The Decision Not to Babyproof

As a mom who did babyproof to a certain extent (no toilet locks!), I certainly don’t blame folks who do. But I certainly don’t blame folks who don’t, either. And since there are about a million levels of proofing, my advice is simple: Don’t judge! – L. 

Dear Free-Range Kids: I’d love to get your input on this!I recently mentioned to an acquaintance who also has young children that my house isn’t baby-proofed. At all. And that I actually don’t really believe in it. She looked at me like I was a monster!I can remember when I made the decision not to lock my fridge, cover every outlet, and baby-proof every cabinet near the floor. My mother had just come to visit for my older daughter’s first birthday, and it was also her first time in our new home. We had been there since our daughter was nine months old and hadn’t yet managed to unpack everything, let alone install highly complicated locking mechanisms on our toilets. I mentioned (rather apologetically) that we still needed to baby-proof the house. My mother’s response?”Why?”

I didn’t have a good answer. All I could do was sort of mumble “It’s safer.” And, “Aren’t we supposed to?”

At this point, my mom reminded me that the home my siblings and I grew up in wasn’t baby-proofed at all (we were all born in the ’70s). It was an 1800s farmhouse with sharp corners, gas stove, steep steps, woodburning fireplace – the works. I asked her how she kept us from losing limbs or burning the place down. She simply said “I taught you.” Though according to her, we did come close on the “burning the place down” thing a couple of times.

That one-year-old is now two and a half. She is independent and curious about her world. She knows what can and cannot be played with in our house. She understands that the things she is currently too young to touch, she will be taught how to use as she gets older. She doesn’t run into streets. She has all of her fingers and toes. She has never once tried to stick something in a power socket. Our one concession to childproofing was anchoring our bookshelves. They are huge, heavy, and act as a room divider, and our thought was that a visiting adult could knock them over and get injured just as easily as a child.

Are we doing something wrong by not child-proofing our house and our life? Am I putting my child in constant danger? Until I got the dirty look a few days ago, I thought we were doing it right!

Thanks for your input, Mira

Hi Mira! My input, as stated above is: Do what you feel makes sense for you and your family…while understanding that the marketplace tries to make parents scared so it can assuage those fears with a product (or 90). Simple as that! – L

The Safety 1st pro-grade. push-button toilet lock. (Good luck to any guests visiting!)

The Safety 1st pro-grade, push-button toilet lock. (And good luck to any guests visiting!)

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149 Responses to The Decision Not to Babyproof

  1. SOA June 23, 2014 at 7:22 am #

    I babyproofed really well so that I could feel confident leaving my kids out of my sight for extended periods of time so they can play independently. Because otherwise you kinda have to keep them in your sight all the time and I was not about all that. It was also to protect our stuff. We did not want our expensive electronics to get messed up so we put a gate around the electronics.

    I don’t care whether someone babyproofs or not as long as their child is safe. Kids have been killed or seriously injured by things that could have been prevented with some babyproofing. Because no parent can watch their child 24/7 at all times. You have to poop at some point.

  2. Chris June 23, 2014 at 7:39 am #

    We did it as needed. My younger child did NOT understand to stay away from outlets, despite many corrections, so in went the covers. It was not an issue with the older one. I think it depends on the kid, but Lenore is dead on. You do what works for you.

  3. K June 23, 2014 at 7:50 am #

    When our children were babies we tried to do some simple babyproofing, but the things for the cabinets in the kitchen didn’t work in our particular kitchen and we found the outlet covers to be difficult for even an adult to take on and off if they are ever needed. We have since moved twice and for simplicity have gone with teaching the kids. I actually think that is overall safer anyway. CPS mandates that the gas can and other hazardous chemicals be up high, even for children as old as 6 and maybe older. I think not teaching them by 6 leaves a lot of room for some pretty serious accidents if not at your own house then someone else’s. To pretend that kids can’t get stuff on a high shelf by the time they are 6 is in my opinion naive and foolish. Kids have to learn what it’s for and why they shouldn’t play with it.

  4. AmyO June 23, 2014 at 7:55 am #

    I agree, it depends on the kid. It’s been my experience that some of the safety products don’t really do anything anyway. I bought outlet covers that constantly fell off–and these were name brand ones. I got rid of them after a few days because I had a kid who put EVERYTHING in her mouth and she was more likely to choke on one than be electrocuted. My cousin had absolutely everything: covers for outlets, faucets, edges of tables and even her round stairs. My kid still managed to bump her head when she tripped on the stairs over the covers.

  5. Lashonda June 23, 2014 at 7:55 am #

    The most I did was outlet covers but only because of a scene in the miniseries The Women of Brewster place that traumatized me.

  6. TRS June 23, 2014 at 8:01 am #

    Besides a few baby gates for steep stairs and outlet covers – that is all I did. With my youngest I did not even use baby gates. With the twins – my oldest – babyproofing was more of a need.

    I think everyone should take a few precautions with blinds and outlet covers. Just use common sense. Put pans and fun things in the bottom floor cabinets and poisons up high. I hope everyone puts the poisons out of reach. If not that is pretty irresponsible. Mine are still up high for the safety of my pets.

  7. anonymous mom June 23, 2014 at 8:02 am #

    With my first, we did a lot of baby-proofing, most of which proved unnecessary. With the others, we do the things that we feel make sense for us, mostly outlet covers and baby gates. We ended up finding it much easier to just close the doors or use a baby gate to keep the kids out of the kitchen and bathroom when they were little than to install a bunch of cabinet locks.

    I’ve also found I’ve had to childproof less with later children, because they’ve got more eyes on them during the day and because once they do get into explorer stage, they are more interested in tagging along after their big siblings than anything else.

  8. Rhiannon June 23, 2014 at 8:02 am #

    We have baby proofed minimally. Locked the cabinet with the cleaning supplies, anchored a wobbly flat-screen to prevent it from falling, anchored bookshelves to the wall. I also put plug covers on the outlets she can reach if she goes down the hall where I can’t see her (otherwise, the hall is empty, so it makes an excellent “runway” for learning to walk.). I don’t have a big bumper on the tables, I don’t have toilet locks, etc. I’ve already discovered that she’s going to plow head first into the things that AREN’T babyproofable anyway (she has a shiner from face-planting into the vertical leg of our kitchen island). My feeling is that it makes sense to keep obvious hazards out of reach (bleach, knives, etc.) until she is old enough to really understand “no,” but that the world has hard edges, and she needs to learn how to navigate them.

  9. pentamom June 23, 2014 at 8:03 am #

    I did outlet covers, putting the really dangerous stuff high up, and some cabinet latches. But that was more to avoid the constant hassle of doing nothing BUT chasing crawlers and toddlers away from stuff while I had older or younger children who also needed attention, not because I thought it was DANGEROUS not to. I don’t think I did much, if anything, to babyproof the apartment we had when we had only our first, because there was enough me to keep an eye on things. When the last one got old enough to listen to “no” consistently (2 1/2 or so) we stopped worrying about it, although we didn’t necessarily remove everything right away just because of inertia.

  10. anonymous mom June 23, 2014 at 8:03 am #

    @Lashonda, that is too funny, because The Women of Brewster Place is also my main reason for being kind of obsessive about outlet covers! I think I saw that movie when I was like 7 or 8, and it did indeed traumatize me a bit.

  11. Pophouse June 23, 2014 at 8:04 am #

    For our twins we babyproofed a bit — we put cabinet locks on the cabinets that had chemicals that would kill them dead right away, but we didn’t go overboard. But they started walking at nine and ten months and immediately got into stuff. But then one day we were going through some old art supplies and these red feathers floated out and scared (I think maybe literally) the crap out of both girls. So we taped red feathers up on things we didn’t want them getting into, like the tv, the stereo, the knife drawer etc. It worked as a stopgap until they were human enough to learn a bit about what they were supposed to get into. But I sometimes I wonder if using their fears against them might not be considered ‘good’ parenting. However. We are all alive today and the girls have even overcome their fear of red feathers.

  12. katie June 23, 2014 at 8:04 am #

    We have some babyproofing with our one year old. Chemicals are up high so we don’t mind her getting into the cabinets that have the tupperware, baking sheets, etc…The cabinet with cast iron cookware and the drawer with knives have locks. THe outlets in our house don’t need covers. She has learned very quickly what she is allowed into and what she is not. If that changes we can adjust. We have had comments from family about how our house isn’t toddler proof. My response it is toddler proof for my child

  13. Jessica June 23, 2014 at 8:04 am #

    We baby proofed lightly — gates on stairs during the crawling/toddler years, cabinet locks on he cleaning supplies. None of my kids were ever interested in outlets, but they loved to tinker with the electronics, so those got covered. Mostly we moved things around (I.e. Plastic plates and pots and pans in low cabinets) so what they could reach was safe. Instead of annoying toilet locks, we simply pulled the door shut.

  14. Eric V June 23, 2014 at 8:14 am #

    We have never baby-proofed our home for the simple reason, that when we go away, the grandparents houses, as well as friends who either have older children or no children, don’t have baby-proofing. One thing I know, when a toddler sees something different, they will immediately go to investigate.

    With our son, we used the word no….a lot! But, we also explained to him why he wasn’t to touch receptacles,why he wasn’t to go under the kitchen sink, why he wasn’t to run out the front door on a whim, and many other things. As we had a pool, we taught him how to “survival swim” at 4 months old.

    He is now six years-old and somehow has managed to survive without any of these so-called safety devices.

    It seemed to work very well for my parents as my three siblings and myself managed to survive to adulthood as well!

  15. Horrificat June 23, 2014 at 8:17 am #

    It really depends on the child. My son is 2.5 and if we didn’t put locks on cabinets and drawers the contents of those would be pulled out and thrown around the house. He is obsessed with opening cabinets and drawers. But he has never been interested in the toilet so that doesn’t have any child proofing. He also never tried to climb the stairs as a baby so we didn’t put a gate there. Now he can go up and down on his own safely.

  16. Suzanne June 23, 2014 at 8:23 am #

    Put me down under the light baby proofers. We did have gates on the steep staircases, but left a smaller one available so my daughter would learn to climb stairs. We did cover outlets especially in her bedroom and other places she might be alone. We had latches on the cupboards that contained chemicals and knives. And we put away some decorative items that would be easy for her to break or dangerous for her to try and eat.

  17. dmax June 23, 2014 at 8:27 am #

    I tend not to judge people for minor things like this but I am not going agree with you that your child is perfectly safe in a house that is not child proofed because you “taught” them. It is all about what sort of risk is acceptable to you. While kidnappings are very rare, accidents in the house are not. I reject the notion that you can “teach” a baby not to touch certain things. Kids that young are not capable of reasoning things out. The fact that you have had no major accidents is more likely attributed to a little bit of luck and a lot of supervision. I also do not like the excuse of “Well I survived so my kid can too.” While that works for some things, it doesn’t work for all. Just because you survived under certain circumstances does not mean anything at all when it comes to your kid’s likelihood of survival. Knowledge is power and over the years we have learned things that we should think about implementing in the future rather than ignoring them because “we survived”. I have heard this same excuse from parents that insist on smoking in the car with their children inside (sometimes with the windows closed). My parents smoked around me constantly and “I survived” but when I took a drag off my first cigarette at age 13, I didn’t cough. Not once.

