Baby and books, coexisting peacefully?
April 23, 2007 12:49 PM   Subscribe

How can we protect our baby from our books, and our books from our baby, without permanently uglifying our shelves?

We love and collect books. Nearly every available wall has bookshelves. Fortunately/unfortunately, our little girl also loves books.

There are products out there for securing bookcases to walls, and we've taken advantage of those. The problem right now is the books themselves. Until recently, just packing the three bottom rows nice and tight prevented her from pulling books out, tearing them up, and chewing pages to a nice pulp perfect for choking on.

We'd like to put something in place to protect the lower shelves, but we also want to remove it later without the bookcases being marred. That pretty much precludes screwing something directly into them. We've played around with the idea of sliding two flat pieces of wood onto shelves (under books) at the top and bottom of the area that we want protected, then stretching some kind of fabric between them or attaching a hinged, latching, flip-down barrier (wood? plastic?) to them.

I'd love to hear some alternative options. We can't be the only bibliophilic parents out there.

Resources are somewhat limited. We don't have a great deal of money or time available for this. A one- to two-weekend project would be ideal. We have a little band saw and standard power tools. I can get all artsy with what we put up.

Packing our books into boxes for the next couple of years is an option, of course, but one we'd rather not take, especially since almost half of them are currently packed away from our move to a smaller home. We've dedicated a large lower shelf to her, but to do that with all of the shelves within reach would be a bit much.
posted by moira to Home & Garden (19 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
I know you said you don't want to pack them into boxes, but I'm assuming that you mean that as in you don't want to pack them up and store them somewhere.

What if you got some attractive squared baskets/bins/boxes that were very close to the height of each shelf, and turned the books on their sides in these boxes so that the baskets/bins/boxes essentially turn into drawers that you could pull out of the shelves to access your books, but that would probably be too heavy/unwieldy for your daughter to pull out?
posted by tastybrains at 1:01 PM on April 23, 2007

It is a phase that will not last forever. I know that some people put breakables and other things within reach, but I moved many things, including books. I did not want to spend all my energy on enforcing limits, which is not necessarily the best thing for my child, anyway. So I moved the books for a while. Now that he is 2, they are back and he does not bother with them, most of the time. When he does touch them, he understands the need to be gentle.

I had some bookshelves with doors on them. I put elastic bands over the handles, so they do not open. Now my son is old enough to take them off, so I got rid of most of them.
posted by acoutu at 1:16 PM on April 23, 2007

I am currently doing this myself, and ended up with some hybrid solutions:

1. retrofitting doors onto previously doorless shelving (IKEA). I got the doors from the "as-is" department.

2. Clearing the lower shelves of books, placing toys there.

You can also of course go for (3): replace with doored shelving. I always thought barrister's bookshelves would work well with kids.
posted by RikiTikiTavi at 1:26 PM on April 23, 2007

books out, duct tap from teh back edge of one shelf down around and under to the back (and bottom) of the next shelf, with the books in it. then books go in that shelf, and repeat the process. organize books alphabetically, and write letter designations on the tape. to access books pull off tape, or cut in grab book and retape that section. if she can't get in she'll probably give up!
posted by Salvatorparadise at 1:28 PM on April 23, 2007

No suggestions to contribute, but as someone who chewed through War and Peace at the tender age of 3, I can sympathize. Books are delicious, and this is something that adults just don't understand!
posted by qvtqht at 1:33 PM on April 23, 2007

We never really had a problem with this. At the young ages when our boys were prone to this sort of destruction we never really left them alone in a room. Somewhere around three or four when we would leave them for short periods that had outgrown this form of destruction. Nevetheless, we still have some interesting murals that won't wash off. For you, I would pack them up for a short time until the fad passes. The big book boxes sound like they could be a danger if junior somehow managed to pull one out. They wold be quite heavy. Another though is heavy fabric wrapped horizontally around the bookcase lower shelves. Hide the seam behind the case. If junior pulls on though it might mar the wood of the bookcase.
posted by caddis at 1:34 PM on April 23, 2007

attractive squared baskets/bins/boxes

A cheap version of this, which we have used with dog toys (!) is to use opened cardboard boxes wrapped in wrapping paper. Boxes fit in the shelves, look nice, can be pulled out when you want to get into them.
posted by Robert Angelo at 1:41 PM on April 23, 2007

It's all about re-direction. Have a shelf full of toys and board books for her. When the baby heads towards your books, redirect her attention to "her" shelf. We did this in our kitchen as well, as the baby also loved to play in the cabinets, too. You don't want to constantly be telling her "no" because that's no fun, but if you catch her attention with her special shelf, she'll enjoy that. Swap the items on the shelf out every week or so to keep her interest.

