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Childproofing Your Home for Your Toddler

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If you want to discourage your young climber from scaling the pantry shelves and kitchen counters, you might find it worthwhile to store foods that are safe for her on lower shelves and in lower cabinets.

Your toddler's walking and running will make it necessary to introduce a number of new safeguards. To help prevent falls, for instance, you may want to take the trouble to secure any rugs in your home.

If your home has any sliding glass doors or plate glass windows, you may find it helpful to put decals or window stickers on them to make them more visible. If your toddler is running and can't see the glass, he may crash right into it or through it. Because this amount of glass would be so dangerous to your toddler, you might even find it well worth the expense to replace them, at least temporarily, with Plexiglas or safety glass.

Now that your baby can stand up, he can probably reach most of the doorknobs in your home. You'll have to take steps to prevent your toddler from locking himself in or, even worse, letting himself out. A strip of electrical tape or duct tape can prevent most lock-ins. Tape the door latch flush against the side of the door to make it impossible to pull the door shut in a way that locks it.

You'll also need some way of knowing if outside doors are opened. Although you don't necessarily want to curtail your toddler's freedom of movement, you also don't want him to wander outside without adult supervision. Hanging a bell that jingles when the door is opened or closed should provide adequate warning that your child has gone outside or is at least seriously thinking about it.

Q-tip

If your child becomes a talented escape artist, you may decide it's time to begin exploring alternatives to high chairs and strollers. (There is no alternative to a car seat, but luckily, car seats are also much more difficult to escape.)

Instead of strapping your baby into the stroller when you go for a walk, try doing a lot more walking hand-in-hand. It will be slower, but you won't have to worry about her falling out of the stroller. As for the high chair, it may be time to put it away when your child can consistently get out from under the safety strap. Your child will probably enjoy a miniature table and chairs that allow her to come and go as she pleases and eliminate the risk of serious falls.

The Height of Danger

Another new talent that will get your adventurous toddler into trouble will be her increasing skill at climbing. Freestanding shelves represent a significant hazard to small climbers. To your one-year-old, shelves will look more like a ladder or staircase, and the top shelves will always seem to have the most interesting objects. To prevent your child from accidentally tipping shelves over on top of herself, take the time to secure the back of any freestanding shelves to a wall with screws.

Your child's climbing talents and her facility as an escape artist may also put her in increased danger when she's in a stroller, car seat, or high chair. Even when she's (apparently securely) strapped in, you'll need to keep a close eye on your climber. Once she can toddle about, walk, run, and climb, your baby may have little or no patience for such confinement. She may wriggle out from under the safety straps and begin to climb out of the high chair or the moving stroller.

Once your toddler becomes a climber, even cribs and playpens will no longer be as safe as they once were. Your child may find ingenious ways to climb out, and she'll get better and better at it the more she practices. If your toddler becomes a particularly adept climber, you may need to consider moving her out of her crib and into a bed. After all, it's a long way down from the top of the crib railing to the floor.

Safety Rules

Babyproofing

When your toddler does move out of her crib, you can minimize the chance that she'll fall out of bed by using temporary side rails or by using a single side rail and placing the other side of her bed against the wall. Or you may want to eliminate the possibility of falls altogether by placing your child's mattress directly on the floor.

Although your baby may speak only a handful of words when he turns one, he understands much more than he can say. So don't hesitate to begin teaching him safety rules at this early age. Whenever you encounter a danger that your toddler will likely run into again, tell him the safety rule. For instance, you should make it a strict rule that he must hold a trusted grown-up's hand before stepping into the road.

When possible, use a dramatic flourish, sharp tones, and pantomime to amplify your words. When you're cooking, for example, you might pretend to touch the pot or stove, then pull your hand back quickly and say, "Ow! Hot! Don't touch!" If you're slicing vegetables for dinner, you might show your one-year-old the blade, touch it, and say, "Ow! Sharp! Don't touch!"

Don't rely on a single safety lesson to teach your child what to do and what to avoid. Your toddler will need many lessons in order to absorb your message. So repeat the lesson whenever you cook or use something that poses an everyday danger to your toddler. If you send a consistent message, even a one-year-old can learn to avoid many dangers. But even after your child seems to have learned the lesson, even after he can repeat your words or fill in the blanks when you pause in mid-sentence, he may forget your warnings in his fascination with some forbidden object.

Nothing will take the place of careful supervision, and your one-year-old will need a lot of it. But as long as you can keep him safe, you have a fun and exciting year ahead of you-and many more to come.

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Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Bringing Up Baby © 1997 by Kevin Osborn. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

To order this book visit the Idiot's Guide web site or call 1-800-253-6476.


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