    I child proofed certain things in my house while ignoring others and it is all about the level of risk and the level of supervision I was comfortable with. The bookshelves and anything heavy enough to kill if fallen were anchored. I installed locks on my cabinets because I didn’t want it to be a constant battle in my house. I used outlet covers on outlets I did not use because it was just a very simple fix. I did not install a toilet lock but I did install locks on the bathroom doors so I didn’t have to put all my medications away. I completely baby-proofed my living room and set up gates so my dining room could remain a baby free zone and “adult” area with all my dangerous adult knick-knacks I was not willing to box up. I did this so I could take a shower during the day without worrying what my baby was choking on or breaking something. If I didn’t take those steps, I would have had to keep an eye on my child at all times and being a stay at home mom, I just could not handle that. I have noticed that working moms do not child proof their house as much.

  18. Jennifer June 23, 2014 at 8:27 am #

    I don’t think there’s anything wrong with not babyproofing. But I don’t think there’s anything wrong with reasonable babyproofing either. If you don’t babyproof you need to supervise more, especially if you have one of those kids who is into everything. One of my kids learned after a few warnings to leave dangerous things alone. The other insisted on sticking things into outlets and flushing random things down toilets no matter what I did to discourage it. We compromised and babyproofed minimally.

  19. melanie June 23, 2014 at 8:32 am #

    Yep. Children are people with great variation in disposition, and people have different ‘stuff’. When we lived in a small apartment I didn’t babyproof at all and someone brought it up because she couldn’t imagine that I didn’t have gates at the stairs. Luckily she let me explain that we didn’t have any stairs, and from any room in the house I could see everywhere in the house. Babyproofing usually refers to buying a lot of plastic to secure all sorts of things, but I would say we babyproofed by finding all our furniture on Craigslist and generally not having nice things, seeking a home in a quiet and low traffic cul de sac, and avoiding keeping a lot of chemicals at home. Most people can probably relate to that level of babyproofing. I hope the shock expressed at a failure to babyproof is the shock that you haven’t thought about it. That is an unfair assumption. It would also be unfair to conclude that everyone who has toilet locks is helicoptering every aspect of childhood – they might have a child that is unusually fond of flushing iphones, etc.

  20. Lee Baldwin June 23, 2014 at 8:33 am #

    i had my baby when i was 46. i grew up before babyproofing, as did my partner (he’s 14 years younger). we didn’t babyproof any more than putting gates across doorways where we didn’t want the kiddo to go (the front hall to block the stairs. the back stairs have a door).
    he ignored electrical sockets (unless they had babyproof plugs in them, as we found out at a restaurant that had them. he was intent on trying to remove them), and he could get past the doorknob covers by 18 months (again, he ignored unprotected ones). my lower kitchen cupboards are pots & pans or plastic bowls. perfect baby toys. i did have to put my CD collection away a couple times after it got pulled off the shelves, but oh well. he was walking at 6 months…
    he’ll be 14 in August, and free-ranges all over on his bicycle, and has since he was 7.

  21. lollipoplover June 23, 2014 at 8:34 am #

    I childproofed my house, but they keep getting in.

  22. Montreal Dad June 23, 2014 at 8:34 am #

    There’s an issue with babyproofing giving parents a false sense of security – as though a few interventions can render a space totally risk free for kids. It stems from this mistaken idea that risk stems from bad parenting and insufficient diligence and can be brought down to zero if we just work hard enough.

    But of course that isn’t true. Risk arises from the human condition; no environment is entirely risk-free. And the frantic race to reduce some kinds of risks (from falls, sharp edges) can end up magnifying different kinds of risk (from the absence of self-reliance that comes about when children are constantly helicoptered.)

    The only sane response – the only human response – is to accept risk as a bedrock characteristic of humanity and work from there.

  23. E June 23, 2014 at 8:34 am #

    As many here have already said, we did some babyproofing. Having run into a friend at the pediatrician’s office after he child found and stuck a screwdriver into an outlet, I can’t say I think outlet covers are a bad idea.

    I will say, I don’t understand the whole “we got by fine without _______” that sometimes come up (and what Grandma said in the story). Just because something DIDN’T exist in prior generations, doesn’t mean it can’t have value. Seat belts are good, car seats are good, irons that automatically turn off are good. My mom survived w/o a clothes dryer with 6 kids…but that doesn’t mean I’m going to. :-)

  24. Laura June 23, 2014 at 8:43 am #

    Like other commenters have said, I did what was needed. For my first we used some outlet covers but, eh, we kind of stopped. Honestly outlets today are much less dangerous than they used to be. The other thing we did with my first was lock up the TV cabinet, mainly because he was annoying about it, always going in there, grabbing remotes, and messing with the wires, opening and closing the DVD player.

    With my second, though, I think I will need a little more baby proofing. I caught him using a medicine cup to drink toilet water the other day. Probably not too unsafe, but gross beyond belief. Now I understand toilet locks (I probably will still be too lazy to get them, though).

    The only thing I really never wanted to do was gate the stairs. I taught both kids how to climb up and down safely. Both have fallen a few times, but nothing serious. If we needed to block the stairs while they were learning and we couldn’t adequately watch them, I just used a temporary measure like furniture pushed in front of it.

  25. Warren June 23, 2014 at 8:47 am #

    Kind of cool, because anywhere the dogs were not allowed to go/investigate are the same for little ones. Dogs would not allow the kids to go or do anything that the dogs were not allowed to do.

  26. Jennifer June 23, 2014 at 8:50 am #

    Another minimal babyproofer here. We more or less watched the kids to see what they got into and then took care of any hazards we felt would be catastrophic. The only baby gates were to keep the kids upstairs during the night (installed during toddler years) and to keep them out of the sewing room.

    Of course, it helps that we’re not the types to have precious knicknacks everywhere anyway!

  27. lollipoplover June 23, 2014 at 8:51 am #

    We got every childproofing gizmo under the sun at my baby shower. We even got these cool cabinet magnet locks that worked great until the baby hid the magnet used to open the cabinets and we were locked out for days. Parent proofed cabinets. What dummies we were.

    My husband and I both had falls on stair baby gates that our kids learned to climb over. Like we both fell over them because we tried to jump them without success. I remember thinking they weren’t a good idea when we were installing them, but felt that we *had* to because of the fall risk to our babies. My kids looooved climbing the stairs but I would just hang out there and watch. Having a carpeted *landing* was handy too. For us parents who actually fell on the stairs, not the kids.

    No matter how much you childproof your house, it will never be safe enough to prevent accidents from happening, even to adults. Keeping little ones out of harm’s way involves time and effort that no fancy device can ever promise. You could buy an entire aisle at Babies R Us and still lose your baby in a house fire.

    My childproofing advise?
    Get rid of the coffee table when they start to pull themselves up. It’s free, and you can put it back later. You’re welcome.

  28. Warren June 23, 2014 at 8:51 am #

    Fridge locks…..nope. Because it is a great indicator when your child learns to open the fridge. Means they are old enough to fetch beer.

    Toilet locks……nope. After someone has had enough of said beer, toilet locks could make for some messy scenes.

  29. BL June 23, 2014 at 8:57 am #

    “Just because something DIDN’T exist in prior generations, doesn’t mean it can’t have value”

    The funny thing is, people who don’t goose-step to the tune of Twitter and Facebook are accused of being technophobic (while real technologists know these things are marketing gimmicks and add no more to technology than Happy Meals do to agriculture) but now we’re all supposed to be afraid of flush toilets? ROTFLMAO!!

  30. Vicki Bradley June 23, 2014 at 9:06 am #

    I think this topic can be best summed up with this witty quote: I made my house childproof but they kept getting back in!

  31. another mom June 23, 2014 at 9:10 am #

    It varies. Our first child was fairly obedient, and after being told “no” a few times wouldn’t keep messing with something, so by 18 months we only had gates on his bedroom door and the bathroom door (to let him play inside, unsupervised, and outside, unsupervised). Our second one, now at the same age, thinks “no” means “not now”, so he has mostly-free run of the living room but nowhere else. When he stops destroying everything by chewing on it he’ll get more access.

  32. anonymous mom June 23, 2014 at 9:18 am #

    I think a difference between today and previous generations is also that we have, on average, significantly larger homes and smaller families. So there’s just a lot more area for a child to roam through, a better chance that a good deal of that area is out of the parent’s sight, and fewer other people in the house to keep an eye on them.

    I also think it was far more acceptable to plop your baby in a playpen for much longer stretches of time than most people today would feel comfortable doing. It wasn’t like somehow babies and toddlers learned to be safe at an earlier age. You’d go to grandmas and set up a playpen and set the baby in there when somebody didn’t want to hold it.

    So I think it’s largely a change in how we think about what children need in their first couple of years. Now we value allowing children the freedom to explore the full environment, so many parents would think it was wrong to keep them in a playpen for hours, and they childproof the environment. Previously, it wasn’t so much that children were somehow better taught to be safe, but just that they were often kept contained until they were old enough to listen and obey.

    I actually really wanted to find an old-school playpen for my youngest because we moved into an old house isn’t very conducive to baby gates (we’ve got odd-sized arches and weird old-fashioned moldings and all sorts of stuff that don’t work with most baby gates). I wanted a nice-sized square one with mesh walls and a padded bottom. But, all I could find were pack and plays (which are about half the size of a traditional playpen, if that) or those plastic play yards that you use to build a big hexagon or octagon around your child and that sit directly on the floor.

  33. anonymous mom June 23, 2014 at 9:21 am #

    Update: I actually just looked on Amazon, and there do seem to be a couple of actual square playpens on the market now. So I guess I’m not the only parent who was looking for one!

  34. Jackie June 23, 2014 at 9:22 am #

    We didn’t feel the need to go overly crazy babyproofing things for the first two kids — they never got into anything. Our third child was much more adventurous, so we went a little further. However, at 18 months old my son had figured out how to dismantle, remove, or work around any of the babyproofing products we tried to use. He picked all the outlet covers out, took all the door knob covers off, climbed over the baby gates, etc., so eventually we stopped bothering with them and just kept explaining to him what was, and was not ok.

    At four years old, he’s pretty good at staying away from things that are not safe for him to use (even if his older siblings are), and I don’t worry too much about it.

  35. Kelly D. June 23, 2014 at 9:30 am #

    We had such grand baby-proofing plans. We were going to install EVERYTHING so, like another commenter said, we didn’t have to have eyes on our twins at all times. Well, then we had twins and we just never got around to it. As of now, we have some outlet covers (on the plugs behind their beds because they might get bored enough to do something dumb), a baby gate in front of the fireplace that is actually for the cat to keep him out of the dust, and that’s about it. We keep doors closed to rooms they don’t need to be in, which they could open if they wanted to but we’d hear that and remind them. We teach how to safely use everything else: water taps in the bathroom (they aren’t strong enough for the bathtub ones), kitchen tools (knives are still out of reach), etc. They know where “their” stuff is in the kitchen, and it’s kind of nice to be able to say, “Hey, kid, get me the red colander,” and not have to put down what I’m doing to unlock the cabinet and get it myself. We’ll consider adding some baby-proofing as needed, if we see they aren’t able to grasp the rules around a certain thing, but I somehow doubt it will ever actually get implemented.

  36. anonymous mom June 23, 2014 at 9:31 am #

    Jackie, I don’t worry too much about my 4yo, either. I don’t have any safety precautions in place for her, other than basic things like keeping giant knives or toxic chemicals out of reach (which just seems like general safe practice, anyway).

    This is where age-appropriate expectations come into play. Honestly, I think it’s a bit silly when people talk about “baby-proofing” a toddler, as if it’s reasonable to expect a 15 or 16 month old child to understand what is and isn’t dangerous or even to consistently obey “no.” At least in my experience, it isn’t. When they are that young, they often need to be contained or redirected away from dangerous things; you can’t reason with them about why something is or isn’t safe. At that age, I’d say that childproofing (to whatever level the parent feels is necessary) is a way of reducing risks and temptations for a child who has no ability to assess risk and little-to-no ability to resist temptation.

