I am a worrier. A serious, anxious, sky-is-falling, doomsday scenario level worrier. Worrying is probably an important, biological emotion for parents to help save small children from themselves, but being a worrier in 2018 is pretty brutal. If you have an internet connection and access to social media or a news site (and I know you do, because this column only runs online), you run the risk of reading horrible, seemingly impossible stories about ways kids can get hurt.
Because of the World Wide Web, I know things that can’t be unlearned, like that toddlers can crawl into front-loading washing machines, close the door, and get stuck inside. Or that babies can fall head first into the toilet and not be able to pull themselves out. Or that button batteries are shiny harbingers of death, and the only way to combat them if swallowed is to feed spoonfuls of honey to your child while you race them to the hospital—but in your haste don’t forget that babies under 12 months can’t have honey because of botulism, so just don’t ever, ever let your eyes wander away from your kid.
The mild irony to all of this is that I was not nearly as worried with my first kid. Lou is a pretty low-key guy, and as a young toddler he didn’t get into much trouble. We had a two-month spat of Lou falling directly onto the same spot on his forehead multiple times (resulting in a little divot he still has to this day), but otherwise we slapped a few plastic locks on particularly dangerous cabinets in the house and moved on.
Our daughter, however, is a nut. She’s fully walking at ten months, into everything, and has more energy than her three other family members combined. She’s illuminated household dangers we never considered during Lou’s babyhood. Our gas fireplace is filled with small rocks about the size of a toddler’s windpipe and we didn’t notice this until last week when she started pulling them out. I threw a blanket over them, making a mental note to remove it in December, but Edie outsmarted my complex solution by dragging the blanket out and returning to her rock gathering.
We also weren’t aware that the heavy, bulky stool in our kitchen might be a danger until she used it to pull herself to standing (at six months) and cracked her cheekbone as she and the stool fell in tandem. It’s very subtle, but you might notice the shiner in the picture below. As her doctor was leaving the exam we heard him say to the nurses, “Did you see the black eye on that kid?”
This child has forced my abstract fears into actionable items. We’ve done the obvious things like remove as many tiny toys as we can find and install a fenced-in area for the times we have to do things like cook meals or pour a fortifying glass of wine, but there’s more work to be done. Here’s a small list of items that will help protect your kid and ease your weary hearts, at least until the next story breaks about how baby-proofing will turn your child into a serial killer or guarantee low ACT scores.
Protect your furniture and your kid’s eyeballs. We’ve stuck these on every right angle in the house and they’ve already downgraded multiple injuries from “Hospital Trip” to “Here’s A Popsicle You’re Fine”.
Toilet Paper Roll
Not only is this an easily obtained toy for babies, it’s also a free metric of toy safety. If your kid is playing with something that can fit inside of a roll, take it away because it means they can choke on it.
Portable Play Yard
As previously mentioned, sometimes you need a moment to yourself. The Summer Infant play yard is super light weight and can be pulled out or closed and shoved back into the corner in seconds.
This one isn’t super safety-related, but it’s another weird household item trick so I’m including it. Take a piece and roll it sticky side out, then stick it to your kid’s foot. If you’re lucky, they’ll find themselves in a fully-immersive ten minute crash course on how adhesives and chubby fingers interact, and you can tidy up or solve world hunger or do whatever it was you did before you had kids.
Ikea has a reasonably-priced version (and this fancy mat promises to not poison your child with unpronounceable chemical horrors if you care about that kind of thing). Play mats are squishy but firm and perfect for babies who are learning to crawl and walk. If your home has wood or tile floors, you might also consider interlocking foam tiles.
Save tiny fingers from tiny splints.
What I appreciate about these is the decoy button specifically designed to make your kid think they have a shot in hell at breaking into the cabinet and going to town on your Tide Pod stash. Take that, babies.