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"I Tried Childproofing My Home, But They Keep Getting In."

By Dawn Damalas Meehan |

I recently viewed this short video with tips on babyproofing your kitchen so it’s safe for toddlers yet still aesthetically pleasing. The expert in the video recommends putting those little plastic latches on the inside of your cabinets so as not to create the ugly eyesore of a big white lock on the outside. I wonder if the expert has kids? Or has ever been around kids? Or knows anything about kids?

I know, firsthand, that it takes an average of three tries before a toddler figures out how to depress those little childproof latches on a cabinet. There are other options out there for locking your cabinets.  One that I had in my old house was a sturdy lock that could only be opened with a strong magnet.  I thought it was great!  Until my child found the hidden magnet and lost it, but not before using it to turn the TV all sorts of pretty rainbow colors.

As a mom to six kids, I’m a self-proclaimed expert, not when it comes to child-proofing, but when it comes to realizing that kids are capable of more than we give them credit for.  I know that a child will find the hidden scissors and give himself a haircut before he’s five years old. I know that it doesn’t matter one little bit if you have an art easel set up for your toddler; the walls are much more enticing and that’s where the marker will be applied. Nail polish will be spilled on new carpet, yogurt will be smeared on the TV, the refrigerator will be scaled to reach the cookies on top, and fragile keepsakes will be broken. It happens.

Now, I’m not saying that childproofing is pointless. It’s important to take measures to keep your child safe from dangerous situations. But it’s also important to understand that you can’t keep children out of every little thing in your house. Keep potential poisons locked up, but understand that crayon may end up on your wall at some point. Take measures to ensure your child won’t fall out a window, but relax and accept the fact that your kindergartener will likely be sporting a self-inflicted, chopped hairdo right before school picture day.  Buckle up your child’s car seat, but don’t go insane trying to childproof every inch of your house despite the fact there are a million and one childproofing items out there designed to do just that – make you crazy.  Know that there’s a fine line between trying to keep your kids safe and being that parent.

Here are a few of the more ridiculous child safety items I’ve seen.

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Seven ridiculous child safety products


If I'd installed toilet locks, I would've missed out on not only seeing my kids play in the toilet, but stopping to take a picture of them doing so. What? It's clean water!

Images: One Step Ahead, iStockPhoto

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About Dawn Damalas Meehan


Dawn Damalas Meehan

Dawn Damalas Meehan is a single mom living in Orlando with her six children, ages 17 to 6. She's the author of Because I Said So and You'll Lose the Baby Weight (and Other Lies About Pregnancy and Childbirth). Read bio and latest posts → Read Dawn's latest posts →

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27 thoughts on “"I Tried Childproofing My Home, But They Keep Getting In."

  1. Beth in MI says:

    If your kid is little enough to require the help of a handle to get out of the tub, perhaps they should be under constant supervision while IN the tub, no?

    Calling from down the hall, “Oh, it’s ok honey! Just use the handle to get yourself out of the tub! I’ll be there in a minute!”


  2. melissa says:

    Regarding the cabinet locks, I wouldn’t be so dismissive of them. I know there are other possible solutions, but if you use 3 of the type you have pictured (1 on top, 2 on the side), it makes it a lot more difficult for kids to master. I agree toxic stuff should be moved out from under sinks and such places, but there are other reasons to keep a kid from getting in the cabinets. I also use cabinet locks on drawers too (mostly to make sure the draws don’t fall out). Nothing is a substitute for supervision, but these measures can prevent some accidents and buy me some time.

  3. bob says:

    Cabinet locks, coffee table pads and outlet covers are keys to the continuing survival of my particular toddler.

  4. Korinthia Klein says:

    We didn’t childproof anything and our kids were fine. (The biggest thing we did was turn the temperature down on our water heater for a few years, and of course we put chemicals up high.) The only time my kids were interested in a stove or an outlet or a cabinet was when we visited my brother and he had protectors on everything. Then they couldn’t get enough.

  5. Ashley says:

    Ugh, I’m about to be a mom for the first time and have no desire to get most of what was in the slideshow. While I get it, keep kids safe, some things are just too ridiculous. But then again, I’m the oldest of six and remember how easily my youngest two brothers removed all the childproofing. Once that started happening, dangerous objects went even higher up and the floor level cabinets were empty hideouts for the boys. :) (Of course, the cabinets could no longer latch shut at that point and escape was easy.)

