Babyproofing Hysteria

Each diyaieybfi
week I get an email blast called “Connect with Kids” that veers between helpful and crazy-making. Today it’s the latter. (

In a little article about babyproofing, it quotes an “expert” who casts her eyes around a new parent’s home and, “immediately spots something she doesn’t like in the kitchen. Plastic trash bags.”

Continues the blog: “‘You think these are great for your trash cans, well, they are, but it’s terrible for your baby,’ she explains. ‘Children love plastic. For some reason, they are drawn to it. They will eat it, and they will suffocate.'”

Excuse me, but children are not drawn to eating plastic bags. This expert has confused children with turtles (who may or may not confuse plastic bags with jelly fish).

The threat to children from plastic bags happens when a bag falls onto them and they are too young to be able to pull it off, or even to lift their heads to catch a breath. Very young. The other threat is when children fall asleep against a plastic bag and, again, their neck muscles are too young and weak for them to turn their heads to breathe. Here’s a report on just that from the Consumer Product Safety Commission: Also note that 90% of the kids who die are under age 1. They are not eating bags. They are accidentally smothered.

Of course, any parents reading this babyproofer’s advice may well think that now they must banish that staple, the plastic garbage bag, from their kitchens. I know, I know — plastic garbage bags are bad for the environment. What I’m talking about, though, is how blithely parents are expected to upturn their lives in the interests of preventing an exceedingly, excessively, outrageously unlikely danger.

If we acted that way with grown-up dangers we’d be wearing helmets at work (a plant could fall off the file cabinet!) and drinking that awful office coffee from our hands (because plastic cups contain hardeners, paper has been chemically treated, mugs may leach glaze and bottles could shatter). (The coffee is awful just because it always is.)

At some point we have to say to ourselves there is only so much we can worry about. And I say this as a bona fide worrier — ask my kids.

So yes, by all means, do try to keep your child safe. Ask a babyproofer’s advice, if you’d like. Nothing wrong with that. But also try to keep danger in perspective: The average American home is not a death trap.

(The mortgage – that’s another story.) — Lenore

49 Responses to Babyproofing Hysteria

  1. Sandra March 28, 2009 at 12:36 am #

    *wraps head in duct tape to prevent brain from exploding*

  2. Annika March 28, 2009 at 1:00 am #

    I hate babyproofing. It is sort of my bette noir (which is confusing because my username everywhere is noirbettie, which means something entirely different). We have a loft area that my son could have crawled right off of, and I put lattice up to prevent that. I also locked the cupboard with glasswear–though that was not for his safety but for my convenience as I do not like buying new glasses. My parent friends are all babyproofers and it makes me crazy.

  3. Uly March 28, 2009 at 1:00 am #

    Cats are drawn to plastic bags, and will lick them incessantly. Something about how they’re rendered.

    Never seen a cat stupid enough to *eat* a plastic bag, though, much less eat one so carelessly they choked to death. I should hope your average kid is at least as smart as a cat.

  4. Rachel March 28, 2009 at 1:05 am #

    I am mom to a very busy 7 month old who is going to start crawling any time now. I’ve been reading a lot about babyproofing the house and think a lot of what I read is insanity. Also totally impracitcal for a family that rents their house. We can not go drilling holes into all the walls to secure every single thing! So we’ll do the basics–outlet covers (my brother-in-law once was caught trying to stick broken glass into an outlet!), remove heavy head-bashing items from wobbly bookcases, latch the toilet and secure any chemicals. But that is it. Nothing can protect my child better than diligent supervision…

  5. David Veatch March 28, 2009 at 1:05 am #

    Continually a source of refreshing realism, and I couldn’t agree more. A friend recently had a home visit for a possible pending adoption, and the only thing they pointed out as not being baby-safe was the storage of caustic cleaners under the sink. That’s easy to move, and easy to understand. I was surprised, as I expected the young woman to point out numerous lurking dangers.

    This tangentially reminds me of the family I saw board the train after us this weekend. The parents passed wet wipes around to all the children who could use them, and instructed them to wipe down every hard surface within reach. We were shocked at the level of ignorance and futility… not only are they encouraging hysterical fear of germs, but how do they propose to attack all the germs in the soft fabric, or deal with the overwhelming allergies their children have when they grow up with weakened immune systems? What about all the surfaces they touched getting onto the train, or all those they touch throughout the day? How long until these parents instruct their children to wear hazmat suits all day every day?

