Time to childproof the home

My son and I recently visited an old friend in her beautiful, nicely decorated, clean San Francisco home. Within the first 45 seconds, my kid had basically ripped the place to shreds. I surveyed the damage before I wrangled my whining, exhausted son out of there and it looked like they had been robbed.

About a dozen heavy-duty Calphalon pots and pans and their lids littered the kitchen, making the space in front of the stove impassable. Papers and bits hung out of a half-open drawer near the front door. Half of the window blinds were pulled up. Stacks of coffee table books were now resting atop shoulder-height shelves. A lampshade was askance. Bits of food dotted the rug, and the never-used high chair was smeared with cheese and ground turkey grease.

“This is your future,” I told her as I rushed to grab the lamp chord out of my son’s hand. Her baby is 5 months old. She plays on an activity mat placed neatly on a clean carpet. Not for long, I told her.

My friend had heard about a service where you pay $20 or so for a consultant to come into your home and survey areas to childproof. Pay more and they’ll do the ’proofing for you.

My response: “So, you basically pay them $20 for what Silas just did in the first 45 seconds of being here? Pretty sure we took care of that for you.”

All she had to do was feed us a delicious taco dinner — and piece her lovely home back together when The Terror left town. Both of which she did as I thanked her and apologized profusely for the disaster zone we were leaving behind.

Baby proofing wasn’t too hard for us. We had the advantage of not having a home full of nice things. My main concern was – and still is, upstairs – protecting my son from ongoing home renovations. We don’t have crystal vases or coffee table photo albums – or a coffee table, really – but we do have un-hung sheetrock resting against the wall and entire rooms without baseboards.

What’s he doing? (Photo by Sara Michael)

Besides the construction projects (which, I will note, we are … er, my husband is… making progress on every day), there were the more standard childproofing hotspots: cabinet doors, un-mounted bookshelves, and electrical outlets. We moved any valued books and knick-knacks from child-reach, and blocked off the few outlets in use. We haven’t had to put up a baby gate in front of the stairs yet. Just don’t remind my son that stairs can be climbed and we should be OK.

On a side note, I didn’t see the need to invest in any of the expensive gadgets marketed to fearful first-time parents, either. So far it seems like the latches and covers from Home Depot are just fine. You could also use bungee chords.

I think there’s a balance here on the baby proofing. It’s impossible to make the entire house (or even just most of the downstairs) completely safe for a curious boy. The dog bowl still sits on the floor half-full of water. A couple of plants are still enticing my son to tug at their leaves. The TV and record player still teeter on tall stands.

You can’t ’proof it all. And do you want to? I want my kid to feel comfortable to explore and play in his own house, and removing all furniture and padding the walls would take away from some of the adventure.

And perhaps there’s a lesson in limiting the roam. He doesn’t have free reign in the world. So when his hand splashes into the dog bowl, we quickly and firmly say “no,” and pull him away. To this, he giggles and begins to crawl back to the bowl, so I am pretty sure he’s not getting the lesson yet.

A few childproofing tips

Most of the childproofing advice I found online seemed a little over-the-top for me, but here are a few things you might want to consider. One caveat is that every day I discover a new hazard (today: burner knobs on the stove) for which I must weigh whether to ’proof it:

  • Kitchen cabinet doors. At least secure the ones with the blender attachments and sushi knives. The one with the Tupperware and lids? Leave it open and let the kid explore. It’s not a bad idea to make sure the kitchen drawers have stops so they don’t slide right out on your kid’s head.
  • Electrical outlets. Put plastic plugs in all of them. For the one or two you actually use, put some barrier in front of them. We scooted two large speakers in front of the computer outlet.
  • Tall bookshelves. Bolt them to the wall or floor. Also remember to remove anything from the lower few shelves that you would prefer not be torn to shreds.
  • Foreign objects on the floor. I try to keep an eye out for pen tops, buttons, pieces of sheetrock – anything that might have fallen that could find its way into my son’s mouth.
  • Keep an eye out for what your kid’s getting into. Mine isn’t so interested in the stairs, but loves cabinets and doors. Let your kid’s curiosities verify where you need to baby proof.


I’m no expert. So here’s where you can get expert childproofing advice:


(Feature photo by Seth Darlington)