Water proof. Fire proof. Bug proof. Wind proof. These all have one thing in common. To be impervious to something. So, tell me, what does child proof mean?
It doesn’t mean impervious to children. People don’t start talking about “child proofing” until they are pregnant, just had a baby, or are having children visit regularly.
Now that they are already in your house there is not a lot that you can do. They are there to stay for the rest of your life. The best you can do is to control area access. At least until they figure out how to bypass your security system.
The Planning Phase
You would think that babies are safe as they lay on the floor looking around. You are wrong. As babies lay on the floor looking at their surroundings, they are actually making plans.
This is the real reason that babies are so attentive. They spend the first nine months of their life looking at the things around them and deciding in which order they will be explored.
They are also watching how you interact with the things that interest them. This gives them a baseline to start their explorations. By the time they are mobile they already know the basics of how many of the things around them work.
Exploration and Trouble
As soon as children become mobile, at about nine months, your world will never be the same. As soon as mobility is mastered, children quickly learn to travel at the speed of sound.
As soon as you hear it you know it is too late.
Small children do not set out to make a mess. They are just curious and want to know what everything is and what it does. There are two basic problem to watch for:
- They do not know what will hurt them and what won’t.
- They are fearless.
We all have cupboards. We use them to store just about everything.
Little ones love to explore these spaces. Initially it is just to understand the motion of opening and closing the different doors. Once this is mastered, the exploration begins.
They love to physically climb into these spaces. To do so they will take everything out to see if they will fit in.
To keep our little explorers safe, we put latches on the cupboards we want them to stay out of. Latches were placed on the inside of the door and you pulled the door out enough to push the latch down. This is the flaw in the design.
With dogs, cats, and small children in the house I kept my kitchen trash in the cupboard under the sink. My son, a toddler at the time, liked to throw things away: paper, spoons, forks, toys, etc.
Tired of losing spoons and picking things out of the trash I spent an hour putting latches on the cupboard doors. I stabbed my finger with the screw driver and pinched several other fingers. Then I stepped back and proudly surveyed my handy-work.
About 15 minutes after completing this task Son came into the kitchen. He went straight to the trash cupboard and discovered that it was now latched. He couldn’t open it. He looked very perplexed. Then his eyes got squinty and I could see the wheels turning in that cute little head.
Son rattled the door and looked at the latch from the side. He rattled the door again and, standing on his tip toes, looked at the latch from the top. He worked his way around the door with his hands rattling it from every direction.
I was feeling very confident about my handy-work. Then it happened.
Son took a step back, braced his feet, put his little hands in carefully chosen locations on the side of the cupboard and rattled it to check his placement. Then with one determined pull he popped the cupboard breaking the latch in the process.
Children 1/Mom 0
Mom wins one!
If only I could have found this latch 20 years earlier. It would have saved my spoons from disappearing and I wouldn’t have had to spend so much time digging through the trash before it could be taken out.
It is a magnetic lock that my father found and installed. Without the magnet you cannot open the cupboard without taking it off it’s hinges.
My son who popped the latches when he was a toddler couldn’t open these as an adult. Neither could the small children that were in the house.
Children 1/Mom 1
This is a skill that children start honing as soon as they can pull themselves up to a standing position. Some children are closely related to small monkeys. They quickly learn to climb just about everything. This is where things can get very interesting.
I had a couple of climbers, but one in particular stopped my heart on a regular basis. I firmly believe that he had Spiderman powers.
We put things up high that we do not want our children to get into. We seem to think that if we cannot reach it, our children cannot either. Right? Wrong!!
Candy and other yummy treats were kept on the very top shelf in our pantry. My son could scale the shelves like a little spider monkey. He could reach the top shelf within 2.5 seconds. Yes, I timed him.
Children 2/Mom 1
Prescription and over-the-counter medications are in the cupboards over the refrigerator. I can’t reach it without a tall stool, so I figured that they would be safe.
I walked into the kitchen one day and stopped dead in my tracks. There, sitting on top of the refrigerator, was my son. He wasn’t even two yet!
I looked around to see how he could have gotten up there and saw no chairs, no open cupboards, the refrigerator, and freezer were both closed, and the counter was clear.
To this day I do not know how he got up there. But I will never forget the mischievous look in his eyes or the smile on his face as he sat there kicking his feet.
Children 3/Mom 1
These children seem to have the ability to get out of anywhere.
- Locks mysteriously open themselves.
- Cribs and playpens are conspicuously empty.
- Nothing seems to keep them where we want them to stay.
I remember thinking that I didn’t have this problem with my first child. Then it dawned on me. There was nobody for her to conspire with.
Do not underestimate the power of these small minds nor the creativity of their brainstorming sessions. These little people will even train your pets as accomplices.
Children 4, Mom 1
Each generation of children is smarter than the last. Some parents think that as long as the children do not outnumber the adults it will be okay.
As a mother who has gone from equal numbers to outnumbered I can tell you that this is not true. The reason? One child is smarter than us.
With each additional child, knowledge and ingenuity is not just multiplied by the number of children. It is multiplied by the total number of children squared.
A parent’s only survival tool is going to be tactical advantage.
I have found some things that work very well for me.
- Do not argue logic with a child. They will win. Use your trump card, “Because I’m your mother and I say so!” It drove us crazy as children simple because we could not logic our way out of it.
- You OWN the refrigerator. If they want access cooperation is required.
- You know where they sleep. This will start a child’s imagination running simply because of the implication. What will you do?
- Never make threats that you are not willing to do. Remember, children will test all the boundaries and you will be required to do what you say.
- Use the older children to tame the younger. If they KNOW you will follow through they will whisper horrors into the ears of their younger siblings.
- Surprise them with special rewards for good behavior. Something that they will enjoy and remember. If you use the advantage of the surprise they will try to duplicate the behavior that was rewarded just in case they will be rewarded again. Make sure that you have another surprise before the effects of the first one are forgotten. It is acceptable to talk about how much fun it was every now and again to remind them that it could happen again.
- Time is more important to children than money. It makes them feel important, valued, and heard.
These won’t work for everyone, but if parents band together we might survive child rearing with most of our mental faculties intact.
Being a parent is a frustrating, exasperating, and exhausting job. It is also the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done.
The first time your baby says, “I love you Mommy,” it melts your heart and will stay with you forever. When you hear your teenage say, “Thanks Mom,” you feel as if you have done something extraordinary.
Take the time to enjoy your children. Enjoy each stage in their life. Before you know it, they will be grown and busy with lives of their own.
If you have children in your home, or have children come to visit, share your best strategies and security measures.
- What are the best locks you have found for cupboards?
- Have you found a way to keep your little Houdini from getting out? (Or in?)
- Do you know where they learned to apperate?
- Do your children have levitational abilities?
- Which superhero best describes your child?