      My first thought was at what age would you think Charlie can handle your house? Kids don’t magically reach a time period when all of a sudden they can do stairs and not pull stuff down. They learn that from experience. And without falling, they can’t learn hey, stay away from edges.

      Obviously, it’s within reason, you would gate a ginormous set of stairs to a concrete basement floor. There has to be some assessment of danger. But 4 or 5 steps? Not so much. We have off-limits areas in our house, and if our kids get into them, they get into trouble. It’s life. Consequences for our actions and all that jazz.

      Americans keep our kids too safe/clean/in a bubble, and then wonder what went wrong!

      1. I agree with Jess on this one, but I wasn’t raised in America so I have a different perspective on these things. Kids should experience what wobbly furniture means and they can’t do this when someone attaches something to the wall and make climbing safe. Bookcases should be attached even when there are no kids at home, but dressers, or putting foam over furniture? The environment needs to be safe, but it’s just as important not to go overboard. Even when you make it safe there’s always going to be moments when a kid looses balance. Sometimes experience teaches more than talking.

  9. For the door issue, I had to cat proof my studio door and use the door monkey. http://doormonkey.com You don’t have to put it so high up the door like in the photos, just out of reach of your child. It’s extremely easy to open & close the door, even with only one hand. Doesn’t damage the door and is removable. I bought it on Amazon.

    1. Thanks for this. I was about to destroy a lovely door with a cat door. Hope this can work for cats and an 8 month old!

  10. Great post! I keep the knives and chemicals out of reach, and until potty-training interest came up, the bathroom door stayed shut in an attempt to stop my toddler from using the toilet as a water table. Brace yourself for gate escapes…it won’t be long until Charlie figures out how to push something (like a pouf or a stool or a pile of plush toys) next to the gate, climb onto it, and hop over the gate before you have time to be suspicious. My daughter REALLY hated feeling restricted, so she just climbed over all kinds of gates with sheer willpower, like reverse repelling.

  11. Ugh! I HATE those cupboard things! I always forget and try to wip open the cabinet. It takes some getting used to…still not used to it! 🙂 For us, since I wasn’t a fan of those, and since it took forever to install just 2 of them, we only put them on the cupboards that held cleaning supplies. I keep sharp things higher up and out of reach so everything my daughters can reach is pretty safe. Some are breakable but we just focus on teaching them what places are okay and what are not. I guess it’s more work with training our kids but it works for us. I kinda like using it as a chance for them to learn!

  12. Em, what baby gates did you use??? please share. Thanks!!

  13. My children are much older, 26, 24 and 19. I didn’t baby proof my house the way you have, although I am naturally a cautious person so I always stored cleaning products shoulder height and I deliberately packed drawers down low with tupperware and even pots and pans because toddlers love to play and make drum sounds with a wooden spoon on a pot! I didn’t put up a safety gate to our garden, it was 6 steps down a cement staircase. I taught each of my children to crawl down backwards…I am happy to say, none of my children have broken an arm, or even slightly injured due to lack of safety in the home. On the other hand, you live in a large home with plenty of hazards for young children and if I lived that home in today’s world, I might have done the same. I also tend to agree with one of the comments that children learn when they are taught and shown and that minor falls and scuffs are part of childhood. So what happens when you visit a friend who doesn’t have the same child proofing you do and he finds an outlet to stick his fingers in? I think teaching a child not to touch outlets is far better in the long run than just covering the outlet so that he doesn’t touch it. He needs to understand the reasons why. Sorry about the verbal diarrhoea

  14. When I was four years old, I went through our front door with our dog at 3 A.M. because I thought he needed a walk. When I came back, the door was locked and the police had to come to let me in. Today, we have three little kids and a knob cover on our front door. You get used to it and guests will deal with it 🙂

  15. Love the idea of using plexi on the iron work! Doesn’t mess with the flow or look of your house, but still keeps the kiddos safe.

    Also (unrelated) can’t get over how gorgeous your house is, even though I’ve seen it a handful of times now. All that natural light and the color palette.. it’s perfect.

    Josh | The Kentucky Gent

  16. “Ultimately call your dad or call in a favor from a dude and have them come over to do whatever you want to do.”

    Ummm…I’m a honest-to-goodness woman and I can and do all kinds of home projects. XY chromosomes are seriously not required so let’s stop it with this kinda sexist thing.

    1. Seriously. Most of this stuff is a piece of cake to install. I do a lot of home projects myself, too, because anyone can learn the basics.

    2. But I feel like when you’re SUPER preggers, doing handy work is the last thing you want to do (the top or the priority list being eating cheeseburgers and peeing. All. The. Time.). So maybe she just meant that it makes sense for dad, grandpa (or grandma) or just someone NOT huge and practically immobile to bend down over and over to tie 50 zipties to bottom of railings, haha.

    3. I don’t usually white knight, but she’s not saying to call them because they are men, but because they have free-time or they owe you a favor. It’s about not using what little family time they have to install a million little latches.

    4. You are totally right and I edited. I was just picturing either of our dads LOVING to do that task, not just doing it. I could do it but when you are pregnant or with a baby you call on favors from the people that want to do that favor. But point taken and you are right so I edited. 🙂

  17. So much of what you do when raising children comes from your comfort level and your child’s activity level. My twins weren’t crazy, wild toddlers so we only locked knives and chemicals, put up baby gates and locked the basement door (my biggest fear was a fall down those steps). If they wanted into the china cupboard, we looked at it together. Our house was extremely kid friendly, though. They had their toys available at their level to play. Our worst childhood accident occurred when my son tripped on the cement between the garage and driveway. 4 stitches and no way to baby proof that!

