Don’t Baby Proof the House

So many new moms and dads spend countless hours locking things, hiding things, putting things out of reach, and then stressing about going anywhere where the same level of “baby-proofing” hasn’t occurred.

Long ago, I realized there was a better way!

Rather than baby-proofing our house, we house-proof our baby!

It’s really a rather simple concept and one that was practiced by nearly all parents prior to the last generation or two.  Here’s what it looks like in our home:

1.  Be smart about the really toxic stuff.  We do lock one cabinet under the sink with this type of lock.

Otherwise, the really bad stuff (which we really don’t have that much of) is kept up on high shelves in rather unused areas of the house.

2.  Don’t lock up everything.  You will spend an eternity locking up everything that poses a problem.  For instance, my toddler (shown above) spent about a month trying out all the little shampoo samples that are kept under the sink in the bathroom.  He would mix and match all over the floor.  However, if I chose to lock up every little thing that toddler dreamed up to get into, I’d have nothing left in the house.

3.  Train, train, train.  This means saying no…and meaning no.

Back to the shampoo calamity…

In the beginning, I wasn’t firm (thus the reason he managed to get away with it for a month!)  However, once I realized he didn’t believe my “no,” I became much more dedicated and the dumping stopped almost immediately.  How did I do it?  Every time I found shampoo dumped out, I called in the 2 year old, showed him the mess, gave him a firm no and set about having HIM clean it up.  He didn’t like cleaning it up and quickly realized his messes were going to haunt him.

4.  Raise your expectations, lower your stress.  Sounds a bit contradictory, doesn’t it?  However, if you are willing to really take the time to train your children to leave things alone, you can raise your expectations and lower your stress at the same time.

plants

For instance, I expect my children to not play in the houseplants that are on the floor.  Therefore, the very first time I catch a child messing with the plants, I am right there with that firm no and a removal of their hand.

And then we stand there.

If they try again, same thing.  Eventually, they realize there is no way they are going to get by with touching that plant and they walk away.  Sometimes they have a relapse, but the result is always the same.  They quickly tire of not getting to do what they want to do and move on.

5.  Be consistent in your home and out of your home.  The rules need to be the same so that when you are guests in another home, your children know what to expect.  And kids get confused easily.  If you don’t allow jumping on beds in your home, but your friend Susie does and even encourages your children to join the jump fest, you may soon find your children in your own back bedroom using the bed as a trampoline.

If you are going to allow the rules to change, you better make sure you:

1) Have no toddlers – they just do not get the concept of different rules for different places

and

2) Debrief the children every single time the rules change – because no one of any age really gets the concept of different rules for different places.

There you have it!  A house-proofed baby who can go anywhere with you!  And that’s really the goal, isn’t it?  A family that can go places together!

 

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48 thoughts on “Don’t Baby Proof the House

  1. Great post! I remember with my first baby we babyproofed EVERYTHING….we even brought baby proofing things to people’s houses when we visited. Sigh.

    We knew something had to change when a guest of ours nearly peed themselves while trying to figure out our toilet seat locks!

    I did recently,however, have to get rid of one of our floor plants because my 11 month old was constantly getting into the dirt….how do you correct THAT behavior that young? It’s funny that the other girls never touched the plant but our Emmy was all about it!

  2. I COMPLETELY agree! With our first we were the typical new parents, trying to babyproof everything. However with each additional child, we came to realize that we needed to work with the child. Our 4th child has learned as he’s grown about what to leave alone. It really does make is so much simpler when you are at someone’s house (and at home!)

  3. Yep! I am visually impaired so, for safety, we have had to put up a childgate locking the kitchen off altogether (I can deal with spilling hot things on myself, I do it regularly, but I can’t risk spilling something hot on a crawling toddler who I don’t see coming, they don’t have as much skin available to burn!) That deals with a lot of the really dangerous stuff. We also keep the bathroom door shut (when she’s old enough to open it we may put a lock on the cabinet, not sure) and I have a childgate locking off the laundry because it dosen’t have a door, I keep most my cleaning chemicals in there, and I have heard way too many horror stories of children locking themselves in front loader washing machines and dryers while playing hide and seek.

    But other than those three things, which I consider the major dangers with chemicals and the like, we don’t childproof anything. She’s learning not to touch things on shelves except for ‘her shelf’, and that the toilet isn’t for playing, to be careful in mummys room and not to touch daddys paperwork. She’s learning (slowly, she’s stubborn, telling her no makes her want to do it SO much more!)

