Child-Proofing vs. House-Proofing

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Parents often wonder if they should child-proof their house or house-proof their child. If you read my baby-proofing post, you will see that I am one who likes to house-proof my child. In it, I have lots of reasons for why I do so, along with good safety ideas for what definitely should be done to “child-proof” your home.

I was recently contemplating why some children have respect for the property of others and why some don’t. Some children seem to believe everything within their reach is fair game. They will take it, play with it, and leave it wherever they happen to be standing when they are done. You might live near such children and find everything outside needs to be under lock and key or you will never see it again!

These are not children who are trying to steal or even really knowingly being rude. They just don’t realize that there are things they shouldn’t touch.

I know children like this. They are children who are raised by wonderful parents who teach them strong morals and values. I have also known adults like this. It got me thinking.

As I thought about children old enough to make decisions of whether or not to touch things with the realistic expectation of them obeying, my thoughts led to the home. I realized that homes that were child-proofed rather than house-proofed were producing children who didn’t have knowledge and control to not touch the property of others. I am not talking other kid’s toys; I am talking things in your garage or even cars. Whatever they can reach is fair game.

And doesn’t that just make sense? Doesn’t it make sense that  a child who is given no physical restrictions in the home will carry that over around the neighborhood? Doesn’t it make sense that the child who is allowed to be overly physically active in the home with balls and other toys because there is nothing breakable around will translate that into the homes of others? Of course they will!

House-proofing your child helps your child to learn boundaries. It helps your child to learn respect for others and for the possessions of others. You can’t touch whatever you want whenever you want in the real world. When Brayden was 9 months old and I was following the advice to leave some things to be “off-limits” to him, I had no thought about this benefit. As I told him over and over again to not touch a coveted item, I had no idea that it would lead to him having a respect for the property of other people. What a blessing to me, my neighbors, and himself!

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Valerie, also known as The Babywise Mom, is the mother to four children. She has been blogging on Babywise and general parenting since 2007. She has a degree in technical writing and loves using those skills to help parents be the best parents they can be! Read her book, The Babywise Mom Nap Guide, to get help on sleep from birth through the preschool years. You can also find her writing at, Today Parenting, and Her View From Home. Read more about Valerie and her family on the About page. Follow her on FacebookPinterest, and Instagram for more tips and helps.

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  1. Megan D
    March 18, 2010 / 4:58 PM

    thank you for this post! It is encouraging to know that the 100 no's I say a day to my 13 month old will pay off. 🙂 we have certain things at our house that are off limits and it seems to take her awhile to get it but she eventually does. One issue is the kitchen cabinets, I will think she gets it but then she is right back in them two days later. I have designated a drawer for her that has toys/kitchen items in it so it seem to help to redirect her to that but not everyday. i have found a huge correlation between how tired she is and her ability to obay my voice. Just another reason to do BW. 🙂

  2. Heather Meadows Marshall
    March 18, 2010 / 7:40 PM

    Amen!!! Thank you for posting this! I couldn't agree with you more. I am always so baffled at children that come into my home & grab or get into what I feel should be a known "no-no!" It is so disrespectful! Not to mention potentially dangerous. This especially irks me when their parents (even babywise & strict parents) don't make any attempt to stop them and act like I'm in the wrong for having (gasp) breakables in my home! How do they handle their children in any store, restaurant, or at grandparent's house???

  3. Kristin
    March 18, 2010 / 8:56 PM

    We did not child-proof our house and have taught our son what he can and can not touch etc, but he (a 3 1/2 year old) constantly feels free to go into our neighbors garages and take whatever he pleases. I'm working on teaching him about this (asking permission, not going somewhere that's not your own unless invited etc), but in the process I'm embarrassed and driven crazy. Any suggestions?

  4. Kristin
    March 18, 2010 / 8:56 PM

    And thanks!

  5. Amanda
    March 19, 2010 / 1:32 AM

    How true! I never understood as a kid when I'd have friends over and they'd grab things that were obviously off limits or just dig my toys out of the closet to play with! I'm talking 10 year olds too, not just preschoolers. Another thought to keep in mind, imagine 26 five-seven year olds in a classroom, none of whom understand proper boundaries when it comes to other people's property. Think on that a bit, let your imagination run wild with bad possibilities, and then you may have an inkling of what my classroom looked like in the first 2 months of school when I was a first year teacher, lol!