    The mind… it boggles.

  6. Marcy March 28, 2009 at 1:39 am #

    One of my cats eats plastic bags and tape and balloon strings. It’s awful. Cleaning the mess up, bleah. I do keep them out of the way of cats, so they are then out of the way of babies, but I also hand my baby plastic bags with stuff in them to play with. They are good for motor control. And they are still good for inside snow boots. I can’t be the only person who went to school with plastic bags on my feet.

  7. Shama-Lama Mama March 28, 2009 at 1:48 am #

    Have you seen the show Mad Men, which takes place in the early sixties? The mom is hanging out in the kitchen with a friend when her daughter runs into the room with a dry cleaning bag over her head, falling clear down to her feet.

    The modern viewer gasps at the impending possible tragedy!

    The mom looks at her daughter and snips, “If my dry cleaning is all over the bedroom floor, I am gonna whup you!”

    Daughter runs out of the room, still wrapped in a plastic bag.

  8. Glen Turpin March 28, 2009 at 2:00 am #

    We didn’t baby-proof our house — we house-proofed our babies.

    When they were young enough to get into this kind of trouble, we watched them like hawks and gently guided them away from potential dangers. When they were old enough to understand, we explained why certain activities or things can be dangerous.

    Years have passed without incident. They pay attention when we explain the risks of new situations that they encounter as they grow older, and they consistently take appropriate care of themselves.

    A little diligence and education has gone a long way for us.

  9. Stepan March 28, 2009 at 2:13 am #

    House-proofing your kids has the additional benefit that it’s not limit to your house. Your kids are safer (and less likely to cause a disaster) when visiting places that aren’t padded cells.

    We do child-proof the obvious things (cabinet with chemicals, attaching tall book-cases to the wall in our daughter’s room, etc.) but most of it is common sense, *supervision* and instruction.

    BTW, I do remember sticking wires into a socket as a child (good ol’ European 220V), climbing on furniture and I have plenty of scars from using sharp tools at an early age. Somehow I survived…

  10. Sunnymama March 28, 2009 at 2:31 am #

    I remember when sunnyboy was a newborn attending a mother & baby group where the group leader started a talk on ‘babyproofing’ by saying everything in the home was lethal to a baby. I was incredulous but the other mothers seemed to be lapping it up.

  11. SheWhoPicksUpToys March 28, 2009 at 2:35 am #

    I remember going to the family doctor (didn’t have a pediatrician locally) when one of my kids was just turning four. She solemnly warned me that this was the age at which I’d really have to start “locking up the bleach” because this was the most inquisitive, dangerous age.

    I thought privately to myself, “No, the most dangerous ages were one and two, when he could get around by himself and couldn’t tell one thing from another. He’s FOUR YEARS OLD for crying out loud! He doesn’t just pick things up and drink them without knowing what they are because he has been taught that only food is for eating and that stuff in the laundry room or basement isn’t food!”

    I am all for diligence, and if you have a child that for whatever reason is unable or unwilling to follow simple rules about not touching things and not eating or drinking unknown things, then you have to be extra careful. But the idea that a child was more of a danger to himself at four than as a toddler really boggled my mind.

    Then there was my oldest who actually DID walk into the room at about age 2, proudly showing me how she could put a plastic bread bag over her face. I certainly DID freak, but you know, 16 years later, we do still eat bread, and we’ve still got all the kids…..

    BTW, what exactly was the babyproofer’s solution? Stop producing garbage? Let the mold and bacteria grow in unlined garbage receptacles? Enquiring minds want to know! 😉

  12. The Mother March 28, 2009 at 2:57 am #

    When I was first pregnant, we childproofed our house. Not ridiculous stuff, mind you, just putting locks on cabinets that had poisons in them.

    Our first child was the timid sort. He was three before he went down a slide. And even then, he was pushed.

    So we got careless.

    Our second son was the kind of kid who could climb out of his crib at 9 months.

    Still, happy to report no fatal accidents from careless childproofing.

    Lots of good head bonks, though.

