The main thing to remember about the toddler years is that they are insatiably curious and absolutely fearless. Consequently, you have to watch them all the time! You cannot turn your back on them for a second. This is the time when people talk about “baby-proofing” their homes. Here are a few suggestions to keep them as safe as possible, but which is never as safe as you’d like.
1. Put all hazardous material far out of reach, or better yet, have as little hazardous material in the house as possible. Of course “hazardous material” is more than Drano. It includes all medicines, even over the counter ones, household cleaners, hairspray, paint, any small objects that can be swallowed, etc.
I heard of one instance where a grandmother came to visit and left her meds out in her room. The family toddler got into them and had to be rushed to the ER to have his stomach pumped. So it’s not enough to be super vigilant yourself, you have to make sure everyone who comes into your house is the same way.
2. Put child safeguards on all the lower cupboards. Putting them on the upper cupboards depends on whether or not your child is a climber. The safeguards are a pain, frankly, but if you don’t use them, the contents of every cupboard in the house will be on the floor most of the time. One mother keeps all her kids toys in the lower drawers and cupboards. She says this usually keeps him from exploring upward.
3. Put covers over the electric outlets--all of them.
4. Put gates on the stairs, but at the same time, teach the child to go down the stairs, backwards. I know one little girl who is still crawling who always heads for the stairs, no matter where in the house she’s put down. It’s like they’re magical, or something, and she can’t resist them.
5. Lock the outside door so they don’t wander off when your back is turned. You will be surprised how soon they learn to use door knobs. One of my toddlers used to go out the front door in the morning when things were hectic. At least twice when I was getting everybody ready, I answered the front door in my bathrobe. There was a teacher from the school down the street holding our current toddler still in jammies and wet diaper. She had made her way to the school and been intercepted by one of my kids’ teachers who knew us. The truly awful thing was that I hadn’t missed her. (There are lots of things we have to forgive ourselves for as parents.)
6. Put locks high up on the outside of doors to all the rooms you don’t want him to enter, especially the bathroom. Not only will this possibly save their lives, it will save you untold messes. For example, there is something fascinating about unrolling a roll of toilet paper. And one resourceful toddler is famous for putting a whole roll down the toilet.
7. Put a lock on the fridge. I know one little boy who loved pickles and was always opening the fridge then climbing inside looking for them. After several jars of broken pickles and other disasters, his mother learned it was possible to lock the refrigerator. One mother kept snacks in one of the bottom kitchen drawers so her child could “self feed.” Personally, I didn’t like this idea because it sounded messy, but it might work for some people.
This list is not complete because there are as many ways for these zany little people to get in trouble as there are zany little people. But do you best, be aware of possibilities and remain super vigilant. That doesn’t sound too hard, does it? Meantime, here’s a little video to give you nightmares:
Next time: Need for structure and limits