I asked my mom what the best part of being a grandparent is and she divulged, “I get all the love without the responsibility.” That’s when it dawned on me that the obligation of a child’s safety doesn’t end with parenthood. It extends into grandparenthood. Duly noted that most boomers have already paid their dues having raised their own broods, but with unintentional injury still being the #1 cause of death in children 5 and under one can’t deny that everyone must take part. It takes a village, right? My goal is to help grandparents strike the balance of putting a few child safety devices and knowledge to work in your home without inundating the whole residence with intrusive devices. A few tips and tricks will help you create a safe environment so you can easily shift your focus from safety hazards to making lifelong family memories.
Here are my Top 10 Grandbaby-proofing Picks & Tips for Boomers:
1) 3-in-1 no fuss window and door stops called Super Stoppers are temporary heavy-duty suction cups that affix to the glass to disallow it from sliding open. This same device can be used on windows and sliding glass doors to keep baby inside. It’s also handy on glass closet doors to keep baby out of closets. No need to drill. Just push down firmly and it suctions onto glass so strongly it’s extremely hard for babies to pull off. Simply, lift the small tab at the suction base (covertly when baby is not watching) to remove. Use two suction cups for larger doors and windows per manufacturer directions. When the grandkids go home, remove and set aside ’til they visit again!
2) Most boomers tell me, “No baby gates!” but before you put the kibosh on them, hear me out. A strategic childproofing plan can be a far less expensive option than childproofing the entire house. If you gate off one main play area (i.e. the great room, or living room where you spend the most time as a family) and childproof it like Fort Knox you can safely forgo childproofing the rest of the house. Do you need to gate off an extra wide opening (common in homes with wheelchair-accessible walkways)? No problem. Cardinal Gates offers customizable child safety gates wide enough for wheelchairs, walkers and strollers. When grandkids go home, easily detach gate from the wall-mounted hardware so you can come and go freely. Re-attach with ease when they come back. Refrain from choosing a gate that requires you to step over a bar at the base of walk-through, as it’s a tripping hazard for seniors. If the baby will sleep in a separate bedroom in your home, you’ll need to childproof that room too, using a gate in the doorway. Once baby is grown you can patch quarter-sized holes in the wall and it’ll all be good as new. This strategic childproofing plan does require you to be vigilant about making sure baby only has access to these two childproofed rooms. When child is sleeping, supervise using a baby monitor as mentioned in tip #3 below.
3) Baby monitors offer grandparents peace-of-mind when the grand babies stay overnight or during naptime. New high-tech baby monitors allow you to have better than “eyes in the back of your head” vision! With VTech’s Safe&Sound Pan & Tilt Full Color Video Monitor you can supervise junior without having to go in to check on him, risking being seen and having to start the whole “night-night” ritual over again. This is always important for all parents, but particularly so for grandparents who are not as adept in deciphering if the baby’s cries are whining ploys or real. VTech’s automatic infrared night vision provides clean video even in dark rooms. Seniors will also enjoy the larger 2.8″ high resolution, color LCD screen with full motion video and a 320 x 240 pixel display. This digital monitor provides superior security and sound quality — no annoying white noise. Have all the grandkids over in different rooms? Add up to four monitors for one parent (or grandparent) base unit. The monitor also detects vibration as well, so you can be alerted if someone is jumping on the bed! Use the two-way communication to sing a lullaby or inform junior that you’re telling his mom if he doesn’t go to sleep now!
4) Furniture anchors – Installing anti-tipping devices on tall furniture is a great idea for all homes, whether you have kids or not. It’s considered “earthquake proofing” and the same products work as childproofing devices too. Little ones tend to climb up furniture (shelving units, dressers, armoires), which creates front heaviness and causes tip-overs. Although they are appliances and not furniture, anchor the flat screen TVs too or wall mount them to prevent tipping. Avoid the temptation to hang onto the old box TVs as these are the culprits of at least three TV tip-over deaths a year. Remove and recycle!
5) Magnetic locks are a perfect cabinet/drawer childproofing device for grandparents because these locks can be “turned off” when baby is not visiting-seriously, there’s a little red switch for this specific purpose. I’ve sold thousands to grandparents over the years. The difference between the mag locks and regular plastic (or pros use nylon) child safety latches is the cabinet/drawer secured with a mag lock will not open at all, until you unlock it by waiving a magnet over the cabinet/drawer face. They also do not require much dexterity to maneuver; however installation can be tricky. These locks are great for childproofing cabinets/drawers that contain medicine, household cleaning products, alcohol, etc. I recommended storing all potentially harmful items in a high and out-of-reach cabinet.
6) Swivel Latches are another option for childproofing cabinets/drawers. These latches can also be “turned off” when grandbaby is not present by simply twisting the latch to the side. These latches are a little easier to install and require some dexterity and finger strength to disengage locks. The difference between these cabinet/drawer latches and the mag lock (see tip #5) is these latches allow for the drawer to open about 2-3 inches to allow you to reach in a finger to press on latch to open. Not ideal for top drawers under bull nose counter tops.
7) Electrical outlets are a safety hazard for children. One new childproofing option is the Socket-Lockit. The self-locking barbs prevent tiny fingers from pulling covers off and the convenient pressure-button release makes removal easy for boomers. The standard push plugs you see in stores are the least expensive childproofing option for outlets, however, they often don’t work. Old sockets wear out and the push plugs can slip in and out too easily making the device ineffective. Oddly, folks still use them creating a false sense of security. If your electrical plugs fall out easily this device will not work. It MUST be a tight fit for push plugs to work effectively. You should have to use a butter knife to remove them. You might try one of each before you buy all you need. I like to replace the entire outlet with a Sliding Outlet Cover but it does require a little more dexterity to operate, which may be a problem for some seniors.
8) Removable corner and edge padding allows you to temporarily cover the sharp, metal or glass coffee table edges and then store it away when the little ones head back home. It’s also washable. Other adhesive-back padding is available at retailers, however, removable padding is more convenient for temporary child safety, plus there are no adhesives to mar the finish of wood tables.
9) Extra wide shower/bath mat is another item that boomers should be using anyway to prevent slipping and falling in the tub or shower-aka senior proofing! This mat is extra wide, with raised bumps, a suction cup base for attachment and it covers the whole base of a standard shower. It’ll keep you safe AND works well for bathing wiggly grand babies.
10) Your RX & OTC medicines, and believe it or not, vitamins, can be lethal for your grand babies so store them up high and out of reach behind a locked or childproof cabinet. In 86% of emergency room visits for medicine poisoning, the child got into medicine belonging to an adult.* In 38% of these visits, the medicine belonged to a grandparent. While there’s no such thing as a completely childproof home and medicine cabinet, Safe Kids does a great job of spelling out the steps to help keep your grandkids from finding medicines and accidentally ingesting them. (Click on above Safe Kids link for more info.)
I actually took it upon myself to childproof a few areas in my mom’s home. They were surprised by the sense of security it gave them allowing their precious grand babies to play safely. Plus, they saw me relax more during my visits. This gift of safety amounted to peace of mind, years of great times and thankfully no dreaded ER trips for all six grandkids.
*Safe Kids Coalition
*Disclosures: I only mention products I believe to offer effective safety benefits to consumers. All written content and opinions are my own.