  18. It sounds to me like you and Brian have done an incredible job of creating a safe home for your family – I’m deeply impressed! My older child is 37 now and somehow both of my children managed to survive childhood without broken limbs and significant injuries despite my somewhat casual approach to childproofing. I do not remember this being a huge issue in the 1970’s. A photo that makes me laugh every time I see it, is one of baby me in 1950 sitting in a totally unrestrained booster seat contraption in the front seat of a car – unbelievable in this day in age, totally common in 1950.

    Emily, I love your blog and I have learned so much from you. I think that Charlie is a darling little guy and so lucky to have such wonderful parents. You are doing GREAT!

  19. We have an 18 mo old that’s into everything! We have baby gates at our split stairwell (top of basement stairs, bottom of upper stairwell) and to both entrances of kitchen. Kitchen’s just not big enough for him to be making a mess while we’re cooking so it’s no longer a play zone (plus he pulled the drawers out and tried climbing on them…). We have an upholstered ottoman as a coffee table in living room but didn’t do anything to the raised brick fireplace hearth though everyone told us to. We just taught him not to play on it.

    He has free reign otherwise!

    1. And we did the plexi-glass on some open rail in living room!

  20. I did the chemical cabinet and made sure no shelves could be pulled down and smother my kid. That’s it. We had 1 stair gate for a few months. I find it has been much more useful for our son to learn how to safely navigate the house, and others homes versus living in a bubble. That being said, I’m also a stay at home mom for the most part so the training comes mostly from me. To each their own. Thanks for sharing your experience. Your stairs are scarier than mine.

  21. I loved this post and sent it to several friends because you wrote it in your usual entertaining style, but also because it’s so sensible. I do think the “baby industry” likes to use scare tactics to increase their revenues by guilt-tripping new parents.
    Love the blue and white gingham checked shirt on Charlie.

  22. Hi Emily,
    As a future mother of a daughter, I hope you realize that women can install these things too. It’s 2015 not 1950!

    1. people are so crazy about being politically correct. I am a woman, the mother of two daughters. and guess what? I prefer to ask my husband or father to do these types of jobs. Just because I can doesn’t mean I want to, and I am not insecure enough to be offended by statements like “go ask your husband”

    2. While I agree with your sentiment, I’m pretty sure Emily “realizes” this as she has done plenty of handy work in her day (hello, Design Star!) but she’s also PREGNANT and thus is probably going to rely on her not-pregnant partner to handle this kind of business in the interim.

    3. For the love people! Calm down. Think the whole Princess Mania is much more damaging to our daughters than Emily’s innocent comment.

  23. You did a great job baby proofing! I actually really love the idea of just him having access to the two rooms in the house when the gates are closed! It definitely prevents the tornadoes of messes that happen when they have free range over the entire house!


  24. I love that you’ve taken a balanced approach on this stuff. I’m also a fan of RIE — within reason, my 2.5 year old son is watching Sarah and Duck and the moment so that I can get some editing done sans distractions, (which obviously is why I’m reading articles on the interwebs). The only thing I’d recommend that I didn’t see you mention was anchoring bookshelves and tall dressers; this might not be necessary for you guys since it looks like you have mostly built-ins, but if Charlie is anything like Dexter is, climbing is going to be in your future. I’ve had to get him off our IKEA Expedit (thankfully anchored) and turned around to see him straddling the wing of a wingback chair — so you’re in for quite the ride. 🙂 Love that you let Charlie get into certain drawers in the kitchen — littles love to feel like they are part of the cooking process, even if the “helping” is actually just making a mess.

  25. We had gates but my daughter learned to climb those. We had plug protectors but she learned how to pick those like a thief. Every safety measure we took she bested us like a boss. So, in the end, we just had to suck it up and things were stressful for awhile. Not because she was in harm’s reach but because we had to dedicate SO MUCH ENERGY to preventing injury. Now she’s 3.5 and things are better, but she still gives us a serious run for our money.

  26. I remember growing up in South America my parents didn’t really do much except to put us in a playpen when they couldn’t keep an eye on us. So that’s what we did when my now 3 year old started to crawl/walk, we had a playpen where we put our son in when one of us was by his/herself, but that only lasts until they’re 1.5 yr. Otherwise, one of us has always kept an eye on him. We also got rid of our glass coffee table, put a gate in between the living room and kitchen, plugs in outlets, and locked chemicals under the sink. We wanted to take care of what we thought was important but we really took time to teach our son how to handle things and how some things are meant to be look at or handle by mom or dad. It is really hard when they are little and don’t really understand what you are trying to teach them, but we were very patient because there was no way I was going to get rid of all of my books and decoration that was at his reach. I wanted our house to look like a house. We literally repeated over and over that you have to be gentle with the books, you can look at this and I will let you touch it but it can break or simply, you can only look at this and not touch, ha. Not sure how much it is my son’s personality or how much it was us talking to him over and over about all the stuff he wanted to touch, that he never really broke anything.

    In the end, there a must things to do in a house, of course, to prevent curious kids from getting hurt, but it doesn’t mean that you have to create a fortress around them. I understand there is not much time nowadays and kids are just let free to do whatever they want. That’s why things are put away, gates are put in place, so you don’t have to worry about them getting hurt or breaking something. But if you just take the time to talk to kids about stuff, they will end up getting it, they will end up knowing that they cannot touch this because it is dangerous, that they cannot touch this because it can break, that they can touch that if they are gentle with it, that if they want to read a book from mom and dad’s bookshelf they can ask mom and dad for it. I’m sure we can devote our time to teach this to our kids.