    But, the same precautions at 3 or 4 or 5 may be a problem. My 4yo is old enough to know the rules about going into the fridge, and I shouldn’t need a fridge lock to keep her out. She can understand, if not the scientific and medical reasons why toilet water shouldn’t be played with, that toilet water is yucky and something we never touch, so she shouldn’t need a toilet lock. Obviously I’m talking about typical children without special needs, but there’s a big difference between the kinds of precautions (whether it be baby-proofing, containing, supervising, etc.) that older babies and toddlers need and the kind that preschool aged children need.

  37. Jackie June 23, 2014 at 9:36 am #

    AM — what I was saying that he’s now 4 years old and I don’t worry, because at 18 months old we had to be constantly diligent with him. The “baby proofing” products didn’t work. He worked his way around all of them, so we had no other choice but to explain to him and redirect him and move him away from things that were dangerous, even if his older siblings were allowed to touch, play with, go near those things. (I’m obviously not talking about chemicals or fire or anything like that).

    Now that he’s 4 I don’t worry, because he knows what he’s not allowed to go near, and what he can now safely use by himself, and what he can use with our supervision — “baby proofing” as we seem to think is necessary now (locking down everything) was a worthless exercise for us.

  38. Stacy June 23, 2014 at 9:37 am #

    There was a time when I felt a little guilty for not putting locks on our toilets. I think every parent needs to decide for each child what they think is appropriate. Some babyproofing makes it possible to not hover in the months when they can’t understand danger or “no.” The issue I have is when we are told that we MUST do this long list of things or our children are in grave danger.
    We put everything truly dangerous on high shelves out of reach, kept plastic dishes and pots and pans in easy to access cabinets for safe exploring, used a baby gate at the top of the stairs, and put secure outlet covers in the areas they played. We also anchor our large cabinets. We did not lock the toilets or fridge, put soft edges on sharp corners, or put gates at the bottom of the stairs.

  39. Laura June 23, 2014 at 9:51 am #

    I think it depends on the house and the baby.
    We had to put baby gates at the top and bottom of the stairs and had to protect the electronics.
    I had outlet plugs in a few sockets but when my 1 year old pulled them out I didn’t put them back, and she never played with the sockets again. We lived in a small house so it was easy to keep an eye on them.

  40. Mandi June 23, 2014 at 10:00 am #

    We baby proof as needed rather than proactively, which means the only baby proofing we’ve ever done was

  41. E June 23, 2014 at 10:09 am #

    Bottom line….we should all do what we feel makes reasonable sense for our lives, our child’s personality/needs, and our homes in this regard.

    It’s no more “right” to follow a friend’s ultra-vigilent baby proofing as it is to follow Mom’s “we didn’t babyproof” advice.

  42. Donna June 23, 2014 at 10:12 am #

    I agree with anonymous mom — baby proofing was not done much in previous generations BUT babies were largely kept confined to playpens, play yards, swings, cribs, etc. or watched by older siblings and not just left roaming free while mom did her chores. I think this is a bit of revisionist history on the part of our parents and grandparents. They insist that they never baby proofed, but forget the part where the babies spent most of the day playing with toys in a confined area.

    That said, I think the level of baby proofing you need depends on your kid. Mine was easy and I needed to do very little baby proofing. A baby gate on an unfinished sunroom, baby gate on a bathroom with a door that sometimes locks when closed (old house), doors kept closed on a couple other rooms, outlet covers on the outlets right by her crib. I also moved into my current house when my daughter was 16 months old and I did take a toddler into consideration when I found places for things. I don’t really consider that “baby proofing” since most of the things are still where I put them then. In fact, I put them back there when we moved back into the house after our stint in A. Samoa because it was just where we were used to things being.

  43. Susie June 23, 2014 at 10:16 am #

    We veeeery lightly baby proofed, and moved twice while my son aged from 1.5-2 y. o. The first house had cabinet locks and plug covers, and an occasionally working baby gate. The second house wasn’t ours, and had next to zero baby proofing. Now we have an understanding with our child- that isn’t a you, that is one. He has his own cabinet in the kitchen, gets his own plates and bowls- and puts them away once they’re clean! He’ll be 3 next month. It works great for us.

  44. Gary June 23, 2014 at 10:20 am #

    My wife and I sold our house, it was the most logical decision really, we also turned ourselves in to the local authorities lest we possibly be a danger ourselves to our children.

    Last we saw heard they were trapped, tranquilized and relocated to the Pine Barrens by DFG&W biologists for getting into people’s garbage and bean bag rounds weren’t doing the job.

    just kidding, we did the outlets and cabinets only.

  45. hancock June 23, 2014 at 10:23 am #

    I don’t baby proof. The only reasonble precaution I take is a gate in front of the boys room at night because their room is directly across from a very dark stair case and the baby does walk. Of course soon the gate with be of no use and we may need to install some kind of night light (not a fan of them).

    The rest is habit teaching and hard experience. If a child is old enough to get in the knife drawer, he’s old enough either to learn to stay out of it (I teach) or that knives can hurt (he learns). Please leave the power cords and outlets alone (I teach) or they can “bite” (he learns) [under ordinary circumstances there power outlets simply do not kick out enough amps to cause major injury to healthy children, but they do hurt]. Toilet water is gross (no teaching necessary). Stairs merit careful navigation which no amount of teaching can inform. It’s my family’s habit and tradition to store glass items and caustic chemicals up hig whether ir not a baby is in the house.

  46. Christina June 23, 2014 at 10:26 am #

    We did some. Outlet covers and a couple of furniture straps b/c our twins were climbers. We had a fridge lock, but that was b/c of our dog. We put the plastic and the pans in the lower shelves so we didn’t need cabinet locks. We did get a foam thing for the bath faucet b/c we bathed them together and one of them always ended up whacking his head against it. My biggest proactive thing was to pack a proofing kit to take with us for hotel rooms b/c we traveled a lot. Just some basic plug covers and twist ties for media cabinets. Overall we were pretty laid back about the whole thing.

  47. Paul June 23, 2014 at 10:26 am #

    We have three children. With the first, we did somewhat extensive babyproofing – electric socket protectors, baby gates, locks on cabinets. Our eldest daughter, however, proved fairly adept at outmaneuvering those protections, to the point that the refrigerator lock lasted about one day. We really didn’t add much for our second child, who was also a little less curious and forceful than her older sister. We’ve also done nothing thus far for the eight month old, though I would like to add some electric socket protectors.

    So no, we haven’t really done much – certainly not as much as some of our friends who have babyproofed to the point that adults can’t really get around. I suppose it really depends on the circumstances. If you’re going to be at least within one room of your infant at all times, then it isn’t really necessary to completely erect barriers everywhere. I mean do you really need that toilet lock if the baby is not going to be in there without you knowing? On the other hand, if your house is fairly spacious then you might consider an extra gate here and there.

  48. SKL June 23, 2014 at 10:43 am #

    I only did outlet covers and a baby gate at the foot of the stairs. In addition, I had a “superyard” pen for the kids when they were 1yo. And no obviously dumb dangers in their bedroom. The reason I did that much was because I am a working single mom, and there were times I needed them to play on their own for an hour or more at a time. Plus, their bedroom was far away from mine and I didn’t use a monitor, so I wanted them to be safe if they decided to climb out of bed when they were supposed to be sleeping.

    Meanwhile, I taught them what they could and could not touch around the house. They learned very quickly not to touch the Christmas tree ornaments – that rather surprised me! In the kitchen and bathroom, we had “good cupboards” and “bad cupboards.” They learned this very quickly too. The “good cupboards” contained tupperware, nonperishable foods in various containers, and the kids’ own dishes. That was plenty to satisfy their need to explore safely. The cleaning supplies etc. remained in the other floor-level, unlocked cabinets, and this never caused a problem. They understood that toilets are not to be played in and streets are not to be run in etc. Around 15mos I lowered their crib side so they could climb out safely if they wanted to. Before they were 2, I took down the stair gate and play pen.

    So far, my kids have had a total of one accident requiring minor medical attention. My clumsy kid at age 3 tripped over her own feet in the rec center locker room. It turns out that no matter what other moms may think of my negligent ways, babyproofing would not have made my kids any safer. No, actually, forcing myself to teach them has probably made them a lot safer than babyproofing would have.

    I too had a friend or two who acted afraid for my kids because I wouldn’t put rubber stuff on the corners of the furniture, etc. I ignored her as best I could. She still give me grief about stuff and I am still trying to ignore her. I ask her if there is any evidence so far that my parenting has hurt my kids, and she can’t find any, but it doesn’t stop her from fussing. :/

  49. baby-paramedic June 23, 2014 at 10:47 am #

    I advocate child-proofing for things that kill or harm routinely. Chemicals should be kept out of reach, as should medications. Find a way to lessen the chance of scalds. Keep the super sharp knives out of reach. Make it difficult to escape onto the road until they get some road sense. If the stairs are dangerous ones, they should be guarded against (metal stairs aren’t good for toddlers head).

    Scalds are probably the most common thing I see in the little ones. They are usually some of the worst because the carer is super upset (they are blaming themselves), causing the kid to get even more upset, and round and round it goes. (There’s a massive hint, calm parent = calm kids = better medical outcomes)

  50. Marcie June 23, 2014 at 10:56 am #

    Also please please please install the anti tip devices on your furniture and appliances, hang TVs on the wall or buy straps for them. We had a low wide dresser with a tv on top that tipped when my then 3 year old daughter opened too many drawers. It only tipped a bit but enough to cause the TV to fall off on her hand and 3/4 amputate her finger. A 5 hour microscopic surgery was needed to repair the severed arteries, nerves and bones. This was our 4th child and we had recently moved and just hadn’t gotten around to installing anti tip devices due to the move and being more complacent with our younger kids. It is actually a very common accident injuring and killing more kids per year than any drop side crib ever did.

  51. Marcie June 23, 2014 at 10:58 am #

    We baby proofed like crazy for our 2nd and 3rd (twins) only cause they got in to so much it was exhausting trying to clean up after them. We had toilet locks to prevent floods, door locks to prevent entire boxes of cereal (rice, hot chocolate powder…) from being dumped, cupboard locks cause they would empty every cabinet in 10 seconds then be bored with it and leave, door locks to keep them in/out of certain rooms, and I even adapted some door handle locks to put over the faucets cause they could flood a room in 10 seconds! They actually locked me out on our deck when I ran out to water down plants and turned the faucet around so it was on the island counter, turned it on full blast and proceeded to squeal whole splashing. No amount of teaching/scolding helped as everything was hilarious with your partner in crime. My dad always said one toddler can learn 20 out of 50 things per day, twins can learn 40 together plus an additional 20 that you can only do with a partner. It was insane. They are almost 9 now:) phew!

  52. Jesica June 23, 2014 at 10:59 am #

    The extent of my baby proofing included a few outlet covers and a key lock on my front door. Why couldn’t I leave my house without a key, you ask? Because my oldest son would find anything he could push over to the door and climb up on to unlock the door! I can’t tell you how many times that stinker escaped. He was lightning fast too.

  53. pentamom June 23, 2014 at 11:10 am #

    Donna, that’s an excellent point about the play yards etc.

  54. KLY June 23, 2014 at 11:26 am #

    The vast majority of my “babyproofing” involved “protecting stuff I didn’t want broken”. Besides that, there was moving the really toxic stuff out of reach until they were old enough to know better, and blocking off anywhere I didn’t want to have to go chase some small person.

