The challenge of making your home toddler proof.jpg

The challenge of making your home toddler proof

BY: Liz Ryan of Homes in Heaven

Email: [email protected]

BEING THE proud and weary mother of a 15-month-old boy (and a mum who is trying to run a business), I find that the things that should be done in advance do not always get done. In this instance, what I am referring to is making one’s house child safe or, more specifically, toddler safe.

What was once a reasonably safe house becomes a complete danger zone once the child in question gets on their feet and launches themselves on the world.

Our son Finn arose from all fours two weeks past his first birthday and, in the midst of the proud parents, the hazards awaiting were momentarily overlooked. It was all very well when he was crawling as he did not have the speed, the height or what seemed the inclination to get stuck into everything and I mean everything. However, once he was walking nothing was unworthy of exploration.

We set off on a Saturday to purchase all those gadgets, which our parents never had the luxury of having. These are the things that if you were not in the market for them you would wonder what in God’s name they are. In fact, I had that very question asked of me while buying some cupboard locks. In general, I found it difficult to source these items and so believe that in Portugal the children are either supervised more closely or disciplined more effectively. Suffice to say, it took more that one Saturday outing to fulfil the basic requirements.

The kitchen is where I found the greatest need for intervention and though you may have the option of keeping the toddler out of the kitchen, for most people this is unrealistic.

Cupboard locks are invaluable and though there are a number of different types available in the UK, the only ones I could find here are from Chicco. I also found that not only were these expensive (about 4.50 euros each), but they seemed to be in short supply and I had to go to three different Chicco outlets to get four.

There are also gadgets for fridge doors and drawers, again from Chicco. The former I found unnecessary and the latter too difficult to install or unsuitable for any drawers that have an overhang from the drawer or granite above.

Gadgets for the fridge can be used on other doors, but they have an adhesive segment so are not ideal for most wooden furniture. I have seen cooker shields on the internet, but have not managed to see them in any shop, so to date have managed without and just try to use the back rings of the cooker when my toddler is in the vicinity.

In more general terms, socket covers are also required. The simple types are readily available in most DIY shops and these serve the purpose, although they are tricky to remove when you actually want to use the socket. Apparently, there are other models, which can be left in the socket and have an opening device for inserting the plug. I say apparently, as I never found these. Corner protectors (also readily available) in my opinion were a waste of money, as they did not fit one piece of furniture I have where I thought the corners could be shielded.

One general comment I found very pertinent was the advice that you should worry more about the products that are used to keep things clean than the cleanliness of things. In other words, worry less about the dirt and the dirty things children will put in their mouths (choking risks aside) than you do about the bottles of bleach and detergent and so on.

I have seen many other items for sale on the internet, such as toilet locks, video locks and oven guards, but I think there are some areas where you just have to use a combination of supervision, or else you could find yourself dashing to the loo only to find in your urgency that you cannot undo the childproof lock!

In general, I just raised everything up above his reaching level and tried to keep cables and so on out of reach, but I am not looking forward to the time when he becomes more proficient in climbing, as I will have to have all ornaments hanging from the ceiling.

I have installed a pool fence as I believe this is one area where no amount of supervision is sufficient. I have managed to date without stair gates, as I cannot seem to buy any that extend beyond 130cm and, as many stairways are wider than this, I am resigned to getting some made.

The fire has not yet been lit and I am as yet unsure if a fireguard is necessary as the door on the fire that is standard, combined with close supervision, may be sufficient for the few occasions that we will light it while having a toddler in the vicinity. I suppose I am resigned to the fact that you cannot take your eyes off them for one second and there is little point in trying to put your feet up when they are around, as you have to be ready to jump should anything look dangerous.

Additional Christmas notes:

• Keep traditional decorative Christmas plants such as holly, mistletoe and poinsettias out of reach of children.

• Keep decorations at least six inches above reach.

• Keep ribbons or strings of decoration shorter than seven inches as they can get tangled around the neck and also cause choking.

• Avoid tinsel and decorations with small parts, as they may fall on the floor and, if eaten, can cause anything from distress to death.

• Never allow children to play with Christmas tree lights.

• Keep scissors and so on out of reach.

• Check wrapping of received gifts for choking hazards.

• Make sure toys are age appropriate and again do not present any choking hazards.