When she heard she was going to be a new mom, Jessica Nielsen was excited and eager to get her home ready for the big day. To save money and time, she collected DIY baby-proofing strategies with the goal of avoiding mishaps where she could.
“There’s a lot of unknowns when you’re preparing to be a mom,” she said. “And you never really know what babies are like – and what they can do and where they will go – until you have one. But thankfully I learned a lot with my first baby, so the second one has been a lot easier!”
Parents like Nielsen can take some quick and inexpensive DIY steps to keep curious kids smiling as they explore throughout their day, getting into everything they can. Read our expert tips for planning ahead and childproofing key areas of your home. But don’t just take our word for it. Use your network and community resources to add to the advice we have here, and share them with us when you can!
“You have to protect your home and your kids,” said Sgt. Daron Wyatt, spokesman for the Anaheim Fire & Rescue and Anaheim Police departments in Southern California. “Kids love exploring; They’re not looking to do something bad, and it’s up to parents to prevent problems.”
Secure Cabinets as a Precaution
Kids are curious. We love that about them, right? But a toddler knows no limits! So consider attaching locks to cabinets to keep little hands (and expensive kitchen equipment) from harm, say our experts.
“Christien went through a stage when he would go through the cabinets any time he could,” said Nielsen of her oldest son, who is now almost 9 years old. “We quickly bought inexpensive, white latches and put them on the inside of the kitchen cabinets to keep him out.”
These days there are even magnet child locks that are out of sight and don’t require drilling, said Bianca Borne. A mother of two, she owns A Mother’s Haven, a baby boutique in Encino, Calif. that hosts child-safety classes to coach parents.
“I also recommend using stove knob safety covers,” said Borne. “My children always gravitated towards the oven knobs and always wanted to play with them.”
Wyatt went a step further and said parents should always cook on a stove’s back burners to avoid children pulling off hot food or touching warm burners.
“Aim pot handles towards countertops, away from a child’s reach,” he said.
Anchor Furniture and Appliances to Walls
That advice you’re always hearing about anchoring large furniture to walls for safety, well it applies when you have kids as well. Our experts say it’s now more important to make sure appliances and large pieces of furniture are attached to walls, because kids will want to climb and pull on them.
“Kids can easily pull things on top of themselves and get seriously injured or killed,” Wyatt said.
In hopes of also avoiding injuries from common California earthquakes, Nielsen made sure to anchor her TV and bookcases to the walls.
“Better to be safe than sorry,” she said.
Secure Doors to Contain Wandering Toddlers
If you’re a parent, you know that every moment is “adventure time”. To keep the fun out of the street when kids are too young to explore the neighborhood on their own, our experts recommend checking to see that all doors leading outside are locked and all gates are secured.
“Locking the doors is so important,” said Nielsen. “Because Sebastien knows how to open all of them.”
If you have a pool, put a tall fence around it with a gate latch. Check with your city for laws and advice that may apply in your area.
“Kids drown without a sound,” Wyatt said. “Ninety percent of (drowning incidents) are complete accidents, but they can happen in a second.”
Borne and her husband secured their pool and installed an alarm system with chime notifications to know when and where doors are opened in their home.
Bells and wind chimes attached to doorknobs are also an easy DIY way to make it easier to hear when a door opens.
Use Safety Covers on Plugs
Use inexpensive plastic plugs, or protective outlet cases, to block babies from touching harmful electrical outlets close to the floor, Wyatt said. It’s also common for children to explore and find objects to stick into electrical outlets. They are so creative, after all.
“Things like pencils, kitchen utensils,” he said. “Make sure to keep those things off the floor, as well as anything they can choke on. Kids put everything in their mouths.”
Nielsen went through two rounds of outlet covers since her boys are 8 years apart in age, but she said it’s a tool well worth purchasing twice.
“It’s one of the cheapest and easiest ways to baby-proof your home,” she said. “It was the first thing we did.”
Keep Kids Safe With Plenty of Toys!
Finally, have a little fun and use some creativity when you’re organizing your home for your kids. Distract them with projects and toys they find hard to resist.
“Sebastien loves going through the kitchen cabinets, so I bought a bunch of plastic kitchen toys for babies at the store for super cheap and put them in one empty drawer that he gravitated to,” said Nielsen. “Now he’ll go through that drawer and play with his toys, thinking he’s being sneaky, but it also keeps him away from all the other drawers.”
But while kids can benefit from distractions, parents should consider working to spend time with them and knowing what they’re up to. After all, time flies and it’s great to enjoy and appreciate the different stages they go through.
“With social media and moms working from home, it’s so easy to be distracted by emails and the phone,” said Borne. “Put that stuff away when you’re home and hanging out with your child, because you want to be alert in case something happens.”
These DIY baby-proofing tips are just some of the many. Parents can get more information from other resources: baby stores, parenting classes, or from local fire departments and other agencies. And have fun along the way!