  13. Karla E March 28, 2009 at 3:41 am #

    Most of our friends are amazed that we never installed baby gates on our stairs. When our oldest was a baby, we lived in a house with THREE staircases. I just couldn’t justify buying SIX gates, and drilling all those holes in my walls. So as soon as he could crawl we taught him to crawl UP the stairs, and then we taught him to slide DOWN the stairs on his tummy, feet first. So we taught him the right thing to do…that’s our job as parents, right?

    An additional bonus was that it’s hilarious to watch a kid slide down the stairs, bump, bump, bump. Probably why he likes roller coasters today.

  14. AnnMarie March 28, 2009 at 3:41 am #

    I’m having to do far more “baby” proofing now that I have a 4 year old. I wasn’t worry about her getting into so much stuff when she was a baby. But now…she decided to be like Dad and fix her hair only she didn’t know he uses special stuff so she put lotion in her hair. And she used lotion instead of soap for a while before we realized that one. And the other day I discovered drips of the soap all over the bathroom counter plus a soaked hand towel (was she trying to clean the sink?). Oh yeah, and after 2 years of the toothpaste being left on the counter she decided it would make a nice snack and started eating it.

    ::sigh:: It was far, far easier with a 2 year old who couldn’t reach these things!!! (Nor had the motor control to open the toothpaste or dispense the soap/lotion.)

    Like another poster, we were also with her much more constantly when she was a baby, and she couldn’t get out of her crib at night. Now she can go into the bathroom on her own since, you know, we encourage such behavior for using the toilet.

    By the way–the soap is still there but we put the lotion up since we don’t want it wasted. The toothpaste also went behind a door and I’m encourage DH to return to the non-flouride t-paste even though she doesn’t like it. But I doubt she’ll die from eating it in small quantities so am not terribly worried. 🙂

  15. lemontree March 28, 2009 at 3:46 am #

    I dutifully put in outlet covers for my first two babies. By the time they reached crawling age and became interested in outlets, they could pull the covers off. Frustrating waste of money! My first two were obsessed with plugging and unplugging real appliances- lamps and such- one did get shocked once. My last tried to stick a screwdriver in one, but we caught her before any harm was done.

  16. Peter March 28, 2009 at 4:16 am #

    Our baby loves plastic bags! They really do make the best toys…

  17. beanie March 28, 2009 at 4:39 am #

    My cat pees on plastic bags. The danger in my house is that babies will walk in cat pee.

    Or worse…if the cat pees in a disposable diaper, which crinkles in that satisfying, plastic-bag-sorta way, and then the baby puts the diaper on its head? And suffocates???

    The sheer breadth of danger here is so overwhelming that I, henceforth, will dress babies in Velcro suits and stick them to the wall in the family room.

  18. justanotherjen March 28, 2009 at 4:44 am #

    8 1/2 years of being a mom, 4 kids and not one of them every tried to eat a plastic bag. Seriously, people worry about this stuff. I did have to yell at my son a couple of times to not put them on his head when he was 4 and 5 and recently I had to yell at him about pulling off the little bits left over that attached the bags together at the supermarket because he was stretching them out and sucking the stretched part into his mouth. He hasn’t done it since I told him to stop (he’s 7 now).

    The only baby proofing we did once our oldest started crawling were a few outlet covers (most of the outlets in our house are screwed up from the people that owned it before us using the outlet covers…which got stuck in the outlets and broke off), a gate at the bottom of the stairs and into the kitchen and I moved a few of my mom’s knick-knacks that might get broken (my mom had died the year before and I couldn’t bare to think of her stuff getting broken). We also started closing the bathroom door and put a new lock on the cabinet under the sink where the cleaning supplies are kept. That was it.

    My youngest is about to turn 3 and the only safety stuff we have left is the lock on the sink cabinet. She has had free access to the kitchen and stairs since she was 1 1/2-2 years old and has never gotten into any trouble.

  19. SheWhoPicksUpToys March 28, 2009 at 5:07 am #

    Yeah, I never meant to imply that you don’t need to put stuff out of reach or be careful with a four year old. And maybe lots of kids aren’t like my son, but the thing was at four, if I told him “don’t do that,” he would know not to. At two, that message didn’t get across so consistently, and since I had a four year old and an infant when he was two, he wasn’t safer then by virtue of being constantly watched. I couldn’t.

