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Tips for babyproofing the home successfully

ONE day my husband John and I looked around our living room in wonder. We had been away for a few days, and as often happens when you've been away, we saw our home with new eyes. And what did we see? Well, a sort of emptiness.

ONE day my husband John and I looked around our living room in wonder. We had been away for a few days, and as often happens when you've been away, we saw our home with new eyes.

And what did we see? Well, a sort of emptiness. There was nothing on end tables or coffee tables; they were clear and clean. Then we looked up and there, on high shelves, were the sorts of things that would normally go on the lower tables.

Yep, our house had become a poster home for childproofing. It was a truly safe environment for curious toddlers.

Problem was, our young children were no longer toddlers; they had outgrown that stage but we had not made any changes to reflect their growth and development. So we started re-decorating the room.

Childproofing a home is an important step to make when our children start to become mobile. When we take a look at our environment through the eyes of a curious toddler we can see that it can be a dangerous place for exploration. And exploration is how our toddlers learn about their world.

Why should we childproof our homes?

Toddlers are not only mobile, they are intensely curious. They want to touch, taste and manipulate everything they see.

And this is a good thing. We want them to satisfy their curiosity because that's how they learn about the world around them. But we also want them to be safe.

Most homes are designed for adults. There are plants, breakable knick-knacks, and family heirlooms. Some parents believe that they need to teach their children not to touch these things. So they don't childproof their house.

I believe that every home with a toddler needs to be childproofed. Simply put all the breakables away or up high for a while. Create a space where our little explorer can move around at will and be safe. He learns that his home is filled with opportunities for him to touch, to explore and to learn.

When his environment is filled with "no-no's" he'll stop his glorious learning and his curiosity will be stifled. He's much too young to have to distinguish between what he can and can't touch and he's not ready to learn how to handle precious valuables. That will come soon enough. For now, we want him to know that he's safe in his own home.

How to decide what to do?

Some things are easy. Anything that is poisonous, breakable, irreplaceable or tippy and loose has to be put away, locked away, moved up or pinned down.

But we just don't see everything.

The easiest way is to look at the world through the eyes of your toddler. Get down on your hands and knees and see the world from his perspective.

Remember, anything that moves, sparkles or dangles will interest your little scientist.

Living and dining room

- Take care of electrical. Cover electrical outlets, secure lamp cords, and anchor floor lamps.

- Cover controls on TV, stereo and VCR.

- Cushion sharp corners on coffee tables and hearths.

- Move all the breakables to high ground or put them away.

- Make sure bookshelves are stable and reorganize so the shelves he can reach have old magazines he can handle.

- Move plants.

- Keep sliding glass doors closed and place decals at toddler eye level.

- Make sure windows are secure, shorten the cords on blinds.

- Enclose the rails on balconies or porches. You'd amazed at the tiny openings children can get through.

- In the dining room push the chairs tight against the table to prevent climbing.

- Either fold the tablecloth corners out of reach or simply don't use one and move all items on the tabletop to the center.

Kitchen and bath

- The bathroom is filled with safety issues for toddlers. Toddlers and puppies love to play in the toilet, it's water they can reach and it's always there! The best answer is to keep the door closed.

- All medicines, razors, mouthwash, toothpaste and cosmetics need to be out of reach. Keep the medicine cabinet latched.

- Place a nonskid mat in tub. Lower the temperature on your hot water heater to avoid burns.

- Empty the tub after use and never leave a child unattended in the tub. As a matter of fact a toddler shouldn't be unattended in a bathroom.

- On the other hand our children will be in the kitchen with us. So make it a safe place.

- Unplug small appliances and don't let cords dangle.

- Store all cleaners and poisons in a latched cabinet.

- Turn pot handles to the back and cover stove controls.

- Keep plastic bags out of reach and look carefully for anything your toddler can choke on.

- Have a cupboard with plastic containers, wooden spoons spatulas. This is theirs and they can happily play while you work.

And don't forget the garage, safety gates on stairs or any dangers in the yard.

Once you've spent the time childproofing both you a baby can relax and enjoy his explorations.

Kathy Lynn is a parenting expert who is a professional speaker, broadcaster, columnist and author of Who's In Charge Anyway? and But Nobody Told Me I'd Ever Have to Leave Home. For information or to book Kathy for a speaking engagement, go to her website at www.