  55. Marcus June 23, 2014 at 11:27 am #

    First child: Everything is baby proofed.
    Second child: not so much.
    Third child: not at all.
    Our daughter (third child) has learned to scoot down the steps on her belly by herself. If we had gates up all the time she wouldn’t know how to do that.
    One of her first words was “hot” because she knew not to put her hand on the fireplace, oven or stove. (We let her sit on the counter as we make dinner).
    We don’t have that much stuff out that can hurt the kids and the two boys watch their sister all the time. I’m not sure she is safer, but I don’t think she is any less safe.

  56. Carrie June 23, 2014 at 11:32 am #

    Yes, depends on the kid. We did only stair gates and a couple of outlet covers, and secured one big bookcase, but nothing else. My kids never opened the cabinets with the cleaning supplies even though they were right at their level. Never had a lock on any appliance or cabinet in the house. Mine just weren’t that curious, I guess!

  57. SKL June 23, 2014 at 11:43 am #

    Lenore, maybe you should collect photos of our tots exploring our non-baby-proof homes. I think it would be fun and perhaps enlightening.

  58. DirtyHooker June 23, 2014 at 11:52 am #

    Yeah, I think a lot of babyproofing is actually to protect your stuff from your baby.

    We put outlet covers on many of the outlets initially, but that hasn’t turned to to be necessary, at least not yet. We have gates on the stairs. At first it was to keep her off the stairs, but now it’s mostly to keep her confined to upstairs or downstairs, as needed. She goes up and down by herself. The most significant babyproofing thing we’ve done is to remove dangerous and/or breakable stuff from baby eye level. I’ve even removed other stuff, like diapers and cream, from that level just so I don’t have to keep putting it back when she carts it all over the house.

    I like knowing that everything she can easily get to is pretty harmless. That means I don’t have to watch her like a hawk.

  59. Dirk June 23, 2014 at 11:55 am #

    The odds of some things are minimal of course (only about 4,000 people a year electrocute them a year I heard) but for example it might make sense to put up something if you have stairs? Etc. We did some but not all for our kids.

  60. nina June 23, 2014 at 11:56 am #

    All children are different and require different degree of baby proofing at different ages. Up until a few weeks ago I was convinced that keeping sweets on a top shelf was a good idea to prevent unnecessary indulgence by my 4 year old. Then I found her balancing a stool on top of a chair so she can reach upper shelves. When I asked her what she was doing, she told me she was exploring her environment. Since then I moved sweets to a lower level and had a serious conversation with her about what and when she’s allowed to have.

  61. Stephanie June 23, 2014 at 12:10 pm #

    It depends on the kid. Our older child never got into anything. Our younger child (2) gets into everything.

    That being said, we were at a friend’s house who had the toilet lock, and no one (even the adults) could figure it out. The friend’s kid was potty trained. Why still have it on there???

  62. Maggie in VA June 23, 2014 at 12:11 pm #

    I think YMMV. I had boy-boy twins, and we had to do more baby proofing than I would ever have foreseen. One has neurobehavioral issues, and this is one reason. I only regret that we couldn’t find a fridge lock that he couldn’t defeat at 13 mos. as his raids were the source of more turmoil than almost anything. My husband had to build custom baby gates that look like high garden gates for the kitchen. The toilet lock was about averting plumbing problems more than safety. Like SOA, we had to put a gate around our audio/video equipment or it would have been destroyed.

    Yes, I reflect that my parents didn’t do any babyproofing except for a now quaint-looking baby gate here and there, but they had older siblings to look after us. We didn’t. Electrical outlets, though, take that seriously. Kids *will* try to stick things in them.

  63. Paul June 23, 2014 at 12:21 pm #

    I have “baby proofed” some things in my home for a few different reasons.

    1. I want to let my kid to be able to wander around and explore his environment early on without me needing to intervene too much for his safety.
    2. I let him play with anything in his reach. So anything in his reach will get played with and potentially destroyed if it is delicate. The truly dangerous things I also keep out of his reach such as chemicals, knives and power tools.
    3. Learning from a bad experience to adjust placement of something.

    Some things I have “baby proofed” are:
    1. Kitchen Knives are up high and out of reach. Some steak knives are in the back of a baby locked drawer.
    2. Chemicals are in the pantry that has a baby lock on the door knob or in a cabinet under the sink with a baby latch.
    3. He sometimes runs around without looking. I didn’t have any corners covered but I put some cushions on my desk after he ran into it and needed some stitches to close the cut on his cheek. I don’t have cushions anywhere else. I plan to remove them sometime in the future.
    4. I put all my books on bookshelves out of his reach. I just didn’t want him messing with them. He is now getting into reach of them but understands when I tell him not to mess with them.
    5. He tore up one of his books because he likes the sound of tearing paper. So we left his board books in his reach and moved all the others. We have now brought his books back out and into his reach and he seems to have the concept of not tearing/crumpling books but loose paper is okay. It was just something that needed to be done in stages for him.
    6. We put child door knob covers on the bathroom because he figured out how to unlock the doors from outside and I like to go to the bathroom without him sitting and watching me all the time.
    7. We have a two story house and put baby gates up. Once he got walking up and down the stairs without needing help we removed them.

    He’s now just over two and a half years old. I figure every kid is different. Some parents will do more/less baby proofing than I do and it’s up to them what they want to do.

  64. no rest for the weary June 23, 2014 at 12:26 pm #

    You know those people who leave their Christmas decorations up until Easter?

    Well, I have a dear friend who still had foam corners on her tables, locks on the cabinets and outlet covers when her kid was 7 or 8. I mentioned it, asked whether maybe it was time to take that stuff down, and she said she’d gotten so used to it she didn’t see it anymore.

  65. no rest for the weary June 23, 2014 at 12:32 pm #

    I nearly blew a gasket one Christmas (my last with my ex-in-laws, as it happened) when my sister-in-law, whose kids were much older than mine, refused to move a three-wick giant pillar candle off of a low coffee table where my then-18-month-old could reach it (she had already knocked off and broken a “precious” ornament off of my mother-in-law’s tree).

    The message I got was that aesthetics were far, far more important than protecting breakable stuff or a baby getting burned, and if I were a “good mother,” I would just watch my kid more closely.

    Still kind of steaming about that. If I were hosting an intimate family gathering where I knew we’d have a little toddler, I wouldn’t put burning candles 18 inches off the ground, and I might put my “most favourite, valuable and fragile” christmas ornaments um, I don’t know, a wee bit higher on the tree.

    There’s this kind of arms folded, “Well, I’m not doing anything at all to accommodate you” feeling I get sometimes about common sense and kids visiting from certain people who think supervision is the ONLY way to keep kids safe.

  66. Kathy June 23, 2014 at 12:33 pm #

    I’m totally with you and your mother, Mira. We didn’t baby-proof anything and we have an old three story house with a fireplace. We taught them what not to touch. Yes, occasionally, one of them had to experiment, just as I did as a child, and learned why he or she had been told not to touch the electrical outlet. I think baby-proofing is counter-productive and extremely irritating to the adults and especially any visitors.

  67. no rest for the weary June 23, 2014 at 12:37 pm #

    We actually left a few “hazards” for my kids to learn to avoid, like outlets and a few breakable things on table tops. We didn’t want to change our house so much, or get our kids so used to having nothing to respect out of fear or consideration, that when they went to others’ houses it was a free-for-all.

    But the poisons were up high, and I learned to put the glass pitchers and stuff in places little hands couldn’t reach. We did bolt a bookcase and a dresser to the wall.

    My youngest did put a wire into an outlet when she was 3. I realized then that I hadn’t lectured her about them being dangerous, the way I had with my older child. Lapse of guidance on my part. I felt terrible, but she was only burned a tiny bit on her hand, and Lord knows she had respect for anything I told her was dangerous after that.

  68. Jenna K. June 23, 2014 at 12:42 pm #

    I both have babyproofed and haven’t. When I had four kids ages four and under, I had the outlets covered and put cabinet locks on the lower cabinets. The latter was more for my sanity from not having to put everything back multiple times per day. I did have a fridge lock, but not because I was afraid my child would somehow get into the fridge and get stuck in there. It was because I was tired of coming in the kitchen and finding food all over the floor and the fridge wide open.

    It depends on the kids too. I had FOUR that were four and under at one point, so between the four of them, they could really get into stuff. Those kids are all six years old and older now and not so inclined to make messes. My current three-year-old doesn’t really get into stuff. He doesn’t open cabinets and drawers and leave messes in his wake like some of my other kids did/do. He’ll get into their LEGOS, sure, but I’m not childproofing those. My one-year-old, however, that’s a different story. She is into EVERYTHING. She pulls all the DVDs off the shelves at least twice a day, empties the lower kitchen cupboards and drawers on a daily basis, gets into my bathroom drawers, etc. I keep the doors to rooms I don’t want her in closed and will probably have to put on doorknob covers or locks when she can open doors. For me, though, it’s not just for safety, it’s for sanity.

  69. fred schueler June 23, 2014 at 12:44 pm #

    We never particularly baby-proofed, we just, as the mother in the column mentions, “taught.” Now I’m completely blown away by how much and how many different things the grandson (2 years old) is being taught by living in an unproofed house. This involves a lot of discussion of the dangers of roadkill (and comparisons to the state of dead-on-road Mammals and Turtles), the “fire in a wire” of electricity, where and when various stoves are hot, and of the cutting attributes of edged tools. Of course, if kids aren’t taught these things when they’re young, and have parents in constant attendance, aren’t they more likely to get into trouble when they’re out on their own – oh, sorry, this is why the helicopter whirls even to university.

  70. Mrs. H. June 23, 2014 at 12:48 pm #

    We did very little babyproofing and more teaching, as the writer said.

    We had a step down in the living room that leads to a fireplace with stone hearth, and while my moms-and-toddler group moms were always VERY nervous about it, our daughter was fine. When she started crawling and cruising her father pointed the step out to her and taught her how to turn around backward and go down the step on her knees. We never had trouble with it after that.

    I DID, however, lock the toilet. That wasn’t to save the child, it was to stop the flushing-obsessed child from clogging the pipes. Where we live, it costs $185 for the plumber to walk through the door and $315 if he has to detach the toilet from the floor. A three-dollar plastic gizmo seemed like a good investment

  71. Steve June 23, 2014 at 12:52 pm #

    Baby-proof your house so you can FEEL like your kids are safe all the time.

    Baby-proof your house so you don’t have to teach your children how to be independent and safe.

    We put outlet covers on electrical outlets when our kids were little, and I’m not sure why. It was probably because when my brother was a child he stuck a bare wire into an outlet … and he got fried. No! Not really. Actually did put the wire in the outlet, but nothing happened to him.

    I tend to think outlet covers are sort of like child-proofing your hardwood floors with “crack covers.” If you don’t install crack covers a kid might get his fingernail stuck in the crack the day the house catches on fire and you’ll forget the child was in that room and he’ll die a horrible death… or not.

    Does anyone know of even one real instance when a child got seriously harmed by sticking something in an electrical outlet?

    Also, playpens have been around for many years. Why not use one if you’re busy and don’t trust your small child?

    You have a serious problem, however, if the child can climb out and YOU don’t want to apply the necessary “discipline.”

    Who is running your household, you or your child?

  72. EricS June 23, 2014 at 12:58 pm #

    Mira: Sounds like you’ve already “baby proofed”…your kids. Sure the bookshelf is self explanatory. That makes sense. Everything else, it’s just a matter of teaching your kids “do’s and don’ts”. That’s how almost every kid was taught before this generation. Your mom, and all other parents before her has it right. And the proof? We are all still alive, with all our fingers. Trust the tried and tested way of parenting. Not the new age, fear induced, profit making (by companies who want to sell you their child safety product), no commonsense thinking of many parents today. It obviously doesn’t work as well. 😉

    Keep up the good work, and great parenting mentality. Your kids have a very bright, and encouraging future.