  20. SheWhoPicksUpToys March 28, 2009 at 5:09 am #

    I think the message of beanie’s comment is “pets are dangerous to young children. Don’t have pets if you have young children.”

    Oh, wait, there are already people who think that.

  21. Taking a Chance on Baby March 28, 2009 at 9:10 am #

    We’re actually moving in two weeks and we’re trying to think about what is REASONABLE babyproofing.

    We have come up with the following

    1-Gate to block off the galley kitchen and attached laundry room, which is where the knives/chemicals/cat litter will be.

    2-Shut the doors to the office and bathrooms for now and keep them closed (she’s nowhere near potty training). Maybe eventually put those door knobby things on them…probably not though.

    3-Bolt the bookcases in the living room, our bedroom, and the nursery to the wall.

    Um…yeah, that’s it.

    I said that to a friend who has a son two days younger than my daughter. She pretty much is horrified that we aren’t covering electrical outlets, using power strip covers, toilet locks, and corner thingies (you put them on your coffee table, I guess, to keep them from getting hurt?…whatever)

    The point that I made, that she is ignoring me on is that the only major injury I had as a child (8 or 9) was when I tripped over a shoe and hit a doorframe head first…75 stitches later I wonder if a baby proofer’s comment to my mom was that that was what she deserved for not babyproofing all the door ways in our home.

    My mom’s comment to me? “See, that’s why you shouldn’t run in the house.”

    No one I know personally ever ended up in a hospital or had a sibling or whatever who died from touching an outlet.

    I touched stove…and learned that they HURT.

    Call me crazy, but I kind of think there’s something to be said for the life lessons learned the hard way.

    As for those germophobes another poster commented, they remind me of the moms I hear admonishing their children not to touch ANYTHING in the public bathrooms. Roll eyes. Or worse, the moms who bring like 8 and 10 year old boys into the women’s bathrooms with them out of fear that what? They be kidnapped/molested if they go into the men’s room on their own?

    Sorry, but I don’t need to see 4th graders in a women’s bathroom—and let me let y’all into a crazy secret.–I’m a teacher and I LET THEM GO TO THE BATHROOM ALL ON THEIR OWN!!!!! Shocking, I know.

  22. Penny March 28, 2009 at 9:25 am #

    I was a teenager when my younger brother told me to put an AC adaptor to my tongue. He was probably about 8 or so. Being the silly teenager I thought he wouldn’t really let me put my tongue on it if it were plugged in and did it. Indeed he would let me do it. I’ve lived to tell about it and we joke about it often. Maybe my parents should have done a better job of babyproofing that house.

    My kids have no more bumps and bruises than other kids there age who live in padded cells and I’m not crazy from always having to jump through hoops to use my house.

  23. micetoneetyou March 28, 2009 at 9:42 am #

    I vetoed safety gates, toilet locks, refrigerator latches, and door knob covers. We did put on a few cabinet locks, but not on the cabinet holding the jumbo wholesale size box of garbage bags. Oddly enough, our son ignored that cabinet, despite his supposed love of plastic, in favor of the one holding shiny metal things he could bang.

  24. Judd Langley March 28, 2009 at 9:50 am #

    What are kids doing playing in the garbage for anyways? Does anyone really use those toilet locks for more than a week before tossing them out?
    I think baby proofing makes parents lazy. You don’t have to supervise or teach your kids as much if you’re know they can’t hurt themselves. Then they visit a friends and get start pulling curtains down.
    I was at a conservation park for a maple syrup festival and some parents had their LEASHES on their two toddlers. There they are, miles from any road, nothing but woods and fields to roam around and they need to leash their kids like dogs to control them.

  25. MarvinMerton March 28, 2009 at 10:02 am #

    We did hire a baby-proofer, and this story reminded me of the day I went through our house with him. (I am a nurse practitioner, and thus inundated with safety propaganda. Interestingly, health care professionals are continuously told that “evidence-based practice” is the expectation. Alas, when it comes to “prevention,” the “evidence base” for need appears to be “if it happened once, it could happen again.”)