  6. Jade
    March 19, 2010 / 3:53 AM

    I have a situation similar Kristin. From the beginning we have home-proofed our now 3 year old daughter. People have been amazed at what we can leave around that she does not touch, even when we are not in the room with her. However, I have noticed that when other children are over, who do not have the same training, or we are at their house, she seems to go crazy. Recently I have been explaining to her about being a good example to her friends. Not sure what else to do! And, how do you deal with children who come into your home without this training?

  7. morgendee
    March 19, 2010 / 12:57 PM

    hey, Val! thanks so much for sharing this! also LOVED, LOVED the yahoo group comments on this! I'm sharing with "Mr Safety" (hubby)!!! THANKS AGAIN AND AGAIN!Love, Morg

  8. AnnDee
    March 19, 2010 / 4:37 PM

    I am so glad that I too decided that house-proofing was worth it. When my LO started crawling, I taught him "no" and "no touch". I told my sister-in-law that we were working on learning no, and she just said, sarcastically, "Good luck with that!" It made me twice as motivated to prove that a 9-month-old DOES understand no, and CAN learn to listen. My LO is now 10 and 1/2 months, and does fantastic at not touching when he is told not to. He doesn't do it 100% of the time, but probably about 80%, which is pretty amazing. My SIL's daughter is now 1and is, well, a terror! I am so glad babywise mentioned this, and that I put it into action! I have the best baby!

  9. The Blocks
    March 20, 2010 / 2:50 AM

    OK, I get the benefits of this method…but I just don't see in my every day life how it would work. I feel like I'd be saying "no no no no no no no" 1,000 times a day if I didn't have cabinet locks etc. especially in places where there are chemicals under the sink etc.?? It is just nice to be able to let my kiddo run around and explore without having to stay on top of her all day worrying she's going to take a nip of draino while I'm not looking. Am I missing something?

  10. Redheads
    March 20, 2010 / 5:16 PM

    The Blocks – yes, you want to go ahead and put away/lock away potentially dangerous and deadly items. What you don't want to do is put things like your remotes, DVD player, TV, etc. out of reach. Baby needs to learn boundaries.

  11. Shannon
    March 22, 2010 / 5:54 PM

    Redheads – Thanks that makes much more sense! I never really understood what was up with "not babyproofing" but that totally makes sense. That's pretty much what we do around here, so looks like I'm on track 🙂

  12. Plowmanators
    April 5, 2010 / 10:36 PM

    You are welcome to everyone!

  13. Plowmanators
    April 5, 2010 / 10:43 PM

    Kristin, I think if it were me, I would have a policy for a while that he can't play out front without direct supervision. Tell him since he can't control himself to stay out of other people's things, that you or Daddy have to be out with him when he is playing where he can get to other people's things. Then take the opportunity to remind him over and over while you are outside with him what is okay and what isn't.Once you think he has it, I would do the "ask and tell" approach I outlined last week. Each time before he goes out, tell him the rules. Also tell him what consequence will happen if he breaks the rules. Good luck!

  14. Plowmanators
    April 5, 2010 / 10:44 PM

    oh. Amanda. That stresses me out just thinking about it!

  15. Plowmanators
    April 5, 2010 / 10:45 PM

    Jade,Oh my goodness. I really don't know. I face similar situations. Perhaps I will post this as a "Help a Reader" out question to help us both!

  16. Plowmanators
    April 5, 2010 / 10:50 PM

    The Blocks,I put all of my cleaner up high (I can barely reach it while standing on a chair). If I didn't have a place I could put it up high, then I would put it in a cabinet and lock it. None of my cabinets or drawers have locks. In fact, when we moved in to this house 6 months ago, every cabinet and drawer had locks and we took them off. It does take work initially. I trained all of my kids before age one to listen to my instruction. With all three children, I have never had a problem at all with cabinets and drawers not being locked. So from my experience, it can definitely be done.

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