    But as Lenore points out, nothing wrong with baby proofing, so long as it’s done for the right reasons. ie. commonsense, not fear based. Because most parent’s fears these days are not substantiated.

  73. Rachele June 23, 2014 at 1:00 pm #

    Montessori philosophy actually sort of frowns on childproofing because it hinders kids from learning how to interact with the real world safely, and I have found this to be very accurate. I put a latch on exactly two cabinets – one for cleaning supplies and one for medicine. And my kids learned how to use real glasses and plates and knives and forks from a very young age, and soon after, real scissors, tools, electronics, and the stove. They become competent much faster when you don’t assume they need training wheels for everything. They sort of follow your lead on how careful they need to be. I did have one who loved to suck on small plastic objects, so we had to move the Legos for about six months.

  74. mandy June 23, 2014 at 1:12 pm #

    I think you have to do what suits your situation best. I used baby gates and outlet covers and one kitchen cabinet lock for under the sink where I keep cleaning supplies.

    My mother-in-law told me I should move all of my ornaments out of the way. I ignored the advice and taught him not to touch. I only wish some other parents had done this as I’ve had broken figures, a seamonkey aquarium tipped over and a spindle on my staircase broken by visiting kids!

  75. Jill June 23, 2014 at 1:13 pm #

    I think this is one where you really need to make a decision based on your individual child. At 9 months my son started exploring! And at that age, he was not developmentally capable of comprehending “that’s dangerous”, “that’s not a toy”, “that will give you an owwie” type messages nor could he follow directions like “put that back please”.

    Now, at 12 months, he knows how to be devious, waiting until we turn our back or walk out of a room before he zooms to the forbidden areas. So, for him, we babyproofed.

    But if you have a child that understands the “no-no!” messages early or follows directions to stay out or keep away, then don’t bother. Base it on your kids’ needs and not some “rule”.

  76. Reziac June 23, 2014 at 1:14 pm #

    Uh… toilet locks??! Hope you (and your kids) never need to go in a hurry in the middle of the night.

    Me and everyone of my generation survived childhood without ANY of these ‘protections’. Were we that much smarter than today’s kids??!

  77. Donna June 23, 2014 at 1:19 pm #

    “Why not use one if you’re busy and don’t trust your small child?”

    I see absolutely no inherent difference in a play pen and baby proofing.

  78. SusanOR June 23, 2014 at 1:29 pm #

    The one piece of babyproofing that I do believe we should do is anchoring heavy furniture to the wall (can be done with a simple L bracket near the baseboard, not those ridiculous straps). Because furniture can be tipped over more easily than we realize, sometimes even just by the way in which someone uses the furniture to pull up to standing (as adults, we don’t do that, nor is our center of gravity the same as a toddler). We anchored bookshelves, dresser in kid’s room, and in living room.

  79. Havva June 23, 2014 at 1:30 pm #

    I don’t see being bothered by a kid who is 2 1/2 living in a house that isn’t specifically ‘baby-proofed.’ By that age the only interference from baby proofing we had was a gate to keep our daughter from darting down the stairs when she woke with a nightmare. Had she not been blindly darting in response to nightmares we wouldn’t have had the gate. But…

    “I don’t believe in baby proofing” as a statement, doesn’t seem to leave room for putting poisons out of reach. Or the differences in kids. Even the baby proofing people were surprised I was looking for a gate to stop a 2 year old. I would have been surprised too before she started those runs at the stairs. “Do what works for your family” really is the cardinal rule. By 2, we were fully focused on world proofing. But when she started those late night runs for the stairs, I’m glad I didn’t hesitate on some philosophical opposition to taking protective measures. Many a 2am full speed crash into the gate confirmed it’s necessity. After about a year the crashes stopped happening and we took it down.

    I don’t think anyone truly is opposed to some level of baby-proofing though. No one puts knives and drain cleaner in a crib with a baby.

  80. Shari June 23, 2014 at 1:52 pm #

    In our split level we got by with 1 magnetic lock on the poison-cupboard beneath the sink (which is now filled with mostly non-toxic products), outlet covers, and also a gate around the stairs. We also added light-switch extenders to give them more control, not less.

    It served us well for 3 children. All of them were good about listening to “no – it’s hot/sharp/makes you sick” but if they had been different, we would have done more.

    My only advice regarding this is to ask yourself “Am I just being a sucker for excellent marketing, or do we really need this?” If you look at all the baby-butt holders and plastic toys around your home (and electronics and doo-dads for yourself), I think the answer will often be the former. The marketers are pros at making you think you need it, somehow, and you’re only human. Take a moment, also, to consider the resources involved in creating all that stuff and shipping it from China. All of those pretty baubles and dubious “must-haves” could be money in the bank with no adverse effect on the kiddies or your own productivity.

  81. John June 23, 2014 at 2:12 pm #

    I do think parents CAN go overboard when baby-proofing their home BUT if I had toddlers, I think the little baby-proof padding that you put on fireplace ledges is certainly a good idea. If a toddler falls, which they often do, and hits their head on the sharp cement ledge, that could be fatal. But orange hot burners on a stove are just a learning experience (I remember touching one of those for curiosity sake when I was a toddler, ouch!). And no, I NEVER did that again!

  82. pentamom June 23, 2014 at 2:22 pm #

    “Does anyone know of even one real instance when a child got seriously harmed by sticking something in an electrical outlet?”

    Yes. My sister-in-law’s younger brother died as a toddler/preschooler (not sure exactly how old he was, because this was long before I knew her) as a result of a fork in an outlet, sometime in the late 50s. It DOES happen. This is one of these things that you probably hear about rarely because everyone’s so aware of the danger. But it does happen.

  83. Debora June 23, 2014 at 2:28 pm #

    We did a second parent adoption and when the social worker came into our home it was required to be baby-proofed. We are free range and had to borrow baby proofing items for the social worker visit. The family that we borrow the items from went out for the day because they did not want to be in their non-baby-proofed home with their toddler. As soon as the visit was over, we pulled the plug covers, the cabinet locks, the toilet seat lock, and the table corner pads.

    The adoption was final and our daughter has had her fair share of bumps, bruises and scrapes, but she was not shocked or electrocuted, did not drown in the toilet or kill herself when she hit her head on the corner of the table. She is a bright, articulate and independent 14-year-old.

  84. V June 23, 2014 at 2:34 pm #

    I agree about people in the past confining the baby/toddler rather than babyproofing the house. When my daughter was little, we babyproofed our apartment pretty thoroughly – not to the level of toilet locks, but heavy furniture was anchored, outlets were covered, poisons and knives were kept up high and locked – so she could run around freely. At my MIL’s house, which was not babyproofed, she had one of the big, square, old-school playpens, and when Grandma was busy cooking, into the playpen she went. There wasn’t any “teaching her not to touch dangerous things” going on, she was being confined for her safety (and to keep her out from underfoot).

  85. Betsy in Michigan June 23, 2014 at 2:38 pm #

    I absolutely HATED our toilet locks, and we got what we thought was the easiest for us and our older child to operate. Unfortunately guests required a tutorial to use it; hubby’s airforce jet pilot uncle accidentally broke one! I did not think for a second that my youngest would drown; we only needed to protect our plumbing from expensive incoming objects (said child turned out to have Asperger’s). Even now, at age 8, when I recently opined that I wished he wouldn’t put soap slivers under the soap dish drainer, he said “at least I didn’t put it down the drain”). And I did make sure that the cement basement stairs and bottom had thick padding; both kids managed to fall down when they were small. It would have happened a lot more w/out the baby gate (which also kept them from chasing the poor cats).

  86. Matthew June 23, 2014 at 2:47 pm #

    @no rest for the weary,

    I can relate to the candles. I did a walkthrough of my sisters house when we visited, and pointed out some breakables, because if I have to hover constantly to protect her stuff, and constantly be telling an 18 month old no, the added stress isn’t worth the visit.

    I didn’t think about the unlit candle, because
    1. He understood fire and hot, and managed to burn sticks camping without injuring himself the previous month.
    2. Surely no one would be dumb enough to light a candle sitting on a coffee table, then leave an 18 month old playing near it with no supervision.

    She’s watching and playing with him, and I’m in another room. I smell smoke. She’d left him and he was utilizing his camping skills to systematically burn up every combustable coaster and piece of mail he could find.

  87. Jocelyn June 23, 2014 at 2:58 pm #

    We baby proofed mostly out of convenience for me. I was tired of putting all the pots and pans back in the cabinet multiple times a day. So we put cabinet locks on all but one – the kid cabinet. And we have baby gates for multiple reasons – fear of head injury for my ten month old (I let him practice on the stairs plenty, but only when I can keep an eye on him) and so my toddler can’t come downstairs once we have put her to bed. Baby proofing can be under or overdone, just like everything else. :)

  88. Matthew June 23, 2014 at 3:02 pm #

    As far as the rest of it, just think. Somewhere between “No point in doing anything, since absolute safety isn’t possible” and a padded cell, lives “Assess real risks, and reasonable measures.”

    We prefer to use the environment to set boundaries at a very young age, and as verbal capabilities develop, transition to instruction.

    As far as basic criteria, we eliminated as many hazards that could cause permanant injury as we reasonably could. Window treatment cords were provided hooks to keep them out of play and choking range. Bookshelves anchored. Poisons up high. Glass out of reach but no corner pads on wood.

    We didn’t bother with the toilet since we couldn’t figure out an actual mechanism for any serious risk before verbal warnings were possible.

    A gate on slippery hardwood stairs but not carpeted. And with a gate so we didn’t get busted up climbing over it.

    At the grandparents, we made sure the gun that was kept on a recliner holster went in a safe (Grandpa had actually done it before being asked).

    And we did use outlet plugs, because of me. I managed to cause a smolder by shorting out a socket at a very young age.

  89. Havva June 23, 2014 at 3:23 pm #

    Electrical outlets have a hot side and a cold side. The most likely reason nothing happened to your brother is because he stuck the wire in the cold side, or perhaps the grounding plug which doesn’t carry a charge either. Same as my sister when she stuck a bobby pin in an electrical outlet. With a grounded outlet there is a 67% chance there is no electricity in the hole the kid picks. 50% chance with a two prong outlet. The other thing that makes most of the other 33% or 50% of these incidents merely painful is that the current needs to pass through the heart to kill.

    That does give a kid a good chance of survival. But I wouldn’t encourage it anymore than I would encourage crossing a neighborhood street without looking.

  90. Amy June 23, 2014 at 4:01 pm #

    I have 8 kids, aged newborn to 20, and have never baby proofed. I kept thinking I should but never got around to it. They all kinda look after each other, I guess. I do understand the pressure to be on top of everything with the firstborn, and equating good parenting with extreme attentiveness. We each need to do what works for us. I’ve been too busy with basic parenting to be consumed by cupboard latches. Just don’t store the bleach down low.

  91. E June 23, 2014 at 4:07 pm #

    @Steve, I ran into a friend at the Peds office waiting room, he son had put a screwdriver into a socket and was hurt.

    @Donna – good point point about playpens. My Mom had a big/bulky/heavy play pen that she used with us and then gave to one of my older sisters when she had kids. I’m sure she plopped us in there when she had to go upstairs (to get laundry) or downstairs (to put it in the machines). There is NO difference, it’s just different ways to do the same thing, keep kids out of trouble when you can’t supervise.