    I blush to think that we actually bought and installed toilet seat locks. I suspect that they served only to make toilets more interesting, as our boy took an great interest in flushing the toilet for us. He then learned to put the seat and cover down “gently.” He seemed to take these jobs seriously, so we removed the covers early on.

    On the other hand… Shortly after he learned to walk, we stayed in a rented apartment in NYC. The toilet had no lock. On the second day, he finished playing with a toy, walked over to the dining room table, picked up my baseball hat, walked into the bathroom, lifted up the toilet seat and deposited my hat. He then closed the toilet seat and went back to playing. I have no idea how many hats would have been flushed without those toilet seat locks! 😉

    That said, we never moved a thing off of our low shelves. We never moved the stereo from the floor. We never did any of the things we said we would do “once he started crawling.” We were too lazy, and then discovered that he really didn’t do anything dangerous or destructive to objects that were a normal part of his environment. That’s when I began to question my nursing background and it’s inherent obsession with safety products.

    That doesn’t stop me from worrying, of course. And the safety industry has certainly seeped into my anxiety. Every time I take a shower upstairs, while he plays in the room adjacent to the bath, I have visions of him going into a closet off that room (he refers to it as his tunnel), using brute force to break open the small (but very thick) window and then climbing out the window and falling.

    Perhaps safety products are cheaper, with fewer side-effects, than anxiety meds, but their marketing might make those anxiety meds necessary, anyway!

  26. MarvinMerton March 28, 2009 at 10:04 am #


    Yeah. Like I noted above. We didn’t move anything off our low shelves, tables, the floor. That proved to be no problem for our little one. But when our friends brought their kids over, they’d never seen that stuff down low. It was much too much for them.

  27. Stacy March 28, 2009 at 10:13 am #

    I did not baby-proof at all, other than moving our entertainment center out of a floor-sitting glass-door-fronted unit onto a wall mounted shelf, and that was more for the safety of the electronics/door than the kid! My three year old has in his time “redecorated” my bathroom two or three times by sitting in the middle of said floor and shaking a bottle of bleach scouring powder, but he’s never been a big “eater” of stuff, so a good dusting off and rinsing down and he went on his way. We haven’t locked down bookcases (though being in SoCal we should) or covered them with doors, haven’t covered outlets, nuthin’. His chipped front tooth is from him tripping over his own two feet on his way to the table and smacking his face with it. He helps us with tools and gardening, and he knows which parts of the sheds/garage/cabinets he’s not allowed in, and which he is. I find house-proofing the baby MUCH more convenient when visiting friends!

  28. Suzy March 28, 2009 at 10:30 am #

    I often wonder why people worry about putting locks on the cupboard under the sink where the poisons are kept, when an obvious solution is to MOVE THE BAD STUFF to an overhead cupboard that small children can’t reach. And better yet, don’t keep poisons for cleaning around.

    A few years ago, when we were getting my parents’ house ready to sell (after their deaths) I was the designated person for taking the sundry chemicals, etc. that my dad had amassed in the garage for 25 years to the local Clean Sweep center. (It actually sat in my driveway for a year before I got around to it.) Most of it was fine, but then there was the little spice jar with the cork stopper, filled with Mercury! That was good for a laugh.

    Plastic bags? I can’t keep the cat from munching on them. She’s 8 and she hasn’t died.

  29. DJ March 28, 2009 at 10:30 am #

    I did a lot of the babyproofing and gave it up when it backfired — couldn’t get the toilet open when I needed, of course. Plus, I got those “free” kits to redo the dangerous cords on your blinds. Either I couldn’t figure them out or something, because they just made a worse tangle.

    I also put the door knob cover on so that my son would stay in the area with me while I took a shower. Took that one off after he locked himself in my bedroom.

    The one good thing was the safety gate. We couldn’t install it at the top of the stairs, so we put it in the doorway to the hallway leading to the kids’ rooms. Why was it beneficial? Because it kept them from sneaking into our beds at night!

    I did think about putting my razor up from the bathtub after I found my 18-mo daughter shaving her face like daddy, but one nick on her upper lip was all it took and she hasn’t gone near a razor since.

    Latches on the lower cabinet doors also kept me from having to continually rewash stuff, as we have a dog that hangs out in the kitchen.

