Tips for Baby-Proofing Your Home

Tips for Baby-Proofing Your Home. What to baby proof and what to leave out. You don’t want to make everything indestructible. 

Older baby peeking around the corner

When it comes time to baby proof your house, I would recommend you not go overboard. You do not need to baby proof every single thing.

Of course it is wise to do what is necessary for the safety of your children. For example, put outlet covers on your outlets, move your household cleaners out of the reach of your children, secure bookcases to the wall if needed, perhaps a gate for the stairs, etc.

It is also wise to remove or move anything that you would be devastated over if it were destroyed. If you have heirloom china out from your great-grandmother, perhaps that would be good to put in a safe place until you know your child will obey you and not touch it.

Once you have things fully safe and the valuables moved out of the way, there is very little you need to do. You don’t need to lock up every cupboard and drawer. You don’t need to move everything out of the reach of your child. You needn’t have bare shelves and tables. Doing that removes learning opportunities for your child. It is okay to have items that are off-limits that your child can reach. In fact, I it isn’t just okay, it is a good idea.

What to Baby Proof

On Becoming Baby Wise, Book Two (affiliate link) talks about baby-proofing starting on page 97. “Parents need to be concerned with important safety issues.” You need to make your child’s environment safe. Exactly what is needed is going to depend on your child. Let me illustrate. Brayden (now 3) has never been a climber. He has also always been very obedient. Kaitlyn (14 months old) is also very obedient, but is also a climber.

With Brayden, I never needed to consider anchoring a bookcase to a wall because he had never even considered climbing one, much less tried it. Kaitlyn went through a stage of considering climbing everything, so anchoring bookshelves is something we did for her safety.

Also, Brayden never tried to stick something into an electrical outlet. When he was a baby, we put the covers on all outlets. We moved into a larger house when he was 13 months old. We didn’t have enough outlet covers for all outlets, and never worried about it. I knew things would be different with Kaitlyn, however, so we covered all outlets. At 9 months, Kaitlyn was trying to stick things into outlets and trying to pull the covers off. You will have to evaluate your safety needs based on your child, and evaluate with each child. Safety is important.

What Not To Baby Proof

As Babywise II points out, there is an illegitimate side to baby-proofing. I discussed this earlier in this post. “…rearranging the entire living room so that the child is never put into a dangerous position where restrictions apply [is illegitimate]” (pages 97-98). Yes, some of your items are dangerous. Remove them. Some of your items are irreplaceable. Remove them. But don’t remove all of the items your child could touch.

Have items in your home that re off-limits. This is a great teaching opportunity for your child. There will often be times you enter another home, be it relatives, friends, or acquaintances. They should not have to redecorate to accommodate your visit, and your child shouldn’t be allowed to play with whatever interests him there.

Why Not Baby Proof  Everything

Take this opportunity to set boundaries for your child in your home. “Future behavioral problems that result from the lack of boundary-setting are usually more serious than those engendered by the opposite extreme overly strict discipline” (page 98). By the way, this statement doesn’t give you free licence to be as strict and over-bearing as you desire. As discussed in Childwise, you want to find the proper balance in parenting. But if you have to err toward one side of the other, don’t let it be toward too much leniency. You can always grant freedoms easily, but it is always a challenge to take freedoms away.

“A child raised with immediate self-gratification early in life is less prepared to handle the conflict that boundaries create later on–and usually the child’s parents are too” (page 98). You likely will not need to do much of any rearranging or redecorating if you follow the principles of Babywise. I haven’t had to. I haven’t changed one thing about the way the house is decorated with the addition of Kaitlyn to our family.

Does that mean she has never touched things she shouldn’t? No. There are certain things she has had great temptation with. But with consistency, she doesn’t mess with them anymore (though now she likely will mess with it all day today 😉 ). Brayden also had his one item that proved to be very tempting for him. He always wanted to touch it and I often had to tell him no. I left it out. He got very good at obeying my voice. When we would visit friends, they would be in shock that my 12 month old would stop himself when I told him to. I didn’t have to physically remove him or physically hold him back. He did that himself.

Baby Proofing as a Babywise Mom

As a Babywise mom, you likely will also need fewer “safety” measures also. I don’t want you to read that and think you shouldn’t do safety measures in order to teach your child. Safety comes first. Save the teaching for your books and decorations. I mean real safety. Locking up every cupboard in the house is not a matter of safety, it is a matter of supposed convenience for the parents. They have fewer messes to deal with and less conflict.

But what happens when your cute little 13 month old throws a fit because she wants that cupboard open? Do you open it for her? Then what about that 20 month old who learns how to open it herself and then has a joyful time spreading the contents around the kitchen. Do you think the 20 month old will be easier to teach than the 10 month old? If so, you have yet to meet a 20 month old. It might be easier to teach the 20 month old the alphabet, but not this self-restraint (unless said 20 month old already has been expected to practice restraint).

Safety means things that can harm or kill your child. Do what is needed. You will probably find your Babywse baby getting into things less because she has things to do. She has structure. She isn’t left all day to entertain herself and find fun. You are aware of where she is when because of your daily routine.

I would also recommend you teach your child to not do things even if they are now “safe.” Go back to the electrical outlet and Kaitlyn. After three times of her trying to get into it, I haven’t seen it since. I instructed her not to do that (lest you be discouraged, she hasn’t only taken three times on everything in life, but in this case it was three). The outlets might not be a problem at my house, but what about grandma’s? What about at church?

Climbing the bookcase might be safer once it is anchored, but is that acceptable behavior? No. I don’t know that every bookcase she will see for the next six months while she so desperately wants to climb will be anchored. So even though she could safely climb it, that is still a “no” item for her. So making an item safer for your baby doesn’t magically make it acceptable.

