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How I Baby-Proofed My House

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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. 

Kid_Friendly_Living_Room

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.
Bookcase_With_Safety_Gate

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.

Kid_Safe_Kitchen_Emily_Henderson

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.

Kid_Proofing_Kitchen

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!!).

SOOOOOOOOOO……

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.

Kid_Proof_Outlets

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.

kid_safe_drawers_emily_henderson

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:

Kid_Proof_Living_Room

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.

Kid_Safety_Gates

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.

Kid_Friendly_Living_Room

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).

baby-gates

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

Fin Mark

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Elisabeth

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.… Read more »

Kathy

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.

Sarah

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.

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.

Ros

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,… Read more »

julia

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.

Anna

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.

Jess

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?

Jordan

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/

Maxine
ADRIENNE

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!

Anna, Sydney

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.

happydaysarehere

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

Ros

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.

Sarah in OR

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.

Alex

In California people anchor furniture due to earth quakes

Erin

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…

happydaysarehere

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.

mary

“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.

Jess

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!

Lane

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.

Zarina

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.

juliek

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!

Anna

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.

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!
http://www.sweetlytattered.com

laura hegarty

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

Sharon

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… Read more »

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 🙂

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
http://thekentuckygent.com

Emily K

“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.

Lori

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.

Joann

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.

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.

Lisa

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!

Mary Beth

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!

Sam

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!

Sam

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

Kannfish

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.

Suz

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.
P.S.
Love the blue and white gingham checked shirt on Charlie.

Sheila

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!

Mia

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”

Joanna

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.

deana

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

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!

Paige
http://thehappyflammily.com

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.

Megan C.

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.

Mariela

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… Read more »

Lane

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.

Beryl

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

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.

Lana

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?

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.

rachael

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… Read more »

Nicole Roe

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.

angela

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.

Suzanne

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.

Melanie

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. 😉

Jenny

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 🙂

Sarah W

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… Read more »

Sarah W

Oops, I did DO, not I did no.

Jen

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.

melissa

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… Read more »

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 🙂
http://www.dorisleslieblau.com/blog/

Sarah in OR

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.

Lyndal

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!

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!

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.

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.

Anna, Sydney

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. 🙂

Gwennie

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.

Elizabeth

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.

Christine

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.

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… Read more »

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