Expecting a new family member? As Kirsty Allsopp no-doubt found out when she, husband Ben and baby Bay moved into their Holland Park apartment last Autumn, there’s more to preparing your home for a little one than stocking up on preemptive nappies, breast pumps and bottle brushes and slapping a coat of blueish-pink paint on the nursery. They’ll be toddling before you can say ‘stair gate’ – so think smart and babyproof early.
Most homes have hidden hazards round every corner, and short of cladding your child in a giant squashy rompersuit and stapling foam to every wall and surface, there are going to be accidents. But every parent has to strike that uneasy balance between nurturing and neurotic, so here are our top five tips for keeping frantic casualty trips to a minimum.
Before considering any of this, regress a little. Drop to the floor on your hands and knees and think baby. Dangers that we sail past, blissfully unaware on two legs, can suddenly seem a lot more real when your eyeline is five inches off the carpet. Remember, four legs good, two legs bad – cooing and gurgling are optional.
1. Gated community:
Unless you live in a bungalow, a skyscraper or a fire station, chances are you’ll get from one floor to another using the stairs. But try doing it on all fours during your regression session and you may well end up in A&E. To be sure, install gates at the top and bottom of all staircases, as well as at the entrances to any rooms that can’t be easily childproofed – especially the kitchen and garage. Properly-fitted carpet on the stairs can also help prevent slipping, so roll it out to stop ‘em rolling over.
2. Avoid skid marks:
Fabric may be comfier for little palms and knees than harsh floorboards, but a rug on a polished floor is clearly asking for trouble. Simple enough solution: invest in some non-slip backing strips to make the carpet stick.
3. Take the edge off:
Slippery rugs or not, they’re going to take their share of tumbles. When it happens, make sure they bounce off something rubbery by softening the corners and edges of your most calamity-causing furniture. These padding products may make your home look like the inside of a tube train, but they’ll reduce tears before bedtime.
4. Come on baby guard my fire:
As if the risks of naked flames aren’t incentive enough, this is actually a legal obligation when rugrats are roaming, and shields are available for both conventional and freestanding fires. Fire alarms should be fitted on every floor, plus Carbon Monoxide Detectors outside bedrooms – especially with gas or oil heating or an attached garage.
5. Hang ‘em high:
During your crawling session you’ll notice just how many things there are scattered about that could provide tots with an overwhelming desire to push, pull, chew or swallow them. Tie curtain cords out of reach, use cable tidies to bundle together that spaghetti junction of electrical cords behind the telly, cover all unused sockets with plug guards, and always check the floor for coins, buttons, beads and assorted fastenings that your pride and joy could hoover up.
© Nick Carson 2007. First published on Channel 4’s 4Homes.