My name is Lily-Sue, but my mummy calls me Munchkin (or 'Munch' for short!) I am 8 years old, and this is where my mummy will help me write all about all the fun things we do together. I hope you enjoy reading about the adventures of my mummy and me, Munchkin, with the occasional appearance from the siblings - Beastie and Plumlet.

Tuesday, 12 March 2013

Making home a safer place ...?

Child proofing whilst staying practical

I'd just like to start by pointing out that this is not a 'how-to' guide, or a promotion for any particular product(s) or brand. This does not contain a list of all of the gadgets and gizmos that I feel every parent needs in order to make their home 'baby proof'. Recently, I have been thinking a lot about safety in the home. Maybe this has been prompted by the arrival of Beastie Boo 6 months ago and the realisation that I now need to consider safety for a (soon to be) crawling baby as well as a lively 3 year old. Maybe it has been brought on by the fact that we have recently moved home and have therefore needed to start from scratch again when planning furniture arrangements, or even the fact that I read a very sad story recently where a family was left torn apart after a home safety disaster had tragic consequences. Whatever has raised my awareness has made me want to look at whether I can do more to keep my babies safe when they're at home.

The question many people ask is "what do I need to make my home 'baby proof'?" Personally, I don't believe there is any such thing as completely baby proof. Babies are designed to get into everything they shouldn't, so is child proofing all about cupboard locks and safety gates? In my opinion, a huge part of making your home safe for babies is about attitude and way of life. 

Munchkin was quite a late walker. She was pulling herself to her feet by her 1st birthday, but didn't start taking proper independent steps until Christmas day, 2010, when she was 15 months old.

When she was born, we were living in a very small 1 bedroom house. The living area downstairs was tiny and there was very limited space for her to explore. Also, due to the minimal size of the room, the furniture was all very close together, making it very easy for her to 'cruise' around, holding onto the furniture. As a result of her later development, we did not have to hurry to search the shops for all of the various safety products that are recommended to parents these days. The only consideration we really had was our dog, Alfie. We knew, as our downstairs area was open-plan, that Munchkin and Alfie would spend their time together in the same room, but we wanted to be able to keep them apart when necessary. The absence of doorways meant baby gates would be of no use at all, so simple 'barricades' were set up using household items, large toys, cardboard boxes, anything that could build a safe and secure wall between the two of them. This way, we were able to keep Munchkin away from the kitchen, meaning away from many of the potential dangers that lurk in the kitchen with cupboard doors, cupboard contents and cooking hazards.

So, we were lucky enough to be able to manage with a couple of sets of these. Corner protectors ... small, soft plastic covers for the sharp corners of furniture such as the TV unit and bookcase in the lounge ... colourless and plain plastic corner protectors. Or rather, as Munchkin saw them ... little pieces of fun! She allowed them to be stuck to the furniture for no more than 24 hours. Don't get me wrong, they're sticky. They're very sticky! However, a few hours and they were stashed away in her little handbag ready for when she would inevitably discover or create a use for it later on! Needless to say, pretty soon after attaching them to the sharp corners of the furniture, they no longer served a safety purpose. Her imagination, however, was well and truly satisfied as she found many obscure uses for the little lumps of plastic!

When Munchkin was 11 months old, we moved to a bigger home. Now we had 2 living rooms. One at the front and one at the back. "Brilliant" we thought. We decided to turn the front lounge into more of a playroom for Munchkin. This way we could concentrate on "child proofing" that one room. So, like optimistic fools parents, we re-attached the corner guards (even firmer than before!) and set about putting further safety measures in place. After a quick 'risk assessment' of the room, we made our shopping list ...

We used a stair gate to separate the front room from the back room. This way, Alfie could stay in the back and Munchkin in the front. They could still 'communicate' as they always had, but we didn't have to worry about the dangers of them being alone. 

Socket Covers are one item that we have continued to use all over our home throughout Munchkin's life. They're so simple, yet essential! 

Drawer Locks were for the drawer underneath the TV cabinet which she loved  to investigate. But we all know drawers and little fingers make bad partnerships, so securing the drawer shut was the only way! These measures managed to stay put. Well, all apart from the Corner Covers - they still ended up in a little pink handbag somewhere. She never managed to defeat the stair gate which kept her in the one room (unless supervised of course - I don't want people thinking she was always shut in one room!!) Nor did she ever manage to loosen or remove the Socket Covers, although she tried ... many times!!

Even with this protection in the room, and still if I had installed even more, I would never say the room was ever 'child proof'. I don't feel it ever could be. Children will still fall from the sofa, run into walls, trip over toys, and of course, as every child will, step on that rogue Lego brick! Kids will be kids, and accidents will happen. And with every bump, bruise and black eye, we as parents will wonder if there was something we could have done, further precautions we could have taken, in order to prevent it from happening. My answer is "no". Kids need to learn to deal with the little falls. We can only try to avoid the bigger ones!

Since we had to make these decisions, our lives have changed drastically. The arrival of Munchkin's baby sister, Beastie Boo has had us considering once again which safety bits and bobs we will need to stock up on ready for the day she decides she wants to start crawling. We have also moved home again. We are now in an Open Plan style home again. Although much larger than the house we lived in when Munchkin was born, the living area and kitchen are separated only by a large archway. This means that a stair gate would have to be very wide in order to come close to fitting the gap. Until we find one that is suitable, Munchkin, Beastie Boo and Alfie are sharing the living area. This is working well for now, but we still would like to be able to separate Alfie from the madness when necessary. Munchkin has free roam of the rooms now as we are on a single level so no stairs to worry about. However, we have spring loaded doors, so door wedges are essential. We learnt this the hard way when Munchkin had an unfriendly encounter with a closing door. Enough said!

Think we may need to add some of these to our list as an extra precaution ... 
For now, we are aware that we need to keep our wits about us all of the time and ensure that we are making good use of the eyes in the back of our heads. We feel that one of the most important and valuable things that we, as parents, can do right now is start to really educate Munchkin on what is safe and what is not. We talk to her about the reasons for certain things being deemed dangerous and about potential consequences. As a result, she will no longer open or close doors at home - she will instead knock on a door if she wants it open or call me or her dad to open it for her. We are normally alerted with cries of "DOOR'S CLOSED!!!!" which we are much happier with! After all, Munchkin is 3 years old now and can therefore be controlled a great deal easier than a crawling baby or a toddler, but we still need to be aware of the dangers around us. 

We have also recently been reminded of the importance of securing large furniture items and appliances to the wall to make them impossible to shift or tip. We will therefore be investing in one of these ...

Beastie will be crawling soon, and attempting to hoist herself to her feet whilst holding onto the furniture, so we would like to know that anything that has the potential to tip is securely anchored to the walls.

All in all, I feel that the best way that we can keep our babies safe is to always be aware of our surroundings and to remove the biggest hazards where possible and practical. After all, if we were to eliminate every single lurking risk in our home, I may as well create an empty padded room for the girls, as everything carries its own possible threat. All we can do is reduce the negative consequences as much as possible!

No payment has been received and all opinions written here are 100% my own and have not been influenced in any way.
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