    1. It’s sort of like potty training. When someone spends time with their kids, talks, repeats, shows, tries to sit them on a potty and waiting until they do something. And repeating this, and being disciplined and automatic in responding to cues. That’s what makes a success story and kids that are potty trained by 2. It’s not about waiting until they are ready, it’s about teaching them that they should try and rewarding them and building confidence in them. That same attitude and self discipline on the parents’ part helps when the child grows up and starts going out with friends. The more time spent together the better the outcomes. It’s hard though due to how houses are designed and hardworking parents who don’t have much time for their kids. Everyone has to decide what’s important. Having said that, putting money on the problem instead of spending time with kids typically prevents them to be carrying members of society, even their own families. Everyone should make a decision themselves what outcomes they value most.

  27. Sorry for being out of topic, but would you mind sharing where you got that clock above your kitchen sink? Thank you!

    1. Ha. It’s from Target 🙂

  28. We’re in the process of doing this now (daughter is already 13 months, but we’re lazy) so this is very helpful! I wasn’t planning on doing anything to the outlets because those plugs are annoying, but a friends 14 month daughter just stuck one of those head tingler massager in an outlet. Luckily it just blew the fuse, but that convinced me to change out the whole house to the outlets you have.

    Did the safety guy suggest furniture/tv straps (I don’t see lots of free-standing furniture in your house, so maybe this didn’t apply to you)? This is the current debate in my house. I’ve read plenty of terrible stories of bookshelves/dressers killing or harming toddlers that I want to strap everything to the wall but my Husband thinks it’s a bit too crazy.

  29. The only baby proofing we’ve ever done is to put baby gates on the bottom and top of the stairs. And we made sure there was absolutely nothing under the kitchen sink, but that’s it. No special outlets, no kitchen drawer guards, nothing. Our three kids have lived unscathed by household dangers. Perhaps I was neglectful, or lazy, or cheap, but it’s worked out okay, so I feel fine about it. I support the notion of kids learning for themselves what is dangerous (within reason obviously) and I grew up with a lot of brothers and sisters. Maybe it’s a large family thing to not go overboard on the baby proofing?

  30. I really enjoyed this post, your thoughts on baby proofing and the decision arc you and brian went thru. we have a small house, and have only done the outlets. our 14 m/o is in daycare (completely baby proofed) all day, when he’s home with us in the mornings, evenings and weekends we’re pretty much 100% on him. I need to do the kitchen cabinets under the sink though! The other thing that freaks me out is book cases, china cabinets etc. we mounted everything we possibly could, and paid a professional to do it as well.

  31. I kind of think you went a little overboard. Thats a ton of money and 4 or 5 steps ain’t gonna kill the boy. My 5 year old daughter was walking towards our indoor steps (when she was 1.5) and tripped, falling face first into the bottom step, hitting the bridge of her nose, making it swell to Rudolph proportions, and giving her two black eyes. We had a baby gate at the top. What were we supposed to do? Put a gate at the bottom too? Its 3 steps.
    We have close friends who live in a back split so that means 3 sets of stairs, and never not once have they babyproofed anything inside their home. The kids have never fallen and they just learned. A valuable point: when my kids went there, all they wanted to play with was the stairs. I had to sit like a guard at the bottom to make sure they didn’t go on them in case they fell. Her kids are the same age and navigated those stairs like professionals. There is no magical age to children learning these things. He’ll learn it from experience. (also, women can do things too, ya know. Its 2015. I just removed my baby gate, and filled, sanded the holes, and painted over it. I don’t need my husband/dad/dude for that.)

  32. instead of the door nobs we bought these since the little ones know how to unlock the deadbolts. http://www.kidsafeinc.com/glidelok-metal-door-top-safety-lock-3-pack/
    We live on a lake and have a toddler like likes to escape.

  33. I have 3 kids, ages 6, 3, and 1. We have tried various baby-proofing products and at least half of them proved to be useless. The plastic plug protectors were toys to them, they will pull them out and put them back in for amusement, for example. I really feel like there must be angels following them around. I have happened upon them in the most precarious and dangerous positions in just the nick of time. Having kids is scary and nerve wracking. They find ways to injure themselves even when you have removed every seeming danger.

  34. I have to say I love how unobtrusive the plexiglass is, even if it cost a fortune. And it totally makes sense to do whatever works for your family and your house. We didn’t do much when our little when got mobile (he’s three now): moved the chemicals up high, latched the basement door, covered the outlets. Mostly we are just kind of hoverers and overprotective parents of an only child: when we’re out at the playground with other kids (he’s 3 now), he’ll run along after them saying, “You have to be careful!” Oy.

  35. Totally agree about the whole “can’t go back once you KNOW the danger” thing. I mean, dry drowning?! Just add to my mom paranoia, thanks. We secured bookshelves and cabinets, put cabinet locks on our (few) lowers cause I just don’t want to clean up kitchen stuff with everything else. 4 babies (ages 9 to 1) learning to crawl/walk in this house and no baby gates, they’ve each fallen a few times and then just learn to whine at the top of the steps until someone gets them, or they figure out crawling down. We have enclosed, carpeted steps with a landing/turn though; they can’t fall far. I keep bathroom doors shut and have outlet covers although it’s the cords my kids are into :P. Your house looks challenging though! Your comments re: Brian loosening up crack me up; my bro-in-law bought a helmet to protect his first from rolling around and hitting furniture; now they have 4 and he lets them build fires! (Supervised, obv) P.s. Dad/Grandpa is always gonna be roped into these boring tasks if I can help it; I have better things to do. Sheesh. 😉

  36. Ahh, thank you so much for this post! We’re expecting our first baby (also a girl!) in November and I just recently finished the registry process. Oh. My. God. It was SO overwhelming, and your rant about constantly feeling like the baby industry is just trying to sell you as much stuff as possible is spot-on. I’m a pretty relaxed person living in a small space, and we’re trying really hard to avoid the “baby stuff madness”, as I call it. BUT once I started registering and researching all the different products, I found myself thinking things like “shoot, that bouncer seat looks nicer but it doesn’t play music, and surely my precious baby must be able to listen to music at all times to further her development, right?!” Or I’d fall into the “more expensive must equal safer” trap. I had to consciously remind myself to CALM DOWN every few minutes. I’m so glad I’m not alone in this feeling! Also, Charlie just gets cuter every day! He’s going to be the cutest big brother 🙂