    The door knob cover on the pantry stayed, too, to discourage unsupervised snacking (my daughter has always been sneaky).

    Speaking about germophobes, don’t you love the padded thing you can put in grocery carts and restaurant high chairs? As if I don’t have enough to carry around already.

    My problem with so much safety stuff is that it is products marketed for sale. This means that it is either for people with money, to put people into debt, or to make people feel guilty that they can’t afford it. I would like to see more safety education for how to make a house safe using stuff you already have — especially for lower-income and lower-education folks who could really, truly benefit.

  30. Suzy March 28, 2009 at 10:33 am #

    Incidentally, if anyone wants to read an utterly refreshing and delightful book about a free range childhood, get Uncle Tungsten, Oliver Sachs’ memoir. His most memorable birthday present? A chunk of radium! And he had an entire room in his house for doing his science experiments, complete with an armored cupboard in which to blow things up!

  31. Rob C March 28, 2009 at 2:49 pm #

    If any kid is actually dumb enough to try eating a plastic bag, at any age…

    …well, they’re probably not going on to cure cancer, are they?

  32. Rob C March 28, 2009 at 2:52 pm #

    “This tangentially reminds me of the family I saw board the train after us this weekend. The parents passed wet wipes around to all the children who could use them, and instructed them to wipe down every hard surface within reach.”

    I would have made it a point to walk past them, coughing and sneezing.


  33. Mrs Embers March 28, 2009 at 7:41 pm #

    So… what are we supposed to put our garbage in? We have to use clear plastic bags here, or the garbage guys won’t take it- translucent blue bags for recycling.

    My kids show very little interest in plastic bags (though the 1-year old does like the crinkling noise), but the cats will lick and chew on plastic every chance they get. Cats are SO weird. Maybe the expert was thinking of cat-proofing?

    We use outlet covers because the littler guy is very keen on exploring open outlets, but he ignores the covered ones. He gets into EVERYTHING, no matter how we discourage it, but we’ve done well so far without fancy equipment.

    I do feel much better having fewer harsh chemical cleaners in the house, but that’s for all of us, not just the baby. 🙂

  34. knutty knitter March 28, 2009 at 9:16 pm #

    Only thing we babyproofed was the back yard which had a stream running through it. They played in the stream once the water didn’t come over their gumboots. I did use reins on the eldest as he was inclined to faceplants and oblivious to directions – he still is but at least can think about things now. We didn’t need them with youngest. See what he gets up to on my blog (Kneedly knots).

    As for those cupboard things – one of my cousins sorted that…he undid the hinges with a screwdriver. (he was 3 at the time). My Aunt told him to do them back up please and he did!

    viv in nz

  35. SheWhoPicksUpToys March 28, 2009 at 11:01 pm #

    “Plus, I got those “free” kits to redo the dangerous cords on your blinds.”

    Those things always cracked me up. You know what you do? You take the cord, pull it across the window, and hook it out of reach over the other edge of the blinds! No equipment needed! If you’re worried about looks, just drape it in an artistic arc. 😉

  36. Tam March 29, 2009 at 12:35 am #

    Putting things up high doesn’t necessarily mean “unreachable.”

    As toddlers, my twins once managed to climb up on *top* of the washing machine when Daddy was getting breakfast, grab the jug of bleach out of the cupbord over it, and open the jug. (Daddy found them before it got ugly.)

    The funniest one was during their transition to toddler beds. The “freedom” aspect lasted several weeks–after lights out, they would get out of their beds and empty every dresser drawer and pulldown every hanging item from the toddler-height closet rod. We decided to wait for the bloom to fade from the rose. But one night they sounded especially busy, so we went up to check. We were so surprised to see it had snowed! Actually, it was baby powder–everywhere. All over the kids, the floor, the formerly clean clothes, the bedding. It was all we could not not to bust out laughing! (We moved the baby powder, and the large bottle of baby OIL–whew!–from the top drawer of the 5′ tall dresser to a locked cabinet.)

    We love that our kids are scientists and explorers. The hard part has not been in “babyproofing” with equipment, but in finding a balance for supervision that is between Complete Freedom and Zero Unsupervised Moments on the continuum.

