By Ilan Joseph, Broker, ABR®, e-PRO®, AMP® | © All rights reserved
Congratulations! You’re having a baby! After discovering the great news you have a little less than nine months to get ready for your newest addition, and that includes baby proofing. Being a parent is the hardest and the most beautiful job you’ll probably ever have. It’s not so easy, though.
It wasn’t until recently that I started to be concerned about what it really takes to be a parent. Your baby will grow faster than you can blink and he will be a toddler in no time, trust me. The small sleeping figure will turn into an explorer fascinated by everything and everyone and most importantly, he won’t stay in one place. Many surveys show that the home is the most dangerous place in your kids’ early years. If you don’t believe me, just look around you now. How many cords, unprotected sockets, open windows, or hanging flowers can you see? Imagine that little explorer tripping over the cord, inserting a hairpin into a socket, pulling the flower down, or bumping into a window and breaking the glass all in of two minutes. You say it’s unlikely, but it can happen. I have, with help of other parents, summed up the biggest risks your kid might face at home and how to minimize them. So keep on reading, future mommas and papas.
Inside Your House
Many of us decide to move into a house before starting a family. Having a big garden with a pool and a little playground sounds very ideal. However, living in a house brings more risks to your kids’ early years than living in a condo. So parents living in a house, pay extra attention to the paragraphs below.
Yes, you guessed right. The staircase is voted as the number-one home risk by all the parents I had a chance to talk to. Tripping, falling, sliding: we know it all. Preventing your kid from all this danger is close to impossible. However, with a few tips and tricks, you can eliminate the risk. It’s vital to have gates at the top as well as at the bottom of a staircase. If you are lucky to live in a house with doors at the bottom, you just need the top gates and a good reminder to always lock the doors. The top gate is the most critical that you will install and must be hardware mounted. It needs to be drilled and attached to both sides of the gate. Here are few tips:
- The gate can be opened by one hand. Most of the times you will carry your baby or laundry or something else and putting it down just to open the gate is annoying, so one-handed operation is key.
- Be careful when installing the gate. It should open towards you and never the other direction. Crawlers and toddlers are pushers rather than pullers when it comes to solid obstacles. So even if the gate was open, they wouldn’t fall down.
- Some gates offer a luxurious self-latching mechanism so that you don’t need to worry about closing the gate behinds you. It will do its job on its own — really clever.
Gates at the bottom of the staircase don’t need to satisfy such tight regulations as the ones on top. They don’t need to prevent a kid from falling down. They are there to prevent him from climbing up so even if he managed to open them and fall on the ascending stairs, he would fall two feet maximum, which isn’t terribly dangerous.
Most hoses come with a fireplace. It can create a cozy, romantic atmosphere in an instant but can as well pose a big risk for your kid. Parents I talked to agreed that the best way to save your kid from hurting herself is to teach her what “hot” and “stop” means. Let your baby touch a pretty warm mug or a plate and say it is hot. She will remember the feeling and associate with “hot.” It is very important that a baby understand the meaning of the word, so repeat it often. She will then be aware of everything you label “hot” and will not touch it. Try developing a similar association for the word “stop.” It will later save you many, many problems. So back to the fireplace. Teach your child that fire is hot and dangerous. It is beautiful and shiny but it is hot and can only be admired from a distance. Even though your kid knows she should not touch the fire or even come close, it is essential to install a heat cover as well. She might trip of fall and a proper heat cover will shield her from danger.
Garden and Street Exit
It feels so good to leave the front doors open and let the fresh breeze come into your house. You usually just close the screen door and leave the main doors wide open. This would not be a good thing to do while having a toddler in the house. There are many things that can go wrong: from your kid leaving the house and getting lost in the neighbourhood to rushing onto a road. Therefore always make sure the front doors are closed and locked. The same applies for the front gates. If you have a terrace exit in the kitchen or living room, open those door instead but never leave your kid unattended: make sure you can see him all the time. However, before letting your toddler out, you should inspect your garden first. Here are some suggestions:
- Look for any holes or trenches and close them or put something over them so that you or your kid won’t trip over.
- Have a close look at the fence. Are there any missing pieces, holes, or wires sticking out? Fix it or have it fixed. Also make sure you can’t crawl below the fence. Lie on the ground and imagine you are a baby. See the garden from his perspective.
- If you are still lying on your belly in the grass, look for any horizontal steps you can see. Be as imaginative as possible. By steps I mean fences, flower pots, ladders, and so forth. Anything that a toddler can climb would classify and it needs to be removed or replaced.
- Last but not least are flowers. Go through every single flower you planted in your garden and make sure it is not poisonous. Those little explorers love colourful things. For them there is no difference between a rocket leaf and some other leaf. While the worst thing that can happen is diarrhea or some digestive problems ,we don’t want our kids to suffer.
In this section I will discuss some general baby-proofing ideas and tips that apply for both living in condos and houses alike. Condominiums might appear safer because outside risk factors are eliminated, however it is good to remember that the safest home is a baby-proofed home.
The safest step to make would be to lock the kitchen door and leave every kid outside until they are mature enough to understand all the dangers a kitchen poses. This is not possible, of course. Often a parent and a child are the only ones home so they need to do everything together. Here are some tips experienced parents have shared with me:
- Try cooking at the back two knobs when possible and make sure all the handles are turned towards the back wall.
- Move expensive china and dining dishes up higher, together with cutlery and knives. Place pots and pans in the lower drawers.
- Make sure you store chemicals and medicine in the top drawers above the kitchen counter. Do you have curtains in the kitchen? Swap them for blinds that can be rolled up during the day. Kids love to pull anything within their reach and curtains are no exception.
Kids are fascinated by water and therefore the bathroom would be one of their favourite places. If you are just planning to move into a different condo or house, I would advise choosing one with a separate toilet. In that case, you can lock the bathroom and minimize the risk of your kid drowning in the bathtub or climbing up the heater. Toilet lid locks are clever little gadgets that many parents I talked to mentioned as the number-one safety measure in the bathroom.
I mentioned the most dangerous zones in our houses but some of the tips I received were too hard to categorize, so I decided to put them all here, in the miscellaneous paragraph. What tips and tricks are we talking about? Read the bullets below:
- “Make sure you mount all your furniture to the walls. Big bookcases are very unstable and can fall over on your kid. Trust me: toddlers are stronger than you think.” -Katharine
- “Put decals on sliding-glass doors so your child won’t run into them.” -Nicole
- “Use doorknob covers on doors that you don’t want your child to open.” -Vera
- “Install window guards or adjust windows so they cannot open more than six inches.” -Michelle
- “Cover all unused electrical outlets with safety plugs that snap into outlets.”-Miriam
Being a parent is amazing. We all want the best and the safest environment for our baby, but it is important to realise that nothing we will ever do will protect him completely. There is a change and a real possibility our baby will hurt himself. This is okay. If you are expecting your first baby, those words might sound a little harsh, but believe me, we all learn by mistakes; if we don’t let our baby experiment and explore, she would be deprived of this experience in the future. We are here to educate them and teach them. So let them play and enjoy, let them fall on their butts from time to time, and you will bring up an amazing, independent, and happy person. Good luck!
If you have any questions about other home safety tips or any real estate related questions, feel free to contact me.
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Ilan Joseph is a Real Estate Broker with Sutton Group and is co-founder of a 10-person award-winning Toronto, Thornhill and Vaughan real estate team.
You can find him on LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube and Google+.
For over 11 years, Ilan has provided more than 1550 buyers and sellers valued advice and service, enabling them to reach their real estate goals.
He’s kind of like the Bruce Willis of real estate.