  37. Great post! It is such a hard balance to find. Wanting/needing to keep them safe, while at the same time, like you said, not eliminating all risk so that they never learn how to be safe. And I so feel you on the “feeling pressured to buy the best or you’re a bad parent” thing. When I was pregnant with my first daughter, I read everything about what was the best/healthiest for your baby, and I wanted organic sheets, cloth diapers, a non off-gassing, responsibly sourced, crib, non-voc paint (that one I actually did no), and the Stokke high chair and stroller (the stroller keeps them up higher away from the exhaust of cars). In reality, my husband was in college and I wasn’t working and we were poor! So, it was either buy organic sheets and don’t eat, or buy sheets at Walmart (our only store to shop at basically). Also, this was seven years ago, and we lived kind of in the middle of no where, so organic wasn’t as accessible as it is now. I felt terrible for not using all the “best stuff”! But, my daughter is fine! We did very little baby proofing either. We did do a baby gate on a particularly long, steep set of stairs when my daughter was 1-2, and that was only after she fell down them! (Worst parent ever over here). And I think we did a lock on the under-the-sink cabinet, but we have been lucky, I guess you could say, with my second daughter to have lived in two ADA (wheelchair accessible) apartment units since she has been born, so no stairs, and no cabinets under the sink. 🙂

    1. Oops, I did DO, not I did no.

  38. My son once swung out of his cot by grabbing hold of the curtains. The curtain rod came crashing down as he flew across the room and landed on a large stuffed toy. I would never have believed it if I didn’t see it myself and fortunately he wasn’t hurt. It was pretty funny afterwards. He went on to get up to all sorts of mischief – including getting his arm stuck in the drink holder at the cinema! I child-proofed in moderation because boys just seem to find danger but I had to reduce the amount of it as much as possible. My daughter never touched a single cupboard.

  39. as always you crack me up and handle things so well. i didn’t babyproof our previous house at all (my kids are 5 and 2) with the exception of a couple kitchen cabinets because i got really tired of him making such a mess while i cooked in our teeny kitchen. we had stairs, but neither kid was too interested in them until they could navigate them ok, plus they were carpet with carpet at the bottom. every one else i know has baby gates on their stairs but it just seemed worthless to us. (our new hose has carpet stairs with the bottom half totally open–no railings–and we don’t have a gate there either. my baby was almost 2 when we moved in and was fine crawling up and down them.) we didn’t even do outlets. and i’m glad. i am really into letting them gauge what they can and can’t do because seriously for the most part they know their limits. now i KNOW that there are nutso 2 and 3 year olds who just think they can jump off a building but my kids thankfully weren’t (aren’t) like that.

    charlie is absurdly cute, especially in that pitiful one with him at the gate. sooo cute.

  40. Great article, funny and witty! I have similar philosophy as you Emily, a preoccupation with safety takes away the excitement of risk taking and discovery. In my generation all these safety measures were unthinkable, yet we are all alive 🙂

  41. I love that you’re so open and honest about your parenting experiences. You are so wise to anticipate your attention being soon divided and tackle this while you’re pregnant. When you’re busy with baby you can relax a bit about Charlie being near stairs/railings/outlets.

    I think the plexiglass and tamper resistant outlets are good investments in your home. TR outlets are required for new construction now. It’s not just childproofing, it’s an update to current code compliance.

  42. Thanks so much for writing this! We are currently ‘discussing’ baby proofing our 70’s house for our 14 month old. I see the benefit of reducing stress.. I hadn’t thought about that side of it!

  43. I love how honest you are here, especially in a world where people love to judge parents. I have 2 kids under 2 and we just did the major stuff. I think anchoring furniture into the walls was probably the most important though. My daughter loves to mess with drawers!

  44. Another vote here for the door monkey latches — so easy to pop on or off with no damage to doors and no risk of little fingers getting smashed.

  45. We have top/bottom stair gates, door knob thingies to the basement/outdoors (yes, our then two year old escaped and we HAD to put them on), our knives are in an upper cabinet and our flat wear is the only kitchen drawer/cupboard with a lock (I like the pot banging, too!), our bathroom cabinets are all locked though. Our gas range has knob covers. We had an oven lock, but like the toilet things – they broke, like yours. I’d say have a lifeproof water case on your iPhone instead ? Last summer we put a 4 ft. fence and gate in our backyard because our then two year old learned to run really, really scary fast. Now we struggle with things purchased for the three year old (swing set) that is dangerous for the walking one year old.

  46. Emily, if its any consolation on your plexiglass spend I have two friends who both got their heads caught in railing at home. They still remember it vividly with both horror and humour, it did cost their parents a fair bit to fix after the railings were finally cut. One of the families called in all friends and relatives and smeared their poor daughter’s head with everything from butter to peanut butter while everyone had suggestions for how to solve it. She was stuck for 1.5 hour with all those people watching before they called in the firies who simply cut her loose. Makes for a great story today. 🙂

  47. We have lived in our 100 year old house for the entire lives of my 13 and 10 year old boys. It is filled with hardwood floors, stairs, lower railings, and lots of antiques. We never baby proofed anything. I figured they needed to learn how to manage stairs and the like, which they did. I, on the other hand, have fallen down the entire set of stairs -twice! They learned to not climb on things, and to be gentle with things that are fragile, including baby brothers. We, luckily, had no big accidents. I, also, felt comfortable taking them to our parents and friends, who’s homes were not baby proofed. They learned how to behave.