  92. E June 23, 2014 at 4:09 pm #

    @Amy…I think you do baby proof when you remove dangerous liquids. It’s not really different than putting on a cabinet lock. In fact, I’m certain EVERY parent baby proofs to some extent, whether or not they use “baby proofing” products to do that, is a different question.

  93. Stephanie June 23, 2014 at 4:28 pm #

    I babyproofed to a reasonable degree. Had cabinet locks with the first, not with the younger kids. Used baby gates on the bottom of stairs and at the bedroom door. Bookshelves and dressers are attached to walls – we live in earthquake country, a few miles from part of the San Andreas Fault, and those can hurt anyone. Besides, my oldest did climb her dresser one time and nearly tilted it on herself, which could have been serious.

    For my youngest, I had to be strict with the older two about small toys. My youngest was the one who put everything in her mouth for a long time. They’re all happier now that she has outgrown that phase.

  94. Puzzled June 23, 2014 at 4:41 pm #

    Regarding sticking things in outlets – don’t forget that Dr. Gregory House nearly died doing that, and he’s a genius doctor. Surely he has more sense than the average toddler.

  95. Havva June 23, 2014 at 4:53 pm #

    The old school play pen conversation is interesting. My mom didn’t use those. She thought it was wrong for a lot of the reasons modern parents are opposed to them. And her kitchen cabinets got child latches and the cleaning chemicals and medications are out of reach. She still hosts parties for the community at her house and it is still safe for toddlers, but it was never a nuisance to live with. Though I must say the old latches were better for not being annoying.

  96. Maegan June 23, 2014 at 5:12 pm #

    Thank you SO MUCH for sharing this. My twins are 1.5 years old and we are really focused on being free range. People are often astounded we let them wander a few feet away at the playground or mall without jumping up to drag them back every few seconds. Baby proofing has been driving me crazy, though. It feels like it’s NEVER enough. As soon as you get a locking toilet thing (that I CURSED in the middle of the night and fortunately fell off after a few days on its own, haha!), you have to start worrying about corners. And then sockets. You can’t proof against everything! Currently, I’ve settled on using those velrco adhesive command strips on the drawers and cupboards (easy to use and keeps the kids out). This is mainly because I can’t stand to have measuring cups, paper plates, straws, clothes, potholders, and feminine products strewn about the house. And most everything else is moved up high. Sometimes you just have to just do what you can and not drive yourself crazy with the things that overwhelm you. Which is actually just good advice for life. I need to take it myself a lot more often.

  97. Kaetlyn June 23, 2014 at 5:13 pm #

    We did some baby proofing so that I could let the babies/toddlers explore freely around the house, and to confine them to the upstairs while I showered. The one thing that we specifically didn’t do was cover any sharp corners. We wanted them to have some corners where they had to learn how to be careful.

  98. Andy June 23, 2014 at 5:13 pm #

    @Steve Asking whether people know dead kid from electrical outlet is like asking whether people know a toddler that drowned in a pool. The danger is real and most people do not know such person.

    I knew about adult being hit by plug current. He did not died, but I would not want my kid to go through it. They are weaker then adults. What exactly happen depends on a lot of variables (what exactly was put into the hole, what exactly is on the ground, position of the kid etc).

    We baby-proofed dangerous places accessible to kids (outlets, cleaning chemicals, poisonous plants, fix heavy objects easy to throw down etc). We did not tried to prevent bumps and small scratches, we tried to prevent injuries. We did it gradually as the kid gained abilities and it took few minutes of work maximum.

    The life is much easier if you can leave crawling six months old alone in a room while you go to adjacent one. Normal six months old, or even twelve months old is not yet able to learn all the safety rules.

  99. Elsie Kleeman June 23, 2014 at 5:21 pm #

    We did very light baby-proofing (gates and a locked china cabinet). My oldest son was obsessed with outlets, cables, and anything related to electricity from a very young age and as a result, we did not use outlet covers. It made more sense just to show him how to properly use plugs and to show him what goes into an outlet. We’ve never had an incident and he insists (at three years old) on plugging everything in: vacuums, fans, kitchen mixers, etc.

    I couldn’t understand how the socket covers prevented anything; it always seemed to give the child more opportunity to touch the outlet. He would see them and start clawing at them to get the cover off because it didn’t belong there. It made more sense to leave the sockets open and exposed so he wasn’t constantly touching the sockets in the first place. I always worried more when we went somewhere that did have socket covers because he was constantly touching them.

  100. J- June 23, 2014 at 5:31 pm #

    This says so much more than I ever could:

  101. Rachel @ Wife, Then Mama June 23, 2014 at 5:58 pm #

    I have my chemical cabinet locked up. Well I have a lock on it that can be locked if I am leaving the kids alone downstairs long enough to get into it. I have outlet covers in the bedroom the babies share and in the play room. That is it. Well, actually I have doorknob covers too, but that is to keep the kids (well mostly the 2 year old) in their rooms while I shower or at night while I am sleeping, because I have a weird fear that they will get out of bed and wander around outside and get ran over by a car because we live on a busy road.

    I am an old-school mama and “overuse” the playpen. I just couldn’t handle having the 1,2,3, and 4 year old running around the house all the time, so the baby went in the playpen. Now that he is getting a little older, he is starting to obey better and getting more “free-range”. If he touches something I don’t want him to I tell him no. If he does it again I put him in the playpen. He is learning quite quickly to obey. I also practice blanket training, so eventually he (and my living room) can be completely free of the playpen. My hope is that in a few months when I need to run outside to put the laundry on the line or take out the trash I can leave him on a blanket and be reasonably sure that he will be where I left him when I get back.

    I actually blogged about this very topic a little while ago.

  102. Cassie June 23, 2014 at 6:28 pm #

    I never babyproofed either. I have a 4yo and a 2yo and I just never did it. I mean, I scanned the house and put the breakables up high, and the marbles went away until they were older.

    …and they play out of sight all day long in our massive back (and front) yards.

    I taught them some out of bound areas, both girls learnt by the age of 18months that you never open the front gates (and hence never go onto the footpath or road without mum), and consequently if they see the gates open they will close them.

    They have a dirt/sand pit under fruit trees (which they are always climbing). Free-range is the way to go. So much more fun for them and so much simpler for mum.

  103. SKL June 23, 2014 at 6:45 pm #

    It occurs to me that there are two kinds of babyproofing.

    1. Babyproofing to keep your kids safer;
    2. Babyproofing to keep your stuff safer.

    A lot of the things mentioned here were just automatic for me. Why would I put an attractive nuisance in my tots’ reach? Though one person who lived here at that time used to leave fragile glasses full of water on low tables all day. I’d tell her it wasn’t the greatest idea, but she did it anyway. Oddly my tots did not disturb those items. However, knives? Of course they are up on a counter, where tots can’t reach unless they drag a chair over. I guess my tots were on the low end of the curiosity spectrum as far as that went. I never moved my knives, because who keeps knives at tot level? And stoves? I’ve always had electric, and the knobs are way out of reach of a tot. It’s not like there are 100 dangers per square foot in the average house.

  104. Backroads June 23, 2014 at 7:23 pm #

    I have a 15 month old. I have not baby-proofed–unless by babyproof one means keep dangerous things away from the baby. She lives.

  105. E June 23, 2014 at 7:50 pm #

    Again, there is baby proofing and baby proofing products and gadgets, but every parent does some form of baby proofing. I don’t have babies today, and as I look around the room there a several things I would move change if a toddler lived here.

    Moving the oscillating fan off the low stool it’s on, remove the hdmi cable that is still connected to my tv but not connected to my laptop ( and hanging at floor level), move a power strip that would be reachable to a toddler, move the hand lotion bottle on a small side table , etc.

    I might not buy gadgets, but I’d make our house safe by baby proofing.

  106. anonymous mom June 23, 2014 at 8:15 pm #

    I cannot comment on the veracity of this, but I’ve heard that using outlet covers can also help save energy.

    The main problem that we’ve had with ours is that they are extremely hard to remove. Like, to the point where my husband and I have had to resort to grabbing a knife and using it to pry the cover loose, which is obviously not ideal, safety-wise. But they will definitely keep our kids out!

  107. Ann June 23, 2014 at 8:49 pm #

    I didn’t babyproof anything. Same reason… my mother thought I was nuts. BUT, I did have a playpen. And yes, I plunked the babies in there when I needed to get things done. Life. Saver. Do they even sell playpens anymore?

  108. lsl June 23, 2014 at 9:21 pm #

    Anchoring bookshelves is not childproofing, it’s earthquake safety. Totally reasonable, even if you don’t live in earthquake country, as Oklahoma showed just last week.

  109. SKL June 23, 2014 at 10:00 pm #

    “Do they even sell play pens any more?”

    I had this same question when my kids were babies. Per my research, the only real choices in play pens were pack-n-plays (they call it a “play yard” but it’s way smaller than a crib), and “Superyard” which is what I bought. The “Superyard” is a sort of indoor plastic fence that you can adjust to your purpose. You can buy extra pieces to make a larger play area. You put it on your regular floor, whereas the old “playpens” we had when I was a kid had their own wooden floor.

    I really don’t know why they stopped making those wooden play pens, but I assume it had something to do with “safety.”

    Eventually most kids will figure out how to climb out of a play pen long before they reach the age of reason. My brother could climb out when he was about 9mos if not sooner. So you still have to teach your kids to stay in there.

    I kept a Superyard at my parents’ house, but the main reason was because their large German Shepherd, who wasn’t the best with kids, would get in their faces and knock them down and scare them. They could only tolerate so much of that. So the fence was to keep the dogs out, more than to keep the kids in. Once the kids and dogs had a pretty good understanding, we put the Superyard in storage.

    It seems that the idea of keeping kids in a pen became unpopular and looked down upon at some point. I don’t know why. I remember a neighbor of my parents came over and saw my kids in the pen and said, “oh, you keep them in a cage?”

  110. anonymous mom June 23, 2014 at 10:30 pm #

    This is the largest playpen I found on Amazon, and I think it’s relatively new. May have to get it for the new baby because baby gates are a bad fit in our house and tend to pose more of a falling hazard to the other kids than the protection they provide is worth.

  111. CrazyCatLady June 24, 2014 at 12:07 am #

    For my oldest, I cut the strings on the blinds and made them shorter. Middle…I made them EVEN shorter as he tended to wrap things around his neck. Last child…I think all I did was put cardboard over the lower parts of the book shelves so he couldn’t pull them off.

    With oldest we bought a gas stove with knobs in the front. I bought devices to prevent her from turning them on….they totally did not work. After that, I only got a few outlet covers.

    I can’t think of anyone who went hog wild with babyproofing. Earthquake…yes, I lived on the San Andreas for a while. But baby proofing…no. And really, it made it easier when we went to visit grandparents and such to be able to say “Play with this. Not that.” and the kids pretty much only played with the things they were supposed to because they knew from home.

  112. Yoda June 24, 2014 at 12:10 am #

    I just wanted to throw out there… only 16 children have died from drowning in toilet (between 1996-1999). Not sure where the only 450ish drownings outside of pools in general. I agree about flushing cell phones though… otherwise the toilet latches have always seemed weird and a waste of money to me.

  113. rachel June 24, 2014 at 12:20 am #

    One of the best lessons I’ve learned from my six years of being a mom is that there will always be someone who disagrees with your parenting decisions. You really can’t take someone’s “dirty look” too seriously – your kid, your house, whatever.

