Babyproofing, whatever that means

{ Friday, December 18, 2009 }
The bean was several months old before I first heard the term "free-range kid," but it definitely resonated with me. I think this means different things to different people, but for us it means that we try to encourage the bean to explore her surroundings while limiting her time spent in "containers." We naively assumed we could survive without any of these until two weeks with a screaming baby had us begging for a hand-me-down bouncy seat. Today, the bean sits in a bouncy seat while I shower (unless I can get her to nap in her crib while I sneak off for one) and she'll sometimes sit in her exersaucer while I cook dinner. Otherwise, she is playing on the floor or being worn in a carrier. I have no idea what life is like with a crawling or toddling child, so our plan may change as she does, but for now, this is what works for us.

The bean is also becoming more and more mobile by the day. She's not showing any interest in trying crawl just yet, but she's discovered that she can get anywhere she needs to go by rolling there and is getting better (and faster!) at it by the day. The combination of these two things is what's causing my trouble. I'm having a hard time striking a balance between letting the bean explore and keeping her . . . well, safe.

I know that sounds silly because of course I have no internal debate about whether or not to keep her safe. But, for instance, the bean is enamored with our christmas tree. She likes to look at the lights and glittering ornaments, but what she really loves is to roll over to it and grab the lights and feel the branches on her fingers. I know she would love to get these things in her mouth and she often ends up with a handful of pine needles, which I have so far been successful in stealing away before she can eat. As I type this she is playing with some plastic packaging material, which of course is a euphemism for plastic bag. Yes, I am letting my baby play with a plastic bag, even though there is a warning label printed right on it. When she brings it close to her mouth, I move it away and tell her "bags are not for eating," but she loves the sound it makes when she crinkles it with her hands and I don't have the heart to take it away from her.

I know I'm supposed to be distracting her and replacing forbidden items with other, more appropriate, ones but do any babies really fall for this? The bean is fairly single-minded and isn't content with a familiar toy when there are so many new objects to explore. The boy and I both want her to explore all these things but a line must be drawn at some point. Of course acutely hazardous objects are off limits (hot and pointy things come to mind), but do we put away all breakables, hide the electronics, and lock up any PVC/BPA/phthalate containing object she might want to mouth?

How do you deal with this? I'd love to hear general philosophies or specific tips or even a reality check about how much more difficult this will get with a toddler. (And if you have no idea, you're welcome to comment just to say hi!)


nutella said...

Plastic bags are so very fun, aren't they? Our current modus opperandi is let him play with anything that won't outright hurt him, as long as he's supervised. So yeah, those little air filled plastic pillows for packing? He had a field day with them a few weeks ago, under a watchful eye. And as mobile as he is, we really can't turn our backs on him for even a second, so the pack n' play has become a fixture in our living room. We know he's safe playing there for a few minutes if we can't keep our eyes on him. Yes, we've move breakables to shelves where he can't reach and will install latches on cabinets we don't want him gettign into. But nothing is gonna keep him from bonking his head on the coffee table or from chewing on the edge of the entertainemt center. We'll redirect as much as possible, but we won't be wrapping him in bubble wrap or padding every surfance and corner.

Lynn said...

My basic philosophy on kids and off-limits objects has been and is currently- take it away. My next door neighbor will let her 17 month old run around the yard with a framing hammer in his hand. I asked her one day "doesn't that make you nervous?" her response was simply, "yes, but if I take it away, he will scream".... AND? So what if he screams? Would you rather he screams because he doesn't have something dangerous in his hands, or would you rather him scream because he just knocked his eyeball out of his head... gross I know, but really...

I know that nowadays, people just want their kids to be happy, but I would rather my kid be safe! I too, have let my little guy explore a plastic bag under my watchful eye, but typically, instead of taking it away and replacing it with a familiar toy, I take it away and replace it with a less dangerous new object- maybe like a metal mixing bowl, or some neato contraption from the kitchen utensil drawer.

We don't like to contain our little ones either. You sound a lot like us actually! Our breakables did move up a shelf or 2 however, when our little guy started crawling...