Would you ever have guessed that a little piece of metal that has innocently fallen from an appliance can choke a child? Even the most immaculate housekeeper, unless she is completely compulsive, is going to have debris under the furniture—you rarely get down there to see it. But your child lives down at that level. You need to see whether there is anything down there that can pose a danger, and if there is, put it out of Junior's reach.
Tools of the Trade
Momma Said There'd Be Days Like This
I had a camping pot that I used to keep in the car. Such pots have handles that adjust to either be stiff or to hang down on the side of the pot. My daughter, (aged about 4 or 5), put the pot on her head, wearing it like a hat. The only problem was that the handle latched under her chin and I could not for the life of me get it off her. The more she cried the more I laughed, wondering how I would explain it to anyone. I felt terrible, but I was laughing so hard that tears came out of my eyes. When I finally got myself together, we were able to unlatch the handle and free her from a lifetime of being referred to as a pot head.
Childproof drawer and cabinet latches are wonderful inventions. You can't blame a child for being a child, and it's the nature of the beast to want to get into stuff. You are endeavoring to create a child-friendly and mommy-friendly environment so that you can accomplish two things at once:
- You want to be able to live with your little terminator without constant worry and exhaustion.
- Your child wants the freedom to learn about the world around him.
Your child's goal is really yours as well—after all, you want to encourage your child to develop in a healthy way. Toddlerhood is the time when a child develops an initial concept of the way he or she relates to the world, so you want to encourage the exploration.
Install childproof latches on cabinets that contain things that can easily break or harm your child, and leave open cabinets with such things as pots and pans. They make a lot of noise, but they don't break easily and can keep your child busy and occupied while you are in the kitchen. They are also not known to cause injury. However, you never know what a child can accomplish if she tries hard enough.
Other Basic Tips
When it comes to keeping your child safe from toxic items like cleaners or household chemicals, even latches aren't secure enough. Such substances should be kept out of reach at all times. A determined toddler can manage some pretty amazing things that would stump even a Houdini. If you were really able to read their minds you would probably find that toddlers consider your efforts at childproofing to be kind of a game.
Children love to put their little fingers into electric outlets, and some even come up with the great idea that pointy metal items like scissors would be fun to stick in there. So outlet covers are great tools for protecting your child. Electrocution is a very real threat to toddlers and young children. But be prepared to discover that anything you can do, your toddler can undo, if he really puts his mind to it. My son, Joshua, wasn't even briefly deterred by outlet covers. He used to gather them up and hand them to me. Of course his nickname at this stage was “The Terminator,” so you've got some idea of how he operated. I had to resort to the super-deluxe outlet covers, which are available for just such situations.
Know Your Limits
You can't be perfect. Do not drive yourself crazy over every little thing. The best thing you can do is to childproof the identifiably dangerous parts of your environment as best you can and then develop a keen sense of where your child is at all times. It is tough on you, because this constant watchfulness means you are effectively tied down when your child is a toddler. But the best childproofing will always be your watchful eye and constant awareness of what your child is doing. If you don't see or hear your child, check immediately. Silence usually means that children are up to mischief.
Anticipate potential problems before they happen. Try to stay a few steps ahead of your toddler. If you think like a toddler and under-stand why he does the things he does, you will be able to figure out his next move before he figures it out.
Here are a few things to consider when you're making your environment safe:
- Watch the placement of hot beverages so your child can't spill them.
- Remove the knobs on your stove so your toddler can't accidentally turn on the burners.
- Only get childproof medicine bottles, no matter how careful you think you are.
- Never feed your toddler hard candies, hot dogs, popcorn, peanuts, or anything that can become lodged in her throat without dissolving.
- Keep your toddler in a child safety seat when you drive, no matter how good she is at slipping out of it.
Remember that you are bigger than he or she is and this is war.