Whether you're new parents, grandparents, or friends expecting an extended visit from a little guest, it is time to make your home toddler friendly. The first thing to do, is to think about your home from the toddler's perspective. One thing you would notice is that everything is GIGANTIC. In addition, as a curious, exploring child, you are ready to climb, taste, pull, and bang everything in sight just to see what happens, and most houses have plenty of things to try your new skills on.
As adults, we expect our children to operate in a world where everything is much bigger than they are. It is important when you are making your home toddler friendly that you think about how the child can operate safely and successfully in the space. They need to learn limits and to operate with some of the adult sized furniture, but it is also important to make certain things accessible in your home in order to teach your toddler basic skills. There are three elements you should consider when making your home toddler friendly: baby proofing, organizing, and child sizing your home. These three elements are related and in order to create the best environment for your child, you should emply all three.
This is the most commonly discussed part of making your home toddler friendly. First off, there are various levels of baby proofing. For example, your 6 month old probably just needs a few things put out of reach, while your 2 year old needs a while other level of safety. There are some arguments about how much you should baby proof. If everything is perfectly safe, it is difficult to teach a child that there are limits; however, if you choose not to baby proof anything, you will constantly be telling your toddler - NO, and they may stop listening. In my own home I have chosen to have a different level of baby proofing in different rooms. My playroom and my twin's bedroom are both 95% baby proof. The kitchen is 75% baby proofed, while the rest of the house may only be 50% baby proofed. They only have access to the 50% baby proofed rooms when I am right there with them. I also found it helpful to make one room as baby proofed as I could so I could avoid saying NO all day. Whatever you decide, this is your personal choice, but remember that no room is 100% safe and nothing replaces adult supervision.
Here is a list of some of the things you can do to baby proof your home:
- Plugs - plug covers are cheap and are probably the easiest thing to do. For some reason my babies are OBSESSED with plugs. The cover should fit snuggly and you may need to try more than one kind.
- Table lamps - These are easy targets for getting pulled down and broken. The cords can also be chewed and are strangulation hazards.
- Any loose cords - This includes telephones, TVs, radios, etc. You can put them in the wall, under the carpet, run them up high, or simply get rid of them.
- Curtains - these can get pulled down and the cords are strangulation hazards.
- Windows - Toddlers can easily fall out of a window, even with a screen.
- Furniture that might fall - This includes bookshelves, dressers, tables, etc. To test things that have drawers, try pulling all the drawers out and see if the dresser tips over when you apply a little pressure. Furniture can either be removed from the room or bolted to the wall.
- Choking Hazards - This is another obvious one -anything small they may stick in their mouth (don't forget the little nubs on door stops!). Check the floor every time you enter a room.
- Cabinets with breakables - Anything your child might get into and break. This includes books if you don't want your books torn and the bindings broken. Either remove the items, or buy and install latches or locks.
- Door knobs and Gates - toddlers quickly learn to open doors and even gates. You can purchase door knob covers for your knobs. Doors and cabinets can also catch little fingers, so you can install stops that keep them open just a bit if you choose.
- Ovens/dishwashers/fridge/etc - Many of these devices have locks on them already, but you can also buy locks that attach to the outside. My kids love to stand in the oven drawer, hold onto the oven handle and jump up and down - we are on our 3rd set of locks. Check if your toddler can touch the stove, or the knobs.
- Toilets and tubs- toilets are drowning concerns. You can purchase locks for these. We've chosen to keep the bathroom doors latched shut unless we are with our kids. You can also get covers for the tub spigot.
- Â· Stairs - Depending on your toddler's age, these can be a concern. Put a gate at the top and bottom, but make sure you check that the gate you are using is designed to be used at the top of the stairs.
- Sharp edges - these can hurt your toddler when the stand up or if they fall on a sharp corner. You can buy bumpers. We went through a number of things that all got pulled off and finally found that a little fabric and duct tape works great!
- Slippery surfaces - This includes the tub. You can put non-slip pads in these places.
- House plants - Your toddler is definitely going to get into your plants, so decide which ones are safe and move them all out of reach.
- Climbable objects - my twins newest favorite activity is climbing, on everything. Be aware of where these objects are and remove them if you can or want to.
Your home is probably designed for adults, so in addition to baby proofing, you should also consider child sizing. If you want to teach your children to wash their hands, you need them to reach the sink. You have two choices, lower the sink to the kid's level, or raise the kid up to the level of the sink. Now I don't propose that you redo your entire house so everything is level with your toddler, but there are a few things you can do to make your home welcoming to someone who is only a few feet tall.
When you are child sizing your home, walk into each room and ask yourself what tasks you hope your child to do in this room. For example; in the bathroom, you probably want them to be able to get to the sink to wash hands and brush their teeth, so you probably need a step stool, soap, and a hand cloth. You also want them to take a bath and then get their towel, so it may be helpful to put their towel at their level.
This list suggests just some of the ways you can child size your home:
- Chairs - while you may use highchairs to bring your toddler to adult level, it is also important to provide some furniture that your toddler can get in and out of themselves. There are a variety of small chairs available from different companies that range from comfy recliners to stylish Adirondack chairs.
- Tables - If you decide to purchase a small chair, it only makes sense to match it with a table. This can be used for snacks, crafts, playing or even meals.
- Beds - While most toddlers are still in cribs, you can transition your toddler to their own bed even at a young age, or simply a mattress on the floor. This will allow them to help make the bed and get in and out of bed alone.
- Â·Step stools - These stools generally have one or two steps and are light enough to move around the house. A couple stools around the house means that your toddler always has access to a stool when they need it.
This is often an overlooked element of making your home toddler friendly, and with a toddler around, it may be the hardest to keep up with. An organized home is easier to keep baby proofed and it helps your toddler learn order and where to find things. My 14 month old twins already know which shelf their toys belong on, and I can only imagine what else they notice.
Here are a few organizational suggestions that will help your toddler:
- Limit toys - rotate toys by keeping only 10-15 out at a time. This allows your baby to not become overwhelmed during cleaning up and play time. It also lets you rotate toys and keeps the selection fresh. Put the toys neatly on a shelf where your child can easily see and reach each toy.
- What they need is available - In addition to toys, you may want your child to have access to their dishes, silverware, or other items. Put these in a place where your child knows and can reach. This can also include a hand cloth, soap, their clothes, hairbrush, etc.
- Put it in the same place - To help teach your toddler to pick up after themselves and thus take pride of their own care you should keep things in the same place. Children quickly pick up on where things belong and you can help them by ensuring that these places stay the same.