We’ve all heard that every child is different. My first born is a people-pleasing rule follower. My second born is a honey badger. Girlfriend will look you in the eye while you tell her “no” and do it anyway.
For both kids, I took the route of watching them closely to determine what needed to be done for child-proofing our house. With the exception of a few “must haves,” like anchoring furniture and televisions to avoid tipping and placing baby gates at the top and bottom of all the stairs, I found that we had different needs for both kids. This was compounded by the fact that any child-proofing that we did for baby number two had to work for our preschooler’s needs. For example, the toilet latches we had when our son was a baby prevented him from being able to use the toilet as a potty-trained child.
I got a lot of great tips from Charlie’s House. Born out of a terrible tragedy, this organization works to ensure that children are safe in their homes. It is filled with great tips.
Here are a few of my favorite, mostly-free safety hacks for small children:
1. Put the dangerous stuff out of reach. This seems obvious. Until you realize that your 3-year-old can reach into the drawer where you store your knives AND he can open the child lock that you installed to keep him out. Like I mentioned before, watching my kids in my home has inspired many an “oh no, I need to move that” moment.
2. Store the “yum, that looks edible” items in a kid-proof container. For example, we keep our dish washer pods in a decorative jar on our counter. I happened to have this jar on hand, but you can pick them up pretty cheap. While I store it out of reach (see #1), I also know that neither my tenacious toddler nor my curious preschooler can open the jar if it somehow gets moved to a place they can reach. For items like medicines or cleaning supplies that might be too large for a kid-proof container, check out tips #1 and #3.
3. Rearrange your house. I always warn guests that they will find things in weird places in my home. For example, all of the bathroom trash cans, plungers, and toilet brushes are placed up high so that the kids can’t reach them.
4. Create “yes” spaces. Kids need to explore their environment. This includes moving their bodies, digging through drawers, and tinkering with new objects. Providing kids with a special drawer in the kitchen or cupboards organized for safety or an entire playroom, if you have the space, will give them that outlet that they need. And, hopefully, they won’t be as intent on opening the drawers full of knives or cleaning supplies.
5. Safety talks! Our children understand so much more than we realize, far younger than we might expect. Explain things to them. Give them reasons. For example, when my little ones try to stand in their chairs at dinner, we say “sit to be safe.” They know this line well enough that they say it and sit when they see the tilt of our heads in their direction. We talk about the risk that they could fall and hurt themselves. Despite our best efforts, they’ve both tipped themselves over before, so we remind them of how scary that was and how lucky they were not to get hurt. It has worked great for my son. My daughter is still figuring it out. Her urge to defy us is still stronger than her instincts for self preservation. Two year olds, amiright?
6. Include your kiddo — let them learn from supervised experience. Believe it or not, shielding our kids from risks is a detriment to their learning and development — including their ability to assess risk! There is a movement to put more risk into our kids’ lives. Like letting them climb the tree or cut their own foods with sharp knives. My son was two the first time I let him use the stove. Yes, two. He was melting marshmallows for Rice Krispies treats, and the burner was so low that touching it would have been hot but would not have burned his skin. I was right next him the entire time, but I kept a hands-off approach. I know my kiddo, and I felt that this was something he could handle. Plus, we had the big safety talk. I’m not sure my daughter will be ready for such a task until she’s, like, 15. Honey badger, remember. But the point is, when age or individual child appropriate, let them do risky things. It will help them develop their ability to assess and avoid risk. It will also help them to learn how to complete risky tasks or use risky objects so that they don’t hurt themselves.
No matter what your risk threshold or your budget may be, there are ample ways to make your house safe for your little ones! What are your favorite tips?