    I understand the guilt involved in being a parent, I choose to use my own common sense. Emily, just listen to your gut. And remember, that “parenting” wasn’t even a word when your parents were raising you. They just did the best they could do.

  48. I have 5 kids (going on 6) and have never baby-proofed a single thing in my house. That being said, I’ve never had hard stairs or pointy cornered furniture. I have decent decor (as a true follower of Emily would ), and my kids have learned to respect what they can and absolutely cannot touch. We’ve never had any major injuries, thank goodness, but I guess my bottom line is if parents draw firm boundaries and are mindful of what their kids are doing, we can keep our kids safe. I feel like I can see a huge difference in kids that have been baby proofed and kids that haven’t. Like when they get to preschool and have never handled scissors before, kinda sad to me.
    I’m with those who have said to take the obvious measures, forget the rest.

  49. I think your post is very balanced. The problem for me is that as an ED nurse I have seen too much. Kids paralyzed or died after jumping on the bed or an akward fall, drowning in a bucket of water. Some of it is bad luck but I find the whole “kids are resilient” thing can go too far for some people. So I basically I did the whole kid proofing. Ugly doorknobs won’t matter in a year and the toilet thing is kind of funny. Most people stay in there a bit trying to figure it out before coming out to ask how to open it. You are doing a great job with your little guy. He is gorgeous.

  50. Emily, you’ve done good!!! My oldest son figured out how to undo all of the ‘safety’ cabinet latches at a very early age, so by the time the second one came around, i didn’t even bother. they will understand “NO TOUCH”, believe it or not, and you can store ‘danger items’ up high, above the w/d, for example. I didn’t mind them raiding the pantry and building towers out of the canned goods or banging potsandpans; we even went so far as to deliberately ‘spill’ a bag of flour on the butcher block counter and they built roads with their little machines, you know, like a discovery table. They survived and learned along the way, as will Charlie and little wild thing forest girl (LOVE her room, btw, and think she’ll have a big personality!). Good for you for deciding what you can/can’t live with. Sometimes the experts don’t know best (I didn’t even know there were ‘experts’ in this line of work; how many of them actually have children???). I think you’re very brave for introducing two children to umpteen levels and steps, yet I’m sure they’ll pay attention to the limits and you’ll all be just fine. Listen to your gut; it really does pay off. Oh, and btw, I couldn’t help but think when you posted on instagram about the curtains hanging outside the doors in Spain, that maybe, that’s your answer to your laundry ‘room’ dilemma!!! Carry on!

  51. Great post. We are just going through the same thing with a 14-month-old son in a new home. We installed a baby gate at top of stairs and moved all breakables out of reach. Another biggie is securing dressers and bookshelves to walls.

  52. What a great post!

  53. We did about the same as you, but we also made sure to secure some of our heavier furniture (especially tall furniture) to the walls. We do this anyhow since, like you, we are in earthquake country. However, as a parent of two climbers and as a child who tipped my dresser onto myself, I very much recommend parents everywhere do this.

  54. Best child-proofing for my wily son was a door alarm for the front door. If he tried opening it, the alarm rang and in our small house I caught him before he got to the front step. There was always something he saw out front to entice him to explore. I had a friend in Junior High whose little brother escaped out the front door and almost got hit by a car. It’s all those stories of things that have happened to little ones we’ve known that really reinforce the things you want to watch out for.

  55. OK, here’s my baby proofing story. I was in the nursery feeding my youngest child, and the middle child (age two), walked in carrying two steak knives! Even with the baby proofing, she had wiggled her little hand into the tiny space of the drawer and pulled the knives out. I about died. The knives went on top of the fridge for the next few years.

  56. My daughter is now 47 and she survived childhood just fine. Back in the day they actually had those ugly outlet covers, so that and taking down things that could injure her was about it. We didn’t have padding for tables, but I did have an oval coffee table. She didn’t care for the other tables. She also liked to wash dishes, so when I heard the highchair slide across the floor, I was there. Baby-proofing consisted of putting everything out of reach that might harm her. We still used normal glasses and dishes, although she used plastic everything. The worst accident she ever had was riding her trike on the sidewalk and she tipped over into the flower bed. Had the trike not been on top of her, she would have come out unscathed, but since she couldn’t get out from under it, she just hollered mommy for a bit and I came to rescue her. We lived on the ground floor with no steps till she was about two when we moved to a place with a flight of stairs up to the apartment. She never fell down them that I know of.

    Each child is different and mine wasn’t terribly adventurous…. thankfully.

  57. I have an 8 month old boy. We’re first time parents in our 40s — the last generation of the independent American childhood — with a free range mentality. Also in MN.

    I did the big, obvious basics when he started crawling but I’m taking the rest in stages. Only doing what seems truly necessary.

    I’m highly conscious of NOT teaching him– even subtly — that the world is a dangerous place. Sounds woo-woo but I don’t want to dampen his curiosity or sense of self. His dad is more cautious and says “CAREFUL!!” even when there’s no apparent danger. Drives me nuts!!

    Of course terrible accidents happen. But I believe kids can understand more than we give them credit for – and early — if we demonstrate and explain boundaries and whys. Big part of it IMO.

  58. I am not a parent, but I am a safety professional keeping people safe in industrial environments- but a LOT of the training I do is about keeping people safe at home.

    I dont think enough DIY blogs put safety as a focus for adults or the little ones! Really Awesome that you put so much thought, research and love into the execution of your safe environment.

    Prevention and training is key. It drives me crazy when my friend’s baby is playing with cords and they say “no” kind of weakly and laugh at how cute he is- he needs to know “NO!” and understand hazards.