  4. I completely agree with this!! I can definitely tell when kids come over to our house who are used to a baby proofed home. I even keep small decorative items within reach, that are (gasp!) breakable, but just teach my kiddos not to touch them. I only keep up high the ones that would devastate me to see broken.

    Great post :)

  5. Just working on this today! Our second little one has started crawling, and daddy’s textbooks and papers by the bookshelf are just so tempting! The Christmas tree we haven’t taken down yet is great fun as well, apparently. ;)

  6. This is really a great concept! I admit, I do baby proof quite a bit out of convenience for myself, but we do make sure to leave some items and areas as normal in order to teach the children rules and discipline. We have stopped using childproof door latches and baby gates all together. My 3 year old learned the concept quickly, but my 18 month old still requires constant reinforcement. It takes work and consistency, but that is what parenting is all about!

  7. I admit it I am a baby proofer : ) And I’m three kids in. In my defense though they’re all under 3 and I have 2 stair cases in my house. I do train my children, but I am so worried in that ten seconds I’m two floors up tending to a baby someone will pull a piece of furniture on their heads. I became a little manic after reading about Dana from http://www.rosscommenacres.com. Sigh, some things no matter how baby proofed will always remain out of our control.

    • Dana’s story really hit me hard too and I definitely think we need to take precautions because we can’t be everywhere all the time. It’s the hyper-baby proofing where everything is kept out of reach that I think needs to be kept to a minimum. ;)

    • I agree that safety is number one. For years we had a tall gate at the top of the stairs because it was simply safer that way (especially with a child with night terrors who was prone to getting out of bed during the night).

      We do also anchor our tip-able furniture to the wall. Shortly after Dana shared her experience, we had our own *very minor* tipping incident. My 5 y/o son tipped over a tall chest of drawers, fortunately no one was injured. However, we have since anchored the replacement chest of drawers to the wall.

  8. We baby-proofed. Mainly just the kitchen…but boy is it baby proof. And my baby is now 4 1/2 yrs old. I think he would have been ok without it but I was lazy. I know I could claim it was all about his safety, but it was more about my “convenience.” If we have more children I will probably continue to baby proof but hopefully on a much less neurotic level.

  9. This is perfect timing for me, thank you! My son is 6 months old and our pediatrician just told me yesterday to start thinking about baby proofing. For us the most important thing will be securing furniture to the walls. Our house is really old and the floors tend to slope a bit so just touching things like our entertainment stand (on wheels) causes it to roll away from the wall. A little boy in our area just died from climbing up a dresser and having it fall on him so that is still fresh in our minds.
    I’m not concerned with chemicals much, we’ve been switching to natural cleaners and things for years and anything toxic is kept up high in the bathroom.
    What about choking hazards? For example, we had little round magnets on our dishwasher that my cousin’s toddler tried to eat recently. I hope they’re aren’t a lot of other things like that around that I just don’t realize are a problem.

    • I agree about securing things to the wall. We’ve had a similar situation and frankly tall dressers scare me. I’m not a fan of small magnets, so we don’t keep those around. We’ve also taught our children to spit things out when we say, “Out of your mouth.” It was just something we started from the beginning and has worked really well. (I’m also super-adept at the finger-sweep ;) )

  10. The only type of baby proofing we use it the outlet covers. When we lived in a place with stairs we had a baby gate. We are more like you, we train them on what to do (and not to do). Haven’t had many safety problems and we have a 3.5 year old and a 19 month old. Praise God!

  11. I completely agree. With our first, we baby proofed a bit (we also had an indoor dog at the time). But, as the years have passed and we’ve added two more children, there is very little child proofing in our home. Cabinet locks under the kitchen sink and outlet covers are the only child proofing we have in our home.

    I even leave breakables at toddler level.

    We’ve actually had better success with this method than with child proofing. They are able to see and visually explore the things they are not allowed to touch, rather than the item being a complete mystery and evoking the desire to find it and touch it. It also makes going to others’ homes so much easier.

  12. Amen! I’ve gone through the toddler years 5 times using only 1 cabinet lock, 1 baby gate and outlet covers. With an exception or two, I never moved knick-knacks, plants or china. I figured it was just easier to train them not to touch or get into things than worry every time we went somewhere that wasn’t “baby-proofed”. Yes, it took consistency on the front end, but I enjoyed reaping the rewards on the back end. We all survived toddlerhood without injury and with only a couple of messes. (No, I didn’t have all dainty girls. Included in my 6 toddlers were 5 sick/neglected/learning disabled foster children, 2 of which were twin boys!)

