Supriya Rao’s home in Mumbai has a lock for every single cupboard, even the one that holds shoes. This is thanks to the homemaker’s one-year-old son Svarn, whose favourite activity ever since he learnt to crawl has been flinging open cupboards and rummaging through them. “It was becoming difficult to keep track of Svarn all the time,” says Rao. “He used to see us open cupboards and it caught his fancy. So we decided to lock all our cupboards and chest of drawers.”
Like the Raos, many parents have been forced to ‘babyproof’ their homes after their child learnt to crawl or walk, to prevent their children from being injured by everyday objects. From major design changes (like avoiding glass and slippery tiles) to smaller innovations (like electric socket protectors), there are a number of things you can do to babyproof a home.
Design it right
For instance, you can start babyproofing your home right from the time you start building it or planning the interiors. Pune-based interior decorator Prasad Gaikwad believes that that’s the best way to do it.
“When couples with young children come to us, we usually suggest ways to babyproof the interiors,” he says. “For instance, I recommend the use of acrylic instead of glass. It’s a safer option when a child is around.” Gaikwad also suggests the use of vitrified flooring instead of marble, because the latter tends to absorb atmospheric temperature quickly and becomes either too cold or too hot. “With children around, it is better that such flooring is avoided, especially when they are at the crawling stage,” he says.
Pooja Virkar, a human resources department head and mother of a 16-month-old, got a box grill fitted on the windows of her flat. “A little before my son Vedant started crawling, we had the grills made since we had open sliding windows. We also had to lock the fridge as Vedant loves taking everything out,” she explains.
Closing all electric sockets is a must too, Gaikwad points out, to prevent children from putting their fingers inside or tampering with switches. Despite all precautions, minor accidents are no aberration when a child is around. But as Mumbai-based pediatrician Dr Sujata Chitnis says, it is better to be careful. “One common accident is falling off the bed. I suggest that the child be placed on a low bed, to be safe. Also people often keep artefacts like idols on the floor. This should be strictly avoided as the child could injure itself badly.”
Play it cool
The kitchen is an important place to babyproof, says Dr Chitnis. “Children often love to play in the kitchen. Pointed objects should be kept out of reach because that is the first thing they grab,” she says. One way to keep your child out of the kitchen is to do as Rao did – have a temporary ply half-door placed at the entrance.
If you use trolleys in the kitchen or elsewhere, Gaikwad has a suggestion. “If trolleys have handles, it is easy for children to grab them and pull. What we then do is make trolleys or even cupboards with grooves on the top instead of handles. Also available are concealed handles that lie within the plywood.”
A slippery floor is another concern for parents. Amit Talreja, an interior designer from Mumbai, suggests the use of Lapata – an anti-skid flooring variety. “It gives a nice look and is also safe,” he says. Swati Palsule, a chartered accountant from Mumbai, has double trouble. Her twin boys are two years old and are quite a handful. Palsule who had her house refurbished recently, found a way to ensure that the children do not bolt themselves into the bathrooms, or bolt others in. “It’s simple. We had magnets fitted on the doors and did away with bolts from outside,” she says.
As for furniture with sharp corners, another menace, it is better to round them off or smooth them down. “If it’s new furniture, then the corners could be cut off at 45 degrees. For existing furniture smoothing is better,” says Gaikwad.
Besides these, going for wooden tabletops instead of glass ones and using thick carpets are also simple ways to avoid mishaps. Nonetheless, the easiest option, as Dr Chitnis says, is to provide free space for your child to roam around. “The best way to babyproof a home is to do away with clutter in the house,” she says. It’s hard to argue with that logic.
Lock it down
Avoid glass, use acrylic, and non-slip tiles
Lock cupboards, and use recessed handles for kitchen trolleys
Fit box grills on all your windows
Close all unused electric sockets with socket protectors
Use a low bed
Buy furniture with smooth edges and avoid glass tops for tables
Lay a carpet on the floor
Declutter your home so your child can crawl or play freely