    Safety first. 🙂

  59. What a lovely house. You had so much to think about to make it baby safe.

    Great job 🙂

  60. Has anyone mentioned that you are the best?
    My kids are 9 & 11 now & when they were little we did some stuff (gates, cabinets, drawers) & it was all fine. My son broke both arms in two years, once by falling off the back of the couch, the other by balancing on a stool trying to reach something. We could have prevented both things by moving our furniture & getting rid of all stools but how on earth could we have known? Things happen, bones heal. I agree that if something non-heal able happened any parent would never forgive themselves but how can you know? You do the basics, trust your instinct & pray for grace.
    I’m also in the camp of let them learn when they are at home (especially now that they are older. Internet safety gate, anyone?). At the very least it’s good practice, at the most it triggers something in their brain & they never even touch a cigarette ever, thank you & amen.
    Ps. This? ‘These are the risks of providing no risks.’ Brilliant.
    Pps. Mini shout out to Oregonians named Emily (whoop!)

  61. baby proofing!

    this article is way too long to read quickly–but it’s a perfect argument for the value of introducing risk and danger into kids lives–plus it’s about play grounds, and who doesn’t love those!?

    it’s a must read in my opinion.


  62. I thank god nearly every day that I was able to raise my boys pre-internet. They are now 31 and 33. They have traveled the world independently, swam in shark-infested waters, gone on survival trips, been dropped into remote Alaskan woods to fish and eat berries. We did not childproof our home. They each have a scar or two but they come with a badge of courage and a story. They are both papas now and with 3 grandchildren under 5, our home is again being used by littles. They climb the trees, navigate multiple staircases, and are learning that when peering out our open, screen-less windows, they need both feet on the floor. Yes, danger exists. Life is dangerous. We provide supervision until capability is proven.

  63. I tried to baby-proof the oven door because my daughter started trying to hang from the handle. We installed the lock and within 60 seconds she ripped it off and that was it. I pulled out the directions to see if there was an alternate way to install. Nope, just this helpful advice: “if child can defeat, discontinue use”.

  64. Emily, great and funny post as always! I don’t have children (yet) but I am totally going to go back to this when it does happen. Your honest and humbling opinion is amazing. By the way, you thinking of these things and putting it out there for other parents makes you the best mom ever!

  65. Thank you for your thoughtful analysis of the parenting industry, in addition to your breakdown of the value of each babyproofing element. So many bloggers just wanna talk about stuff, stuff, stuff, and I am always delighted that you focus on the why and the how. Even in your design posts, you are analytical of aesthetics and self-critical about your work. So refreshing. You rock.

  66. Thank you for posts like this Emily! I’m pregnant with my first and I love going back and reading all of your parenting posts. It’s like you’ve mentioned-I’ve been following you for so long that I respect your opinion, and it just helps to hear what others are doing. Not to mention parenting with style. I’m building a house right now and will go ahead and install the baby proof outlets from the onset, and incorporate a few other of your suggestions! Keep up the good work!

    PS-I swear there was a post you did once where you mentioned the baby/parenting books you read. Does that exsist somewhere or did I imagine it?

  67. i have a 2.5 year old and a 6-month old. here is what we did in our rental apartment, which was VERY LITTLE and which am TOTALLY HAPPY WITH:

    1) plugged our outlets with standard outlet plugs. this was for when my now-toddler was crawling as she’d go to them and try to touch them. once she could walk and understand verbal direction, she tried to pull them out once or twice, we told her no, and she stopped.
    2) rubbery corner covers ONLY on the corner of our dining room table which is glass and has sharp 90 degree angle corners. the coffee table (also sharp 90 degree corners, but not glass) didn’t get covered nor did any other surface. never had anything more than a slight bump! my toddler quickly learned the placement of those objects and runs around them. if i were to move our table 3” left in the night, yeah, she’d probably run head first into it the following morning, but oddly her little internal compass avoids these just like an adult does.
    3) during the crawling phase, we used baby gates, not installed like yours, but just to corral areas. we blocked off a houseplant my daughter was obsessed with sticking her hands into (not so dangerous – just dirty) and our dining room table area (because she would crawl to the corner where we have a computer set up and want to yank on the electrical cords).
    4) we put bolt/wire on the back of her dresser so it can’t fall down on her when she yanks on it to open a drawer.
    5) we installed drawer locks on our bottom kitchen cabinets because we use 90% glass/pyrex food containers. if we had a Tupperware drawer like yours with plastic, i wouldn’t bother. used the magnetic kind you drill into the wood and open with a “key” and was happy with those.
    6) we put drawer ‘lock’ on the one cabinet under the sink in the bathroom i get ready in because it has beauty products that aren’t safe, but mostly her getting into that area was just messy and annoying more so than dangerous. that’s a plastic contraption that just holds the two door knobs together.
    7) i temporarily moved our toilet paper off the roll and onto a high shelf because my kid was obsessed with unfurling it and it wasn’t a safety issue – just wasteful.

    we don’t have interior stairs so that would definitely be a spot i blocked off if so because that can be a serious injury. that’s it! on baby #2 now and don’t plan to do anything differently.

    i’m pretty casual like you are (or at least started out as) and try to think, “did my mom need this to raise me?” it keeps things in perspective. i also want my kids not to just be prevented from danger but to learn to avoid it or how to successfully navigate it because they’re going to go to other homes, like my parents, where things may not be as baby proofed and I don’t want to be on edge. they need to learn what is safe and what is not within reason and overproofing can lead them to not learning what’s safe and what’s not, but only what they have access to and what they don’t. i didn’t lock our toilets because i want my kid to learn that they aren’t for playing with/in and that if she throws a toy in water, that toy will break and she doesn’t get it back. sometimes controlled accidents, as you mentioned, are a valuable teaching experience.

    i’ve seen my kid eat old food off our floors, like a shriveled up pea or day old bean and don’t freak. similarly, we don’t use antibacterial soap in our house or carry hand sanitizer (with the exception of airplane travel!). guess what? she’s never had a fever, a day of sickness or a single doctor’s appointment other than a well visit in 2.5 years. total cost for us (two full time working parents with zero childcare) was $100 and a few hours of time. kiddo #2 is about to crawl and i don’t plan on changing a thing.