We were both english majors so we have a LOT of books. It turned out to be a phase, and she doesn't bother them much any more (she's 2 now).

We did have some sacrificial books that we let her have ... she LOVED our field guide to birds, for example. So that went to her shelf. She was also a big fan of Moby Dick, probably because it had a cool picture of a whale on the front. The rest of the books survived.

Now the board books on her shelf got plenty chewed up, but that's what they're for.

Now, if you really want to block her access to the lower shelves, perhaps a roll of that heavy-duty sticky pallet wrap would work. Just wrap it around the bottom shelves. It's clear, so you can still lovingly gaze at your books (as I like to do) but strong enough to keep her out of them.
posted by Ostara at 1:46 PM on April 23, 2007

What Ostara said. Kids books on the bottom shelf, and the little nipper won't even think about the boring things on the second and third shelves.
posted by zippy at 2:49 PM on April 23, 2007

My wife and I have a huge library and the way we dealt with it was to not care. Books of significant value are higher than a five year old. We found that if we didn't react to how they treated books, there was little point in ruining them. Our younger daughter learned an important lesson when she ripped up one of her personal favorites. We also give them hardcover children's books and let them do what they want to the dust jackets. They tend to toss them aside now but don't destroy them.

The one casualty, I have a 60's edition of Rhodale's Compost Gardening Handbook and it had the original dust jacket. They tore that up for no apparent reason. Book still works though.

We have friends who put bird netting over their shelves. It ended up annoying them as it kept them away from their books, and served as a climbing wall for the child.
posted by Toekneesan at 3:41 PM on April 23, 2007

Response by poster: Thanks for the suggestions so far. Our little girl is always supervised, and we've used redirection from the beginning, but no matter where she is, there are those tempting books. It's no fun for her or us to constantly be pulling her away, so I'd hoped to find something that would take care of the problem altogether.

She's had a thing for tags and paper from the beginning, to the point of ignoring everything else. I have never seen such a focused and dogged baby.

Jamaro, that is a fabulous idea.
posted by moira at 4:34 PM on April 23, 2007

My parents solved a similar problem by giving me my own bookcase and books. After that, I left the Loeb's Classics alone, I guess.
posted by thomas j wise at 5:21 PM on April 23, 2007

Jamaro, patent that puppy and sell it at a vast markup to yuppie parents like myself! That's a super idea.
posted by selfmedicating at 5:21 PM on April 23, 2007

Moira, we're with you. Our second baby is now one, and she is almost impossible to distact or redirect once her little heart is set on something. Some kids are just that way, and it sucks to constantly be pulling them away and listening to the screaming all day long. Today we found her sitting in the middle of the kitchen table. She is also most interested in stuff she's not supposed to have, so putting, say, her toys within her reach doesn't stop her fom yearning to get our stuff. She tends to focus on electronics instead of books-cel phone, laptop, remotes, and has an obsession with my purse.

Jamaro-I don't have anything to beat you idea! Fabulous. I was just going to suggest putting books you can live with being chewed on the bottom shelf....but I've got to try this idea instead.
posted by purenitrous at 8:52 PM on April 23, 2007

Make sure in your designing you don't make the bookcases top heavy or prone to falling over on top of your curious kid.

Personally, I'd just catch her in the act and give her some negative reinforcement, but I'm not one of the "spanking is child abuse" types.
posted by Mr. Gunn at 7:03 AM on April 24, 2007

Acrylic can be sharp enough to cut just like glass, so be sure to sand down the edges.
posted by hydrophonic at 8:02 AM on April 24, 2007

Redirection only works if your child is not obsessed with the books. My son felt his books were not nearly as interesting as our works of literature.
posted by acoutu at 8:23 AM on April 24, 2007

I used a cheaper version of the plexiglass idea to keep baby from messing with the buttons on the TV. I got a 8X10 plexiglass pictures frame, the kind in a L shape and slid the longer side under the TV. The leg of the L covered the buttons and kept the baby from changing the channel. I think the plexiglass idea would work.
posted by rcavett at 8:55 PM on April 24, 2007

I always just crammed them in so tight they couldn't pull them out! It worked!
posted by bkiddo at 4:59 PM on May 19, 2007

« Older Help me find the motor for my clock!   |   Three Mac questions Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.