  37. Tam March 29, 2009 at 12:37 am #

    @SheWhoPicksUpToys When the kids broke the safety mechanism that came with our blinds, that’s exactly what we did! Not that it mattered, since they broke the raise/lowering mechanism for the darn thing, too. 😉

  38. Renee March 29, 2009 at 2:01 am #

    We pretty much did the same as others here – put up the poisons and the sharps, threw in a few outlet covers though we really weren’t convinced they’d help (all they do is buy time for you to notice impending trouble) and shut the bathroom door. We didn’t have money to do any more than that, anyway. Kidlet turned out fine, and actually too conservative (her bio-dad was emotionally abusive – child-proof that!) until she was about eight or nine. At 10, she fell off her trapeze, trying to do a running flip up onto the bar. Landed rather squarely on her head, with mother not supervising. She came in crying a wail that frankly frightened me – I’ve never heard the like coming out of any human throat above the age of three months. Got her to the ER, where the doc said she was fine – no x-rays, do a concussion watch, then cautioned her not to flip upside-down on the swingset anymore – ever. As we walked out, she said to me “Mom, I’m not going to quit doing flips just because I got hurt – that’s crazy.” I agreed with her and told her I was proud of her. Naturally, she wasn’t allowed to do that or other higher-risk things until I was sure her head hadn’t been damaged, but that’s reasonable precaution.

    Let me also say that I love the idea of the parent who wants to stick their kids up with Velcro. I will be turning your idea into a daycare for highly safety-oriented parents, though I’ll probably use duct tape for added security and the ability to wiggle their arms and legs for a little healthful exercise.

  39. Renee March 29, 2009 at 2:04 am #

    Sorry to double-post, but I should have clarified that since she’s hit her head, she’s still fine and still ready and willing to challenge herself and take risks. She’s not fearless, but sensible and capable, and willing to challenge her physical limits.

  40. Jenny March 29, 2009 at 4:21 am #

    yeah, I put up babygates around my house with my first toddler, and he used them to climb on like a squirrel on a tree. They became like a challenge – his theory being that if there was a babygate blocking his way, he MUST KNOW WHAT’S OVER THERE. No babygates = no interest. Lesson learned, for me. It just depends on the personality of the kid, I guess.

  41. BMS March 29, 2009 at 6:14 am #

    Most of the babygates and such that we used were for my convenience – I really didn’t want to pick up 200 CDs if they took it into their toddler heads to raid the stereo. I didn’t really want anyone making sand castles in the cat litter box. But I also didn’t turn the house into a padded cell. And besides, what would be the point? My oldest managed to raise a 2 inch lump on his head, walking across a completely empty floor at church, when he tripped over his own feet. Other than removing his feet, or never allowing him to walk, no way to prevent that sort of stuff.

  42. Carine March 29, 2009 at 7:06 am #

    Lenore, we talked about this during our interview the other day-over babyproofing doesn’t mean your little one is any safer!

    I do believe in common sense actions, i.e. putting up the knives so they’re way out of reach and locking up the rat poison outside, but the rest? My grandson is able to remove the electrical socket plugs faster than I can! And those cabinet locks-kids can usually open them up faster than me.

    I put the “fun” items in the lower cabinets and encourage them to stack, play drums and have “tea parties”. The worst that happens? I have a bunch of pots, pans and tupperware to clean.

  43. Jim March 29, 2009 at 8:43 am #

    We do our children a great disservice by shielding them from all the everyday things that make up adult life and work.

    For example, click on the following website to see a documentary on an eskimo family building and living in an igloo.

    While watching the adults working is fascinating, pay attention to the children. You will notice these very young children playing with knives and spears, without concern by the adults.

    I’ve seen films of naked eskimo babies crawling around the fur-lined inside of an igloo, with a central fire pit, fish hooks, knives and other tools laying around. Again, no fear.

    Why? Because eskimos know that children, even babies, learn to respect what the adults use everyday — because when the adults see their babies approaching possible danger, they warn them not to do that. The kids learn fast.

    How does this apply to modern-day America and the lives we live? In two important ways, I believe.

    First, adults need to pay attention to kids! Watch them, let them be close by you when you work, let them see what you do and how you do it. Don’t send them off to play in another room while you cook, work on the car, or mow the lawn. If necessary, tell them what not to do — don’t touch the stove top, don’t get too close to the mower while it’s running, etc. But don’t let your warnings scare the kids and don’t shoo them away (especially when scared or afraid you are mad at them).