You can  have safety features up at most times but take them down for teaching moments. I have a friend who had a baby gate at the bottom of the stairs for her son. She would at times take the gate down to have practice sessions to teach him not to go up the stairs. She would always have it up if she couldn’t pay 100% attention to him. She moved away from needing a baby gate.

I know this sounds like a lot of work to not baby proof everything, and it is. But the more work you put in now, the more you can enjoy your children as they get older. It is well worth the effort!

Edited to Add:
I wanted to add some thoughts from Tracy Hogg, author of Secrets of the Baby Whisperer, to this post. She says when her girls were young, she removed dangerous chemicals and blocked off certain doorways, but also knew she needed to teach her girls to respect her possessions. She cautions against childproofing so much that you removing learning opportunities from your child. She lists some dangers to prevent:

  • Poisoning. Move all dangerous chemicals up, don’t just lock. They learn really quickly how to open the “child-proof” areas, which is just even more reason to train rather than lock everything up. As I said above, it isn’t worth risking your child will get hurt to leave the dangerous items low. Mine are up high.
  • Airborne pollutants. Check your home for radon. Install smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. Quite smoking.
  • Strangling. Keep blind cords and electric wires out of reach. My cords are wrapped around those cord holders you screw to the wall.
  • Electric shock. Cover outlets. Have light bulbs in all lamps.
  • Drowning. Don’t leave baby alone in tub.
  • Burns and scalding. Stove knob guards. My stove has the knobs on top of the stove. Set water heater to 120 degrees.
  • Falling and stairs accidents. Gates if needed.
  • Crib accidents. Be sure your crib is safe. She also doesn’t like bumpers, but I do use them.

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Reader Questions:

  • Emily_Colorado said…
    First of all, thanks SO much for an amazing blog! Before I had my LO I thought BW would be super easy – baby would just do what I wanted her to do! Oopsy! Forgot she was going to be human! After a terrible ordeal with GERD and frustrations with “pattern” scheduling I’m finally getting somewhere with my almost 4 month old – because of you! Bless you for all of your work! I felt so encouraged when I first saw your site! You and your blog are an answer to prayer! Quick question: When did you stop using your crib bumpers? I see differing stuff on the internet and in books.Thank you!
    October 4, 2008 11:18 AM
    Plowmanators said…

    thanks Emily! I think we all thought it would be easy before the baby came along…then we all had that reality check. With my son, I didn’t start using crib bumpers until he was 7 months old then continued using them until he moved out of his crib (around 20-21 months old).With my daughter, she had bumpers from birth until about 12ish months old.The thing is, I have no real logical reasoning for what I did. The reason I stopped with my daughter is that I washed the bumpers at that age and they were such a pain to get straightened out again we didn’t want her to get them dirty again! Bumpers have never been something I worried about, but there are a lot of varying opinions out there. My thought is do what you think and feel is best for your baby.
    October 6, 2008 3:26 PM
Tips for Baby-Proofing Your Home. What to baby proof and what to leave out. You don't want to make everything indestructible.

4 thoughts on “Tips for Baby-Proofing Your Home”

  1. My daughter is 11 months old and we are st a cross roads on what to do with her as far as discipline. We have tried: squeezing her hand, using our firm voice and eye contact, removing her from the area she is “messing with”, diverting her attention with something that is “hers” to play with instead of something that is not, etc. None of that seems to work. She is VERY headstrong and I have noticed that she has started to do something she knows is a “no” and will wait for me to look at her before she does it. Or she will do it and look right at me while she does. I know that she knows it is off limits but she won’t stop. I think she is WAY to young to get spankings…. but what about a very short time out? Please help. I want to stop this before it gets out of hand. We are consistant in our house with her so I don’t think that is the problem, but I am willing to listen and try (almost) anything. Thanks for all your helpful advice!

  2. She is most likely testing your consistency.I would recommend you review BW II and the Highchair Manners chapter. It talks about discipline methods for 10+ month olds. They say hand-squeeze should be an attention getter and not a punishment. They also say spanking at this age is inappropriate (and I personally never spank). Isolation can work well. It wasn’t something for Brayden, but it worked for Kaitlyn.Remain consistent, continue to experiment to find her “currency” and remain patient. It takes time for them to “concede” to your instruction. The good news for you is the younger they start this, the easier toddler years can be (assuming you are consistent and firm from the beginning). Be sure to also look through the discipline blog label for further ideas. You also might want to read through Toddlerwise since that starts at age 12 months and has a lot on discipline.

  3. My son is 14 months old and I am having the same problem as "The Traveling Turtle". The more my son learns that something is off limits, the more he wants it–it's a game for him. He looks and me and smiles and laughs and gets so excited because he knows that I'm going to come over and remove him from the situation, or tell him no, etc. I know that he wants the reaction, so ignoring tends to work well, but certain things can't be ignored, and these are the areas I am struggling with. I think maybe part of my problem is that he crawled very late (just 3 weeks before he turned 1), so he wasn't mobile and getting into things very young. So by the time I had to start all of this, he was older and more headstrong. Whatever the reason, I'm very frustrated. I have been consistent, but I've seen no improvement. Any suggestions?

  4. Lisa,McKenna (my youngest) was very similar except that I had been working boundaries with her from a very young age. Right around the time she was between 15 and 15.5 months old it just clicked and she was so much more obedient.So it might be a certain age he needs to turn, or it might be a certain amount of time that needs to pass, but believe me that as you are consistent and patient, the day will come when you will see the fruits of your labors.


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