Monday, June 16, 2014

Hey! Get Out of There!


         Kiley is getting more and more adept at getting around on her own. At five plus months she isn't quite crawling yet but it won't be long. This means that she is on the very edge of a new horizon. Her world is about to expand dramatically as her ability to explore her surroundings takes a leap forward. It's only a matter of time before she is going everywhere and into everything. It will be a time of great discovery for her as her new mobility affords her the opportunity to find out what is around each corner, what is under the sofa, or what is at the other end of the hall.

Unfortunately, this will also be the beginning of a time of danger for her. The world including the interiors of our homes can be a dangerous place for the unwary, and crawlers and toddlers, are nothing if not unwary.  Without any experience of the consequences of even the simplest action, every move Kiley makes could be potentially injurious. She is entering the time of booboos and I must see to it that the inevitable booboos are minor ones. As much as we all hate to think about it, dropping the ball on this one could lead to serious consequences or even tragedy. It's time to child proof the house.

There was a time when the playpen was the standard way of keeping babies safe and secured. I remember the playpen I used decades ago. It was a big, heavy contraption with wooden bars that effectively corralled the little ones and kept them out of harms way. But they hated it. It was a cage. I think the "pen" in playpen is short for penitentiary. What I remember most about the playpen was my daughter wordlessly begging to be released. Today's version is very light and portable with mesh instead of bars, but it's still a cage. I use one now as a bed for Kiley and it is perfect for her naps but I wouldn't want to confine her in there as a place to play. Children, like chickens, need to be free range. Therefore, the house needs to be made safe for them to roam in. So where do we begin? I guess that's simple. We begin with the obvious dangers that have spawned a small child proofing industry:

Cabinet and Drawer Locks. Back in the day we used to tie our cabinet doors shut with string to keep the curious out. We learned this trick from our mothers who learned it from theirs ad infinitum. Now you can buy plastic locking devices of various designs, some more effective than others depending on the complexity of the locking mechanism. (It is important when choosing the right device for your house that it is not so complex that you can't figure it out. A very real possibility.) Trust me, once your little "leg leach" realizes you want to keep them out of something, that "something" will become extremely interesting to her and the device you are using to deny her the access she craves will become the most fascinating object in the house. You will find that she is continually drawn to it and, I think it is safe to assume, a good part of her time is spent thinking about it. She will not rest until she has figured it out. Remember the effectiveness of any such device has a limited life span indirectly proportional to the rapidly growing cleverness of your child. The older she becomes the closer to success she will get. Therefore, these devices are good for keeping your child away from the pots and pans and dish towels etc. that you don't want her tossing all over the kitchen floor but DO NOT rely on them to keep your loved one away from poison or sharp objects. Put such things in an upper cabinet that she won't be able to get to until she is old enough that it will no longer matter. "KEEP THE BLEACH OUT OF REACH". And don't forget – alcohol is a poison.

Electric Outlet Covers. These are a must. You know what I'm talking about; the little plastic plugs that you stick into unused electrical outlets to prevent your tiny inquisitor from sticking other things into them. They work great but are only a first line of defense. Just like the drawer locks they soon become an item of fascination to your little "electrician" and you will find him sitting in front of an outlet and picking at the outlet cover trying to get it out. He will eventually be successful. The real danger, however, is with outlets that are in use. The plugged in electrical cord is much easier to remove from the outlet than are the outlet covers, which affords your little one the opportunity to insert something else in its place. Even more hazardous is that moment when the electrical cord is part way out of the outlet but still connected to the "juice". A little finger touching the exposed prongs will create a new path for the electricity to follow - the worst possible path. Remember, you may not know what the definition of the electrical term "amperage" is (I don't) but rest assured there is enough of it in each and every wall outlet to kill an adult. Do whatever you must to keep little fingers away from these dangerous necessities.

Window Shade Cords. The cords used to open and close window shades or blinds seem innocuous but they are extremely dangerous to "carpet crawlers". They are a choking hazard especially the ones that are simply a loop hanging down. These become nooses too readily. There are small cord hangers that you can attach to the wall high enough so when the cord is wrapped around it the little ones can't reach it. It is simple and effective. Remember, it only takes seconds for a child to become unconscious or worse when something is wrapped tightly around its neck.

Baby Gates. These things are great for keeping "them" out of areas you don't want them in. I'm going to allow Kiley free run of the family room and kitchen which are connected (with myself present at all times of course). But that is about as much baby chasing as I am willing to indulge in. I don't want her roaming out of eyesight, or up the stairs. Two baby gates are enough to accomplish the necessary partitioning and are easy to erect and take down. Just remember there are different models and though they should all be designed to meet safety standards make sure there are no potential pinch points or other hazards that a poorly designed gate may have. You don't want your baby to be the cause of a new product recall.

Glass. Wherever there is glass there is potential for an unpleasant hour or six in the emergency room. With Kiley around I use nothing but plastic cups for whatever I am drinking. Ceramic cups for coffee or tea are okay because ceramic doesn't break so easily and when it does it doesn't create the instrument of horror that glass does. Get down on the floor and look around to get a baby's eye view of the terrain. Is there any glass around? I have a TV cabinet with glass pane doors in my family room. This is an accident waiting to happen. I removed the glass and replaced it with Plexiglas. It looks the same but is safe.

Burns. Keep your "floor flea" away from coffee, tea, the stove, the fireplace, the grill, metal that has been sitting in the sun, lighters, soup, or anything else that is potentially hot. Remember to put your hand in the bath water before her butt. Sunburn is a "burn" and can be serious. If it is red it is a first-degree burn. If it blisters it is a second-degree burn. Use sunscreen.

Falls. Once your little "couch climber" can stand it will soon begin to climb. This creates the potential for falls with the resultant, bangs, bruises, breaks, split heads and busted lips that are so vexing to the harried mother. There is not much to be done about this except to keep them away from the stairs, especially when they are upstairs, and be right behind them when they are climbing.

Choking Hazards. Another common one. They put everything in their mouths so make sure there are no small objects on the floor. If it is smaller than his fist, don't let him have it. Watch out for hot dogs, grapes, bananas, or any food that he can bite a chunk off of. We used to have these, so called, "teething biscuits" that were like a hard cookie. I don't know if they are still around. Everyone gave them to their teething babies. They were ubiquitous. They slowly dissolved as the babies gnawed on them but eventually the teethers would break off a piece that would inevitably get stuck in the back of their throats. I can't tell you how many times I had to dig a big chunk of these things out of a clogged mouth with my finger before I came to the conclusion that the manufacturer was actually trying to kill my baby and got rid of them.

        The bottom line is there are a plethora of hazards both minor and major right in your safe and secure home but they can be managed with a little foresight and common sense. If there is any doubt whether something is safe err on the side of caution and keep an eye out for pins, needles, knives, forks, corks, balls, rope, pens, pencils, erasers, bottle tops, scissors, spools, thimbles, screw drivers, light bulbs, laser pointers, spoons, batteries, stairs, toilets, coins, keys, combs, candles, buttons, table corners, string, shoe laces, ribbons, ear rings, band aids, stoves, soap, electrical wire, nail clippers, tooth paste, paper towels, dogs, other kids, snakes, lions, swords, guns, grenades, flame throwers, catapults, battleships, atomic bombs, aliens, vampires, mummies, zombies, lava, dust mites, spiders, cuss words………………………………………


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