    1. i should probably mention i’m a baby/kid minimalist. we didn’t use or don’t have: a changing table, a baby monitor, a mirror in the car by the car seat, wipes warmers, bottle warmers, bed rails on the toddler bed, those jumperoo things, night lights, shopping seat covers (don’t get me started on those!!!), plastic plates (my kid has used adult plates since day one and never broken one) or a million other products we are told we “need” to have these days.

      1. Same here, 5 kids and we didn’t use any of those things except when someone gave us a jumperoo thing. It was hilarious to see one of my babies jump around and laugh. I also never used a diaper bag. I think they’re a huge nuisance. I just threw a couple extra diapers and travel wipes in my purse (and a bottle if needed)

  68. who’s the artist of that painting in the entryway of the woman? when you showcase your awesome stuff, when you usually list your items, the vintage peices can you name the maker or any marks? please? I’m on my knees here 🙂

  69. I didn’t do much to baby proof. I did cover the outlets which toddlers are quick to figure out, btw. I put a door handle cover only on the bathroom doors. I didn’t change out the furniture, really but did keep the chemicals and knives up high. My youngest did get his head stuck in the railing and then some of the other kids had to try to see if they could fit their knees through…so 3 of the 5 were stuck but I used dish soap and got them out.

    And even though you edited your original comment about calling in a dad for help (I didn’t think you needed to since I think we got it) I just want to say I’d give anything to be able to call my dad for help around the house. He died at 61 and only got to see two of my kids who were too young to remember him. It must be great for those who can do that. I know my dad would’ve come running.

  70. Most importantly: wow! Your an amazingly thoughtful and carring mother.
    Secondly, I am a more “seasoned mom”. Like you, I was feeling compelled by other moms/ad campaigns/mother’s guilt to baby proof.
    But I mentioned it to my aunt who had kids 7&9 at the time…she said something like, “just know where to kids are”.
    That made sense to me…and that’s just what I did…you know (quickly) what dangers are in each part of your house.
    Now my kids are 5&9…it worked for us.
    But like you, I think each family need do what feels right.

  71. Thank you for this. I did the same in the kitchen and wouldn’t have it any other way. I love and need that plastic container drawer in order to make dinner and my daughter loves sitting on the floor “cooking” with me.

    I don’t know if you have a lot of other kids over at your house, but I’m sure other moms will appreciate all the safety measures you took too. I’ve gone over to other homes for playdates and they were so stressful because I couldn’t take my eye off my toddler.

    Lastly, I live in Tokyo and we have an automatic toilet that has a child safety measure on the seat. It is wonderful. Get on it ‘merica!

  72. We put baby proofing on the oven, fridge, cabinets, drawers, outlets, gates, and bumpers on the corners of furniture. Alas the oven one didn’t work on ours. If only you could use the lock for cleaning mode any time you want as that really keeps it closed and works consistently. Luckily our knobs are in the top and in the back. Our older mildly autistic son Daniel tore the rest off when he was a toddler. Now that he’s 7 he’s much more destructive and loves to run off. He’s torn up our lamps/flashlights, tore a hole in our hallway wall, and tore a hole in the kitchen floor. We’ve had to screw our window shut as he escaped out of it once. We’ve also had to screw our access panel so he doesn’t mess up our water lines and the kitchen sink as he made a hole under it as well. Everything we don’t want him to get into must be fridge height or locked. Can’t keep the bath supplies in the bathroom, the dry goods on the counter, or the soap by the sink as he’ll dump things out. He does it when I’m being productive (cooking, cleaning, doing paperwork, exercising, etc) which is when I don’t multi-task so I stay focused on one thing at a time. When I relax I do multi-task and can focus on several things at a time as it isn’t essential if I miss something. I can always reload or continue where I left off. Plus he tends to play with his toys or watch if I’m playing a video game.

  73. Just echoing many of the comments: I so appreciate this post, the honesty, the information and the turkey-talking.

  74. My home style has been sacrificed many times in the name of child safety and comfort. The gates were hard … but then there were the three years of a floor futon and train table in my living room.

    Now my boys are tweens – and there are still some compromises – although most of have moved outside. I have a beautiful driveway gate that is slowly being beat to death by baseballs.

    One day your youngest child opens the gate on his own and you realize you are done. Gates come down! No more toddler days. It is bittersweet.

    One advice for any moms of little ones, if you have a toddler that delights in working with mommy in the kitchen – or just happens to love making water sculptures in the sink – I would highly recommend a contraption called the Learning Tower. On the one had – God that thing is big and ugly (although I think they have one that folds up now)- on the other, no worries of them falling off a stool onto the hard countertop or whatever. They can easily participate and watch the kitchen action. My two used to squeeze on it together and it was the most fun I ever had making dinner!

