Friday, February 8, 2008

Child proofing

We live in an expensive part of the US, and the DW got an estimate from a local baby proofing place. Their answer, somewhere in the range of $600 to $1000, with an in-person estimate needed of course.

Are you kidding!

Dads out there, you can easily do all baby proofing tasks, if you're even the least bit handy around the house. I'll cover the following projects:

1. Power sockets
2. Toilets
3. Safety gates
4. Cabinets (kitchen, bath).

First, a bit of strategy. One thing we've learned with our toddler is that the challenges and dangers just keep changing. One month it was the coffee table. The next it was dining chairs. Now it seems to be climbing. Given that we never leave our son alone, except perhaps in his crib for naps or for brief moments, our concern wasn't building the fort-knox of baby proof houses. To do so, even with an unlimited budget, would require getting rid of all chairs for example, which is simply a non-starter. Thus, we aim to make our time supervising our little ball of energy and curiosity as low stress as possible. Make dangerous / messy things as tough to get to (and boring!) as possible, while making toys and fun accessible.

1. Power sockets. Our son is extremely strong and inquisitive, however he has never even come close to defeating the simple & cheap push-in socket covers. These are the two-pronged one-socket plastic plates that push in. You'll need two per normal power socket pair.

2. Toilets. We started with one from the Safety 1st brand from Babys R US, or Home Depot (I don't recall). It was a disaster. The instructions had about 20 steps and 5-10 moving parts on the thing. Then, I found out about the "Mommy's Helper" brand "Tot Loc". We purchased two, and they are great. Installation was very easy with no adhesive or modification to the toilets - just a pressure / clamp mount that was easy and tool-free. I suspect that if left alone for a great deal of time, our son might defeat one of these. However, he's completely given up trying as he now knows that he can't get in there. They are easy to open and close single-handed, and were inexpensive (under $10 online).

3. Safety gates. I was torn between the "easy" to install pressure gates and a stud-mounted gate. I went for the stud / drill-in mounted gate and am extremely glad that I did. I purchased three of the Evenflo Top of Stair Gate, for around $30 with free shipping on Amazon. These simple gates are easy to install (read on for important notes), and have excellent qualitites. They are very sturdy, and when not in use can both turn aside and slide / collapse together minimizing the space taken up along your wall. The main note, which is obvious after installing one of these, is that the wall must be vertical (duh!). Of course all walls are vertical, however for optimal safety, you will need to install the bottom bracket in a narrow height range above the floor (something like 3 inches). Our place of course has thick 4 inch baseboard moulding, so these could not install
"vanilla". A very simple solution worked out well - I went by the local hardware store and cut a pair of few-inch-wide moulding scraps that matched our mouldings thickness and general style. Simply use those up top, and everything is now in alignment.

4. Ah, cabinet latches. I suspect the reason that people are purchasing really expensive latches (those magnetic ones), is that they start out like I did with the really cheap plastic ones. You
know, the one that came as a baby gift, from a baby shower or something. Those ones are the work of the devil - hard to install, don't work well, etc. It turns out that for just a tiny amount more money more, you can get really nice and easy to install plastic latches.

Here are the awful ones for reference: "Safety First Cabinet and Drawer Latches" - A 12 pack goes for $2.99, and will take you hours to install poorly.

Here are the great ones: (I can't find the brand right now), but a 4 pack goes for $5, and a good install will go much more quickly. Silly as it sounds, the reason the great ones are great is that
their mounts are much broader, helping avoid finger injuries, and they include pre-cut double sided mounting tape, which is only used pre-drilling / securing, but really helps out.

Happy daddying!

First post, 16 months in the making.

I've been a dad now for 16 months, and have learned quite a bit. With two more on the way in just a matter of weeks, a blog seemed like a good place to jot down what I've learned, in hopes of helping other dad's out there.

The most important thing I've learned in these 16 months is: Your wife is always right. Let me rephrase: She really is always right, even when you know otherwise. See, a happy wife makes for a happy little one. Would you rather take the longer, less efficient, bumper-to-bumper route with your happy wife & little one, or take the quick efficient route with a raving ball of hormones and an unhappy kiddo?

Next post will be all about something - A'ha! It'll be about baby proofing.