Toddler-proofing your home and teaching safety

by Melissa Jaramillo

ToddlerproofingYour baby no longer just lays around, cooing and pooing. Now they're checking things out -- at a crawl, walk or run.

Since your baby turned into a miniature explorer, it seems they're into trouble almost as fast as you can eliminate hazards.

"I used to be able to put Chloe down to play with her toys and not worry. Now, I can't leave her alone even three minutes. Yesterday, while I was in the bathroom, she made a trip to the kitchen, opening the cabinets, playing in the kitty's water and checking out the screen door," Becca shares.

You baby-proofed months ago. Those same gadgets don't work as well against a toddler who can open doors, flush toilets, raid the refrigerator and make long distance phone calls.

Are you wondering how you can make your home safe for -- or should that be "from" -- your curious and mobile child?

Toddler-proofing your home

Start in the bedroom

Check again for cords. Your child can reach higher and climb as well. Shorten, wrap or remove cords, including those on the baby monitor.

Window safety: Toddlers climb onto window sills. Install a window guard or sturdy screen so your child can't take a tumble out the window.

Around the house

Outlets: Plug covers can protect your child when they're in the outlet. If your covers end up on the floor, consider installing child-protective swivel outlet covers.

Stair gates: Install a hardware-mounted gate at the top of your stairs to prevent falls and another at the bottom.

On the run! Now that your baby has found wings -- or so it seems, you might need to remove throw rugs or secure them with tape.

Put stickers on sliding glass doors. Kids don't always see them and a visual reminder can help. It can prevent bird and glass collisions as well.

In the kitchen: On tiptoes, a curious toddler can grab a pan's handle and spill the hot contents. Always turn your pan's handles toward the back of the stove.

Bathroom safety: You'llcreate a safe bathroom to protects against burns, falls, medicine and personal supplies and the biggest toddler draw -- the toilet.

New heights of danger: Your child's new ability at climbing can be another source of trouble. What adventurous toddler can resist a shelf or a ladder made of dresser drawers? Your best bet is to secure any furniture that can tip over to the wall with screws.

Escape artist at work: Combine the climbing ability with an increased understanding of how things work and you have a recipe for increased danger, especially when your little one is strapped securely in the high chair, car seat or stroller.

Even the crib is not longer as safe as it once was. If you have an especially adept climber you may want to make the move to a toddler bed.

Teach safety rules

Even though your toddler may only speak a few words, it's not too early to begin teaching safety rules. Exaggerate your lesson. Use a dramatic flair, short sharp words and act it out.

Whenever you run into a danger that your child will encounter again, tell the safety rule. Toddlers understand more than they can say.

Your rules might include:

✔ Hold my hand when we cross the street
✔ Ow! Hot! Don't touch!
✔ Sharp! Don't touch!

Repeat the lessons often, but don't rely on them. Even after your toddler can repeat the words back to you, they're liable to forget the rule if a fascinating object distracts his or her attention.

As your child grows

Safe guards you've already installed can wear out. As your child develops and grows into new places, you may need to add new devices.

Babies can get to window cords. Toddlers discover toilets. Kids love to explore shelves and TV. What has been your biggest toddler-proofing challenge as your baby became mobile? How did you or will you solve it?

Photo courtesy of iStockphoto.