Sunday, December 15, 2013

Child friendly / child safe

It is surprisingly difficult to make your home child proof, and by that I do mean both safe and friendly. I don't claim to be any expert, so don't mistake this article as instructional. It is, like all my other writing, random thoughts and personal musings.

When I first encountered the principle of making a home child proof, it was because I had a child for the first time. Fortunately, at least from the point of view of keeping him safe in the home, I had very little else. But even so, most of what childproofing was done, was 'after the fact'. Trial and error. I hasten to add, I am not stupid, but I was very young, and I had no previous experience, hence 'first child'.

Naturally I already had medicines out of reach, because that is what you do with medicine with or without children. As I said, I didn't have much.  We lived in a 'bed-sit', more grandly referred to as a studio apartment. One big room in an old Georgian house, built when rooms were very big. We had a tiny separate kitchen and shared a bathroom, shared with the rest of the house so not mine to proof, but also well out of his immediate domain. As soon as he started to show signs of becoming mobile, which was fairly early, what little I had was moved out of reach. Sharp corners were covered, or removed, after the first bruise and, I am ashamed to say, the electric fire was screened after the first blistered tiny finger. To this day I feel guilty about that.

When my daughter and her baby son, my first grandchild, came to visit me I had just moved into my first house in Texas. Everything was new and there wasn't much of anything. Before they arrived I spent some time putting childproof locks on the lower cabinets and that was really all I had to do. I did not have a fireplace and there were no sharp edges.The locks I used screwed into the inside of the cabinet door, like this one, they were still on the cabinets when I moved 12 years later and served to keep many other small visitors safe.

This year, that same first child of the burnt finger is coming to visit me for Christmas along with his wife and their son, almost four years old. Our household now is well established and we three old people have been living in this house for 3 years surrounded by a merger of two well established households, and with a fireplace along with many other potential dangers.

We have started childproofing and as I write this I begin to realize all the things we have not yet considered. For instance, we have a cover on the pantry door knob and even I find that quite difficult to manipulate as I have some permanent damage to my hands from carpal tunnel syndrome which I suffered from before it became fashionable, and therefore didn't have treated until it was too late.

I was about to explain to you that the beautiful doll hanging from the door knob is not some witches curse or satanic ritual, but a clever storage unit for plastic bags (we don't have many as we do use green bags, and those we do have, we reuse), plastic bags!  oh goodness, that little doll will need to hang on the inside of the door, in fact she needs to hang up much higher inside the pantry, just in case my grandson can manipulate the door knob cover.

We also put a cover on the knob of the laundry room door, inside is just a washer and dryer and a storage closet. I did move all possible dangerous substances to higher shelves in the closet there, but we decided to be extra safe. Here is a photo and a warning to us all to remember to actually close the door fully. No amount of childproof locks will work if the door is left open, even just a little. Maybe it isn't obvious from the photo here, but the door is not fully closed and tiny fingers would have no difficultly getting a grip and opening it. As I said, inside there is probably nothing that could do him any harm, but he is way to precious to take that risk, as are all children.

Next we studied our kitchen and bathrooms, where most of the dangers lurk in any home, medicine cabinets are all well out of reach, check. I emptied the cabinet under the sink in the main bathroom. It was well overdue a clean out and for the moment what I think I need to keep is stored out of reach in a box. By the time they leave I will (I hope) realize I don't actually need most of the various hair products and other items and just dispose of them.

In the kitchen we really only had two cabinets that required proofing. One contains liquor and the other cleaning agents. Once again, it may be a challenge for me to get past the child locks but there will be enough people around with fully operational hands to help, and it makes me feel more confident that if I can't get into these protected areas, my grandson probably won't either.

Back to the bathrooms, we have a half bath downstairs and a full bath upstairs for visitors convenience. Stairs are also not extremely safe for an almost 4 year old though he is very good at navigating them I would prefer that when the need is urgent, he didn't have to, so we purchased a step and a child sized toilet seat for both bathrooms.

Again, I see another issue. I need to remove the plunger from behind the toilet upstairs and put it in the garage. The garage! We definitely need to put another of those covers on the door out to the garage, apart from all the usual dangers such as tools and garden and household cleaning agents, there is a step down to a concrete floor.

I also purchased soap for washing tiny hands - of course we already have soap, but if washing hands is fun, it is much more likely to also be thorough.

Finally, we bought a screen for the fire. Like I said, I still feel bad about that one. And, as you can see, we also bought Christmas stockings, not really part of the child proofing, but definitely child friendly.

Ah! Looking at this photo I see another potential danger. To the left of the fireplace as I look at it, I see the door to my mother in law's master suite, therein lies a whole new set of dangers. Another fire, another bathroom filled with potential adventures for a small boy, and a large bedroom with all the small items an elderly lady gathers through the years. Here is another door that needs a cover for the handle and we will have to be sure to keep that door closed at all times.

So, what have I got?
1. Remove plunger
2. Cover garage door handle
3. Cover great granny's door handle
4. Remove the plastic bag doll

Oh, and we do have a safety gate to prevent him wandering down the stairs at night.  Hopefully that will do it, I am still not stupid but now I am old.

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