Making Grandma's house a safe place to visit

Woody Huizenga


Don’t wait until your grandchild starts crawling to think about babyproofing your home. Babies can become mobile almost overnight, and you could be caught unprepared.

The trick to babyproofing is to forget the notion that infants see everything the same way you do. Babies operate on an entirely different level — floor level! To take stock of your home's dangers, take a crawling tour. And don’t do it just once. As your grandchild starts walking and climbing and growing, the threats will change. Your grandkids will reach higher, and they’ll fall farther.

Babies start pulling up on furniture as soon as they start crawling. Drawers make perfect ladders, so keep them closed when you're not using them. Can your grandchild find things — stairs, shelves or furniture — to climb? Big things to topple? Small things to swallow? Interesting — and dangerous — little items in your purse?

Protecting electrical outlets is always a good idea, but those plug-in caps can end up in a baby's mouth. A sliding safety latch is better. Furniture corners — especially those on coffee tables — are another hazard. Place floor lamps behind other furniture to keep the bases out of your baby's reach. Lock up every potential poison or other hazard — every medicine, vitamin and sharp object. Use gates to limit your grandchild's access to areas of your home that might contain dangerous items.

Childproofing is an ongoing process. The gate that kept a one-year-old off the stairs may become a two-year-old's favourite climbing structure. Large or heavy bookcases, dressers and appliances are dangerous. Always put heavier items on bottom shelves and in bottom drawers to make furniture less top-heavy.

Take special care to fully close file cabinet drawers, because pulling out one drawer could cause the cabinet to fall on a child. Purchase childproof latches for all your household cabinets, regardless of what you keep in them. Drapery and blind cords can strangle babies. Tie them up and out of reach.

Babies can drown in as little as an inch or two of water. Never leave your grandbaby unattended in the tub, even for a moment. And never leave babies alone on beds or sofas, in a highchair, on a changing table or in any other spot from which they might fall.

And everything you check at your own home must be as thoroughly checked when visiting a friend — or when hosting a friend with a small child. It only takes a moment.

Babies love toys, and giving them may be a grandparent’s greatest joy. Just remember that the best toys are the ones that can’t break or scratch the skin, or be disassembled into pieces that can be swallowed. The best toys encourage your baby to think and look and learn.

And finally, remember that the crib your child slept in or the toys she played with may no longer be considered safe for your grandchild. Always check with your son or daughter using anything old with your precious grandchild.