the sad science of safety proofing

house and hammer

Greetings from The House of Too-Little-Too-Late where we have very good intentions, an under-abundance of time, and a fifteen month-old who suddenly moves at the speed of light. Our previously cozy home has recently come to seem like a series of edges as sharp as comic book lightening bolts. Innocent chairs loom like perilous cliffs. Appliances teeter on counter tops and lamps threaten to tumble like boulders.

What we at the home tome have learned so far about safety proofing is that, like any science, it’s…imperfect. As far as we can tell, many of the childproofing gadgets out there are only partially effective and they cause almost as much annoyance as reassurance. Besides, it’s impossible to predict your toddler’s exact proclivities and accurately assess your home’s particular dangers. The truth is that most implementations are reactive; in other words, they are put into effect after an incident. (And we can only hope these “incidents” don’t require a trip to the ER…)  There is no doubt that our attempts thus far have helped, but there is also no way of knowing what we’ll need to do next.

Here’s the gate we got to enclose an area in our living room we now call “the playground”:


We installed this when Ian started crawling. It is unclear how long this set-up will last. He will still stay in here for fairly long stretches before yearning to hit “the open road” i.e. the rest of the house, but surely our days are numbered. Also: this gate is of course supposed to be attached to walls at both ends, and though the gate is pretty long, it wouldn’t reach any two walls in our open-ish floor plan. So we attached one end to the slipcover of the chair with wire:

safety gate attached with wire

As our son gets heavier and stronger and commences his inevitable mountain/gate-climbing career, that little wire attachment will be quickly compromised.

This Skip Hop rubber flooring has been wonderful:

rubber flooring for baby

Until he discovered what a joy it is to pull apart:


We just broke down and got the cabinet latches most people with toddlers seem to have:

cabinet latch

Yes, they keep the baby away from the pots, pans and cleaning products, but so far they also keep these items conspicuously far away from the cabinets, too, i.e. they instead get piled up on the counter when you’re in a rush. If there were just 45 more seconds in each day, I would have time to take off these latches, return the contents to their rightful cabinets, and then put the latches back on…

The same goes for these frustrating drawer latches:

drawer latchIMG_5206

I think I actually heard this little gadget laugh at me today when it took me three tries to retrieve a simple spoon. Besides, the drawers still open about two inches, just enough room to pinch tiny fingers.

These are the rubbery things we purchased to put around our coffee table and end tables:


They are super-soft and would certainly protect a small person from hurting his precious face on the edge of a table IF they weren’t so easy for that same small person to pull away from the adhesive. And why keep these attached to a table when you could wave them around triumphantly as if you just caught a hilarious snake?

Note that it only takes about .00004 seconds for a 15 month-old to pull off bubble wrap that has been frantically attached to a table with blue painter’s tape:


This ad hoc attempt at childproofing was highly reactive. Our son face-planted into the edge of this table last weekend while having a grand ol’ time doing laps around that adjacent chair. Though this incident didn’t require a trip to the ER, the blood spooked us at first. No stitches were needed, but a monster-sized blood blister formed on the side of his lip. Feeling panicked, we pulled out this completely ineffectual bubble wrap. (Next plan of action: getting rid of the table all together.)

Fireplaces are challenging. The edge of our cement hearth is terrifyingly jagged Just looking at it makes me shudder:


They do sell hearth pads for this purpose, but they are pricey and none of them seem to have been designed with our hearth’s exact dimensions in mind. For the time being, we’ve created a barrier with pouf/ottomans:


We already had the round CB2 poufs from B.B. (Before Baby) but we recently tracked down the square poufs from Walmart. The problem is that: 1) They are extremely light and easily lifted by baby body-builders-in-the-making and swiftly transported across the room, leaving the hearth completely exposed and 2) They are so nice to climb on in order to get a closer look at the television. Once the child’s face is two inches from the screen, his balance is compromised, causing him to topple and bang his face right into the edge of the TV shelving, an edge pretty much as sharp and hard as the hearth we were originally covering. (True story, sigh.)

There is obviously a lot more work to be done at the home tome safety laboratory: most of it will be experimental and much of it will probably “fall” short, but we’re trying…

Do you have any safety-proofing tips? As always, both genuine and sarcastic comments are enthusiastically accepted.

11 replies

  1. Tot Locks! Magnetic wonders that are invisible and highly efficient. Although they require an initial ‘investment’ of that ever elusive time for installation, they are so secure that even adults cannot open the doors without the magnetic key (*make sure you have two!). However, one little tap of that key and they click right open. Ingenious, streamlined, and seriously safe – one could hide the crown jewels and burglars would throw up their hands. As for the fireplace, we had many mantle incidents ourselves … but one thing that sometimes worked was to frantically yell “HOT!” whenever the littles would wander too close. Maybe you could draw a fabulous fire picture and tape that to the edge … 🙂

    • ha ha! love it! I want to yell HOT in all scenarios from here on out – unfortunately, that might not work since he currently thinks warm items are “hot” and things with a lot of taste, like mangoes, are hot (?).

      tot locks – will look into those! thanks 🙂

  2. So funny. I feel your pain Jocelyn. The crazy things you do to be practical. My mum used a playpen. She put herself in it with the sewing machine and left my sister on the outside to roam freely. Apparently that was the most effective solution…

    • ha ha ha! I love that image. I have tried to imagine the same idea for my exercise bike – I can’t ride that thing in my son’s presence – he is just WAY too intrigued by the pedals, the chains, etc…

  3. We put furniture in front of our stone fireplace too, then when we moved to a place with a gas fireplace we kept the coffee table in front of it so my son wouldn’t touch the hot part. So much for nicely arranged furniture!

    I hate to admit this, but I actually got rid of the electrical outlet covers just recently and my youngest is 8!

  4. My son pulls the outlet plugs right out of the outlets. I actually replaced the entire outlet with one that you have to slide to use. Much easier! But really, it’s like living in lockdown for years…and years… On a different note, I see you live in Nyack…I grew up in Rockland (New City)! Now we live right across the river. So hello from a neighbor blogger 🙂

Comments welcome here!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s