Childproof your home — not your life

Guest post by Nikki Cupcake

DANGER! DANGER! DANGER!I’m starting to get ready to baby proof our home. My little monster is just about to hit the 4 month mark and with my luck will go from rolling over straight to running. I’ve been researching what you should baby proof and I came across diagrams for every room with everything highlighted.

I started looking at some of the contraptions used to keep little hands away and some of these things creep me out! Some of the things used to protect my little one looked more dangerous than what they’re being protected from. It really makes me think, are we teaching kids to respect the adult world or are we teaching them to fear it?

While I was pondering that question, I came across an article in the January 2010 Parent magazine (“French Lessons” by Debra Olliver) about a woman who was born and raised in the US and moved to France where she raised her kids. She talks about how people in France raise their kids so differently than in the US. The women talked about how children are aren’t treated like little royalty and are taught to respect things unlike here, and they most defiantly don’t baby proof. In the US, I feel like everything is baby proof, especially our personal lives. All you do worry something bad is going to happen.

We as parents want to protect our children, but I think we’re over protecting them 90% of the time.

I thought about the article and it makes a lot of sense. We baby proof our lives so much we get scared. We as parents want to protect our children, but I think we’re over protecting them 90% of the time. We as a culture are taught to over medicate and over protect our children. Just look at the baby care industry for proof. Next time you’re in your pediatrician’s office look at the drug company posters on the wall or the pen used to fill out your child’s newest prescription. When my son was born, I was told not to take him out in public for 4 – 6 weeks! I then became slightly paranoid for a day my son would come down with every illness. The next day I realized I was being paranoid so we went out and took a walk to the park. Remember, you eat a pound of dirt before you die.

So now, thinking much clearer, I’m able to make the right choices for me to baby proof my home and not baby proof my life. I figure since I take my son everywhere as it is, he’ll respect people … he might as well respect objects too. I will teach my son how to respect things and not fear them. What good has ever come from someone fearing something?

Don’t get me wrong: I will still put outlet protectors in all the outlets and keep all cords and strings out of reach. I won’t let my son get near anything poison or anything too hot … but do I really need to lock the toilet?

Comments on Childproof your home — not your life

  1. So Nikki, where did you find those articles? I'd like to have a looksie as to the kind of differences you're talking about, cross-culturally 🙂 Thanks!

  2. I never really got the toilet thing? I mean, I guess to stop them from flushing mermaids (as this is what happened last night at my girlfriends house with her 3 year old) but otherwise, what's going to happen with the toilet? Slam their fingers in the lid maybe? I guess.

    Great post! I was just thinking about this the other day when someone told me "wow you're house is so nice looking, you're really in trouble when the baby comes and you have to put everything away" and I was thinking "how do I put the fireplace mantel away?". And I SO don't want to have to wrap it in pipe foam and duct tape!

    • I’d rather my daughter didn’t lift the lid and touch inside the toilet, but I don’t let her in the bathroom if I’m not there. Perhaps it’s an issue of germs?

    • Regarding the toilet: I think the fear is potential drowning. It could happen and has happened, but I’m sure is extremely unlikely because yeah… who lets their child play unattended in the bathroom. So I had the same attitude regarding toilet locks and never bothered. HOWEVER! Now my son is 16 months old and mobile and into everything. Not only does our bathroom door not even latch, so we can’t just close the door, but not a day goes by that I manage to make it through my morning personal hygiene routine without having to pull a toy out of the toilet or wash a screaming toddler’s hands yet again because he was splashing around in there like it was the local swimming pool. And so now, those toilet locks are looking pretty good to me.

  3. I was hesitant to let my boyfriend's sister come over with her toddler, and I was relieved to hear her say that she's not worried that my house isn't "babyproofed" yet. I'll do a few things before they get here (get some baby gates for the stairs, probably some outlet covers), but since I or my boyfriend will be with that child the entire time, I don't think we'll really need them 🙂

  4. I found that article in Parent magazine, i looked online for a link, but couldn't find one. i'll look around some more because it really made me laugh

    in one part the author talking about watching french moms walking on cobble stone wearing stiletto heels, pushing strollers and not falling, i wish i could do that!

  5. I think one of the reasons we over-protect our children is because we sort of have this cultural feeling that if we do EVERYTHING right, nothing bad will happen. Of course, this is crazy – just read first-hand accounts about, say, babies accidentally left in a car, and it's pretty easy to see that even with products in place to prevent the accident, something still went wrong.

    I'm not saying it's OK to leave a toddler unsupervised by a pool, but I think it's safe to leave an uncovered socket or two!

  6. my "other" and i have decided not to baby proof at all, i think at most i'll buy a gate to block off the kitchen and stairs.

    and i would HIGHLY suggest outlet covers. my parents believed in the no baby proofing too. we had just moved and there were speaker cords every where in our living room and me being the 2 and half year old i was knew wires got plugged in the outlets. so i took the speaker cords and shoved them into the outlet. causing a whole half of our house's electricity to go nutty

    • Those outlet covers can backfire: by the time I was 8 years old, I was so intrigued by the taboo of sticking objects in outlets, that I stuck a fork into the outlet just to see what would happen (it shocked me and tripped the circuit breaker). By the time I was 12, I was doing my own “science experiments” using the outlets. Forbidden fruit.

  7. we gave up on babyproofing after i bought those foam protectors for corners and alice just ripped them off. ha ha.
    our method of babyproofing was really just to create more room for her to play, so we got rid of our coffeetable, mounted our TV on the wall and mounted a floating shelf so we could get rid of the TV console. we have a gate between our living room and the hallway that contains the kitchen and bathroom, but that is mostly to keep her from getting underfoot while I'm cooking.