    Second, leave your knick-nacks on the table and shelves, don’t put everything out of reach and out of sight. Let your children know that these are things that your family likes to have around and they must respect them. Tell the little ones not to touch (you may have to repeat this a few times, but far less often they you might suppose). Praise the kids for being good and sharing the family respect for such items.

    Okay, while saying all that, I don’t want to imply that I would leave dangerous chemicals or guns out where kids might have easy access to them — not any more than I’d live a bare electrical wire plugged into the electricity lying where a kid might pick it up. That’s insane. No, I’d take the normal precautions that a reasonable family takes with everyday household things.

    The bigger problem we have as a modern-day society is that we don’t take the time to watch and work with our kids.

    I know, I know, we don’t have the time…we have to work away from home…both parents have to work…kids are left at day-cares…parents are too tired after work to play with the kids…parents need time to themselves…etc.

    It’s a real dilemma ( a real problem) that our society is not addressing very well. We can’t live like the eskimos in igloos. No, but we can learn some good lessons from them that we can do our best to adopt. We absolutely must make time for kids, or face the fruits of our failure. Fear is one of those consequences.

    On a personal note, I’m a retired grandfather — full of regrets for not having learned and applied lessons such as these. I’m far from perfect and I don’t expect you to be either. But I do hope — and pray for our kids’ and grandkids’ future.

    Thank you.

  44. Rachel March 29, 2009 at 6:32 pm #

    Yesterday I hit my head against an open kitchen cabinet door. If my kids inherit my grace, they’ll have to get used to the head bumps eventually anyway. More likely they’ll learn cuss words earlier than they should.

    A few months ago a couple with a baby visited our completely non-babyproofed apartment. It was a little stressful but not all that bad. He became engrossed in turning the XBox 360 on and off (the light turns on and off!!). Everyone survived.

  45. Lori March 31, 2009 at 6:39 am #

    I was at the mall today with my youngest and saw a young mom there with her baby (probably 8 months, I would guess). What was she playing with as mom was holding her? A plastic bag! Her mom must be free-range – yeah! I laughed out loud just watching.

  46. Catherine April 1, 2009 at 12:19 pm #

    My mother in law who is a nurse who runs a daycare centre and has four children and six grandchildren just ties knots in plastic shopping bags (which she recycles to use as garbage bags) to stop children putting them over their head. I just do this automatically now even though my kids are well past the stage of putting plastic bags over their heads.

  47. Drew April 3, 2009 at 11:12 am #

    If a baby-proofing “expert” ever walked into my house they’d collapse in shock. The only thing we did to baby-proof the house was plug-in covers in my daughters room and a lock on the cupboard with the cleansers. As soon as my daughter was old enough to understand, we taught her the essentials. She knows that cleansers aren’t kool-aid. She knows that the stove is HOT and never goes near it when we are cooking…she has never tried to reach for a pot or touch the door when supper is in the oven. She stands a few feet away and watches the action from a safe distance. She knows what’s off limits and, more importantly, she knows to ask if she isn’t sure.

  48. Andrea April 6, 2009 at 2:11 am #

    I just stumbled across your blog this afternoon and I’m so glad I did! It’s nice to see some other parents resorting to common sense rather than paranoia and “expert” advice to raise their children!

    And as far as baby proofing goes. I never really baby proofed our house with either of my kids. I kept the knives up and the scissors in a drawer and put covers over the outlets, but I left the antiques and breakables out and taught the kids not to play with them. Miraculously, nothing was ever broken or destroyed. And my kids have learned to respect the grown-up items in our house and other people’s houses.

  49. Babs April 30, 2009 at 2:35 am #

    Just when you thought parents weren’t hysterical enough:


    Never knew such things existed…until I was on my local Freecycle list today and someone was looking for this for her 8 mo. old child who was learning to walk. Intrigued (and stunned) I had to look this up…

    With all the noggin bumps my 5 1/2 y.o. has endured, I certainly would get the “bad mommy’ award from such nervous Nellies!

    Sheesh…whatever happened to common sense and watching your kids?