    I personally did a minor baby-proofing (gates on stairs, putting cleaners and such in garage instead of in cabinets in house, etc) because I had super active and curious twins and didn’t want to watch them 100% of the time. However, I could care less if you baby-proof your house or not.

    Best advice: if you think what you’re doing is right for you and your family, then just ignore the the judgement of others and keep doing it. Oh, and try not to judge others yourself.

  114. Kimberly June 24, 2014 at 2:39 am #

    The only thing we have ‘babyproofed’ is the cabinet with all of the cleaning materials. My youngest (who just turned 3), will lock it if she see’s it unlocked, which kind of defeats the purpose, and our medicine cabinet is out of reach and out of bounds for the kids. But, everything else is rather free range. We have a wood burning stove that heats us up during the winter. She’s learned what “hot” means and to not touch it (which is wonderful, because the other two when I told them the fireplace was hot, their first instinct was to touch it, which of course burned them and left me sitting there going “what on earth did you think would happen?”.. ). Our outlets are not covered, we also have 6 PC’s in the living room with surge protectors under the desks. In the living room we have a fish tank (which, we put the food up after she decided to feed all of the fishes a can at once), bird cage with budgies, that she’s also learned not to touch as the birds go nuts. Our snakes cage, which she loves to watch, and our kitchen that has our iguana’s habitat (which is 7’x8′, and is amazingly huge, and our Iguana is 6′ but, my daughter helps me feed her and change out her humidifier..), but the cage is massive, and definitely not babyproof.

    I never really saw the need to babyproof. Course, that doesn’t mean I have not wanted to tear my hair out when she decided to go through all of our bookcases at once, or draw on the couch and TV, and windows, and walls, or flick the switches to the surge protectors turning off various computers/modems/hiding the phone, but eh, we take things as they come. As I told my friend that was worried about her son falling off of an embankment when we went to the local watering hole.. “He’ll only do it once, and then he’ll learn”.

  115. SKL June 24, 2014 at 7:44 am #

    On the topic of “pens” to keep tots contained when we don’t want to watch them every second:

    What do FRK posters think of the benefits of pens, allowing kids extended time without parental attention, vs. no pens, allowing more exploration but with a parent always watching?

    My kids did a combination of both. They were usually in the “pen” for roughly an hour each day, and they also got to play in their closed room without direct supervision, because it was safe enough. But they spent a lot of time unrestrained too, which obviously required a watchful eye at 1yo. I think having time without a parent always there encourages tots to learn to think independently and entertain themselves, even if they can’t physically get very far.

    So what do you think – are “pens” anti-free range or pro-free range or neutral?

  116. Andy June 24, 2014 at 8:16 am #

    @SKL “What do FRK posters think of the benefits of pens, allowing kids extended time without parental attention, vs. no pens, allowing more exploration but with a parent always watching?”

    It is false dichotomy. Not every room is so dangerous that the parent has to constantly watch. Playpen is basically the ultimate baby-proofed space, so I fail to see how it could be more or less freerange then safe living room. And parent watching the kid every single second is neither more or less freerange then that safe living room.

    we did not had playpen. It would be useless in our house, the house was safe enough so that the kid could go almost wherever without the need for our constant attention. Might create a mess, but mostly only the kind of mess that is easy to clean up. I could do my own thing on table or in kitchen while the kid played next to me or in adjacent room.

    Our kids hated playpens when they encountered then and spend whole time crying in them. When I left them on the floor they entertained themselves for long, probably because they could move elsewhere when current location became boring for them. Plus they were able to come to us when they felt the need for attention.

  117. pentamom June 24, 2014 at 8:44 am #

    “I really don’t know why they stopped making those wooden play pens, but I assume it had something to do with “safety.”

    The wooden ones were stopped for safety reasons, but as recently as 20 years ago they were still making big square mesh-sided ones. I bought one for my 19 year old at a yard sale that had been used for one child, and was quite new, after the one I’d been given for my older kids fell apart. I didn’t realize until now that those didn’t exist, either.

    That may have been a safety thing, too, since they were also collapsible and no doubt somebody thought that was unsafe.

    At least they still make pack & plays. I don’t know what I would have done without one of those. I didn’t have my kids in them all the time but I was a firm “I use the bathroom ALONE” person.

  118. lollipoplover June 24, 2014 at 9:09 am #

    @SKL- For all of my babies, we used the small office room off the kitchen and family room that we never furnished and turned it into a playpen-like room. We gated it and just put a handful of toys in there so I guess it was babyproofed by omission. Honestly, it’s safer to keep the baby out of the kitchen during meal prep and healthier for mom too. I needed a break from baby too.

    I actually did look into getting an large playpen to put in our great room but couldn’t find one. I also used a baby walker(gasp!) in our driveway when the kids played outside. I got many lectures about their dangers though I had one growing up.

  119. CrazyCatLady June 24, 2014 at 9:45 am #

    Benefits of pens: I was given one that I rarely used. My friend who has 5 kids used one starting with child number 3, because child number 2 had some resentment issues and would be mean to the baby. Mom could put the baby in the pen, go to the bathroom or such, and not worry that the baby was going to be smothered by the older child (who was not old enough to climb into the pen.)

    Mostly, I have seen pens used to contain puppies or as a “bed” for babies at motels. (Usually very nasty, dirty, never cleaned beds.)

  120. SKL June 24, 2014 at 10:08 am #

    My kids did not mind their pen. I kept the coolest toys in there, plus they had each other, and neither was extremely active before age 2. If they did nothing but scream in there, I’m not sure what I’d do. In my mom’s day they would generally force the baby to get used to the idea even if it meant some screaming. I’m glad I never had to worry about that.

  121. anonymous mom June 24, 2014 at 10:09 am #

    As to the pen/no pen issue, honestly I just think that we overestimate the influence of experiences in the first couple of years of life. I don’t think small choices like that–whether you keep a baby/toddler contained in a playpen in a non-babyproofed room or keep them contained in a room that is babyproofed–actually matter.

    On a pro-pen note, though, I do think that generations of babies/toddlers were kept contained in things like playpens, cribs, swings, and walkers much of the time, and it didn’t seem to impair their later ability to be independent or take risks. So I don’t think there’s a big downside to it.

    I think it’s probably more our adult visceral reaction to it: What’s a baby doing in a cage?! We don’t realize that babies/toddlers don’t think like us. My oldest didn’t like anything, but my younger two loved being swaddled, which from an adult perspective would be horrific. I’d feel tortured if somebody were to secure me in a blanket so that I couldn’t move my arms or legs, but many babies find it very comforting. My younger two also loved their crib (my almost-3-year-old is actually still in it, because he loves it), and if they started to get upset or overwhelmed would often calm down pretty quickly if we put them in the crib with a book and a toy or two.

    I don’t think there’s anything wrong with *not* using “baby containers,” but I also don’t think there’s anything wrong with using them. A lot of first-years-of-life stuff comes down to what works best for the parents and the family as a whole, and I think that’s fine.

  122. Rachael June 24, 2014 at 10:12 am #

    My house is not baby proof, it is baby friendly. I put dangerous things (cleaners, knives etc) out of reach, along with things I really don’t want broken. That’s about it. Then I teach my kids what is ok and what is not.
    If their world is closed off to them, it only makes them more curious. Besides, my kids are crazy smart and figured out how to undo the baby locks at grandmas house by about 15 months old.

  123. Cynthia June 24, 2014 at 10:59 am #

    Mira, I too did not baby proof my house for either of my kids. As a stay at home mom in the pre grammar school years, my feelings were that I would be there to teach them the danger areas of the house, very similar to what my mother did with me and my four siblings when we were growing up. The only exception to this was the latch on the cabinet under the kitchen sink that had cleaners, toxic sprays, etc stored there.

    As for the stairs, I did not gate them, but when each child showed an interest in them, we spent a lot of time going up and backing back down safely to teach them how to do the stairs. Knock on wood, call it luck, or call it training, neither of my kids ever fell down the stairs, or stuck their fingers into a light socket. It all comes down to what you are comfortable with as a parent. Some of us have very different thresholds for risk with our kids. This is neither good nor bad, it just is the way it is. Good luck to you.

  124. Havva June 24, 2014 at 11:03 am #

    I would say the pen is neutral. Because you can child proof a room well enough to not need to supervise. So the pen is a more convenient way to establish that space. The key would seem to be giving the kid sufficient time with out constant over watch to be comfortable being on his/her own. (I say that as a mom who was so constant in oversight in the first year plus, that it took months and many tears for my daughter to be okay with being alone for a few minutes.)

    I had the “how did moms in the past get anything done with a baby in the house” conversation with a grandma who was babysitting her grandson. Basically she said she used to drop her kids in the play pen or some safe room and they would be fine. But that her grandson (like my daughter at the time) would wail in distress at being left for any amount of time. That brought into focus the need to train my daughter to be okay without constant hovering. By then she was old enough that we just told her we couldn’t help her while we were cooking and pointed her to her toys in an adjacent room. It seemed easier and kinder at that point to train her to walk away from us than to suddenly start locking her in and walking away from her.

    So by pen or by childproof room; setting things up so mom can make dinner without the baby or toddler getting into trouble seem like a good proto-freerange thing to do.

  125. no rest for the weary June 24, 2014 at 11:33 am #

    I absolutely did the playpen thing.

  126. Sara A. June 24, 2014 at 12:09 pm #

    My daughter figured out how to take the outlet covers out at about a year old, and so I started devoting a lot of time in teaching her to leave the outlets alone. I also realize that even if she could get her tiny fingers in there, she’s not conductive. I did install cabinet locks on the under-sink cabinets in the bathroom and kitchen. I have no desire for her to experience drain cleaner. I also have a fridge lock because she went through a phase of opening and closing the fridge about a zillion times a day.

  127. EricS June 24, 2014 at 1:40 pm #

    Growing up, our “baby proofing” was “I told you so”, and “now you’ll remember for next time”. Consequence and embarrassment were very good “baby proofing” methods. It was quick, and pretty much permanent. lol

    I’ve had my incident of getting shocked putting a butter knife in an electric socket. I got a big jolt, but didn’t cry. I was about 8, but I was shocked (literally and emotionally), and I didn’t want to get into trouble, because my parents did tell me not to stick my finger in the electric socket. Technically I didn’t, I used a butter knife. lol My dad asked me what was wrong when he saw the look on my face, and my older sister ratted me out. He asked me if I was ok, I wanted to cry, but held it. He hugged me and said I’ll be fine. Then he said, “see, that’s what happens when you don’t listen”. From there on in, I thought before leaping…most of the time. And not only did I learn my lesson, my sister and brother made sure to pay attention too. Because they didn’t want it happening to them.

    Kids have always been and will always be able to learn. But they have to be allowed to. Parents shouldn’t shelter or coddle their children. Sweeping issues under the rug, isn’t a solution. It’s only a mask. To solve a problem, you have to address the problem. Not cover it up, or keep pulling your children away.

  128. Andy June 24, 2014 at 3:09 pm #

    @Sara A. Humans are conductive. Why would you think we are not?

  129. pentamom June 24, 2014 at 3:29 pm #

    If we weren’t conductive, our hearts and nerves wouldn’t work!

  130. pentamom June 24, 2014 at 3:30 pm #

    But we’re not “highly conductive.” That’s why kids sticking their own fingers in usually doesn’t have dire consequences, but sticking in a more conductive object can. I guess that’s what Sara is thinking.

  131. SKL June 24, 2014 at 3:45 pm #

    Before I was born, my parents had a dog who got electrocuted while messing with an outlet. The dog had to be put down.

    My parents still never had outlet covers (did they even exist then?), but they were careful to teach us why playing with an outlet (or wires around water etc.) is an extremely bad idea.

