Help me prevent my house from hurting this child
November 13, 2009 6:58 AM   Subscribe

I need to temporarily kid proof my house for a party tomorrow. Any suggestions on how I do this?

I'm having a party tomorrow, and one couple was unable to find a sitter. So, they'll be bringing their two and a half year old son with them. I don't mind him coming. I love the kid.

But, I want to make sure my house is safe for the youngster. I'm single and have no kids, so drilling holes and installing baby gates and the like isn't something I want to do.

Are there any temporary measures I can take to make sure the boy doesn't hurt himself while running around my house tomorrow?
posted by reenum to Grab Bag (19 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Take heavy and/or sharp things off places where they could be knocked or pulled down.
Basically anything within kid reach that could hurt them might want to be moved to higher ground.
This isn't something you necessarily can change, but watch out for stone fireplaces, sharp corners on furniture (like glass tables), and floors that are slippery and hard.
If you have anything toxic out that a kid might try to eat, put it away.

Honestly, one two and a half year old with his parents there just for a party shouldn't require much on your part. Unless he's some super misbehaving kid, they should be able to keep a look out for him. Most people don't really do much to prepare for a little kid coming over.
posted by ishotjr at 7:09 AM on November 13, 2009

-If the parents have a portable/pressure baby gate to block stairs, suggest they bring it.
-Hide away or secure decorative objects, things you don't want grabbed or broken, valuable breakables, heavy things that could fall on his head - all within reason.
-Move under-the-sink cleaning chemicals to a high cabinet shelf, for the night.
-See what you can do to create a nice kid-friendly play space, inviting the parents to bring some toys for their son and accepting that those toys will be scattered and messy by night's end. What I mean is, if a chair or table can be scooched so that there is a nice comfy spot for a kid to hang out and play with toys and not be underfoot, that might help everyone have a nice time.
-Depending on where your TV is and these particular parents' comfort level with plopping the kid down in front of the TV, invite them to bring a movie or offer to rent/stream something.
-Let the parents know what you have done, but remind them you are not a pro so you may have missed some things, just gently remind them that Junior is not in a fully childproofed house.

I don't think you need to do much more than the above. I have had a child, and now do not, and I don't even do all of the above. I do, in a kind rather than scary way, warn anyone who brings little kids over that they might get into something in my house that they wouldn't be able to access at home, so I ask the parents to keep a sharp eye, and to feel free to ask me for help if they see something glaring that I've missed.
posted by bunnycup at 7:14 AM on November 13, 2009 [2 favorites]

Just keep the knives in the drawer, hide the Acme Eye-Poker-Outer 5000 and make sure the MDMA is in a child-proof container.

It's up to the parents to keep the kid safe and at 2 1/2 they'll most likely keep him within earshot. The world isn't babyproof, there's probably all kinds of places they bring him where the outlets don't have covers and the toilet isn't locked. Parents kid-proof their house mostly because that's where the kid spends most of his time so the odds are greater that he'll get into trouble at home. They also do it because the kid-proofing industry and the media has led us to believe everything is dangerous.

If you feel like you want to give it a once-over, get down on your hands and knees and crawl around. You want to look at your place from kid height. Think about what might appeal to him and what he can reach. Look under things and make sure there's nothing he might look at and say "Boy, that looks fun. And tasty!" Look for sharp edges and corners on things. Anything that looks really dangerous you can put away for the day but, honestly, there might be nothing you can do that would be worth doing for a single day.

Ask if the kid has any severe food allergies and make sure you segregate any food, such as peanuts, that might give him trouble.

Warn the parents that your house isn't kid-proof. They'll understand and they'll be used to it.

Also, here's a secret parents don't often accept: Kids are pretty durable. They'll bump their head, they'll cry, but in most cases they won't need to go to the ER.
posted by bondcliff at 7:17 AM on November 13, 2009

FWIW, regular rubber bands (the thick kind) make good makeshift anti-baby locks for floor-level kitchen cabinets and drawers. Just loop over the knobs (or for open handles, loop over a pen stuck through both handles) and you're done.
posted by Bardolph at 7:23 AM on November 13, 2009

There are two parts to childproofing. These are great suggestions about how to keep the kid away from dangerous things, but frankly, a visiting child is usually kept under view, and is not so likely to head for the chemical under-sink storage, especially if he's got other distractions. Anything seriously damaging for a child is likely to be damaging enough for adults that it's put someplace in particular rather than the middle of the living room floor.

As a non-parent, but having hosted my nieces sometimes, I focus on the flip side of the coin - not "what could damage this child?" but "what could this child damage?". What's in my living room that is breakable, that I am very fond of? My egyptian alabaster lamp, for example, swaps places with my bedside lamp when they come to visit. My husband's guitar goes into the closet. The tchotchke shelves get rearranged to put the wooden things at the bottom and the glassy things out of reach. This is also making things safer for the kid, by avoiding (a) ceramic fragments and (b) high emotions.
posted by aimedwander at 7:35 AM on November 13, 2009 [3 favorites]

I too have done the rubber band loops on cabinets and they work well. I've also used duct tape to cover those open wall sockets temporarily
posted by itsonreserve at 7:44 AM on November 13, 2009

If you have a table or something else that you worry about getting dirty/water damages/whatever, then you can get a shower curtain and put over it. We used Duct Tape and it stayed on great.
posted by theichibun at 8:14 AM on November 13, 2009

In all honesty, it is great that you're being thoughtful about the visiting tot. However, he is the responsibility of his parents. They need to keep a close eye on him. They also need to factor in his entertainment. You don't have kids and shouldn't be expected to provide him with toys. That being said, just make sure you don't have breakables at coffee table height. Also, don't be surprised if the parents keep their visit very short.
posted by onhazier at 8:15 AM on November 13, 2009 [1 favorite]

A 2 1/2 year old will be comfortable with stairs etc. I wouldn't worry about that. Just get anything fragile, messy or dangerous out of reach. Dangerous could be sharp things, poisonous things, heavy things that tip over etc. The parents will be watching the kid; everything should be fine.
posted by caddis at 8:17 AM on November 13, 2009

Seconding rubber bands and duct tape. Move your breakables so they're out of the child's reach, and if you have any really nice furniture, consider putting some sort of throw over it.