  13. Once they are “house-proofed” it can really cut down on the stress of taking them places. Yesterday I went with a friend to get my hair cut. We discussed the appropriate behavior…I packed snacks and books and my boys did so well! Not only were they well-behaved but the other ladies coming in enjoyed stopping and talking and playing with my boys. It was fun!

  14. I wholeheartedly agree with everything in this post! It is a lot of work but very much worth it! I do have baby gates up at the stairs. I want the boundary set that they can not go upstairs. I also have a gate going to the basement because the door does not shut tight.

  15. I have done this for years…all six of our little ones have learned fairly quickly not to touch the “pretties” we call them. I always tell mothers if you are just firm and consistant for a short time…the long run will be SO much easier!

  16. oh I totally agree!!! I would have this candle arrangement on my coffee table, and my toddlers were trained not to touch it and when Id have friends over with little kids they would ask I please put it up!!! uggg, I wanted to tell them to train their kids to not touch….they said it was too much work and the kids don’t listen…mine did because I took the time :)

  17. Pretties are a NO NO. We don’t do much baby proofing. Laundry is in the basement where they can’t get to, and I don’t keep much toxic under the sinks. We even have medicine in the sink cubboard but the kids only go there for bandages. I don’t have any house plants on the floor, but that is because of the cats not the kids.
    We have found it is easier to baby proof the baby. Then they can go anywhere with us and we don’t have to worry about them touching someones else stuff. Five kids later we have only had one broken lamp and this year the 1 year old made the cow and sheep in the manger kiss and they chipped. Other than that no major accidents. In fact we never have had a broken bone and only one set of stitches and that was from a accident in the yard. So I know it works. We have friends that have baby proofed everything and there kids are getting hurt all the time because they don’t understand limits.

  18. When our first was born (almost 5 years ago) I didn’t see the point in baby proofing the house. We were the ONLY people in our families to have babies since we were born. Our Grandparents and parents had long since gotten use to not having a baby proofed house. So we didn’t bother to baby proof anything. Our first baby was an awesome girl who really could care less about getting into anything so that worked out well.

    Baby #2, well…she is a different story! When my husband asks what I did each day I usually respond with “following Audrey around making sure she doesn’t kill herself and trying to fix the messes.”

    We finally ended up putting one of those stoppers under the kitchen sink, to keep her out of the trash can.

  19. in June we were blessed with 2 new boys ages 1 and 3. little boys who had been locked in a room or stroller most of the time. I forgot what having toddlers was like. It has taken months but I can now feel safe that they are not going to destroy your house. Have I told you recently how much I enjoy your blog, thank you

  20. I agree 100% that house proofing the baby is the way to go. With that in mind there are some general safety precautions that might should be taken depending on your child and house. You have to decide what you may need to do. We moved to a new house this summer. I’d really like a baby gate for the stairs, but we haven’t done anything else except keep the guest bathroom door closed to keep the almost 2 year old out.

    • Exactly! There are going to be certain safety precautions you MUST take, but then there are some that are just not necessary and really need training.

  21. I agree! Training has a lifetime effect as where babyproofing only works for a max of a year. We had a stair gate and that’s about it. It reminded me to be diligent in watching my daughter and always explaining to her why we don’t touch certain things and why we don’t clean out every cupboard in the house ;).

  22. I also wholeheartedly agree. We have outlet covers on and very dangerous things (knives, chemicals) are out of reach, but other than that our 15 month old is free to go wherever in the house, and is getting better at leaving things alone when we tell her to. Yes there are messes sometimes but she is also getting very good at helping to clean up!

  23. My husband and I taught our almost 2 year old the word danger, and what it meant,and she gets it! She will point at things she knows she’s not suppose to have, and won’t touch them! She just says danger! I think it’s important to teach them boundaries, our little ones understand a lot more then we give them credit for! Of course it is important to WATCH your children! If you leave a two year old alone for 5 plus minutes they will figure out something to get into! Pay attention, and teaching your child is all ya need :D

  24. Oh we don’t use “toxic” cleaners we just use organic/natural cleaners, but I still teach her that it’s dangerous, and that it’s just for mommy, and we keep up high so she can’t get into! We just keep things high rather then low and locked.

  25. Amy, I love all your posts! They are always on target with whatever we are facing and so encouraging! I agree with your post and all the comments, however, when im outnumbered with 5 children, 4 who are under 5, I am finding it difficult to be consistent because my attention is so divided. Any suggestions on that? By the end of the day somedays I feel like all I’ve done is correct and reprimand. I would love to know how others manage keeping on top of so many active little people by yourself (when hubby is at work), so that consistency is established.