  132. Andy June 24, 2014 at 4:17 pm #

    @pentamom How do you define “highly conductive”?

    There is no difference between touching current with bare finger and sticking more conductive object into it. More conductive object will add little resistance to electrical circuit you are part of which changes nothing.

    Sticking non-conductive object would change a lot – it would be safe. Standing on isolated non-conductive floor would change a lot – it would make whole thing safe too. The point is, adding and removing highly conductive wires/elements from/to circuit changes nothing.

    The outlet itself is highly conductive wire. Touching it with conductive thing just makes it little longer, but does not changes the safety of the whole fun.

    Off-topic: If multiple healthy adults make hand holding chain and outermost adults stick highly conductive elements into outlet, whole action will be safe and everyone will be hit by a small current. I’m not sure how many people is enough to make it safe through.

  133. Amanda Matthews June 24, 2014 at 4:47 pm #

    “We have never baby-proofed our home for the simple reason, that when we go away, the grandparents houses, as well as friends who either have older children or no children, don’t have baby-proofing. One thing I know, when a toddler sees something different, they will immediately go to investigate.”

    Exactly. And no baby-proofing gives you the chance to teach the child what is appropriate to mess with and what isn’t.

    “Because otherwise you kinda have to keep them in your sight all the time”

    Uh no you don’t. I didn’t baby proof and I didn’t keep my kids in my sight all the time either.

    And I didn’t use “pens” either. They are just the same as cages imo.

    I don’t want my stuff broken, but instead of caging my kids I taught my kids to use my things correctly, how to not run inside the house and knock things over, to not pick up things that are not theirs without asking the owner first, etc.

    I’ve heard of some people that have toilet locks, or baby gates blocking the bathroom, or etc. for their 2 and 3 year olds. Or they lock their 2/3 year olds in their bedrooms at night so they can’t get to the bathroom. I don’t see how that isn’t abuse. If you locked a 10 year old away from the bathroom and forced them to wear a diaper, you’d be arrested. And it’s no surprise that the way I usually run into these people is that they are asking for help with potty training.

  134. Warren June 24, 2014 at 5:09 pm #

    The fold down mesh sided pens were awesome for us. We were always on the go, and be it camping, visiting friends, family or hotel rooms, the babe had an area all of her own, and it doubled as a place to sleep.

  135. Andy June 24, 2014 at 5:22 pm #

    @Amanda Matthews How do you teach 7 months old to ask item owner for permission? They do not even remember where they hit themselves for more then few days, they definitely fall and hit themselves on the same place many times until they really remember it.

    Baby proofing is done because of babies, not for 3 years old kids. 3 years old can be taught everything you talk about, babies not yet.

  136. anonymous mom June 24, 2014 at 5:46 pm #

    @EricS, I don’t think anybody is suggesting that 8yos need outlet covers. But, 8 is not 2. My 4yo understands to avoid outlets and not ever stick anything in there, but my 2yo does not. And, the same current that might simply jolt an 8yo could do a lot more harm to an 18 month old.

    Personally, I think it’s just as potentially unfair to kids to overestimate their abilities as to underestimate them. Babies and toddlers have little to no ability to reason, assess risk, or resist temptation. Often the most age-appropriate way to handle them is to contain them or remove the risk/temptation. Otherwise, you are expecting more than they are capable of.

    @Amanda, it’s not abuse because 2 is not 10. Kids are very, very different at 2 and at 10. I don’t lock my kids in their room, but I do close their door, and they aren’t great at opening it. It’s because I don’t want my 2 and 4 year olds tripping down the stairs in the dark, something I don’t have to worry about with my 10 year old.

    Swaddling a 10 year old would be abusive, but it’s something babies enjoy. Breastfeeding an 8 year old would be extremely troubling, but with a 2 year old, it’s fine. If another adult put me in time-out they’d be confining me illegally, but it’s okay to do with a child. Because different things are appropriate at different ages.

  137. Jill June 24, 2014 at 5:51 pm #

    My best friend in kindergarten lost his sister when she drank drain cleaner as a toddler, so I grew up knowing it was important to keep toxic chemicals and other dangerous things out of the reach of small children.
    I baby-proofed our house before my son was born in 1988, but I didn’t go overboard: just put those plastic sliding locks on the lower kitchen cabinets, put away the breakables and anything small enough to swallow, and got those little plastic things that you cover electrical outlets with. My son used to go around the house and pull those out and bring them to me, so after awhile I just left them out, since he showed no interest in sticking anything into the outlets.
    Except for jamming the DVD player by putting a quarter in it when he was about six, he never messed with anything electronic. I think most kids, once they’re out of diapers, can learn pretty quickly not to poison themselves or destroy things.
    I thought I was pretty moderate about baby-proofing, but my mother-in-law thought I went overboard. When her kids were young, she never used car seats, probably because they didn’t exist back then, but she insisted they were completely unnecessary, even when I explained they were required by law. I can’t imagine what the next generation’s attitude is going to be about baby-proofing. They’ll probably surround their kids in bubble wrap and never let them out of their sight.

  138. Havva June 24, 2014 at 6:23 pm #

    “I can’t imagine what the next generation’s attitude is going to be about baby-proofing. They’ll probably surround their kids in bubble wrap and never let them out of their sight.”

    I honestly think things are going to swing back the other way. I have a friend who’s parents were total helicopters before that was socially acceptable. She is not okay with how she was raised. She, in all likelihood, isn’t going to be a parent because she is still trying to fight her own fears. But I think as more people see what this does to kids things will change. The “pedo bear” meme seems to be an early showing of the current generation laughing at, and fighting back against, the fear imposed on them.

  139. hineata June 24, 2014 at 7:42 pm #

    Yes, with those who say it depends on the kid. I earthquake-proofed a lot of my house years ago when I was doing family daycare, and that took care of some ‘baby-proofing’ issues. My first was pretty good with just a tap on the hand to discourage him from touching the gas heater etc, though he still managed to get his finger cut exploring tin cans I’d forgotten in the rubbish tin!

    Midge was a bit of a nightmare though – had to touch anything not nailed down, would crawl out of the cot and fall asleep in front of our door, etc etc. She even had a go (after I’d explained to them not to and why) at turning the natural gas supply cock for the street outside our church in Malaysia – thank the Good Lord the thing was already so rusty it wouldn’t turn even with a three year old hanging off it :-). She also managed to turn off the escalator in the very busy underground in KL. 24/7 supervision was the only 100% cure with that kid, and obviously that was impossible, so a few things like gates and outlet covers became necessary ‘evils’….though they only slow a kid down.

    Do what you need to….

  140. SOA June 24, 2014 at 8:48 pm #

    I had a friend that bragged about how she does not babyproof because she watches her kids. Then her son was almost killed when he got elecrocuted on one of the high voltage outlets that you plug a washer or dryer into. So yeah……. Sometimes being smug and overestimating your parenting abilities is not a good idea. She is a wonderful mother, but even wonderful mothers can have things like this happen to them. So that is why I babyproofed.

    We did a baby proof playroom that was gated off for when they were super little and we could leave them alone in there and know they were safe. Then we gave them access to more of the house and started babyproofing the living room and hallway and their room. Then eventually they had the entire house but by then they were old enough to know better about messing with stuff.

    Even at 7 though our stairs are still gated off. They are in a location that someone could easily sleepwalk or slip and fall down them. I am worried I would even fall down them in the dark at night. So the gate will probably stay up a long time.

  141. Ramona June 24, 2014 at 10:45 pm #

    I remember, growing up in the 70s, for my baby sister we had outlet covers (I still remember how they looked, brown plastic ones) and a playpen. By the time you were over 2 you pretty much were expected to know what not to do. We had a big house with a couple flights of narrow stairs I’d run up and down from a very young age, no safety gates.

    By the time I was a parent I wanted to replicate that, I didn’t want to fall into that whole babyproofing craze. I had a playpen for my baby, and inserted the outlet covers. I also got a lock for the liquor cabinet, lol. Nothing else. I even left out my glassware and antique teacups. Not one thing did he ever break. :) And I can’t even remember if he ever got hurt on anything, nothing stands out.

  142. Sarah June 25, 2014 at 5:49 pm #

    What is with the tolet locks? I have three kids and I have never seen one try to drink the water out of the tolet. Are children drowning in tolets? With the youngest, I kept my furninshing simple with very little clutter, easy due to the fact that I was broke. With my younger ones I blocked off the youger ones room because then he could play with his legos without the baby getting into them. Cleaning products in upper cabinets, pots and pans and tupperwere in lower cabinets for the baby to play with. Thats it. Anything else locked off is just for so that parents don’t have to deal with the hassel of there crap being messed with, which is fine, but should not be manditory.

  143. pentamom June 25, 2014 at 9:25 pm #

    Andy, you’re right. My bad. I don’t know what I was thinking.

  144. Elizabeth June 26, 2014 at 7:46 am #

    It so depends on the kid, and who knows one’s child best? Parents. I have 4 children, and I have never met an outlet cover that a child could not pull out. Toilet locks, though – a must if you have a flusher. After child #4 flushed a hackeysack down the commode, resulting in a $200 plumber’s bill, I kicked myself for not having them. My children are all quite clumsy, but I couldn’t bring myself to pad every surface in the house. What is toddlerhood without a perpetual, coffee-table inflicted bruise to the forehead?

  145. Rachel @ Wife Then Mama June 26, 2014 at 11:08 am #

    @Elizabeth – Wouldn’t it be easier for everyone to just by a childproof lock for the door instead of a complicated toilet lock? Totally not judging, I would not be pleased if I had a kid flushing stuff down the toilet, and would do something to stop it too. It just seems like a complicated way to do it. I have never encountered one of these toilet locks, but from what I have heard they are a way bigger pain than the door locks.

  146. SOA June 26, 2014 at 9:06 pm #

    I also did not do toilet locks. We just kept the door to the bathroom shut if we did not want them in there and put a doorknob cover over the doorknob. Was way easier.

  147. SKL June 27, 2014 at 8:44 am #

    I lucked out. My kids were too short to open the doors, and it never occurred to them to go get a chair.

    My kids were using the potty regularly before they could walk, so I did not really keep the bathroom off limits as far as I recall. I didn’t have a big problem with them playing with the toilet. I’m sure they tried it once or twice, but they were pretty good about following rules once they knew them. With the exception of pushing buttons. I never could get my eldest to stop turning electronics on when she was 1. Since I don’t like to say “no” all the time, I just gave up on that one.

    It all depends on the kid. But I can’t see locking stuff that the other adults in the house need to use. It would be a last resort.

  148. Megan Jordan June 27, 2014 at 12:49 pm #

    I did outlet covers and nothing else, and I only did those in the one room we are in the most so I didn’t have to watch my son constantly. I wasn’t even going to do those, but he was walking at 9 months and after catching him trying to put things in the outlet holes twice I decided that it was better to just cover the damn things than to have to watch like a hawk…if he hadn’t been able to stand and get such good access to them I’m not sure I would’ve done it. I am considering a fridge lock now, though. My son is 3 now and he likes to open the fridge and leave the door open and take things out and leave them around the house. It’s just a nuisance.

  149. Elizabeth June 29, 2014 at 8:39 pm #

    Rachel — good point, but when the hackeysack incident happened said child just ran in while I was at the sink, flushed, and ran! He was, I think taking the thing from a sibling and didn’t want to be busted. He’s a rascal. We had locks for our first child, and it was a pain to have to explain them to guests. That kid was a flusher, too. We have spent a small fortune on our septic system, so we are kind of obsessive about it! :-)