I'd argue that an even more effective childproofing strategy is giving the child enough to do that they don't *care* what's under the sink. Especially when there's a single kid in a room full of adults, it's easy for the child to be overlooked (parents are desperate for grown-up time; other adults aren't used to watching after children). That's when you have trouble, in my experience, because the kid gets bored and toddles off to befriend your fish, rummage through cabinets, or color on the wall.

You might want to go to a craft store and pick up some basic stuff for the child to play with. Their parents will probably bring some toys, but what's more interesting--the toys you play with every day, or a brand new box of crayons? You don't have to spend much--$5 or $10 will probably cover you--but you could pick up a box of crayons, a tablet of paper, maybe some foam beads for the child to string (two and a half is plenty old enough for this--buy beads with large holes and plastic cording). Some craft stores have tubes of ten or twelve smallish toys, little farm animals or trucks or army guys or whatever. Maybe it sounds silly, but when my daughter was small, this was my default childproofing technique. A couple of bucks, and she'd happily entertain herself for hours.
posted by MeghanC at 8:21 AM on November 13, 2009

Put the cat box behind a closed door. I recall one young visitor who was stuffing kitty roca in his mouth before his parents even had their coats off.
posted by ottereroticist at 8:25 AM on November 13, 2009 [2 favorites]

Frankly, you don't need to worry about this. The only suggestion I have is that if you have something (say, a sculptural puzzle or piece of artwork) that looks a lot like a toy and you don't want him touching it, don't leave it in easy reach. That's because there could be confused crying when mom or dad says no, not because it will be broken. I guarantee that he is not going to be running around the house. He is going to be within a few feet, at all times, of his parents.
posted by Wordwoman at 8:28 AM on November 13, 2009

Don't worry about table corners and stairs and stuff; there'll be plenty of adults around keeping an eye on him. The main thing I do when a child visitor is imminent is to grab a box and put everything grabbable into it -- I have lots of tchotchkes at kid-level, normally. Then I find some non-breakable things to put where the other stuff used to be, so I don't have to worry about my stuff breaking PLUS the kid has some new stuff to explore. (I also, nerdily, have a few 'vintage' Fisher-Price toys hanging around, so I bring those out, though I keep the actual "little people" figures away if the kids are still in the "everything into my mouth!" phase.) You don't need to buy anything special; if the kid's looking bored and getting into trouble, haul out a pile of tupperware and let him stack, whack, and bang to his heart's content.
posted by chowflap at 8:34 AM on November 13, 2009

Yes, don't. The world is not baby-proofed.
posted by Dick Paris at 8:36 AM on November 13, 2009

baby=anybody between ages 0 and, well, 20.
posted by Dick Paris at 8:37 AM on November 13, 2009

Seconding that you should move kitty litter/pet food off the floor, and secure cabinets, not necessarily because of danger to baby, but because the two year old I babysat for used to think that emptying the cupboards was THE BEST GAME EVER and you'll have less to clean up this way.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 8:39 AM on November 13, 2009

As a parent, I consider it my responsibillity to supervise my children when we aresomeone's guests.

That said, the only thing I would worry about is proximity to a backyard pool or body of water. If you've got any of those nearby, make sure the kids stays far away.

Drowning kills more kids than just about anything else.
posted by mikewas at 8:43 AM on November 13, 2009

Yes to those who said it's more about what you don't want broken. It's my responsibility to keep my kid safe/alive; but it's your job to keep your glass unicorn collection more than 2 feet off the floor. Unless you are ready to move on to a new hobby. Worry about your own stuff more than safety issues. 2.5 yrs old is well past the age of concern about sharp corners and the like. But it can be surprisingly hard for a parent to judge what qualifies as a precious heirloom vs an acceptable toy when you're in someone else's space, and it's much more relaxing to know that the valuable stuff is up and out of reach (for the parents and the host alike).

That said, if you have any plant stands or similar narrow, tippy type furniture, you might want to move those into a corner or a closed bedroom. Those things are impossible to keep upright with a toddler in the room.
posted by pekala at 9:54 AM on November 13, 2009 [1 favorite]

It's really thoughtful of you to ask this question! Just as a comparison, the first time I had friends and their small child over to my house, the mom had to ask me if I wouldn't mind relocating the burning candles I had set up in the fireplace. Yeah.

Tippy tables should probably be relocated; even the best-behaved children will knock into things by accident. Breakables -- and things that could break other things if dropped or knocked over -- should be put out of reach, especially the fun-looking ones, like a model car or a glass animal.

Other than that, just don't get offended if they have to leave early. They'd probably love to stay the whole time, but sometimes the perma-hunch cannot be sustained a moment longer.
posted by palliser at 10:30 AM on November 13, 2009 [1 favorite]

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