  75. As a mom of 8 I found this highly entertaining while also sympathizing with feelings that I have experienced as well.
    When my oldest was born 18 years ago things were very different. We did the socket plugs and cabinet latches but there wasn’t much more available. We have no stairs to worry over so when I have a crawler to toddler we 1. Put cabinet locks under the sink and on the knife drawer
    2. Keep the bathroom door shut
    3. Keep the front door locked ( we installed a high top lock for a sleepwalker a few years ago)
    4. No one plays Lego on the floor for a while
    I agree that it’s part of life to learn how to not get hurt and rolling off the couch onto wood floors when you are goofing off is better than falling off a play structure at the park. They learn very quickly. My 2 year old daughter has been climbing to the top of our backyard play structure for nearly a year – I can’t stop her as she is following her brothers! She jumps on our trampoline without a net and has never fallen off- but I don’t allow the big kids to jump with her. So my feeling is, find what you are comfortable with but let your kids enjoy freedom. It’s so important. (And none of my kids have ever broken a bone or had stitches! So far!)

  76. I have 4 kids-and we did almost NO baby proofing with our first because she was happy to just sit on the floor with some board books. (She’s 17 and walks and talks now.) Then I had 3 very busy boys-and we also had someone come in and put up gates, those outlet covers so no one would get zapped, and a few other things that I don’t remember now because I’ve had 4 kids and my memory is shot. We moved out of the super-safe house when our youngest (and craziest) was 2. The only thing we did in the new house was the outlet things in his room, the playroom and our family room. I never ever did those foam covers because they’re hideous. Oh-and I always stored hazardous cleaning products up high where they couldn’t get them. I was just contemplating shutting down my “kid cupboard” that we’ve always had: it houses plastic plates, cups, and had sippy cups back in the day. Since my youngest is now in 1st grade and can pretty much reach everything he needs, it’s probably time. I think a judicious use of safety stuff is key for parents’ peace of mind.

  77. You are speaking my language, girl. I am the oldest of nine and, generally, not much of a worrier, but my husband is one of three and worries enough for 10 people. The challenge of balancing our two philosophies continues as the kids get older — should our eight-year-old be allowed to ride his bike around the neighborhood unsupervised? Should our five-year-old put the sharp knives away when she’s emptying the dishwasher? It’s a tough parenting balance to strike. You want them to learn, but you hate to see them hurt.

    And as to $400 carseats — it’s a racket, isn’t it? Superfreakenomics claims kids are no safer in a carseat after the age of two than they are just buckled into the backseat. It makes me want to bang my head against a wall when my 8-year-old is only now, this year, able to sit in a car without one! (And, of course, I was made to feel guilty because prior to that, his booster did not have “side impact” protection. Gag.)

  78. I’m due in December and as an older (35) first time mom, I’ve been shocked by all the baby crap marketed to me that I supposedly “have to buy” to have a happy, healthy baby. I knew babies came with stuff, but I had no idea the level of consumerism forced on parents. Obviously toddler proofing is a little ways off for me, but I found your viewpoint refreshing. Thanks for sharing!

  79. Interesting discussion! It’s not technically part of babyproofing the house, but I urge anyone with a garage to periodically test the garage door safety sensors.

  80. Just a random question… I love your house, are all your walls painted in white?

    Thanks 🙂

  81. Ugh..My house still has baby proofed stuff because of our autistic teen..hate all the annoying door & cabinet locks but they are necessary with her who doesn’t understand..she used to turn on the gas knobs of the stove! We do what we can but it’s been at school where she got hurt enough to get stitches a few times..sigh.

  82. We have three daughters (4, 2, and 5 months) and have not baby proofed a thing. We both felt like they would learn to hear no and listen and also to learn from their minor accidents (slamming fingers in drawers). We figured they live in a world centered around adults; they might as well learn at home how to avoid dangers they’ll encounter elsewhere. Our babysitter teaches them at a really young age to climb and go down stairs, too. It has worked out well for us.

  83. I love this post, and you are doing a great job.

  84. Hi Emily,

    Could you tell me where the x-large moroccan pouf is from?! We have a 9month old and had to store our glass/brass coffee table and I’d love a pouf that size for now! Thx for all the baby proofing tips!!

  85. Thank you for this. It is hard as a parent to say no when the message is that you are putting your child in danger with your lax hippy attitudes. But it’s necessary to keep in mind that there are a LOT of dollars to be made off our anxiety.

    We have baby gates at the tops of stairs, some foam corners, and latches on some of our cupboards. We use those little plugs from Ikea in our light sockets. Basically protecting breakables and minimizing threats to life.

    Oh, and very important, we braced all shelves and dressers to the walls. Besides the earthquake hazard, once our oldest hit 2.5 he started to climb everything, and you do not want those things coming down.

  86. With my first, we didn’t do much baby proofing (covered outlets, lock on the kitchen cabinets that held the cleaning supplies and kitchen ingredients, a few corners that were eye level). We never did a gate on the stairs because we were able to watch him most of the time and tried to teach him to go down backwards. However, now that I have 2 kids, I might have to get those ugly gates because you’re just so busy and its hard to watch both kids AND try to make dinner/clean up/go to the bathroom/check FB/really anything else. So while it sucks, you’ll be much happier you did everything once your baby girl is out and crawling.

    1. Also, I have a friend who’s job is to test baby car seats. He said they’re all the same safety wise because they all have to meet strict requirements. You’re just paying for the baby’s comfort.

  87. I love your blog, your designs, and your spunk! I am also digging the flooring you chose for your living room. Can you share with me what they are? They’re the perfect mid-tone, not yellow, but still warm wood!

  88. My then-toddler kept pulling the cord out of my laptop and shoving it in his mouth. After the 3rd or 4th time he did it despite my freaking out, I tried it to see just how painful it was.
    It stung- and numbed my mouth. I realized my kid, who was teething, had figured out a way to self medicate his molars coming in.

    So… if you can, sometimes working out the motives of your kids can help protect them.

    (Fwiw, when I was a toddler I fell down a flight of stairs at mt gransparents’ and broke my leg. But I remember I was looking for my mom because I was lonely – a babygate would have kept me off the stairs, but having an adult playing with me would have kept me from wanting to climb the stairs.)

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