  26. Goodness! I agree. I have 5 children including a 20 month old. With my first it was like a sterile, empty, home on complete lockdown. There was furniture basically, well not even the coffee table as I was too worried she would fall and split her lip. Now, my house is as a house full of children would look and I leave it as is (except for cleaners or meds). A much happier mama and toddler. She doesn’t even care about stuff because it’s always been there.

  27. I’ll add my name to the list of ‘we do this too’-ers! I have three ages three and under. All I have done is to put all house hold cleaners, soaps and lotions and what-nots up and out of reach. It’s the one thing the older two found completely irresistible while I was breast feeding. I love the peace of mind of knowing that they can bump their little heads, but they cannot find anything to drink themselves to death on!
    I also read that story of the furniture falling on the baby and we have anchored a few things, but I’m going to get on anchoring the rest. It really doesn’t take much to anchor things, just a couple screws and it’s so worth the peace of mind!

  28. Me too! We always did this. We do have to have childlocks on our cupboards now as I have a home based daycare and it is the law here in England, but lots of breakables are ‘to hand’ and ALL the little ones in my home and quickly trained. :)

    I would add that it has also helped to have some ‘ feel free to mess with this’ areas too. I have hundreds of colourful plastic cookie cutters. I put them in a basket on a bottom shelf and pull the corner temptingly out for kids to find.

    they spend hours playing with these and never seem to get interested in pulling out anything else! LOL! They all know this is ‘permitted’ and it makes it fun to get them out all over the place.

    (For hygiene worried people I will just state that we don’t wash them off each day but disinfect them when we want to use them for cookies again. Hehehe!)

  29. During the training stages I would put breakable items out of reach. I also use a light switch on the fingers if they didn’t respond to “no”. My two children are very determined not all children need it. We have some baby proofing because of hardwood stairs and our landlord asked for it. :)

  30. I’m sure I baby proofed more for my first, but now for my fourth… not so much. With one child it was possible to have no small items on the floor. Even though it is the rule in our house that lego should be put away, let’s be honest, lego is never really 100% put away, there is always that one little piece dropped somewhere. I am not going to tell my children that they can’t have lego because they now have a baby brother who will crawl soon. Instead, we do our best to have small toys, or small parts put away, and we teach our children to spit things out when asked.
    I keep my cleaning supplies out of reach, but I also make sure to teach my children safety with these items as well. I was shocked when a friend came to visit one day, and her nearly 3 year old was able to open the child locks. She was spraying cleaner into her mouth! Thankfully it was an all natural, non toxic cleaner. Her mom seemed to think it was funny ” oh well, she wouldn’t know that she can’t drink cleaners. At home I put water into empty cleaner bottles and let her do that for fun.” I’m pretty sure my jaw hit the floor!

    Eventually, kids will figure out whatever locks, tricks and traps you use to childproof, so it is not enough on it’s own. Yes it’s more work to teach them the why’s and how’s of safety, and of respect for homes, but it’s worth it!

    • Oh, and one more thought… I did leave out some items that were breakable or destroyable, but the few heirlooms etc that I had, I put away. Yes, I want my kids to learn, but the irreplaceable ones? Better safe than sorry until they are a little more reliable in my opinion.

  31. We do it this way. I came about it differently though. My laziness seems to be the opposite of most peoples’ though. Before I had kids I hated being in other peoples’ baby proofed kitchens. I always found myself needing to throw something away while my hands were dirty from whatever mess I was trying to clean up. Well how do you get at a garbage can behind a proofed cabinet at that point, hmm? I decided there would be no child proofing in my kitchen! I’d rather deal with the children than fight locks for all my multiple times a day tasks. So we’ve just trained them.

  32. It seems crazy that what was normal to our parents and grandparents has become such a big deal to us! I think unfortunately we’ve bought into the commercialism, there’s so much “stuff” you can buy to make things safer instead of just disciplining consistently. Of course you must use common sense. We keep a few cabinets locked and bathroom doors are always shut (my 17 month old likes to play in sinks and i’ m not always fast enough, we’re working on it) but I cringe when we watch something where a couple is looking to buy a new home and complains when they find one with stairs! We’ve had two babies in houses with steep farmhouse stairs. No broken bones, yet:) They simply learn the right way to go up and down and before they are truly capable you use a gate. Parents have forgotten where the control truly lies.

  33. What do you suggest to us who have been Blessed with Multiples! Thanks… Mine are currently 21 months and into everything!

    • Well, I’ve never had multiples, but I have had a few of them very close together and they were also into everything! lol My grandmother who had twins invested in a playyard to keep them corralled during certain times of the day. It’s not cruel…it’s safe. ;)