    • I never knew foam corner protectors were a thing O_O For the corners of tables and things, or is it walls, or is it a combination?

      I remember whacking myself off corners a few times as a child. It taught me to try to avoid them – but this hasn’t stopped me whacking myself off corners as an adult with no excuse 😀 Maybe I should get them now . . .

  8. I don't plan on doing much if any baby proofing. The thing is, my parents didn't and I'm here and doing fine, I think kids need to get dirty, get exposed, build immunities and learn to respect things that aren't theirs. My brother did a ton of child proofing. They removed everything breakable from their home got rid of anything that their sons could get hurt by, they sanitize like mad, & there is nothing in their house that the kids can't mess with. The result, the boys can't go anywhere without that place being completely child proofed too. They grab at everything, have little understanding of boundaries and get yelled at a lot because of it. They don't have any table lamps in their house, so when they went to a friend's house and there was a lamp, turned on, one of the boys was fascinated and grabbed the light bulb and he got burned. Sucks for the little guy, but I bet he won't do that again.

  9. Yes totally agree! A friend of mine grew up on a farm with lots of siblings and though I know they were deeply cared for, she tells this story of her little sister sticking something metal she found into the wall socket and yelling that the wall was biting her! Wait ,I know totally not funny but hilarious because you know everything turned out fine in that situation.

  10. Right on! Let's hear it for a little healthy skepticism! There are a lot of products out there that have to scare you or you won't buy 'em. I call it the Kiddie Safety Industrial Complex. Keep your wits about you — and your wit, while you're at it — and you'll be fine. Good luck!
    Lenore "Free-Range Kids" Skenazy

    • yeah there are so many products that scare you into buying them, it's a tactic that green washing does too. it scares you into buy a "better" "greener" product because the tell you the conventional product is so scary and bad, but its actually the fake "greener" product is worse for you or isn't better at all such as clorox's green works line

  11. When the little lad started to move around we bought a play-pen (aka the baby cage). After putting it up once the way it was on the box and sitting the poor wee beasty in his shiny new prison, we decided that if we must have fences, we preferred living in a safari park rather than a zoo, so the play pen went round the decks and record collection and one gate was put up at the door of our tiny galley kitchen. Job done, baby and electrical equipment safe. He's now nearly 3 and (mostly)leaves things alone when we tell him.
    This means we can visit childless friends and other people with no baby experience and be pretty sure he can be trusted not to trash anything 🙂

  12. At the risk of sounding like an internet groupie, I totally heart your work. From a kid who was traveling by herself on airplanes to go visit grandma at the age of 6.

  13. Oh my goodness, me too! Lenore, I've invoked your name many many times in conversations about my ideologies about parenting. Thanks so much for popping in to say hello!

  14. Oooh, this looks interesting. I just read the Wild Things by Eggers and it made me think a lot about the limited freedom of children these days.

  15. In our house we found a medium that worked for us. One example is: we chose to use outlet covers but didn't child proof the bathroom or corners in any way. I want my children to be able to respect their atmosphere without foam, plastic or gated boundaries and so far my soon to be three-year old has done a great job. I feel I am doing him a disservice by making his environment at home TOO safe, it seems unrealistic. When we visit people I usually take my son aside and walk him through the home once or twice showing him his boundaries. After that if he ventures into what we call the "danger zones" some simple re-direction is all it takes. If a parent is present and aware, I think it shouldn't take much to provide a safe home that a child can explore while still learning a bit on their own.

  16. I was thinking about this earlier today–my mother only put covers on the outlets, and allowed us one cabinent to play with the pots and pans. My stepmother, on the other hand, childproofeed everything, including the toliet. Crazy.

  17. Oh, I forgot to add– this might sound mean but when I saw Alice playing with the A/C plug and outlet, I scared the shit out of her by yelling NO really loud, and she never did it again. I never yell at her though, so it had a big impact.

    • I say “Hot!” firmly when my son approaches an outlet. It is more honest and more descriptive, and he has developed and understanding/healthy respect for hot things such as my coffee cup and a lit lightbulb from personal experience, so he usually believes me and leaves it alone. Love natural consequences.

  18. I had a French teacher one who was constantly talking about how different raising children is in the US versus in France. She said while she was pregnant in the US she decided to have about 2 ounces of champagne out with her husband at dinner one night to celebrate a promotion he'd gotten. She was about 7 months pregnant at the time and said a woman came up and got in her face about her drinking while pregnant.

    As a counterpoint she'd then tell a story about how in the US she once stopped someones unattended 3 year old from climbing on a sculpture at an outdoor sculpture garden by saying "Hello, these are not toys, they are just for looking! It's much too dangerous to play on them." and the child's father yelled at her for "disciplining his kid".

    What she took away from this was, "In France we help raise and parent children, even those who don't belong to us where as in the US people seem to only want to parent other adults."

  19. well babies can and have drowned in toilets. But then, why not just keep the bathrrom door closed?

  20. I couldn't agree more. Honestly, you need a toilet protector for the 7 and 9 years olds in your house more than you do for your baby! LOL!

    • Yeah, I use that too and it totally works. Rather than worrying about child locks on everything, I just made sure that everything in the lower cabinets is safe for the little stinker to play with. This means that we have plastic tupperware in a big drawer and cleaning stuff in a cabinet up high, but it works!

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