So, you’re a new dad–or you will be soon. Being a father is a big step in your life, one of those big developmental milestones that men must go through in order to earn their “Official Manly Man” badges. Just kidding. However, once you realize that growing bump in your wife’s midsection really does contain a baby that will, eventually, come out. And once that baby is active and crawling around, baby-proofing becomes a reality. Suddenly, every dangling cord, corner, and electrical outlet becomes a potential disaster. Here is some basic baby-proofing information for transforming your living room into a baby-safe haven.
1. Check all electric components and outlets
Kids are fascinated by wires and outlets—it’s like they somehow know they’re dangerous, and that devil-may-care bravery of total innocence propels them toward peril. Many a child has been hurt badly by sticking foreign objects into electrical outlets or by dragging something heavy off a shelf by its cord. With that in mind, invest in some good outlet covers. As for cords, get organized. Bundle them with zip ties, staple or tape them down where possible, and cover them up if they have to run across the floor, perhaps with a rug or runner, so they’re not so noticeable to curious little eyes. Try to reorganize if you can, such as putting your electronics into an entertainment center or cabinet where all the cords are threated out through an opening in the back that is safely concealed from kids.
2. Change your decorating scheme
Pre-baby, your living room could have been a treasure trove of delicate collectibles, but until your child(ren) have gotten at least to an age where they understand the consequences of breaking things, you need to reconsider your decorating scheme. Art, knickknacks, breakable items—move them up high or relocate them to “adults only” rooms. Look at that gorgeous glass coffee table, or the wooden sculpture from a child’s viewpoint, and they become looming disasters. This doesn’t mean you can’t have nice furniture, just realize that parenting creates a new dynamic in your life that includes kids, and kids are accident-prone and can be messy. Scotchguard your furniture where possible, invest in tables and such that don’t need to be waxed, and seriously consider saying bye-bye to glass items. It’s best for everyone: the kids’ health, and your sanity.
3. Beware the fireplace.
Fireplaces are dangerous to kids who have no understanding of the reality of getting burned or setting a room ablaze. Also, the hard stone of the frame and lintel and sharp corners that are often found in fireplaces make them fall hazards for little ones—not to mention the fireplace poker and other tools! Consider buying a fixed screen that can close off the fireplace altogether when not in use, move the tools elsewhere or higher up, and NEVER allow a child to be unsupervised in a room where you have a fire going.
4. Remove small objects.
Little kids have an automatic reaction when they pick something up: it immediately goes into their mouth. Whether you believe in the Freudian “oral fixation” or not, small children do this without fail. With that in mind, remove any small things lying around, such as buttons, potpourri, marbles, coins, etc. Buy a choke tube tester and keep it handy, to find out if any toy is a choking hazard. Vacuum regularly, and make sure you check the cushions of the couch as well, since that’s where many small things fall, and where many an inquisitive baby hand has discovered trouble!
5. Consider declaring “no kid” zones in your home.
It may seem a bit selfish, but sometimes it’s easier to just keep the kids out of certain rooms, such as your home office or gym, where there is just so much havoc a kid could wreak, including hurting themselves. Invest in a good baby gate for when you’re in there, and when you leave, keep the doors closed and locked with a key.