  6. Beth L. says:

    I noticed that the baby with the helmet had on knee pads too. I have 3 kids 13, 5 and 3. Took the 5 yr old about 4 days to figure out how to get the door knob covers off. He hung onto them until they broke. When he was 2 he figured out those. When he was 3 he figured out the door latches. He showed his little brother (the 3 yr old) how to open those. The 13 yr old I didn’t have to do any child proofing for. She just didn’t get into stuff. The 5 and 3 yr old, yeah they get into stuff.

  7. Pam in SoCal says:

    I tried the safety plug covers and #1 son shocked himself pulling it off,knocked him on his butt. I used door gates until we moved to a modern open-floorplan home.Nice but definitly NOT for babies/toddlers. For my 5th and most challenging child I had to turn the play pen over on him to use the bathroom ugh.That child could climb out of anything by 8mths. Baby proof?? Just watch them the old fashion way,LOL. Mom to 5 ages 38-16

  8. Allie says:

    I thought we’d been policing my 20-month-old fairly well. Whenever he wandered into the bathroom we would sit outside and just let him explore the space, see there was nothing interesting and then wander out. One day the toilet wouldn’t flush and after an $200 emergency visit by a plumber, we were told there were “a lot of Q-tips down there”. I imagine something like a beaver dam at the bottom of our toilet drain. Live and learn!

  9. Tonia says:

    I once bought a variety box of child proofing items & didn’t use most of them. I did use the door handle covers & those worked for a long time but they did eventually pop off. Then we just put one of the chains up high, which was perfect. By the time they were old enough to figure it out they were old enough that we didn’t need it anymore. The only “out of the normal” item we bought was for the fire place bricks that were super sharp. They were foam strips that had very strong velcro that went around all the edges of that step that my kids ran full speed ahead onto everyday. That worked & saved us many trips to the ER. But no the toilet, oven, & other odd things we just watched them & taught them.

  10. Roma says:

    Oh Dawn, really? I also have 6 little darlings and have used ALL of those items (and more) and have found them to be invaluable in keeping my children out of things. NOT!!! It is soooo obvious that these things are not tested on real world children. I know there are children who never get into things (my brother’s 2 are like that-go figure) HOWEVER, mine are more like yours, keep me hopping from sun up until they crash 16 hours later. And this is how it has been for over 21 years. (I can hardly wait until my new grandbaby starts acting like his daddy. *sad what makes us smile heehee*)

    My husband and I think that all these “baby proofing” items should be sent to us before they go on the market. If they can keep my kids out, then they work. The ones that are kept out of cupboards are the ones that wouldn’t get into them in the first place (aka, my nieces). My SIL calls my children “active” I call hers “slugs” (not to their face, of course.) they are REALLY, REALLY cute, BUT they are total girly girls that never try anything. Mine are REALLY, REALLY cute too (as are yours) BUT are into everything.

    If any baby proofing company wants to know if their product works, send the works to me. If it is still doing it’s job in a week, you have something that will keep nearly all little ones safe. Until then, I will just keep chasing around behind them picking up the pieces.

  11. Kimberley says:

    Then there’s Charlie Harper’s drinking helmet…

  12. laura says:

    I cracked up at the toilet lock. My “bff” had one when her daughter was little (because she was a flusher – her daughter not my friend). She called me one day laughing and said “we got rid of the toilet lock”. I asked why. She said she came home from shopping and really had to pee. She couldn’t get it off. We all know how strong post-baby bladders are so I will leave what happened next to your imagination :)
    So they do work….when you don’t want them too. Haha

  13. Bonny says:

    I never used store bought locks in my kitchen as I didn’t want to ruin my custom pine cupboards. I bright coloured hair elastics on the cupboards the kids were not allowed in. Any cupboard unmarked by an elastic was fair game. The kids had enough cupboards to play with that they didn’t bother with the “marked” cupboards. Besides all the needed was access to my pots and pans and plastic containers to be happy. Makes me wonder why I spent money on all those more expensive toys at times.

  14. Jen says:

    No matter how bad my day is or how I’ve got nothing on my “to do” list done and I’m drowning in sorrow, looking at that picture of Brooklyn playing in the toilet makes me giggle. Why, oh, why would you want to deny someone that much joy? She’s just having a good old time splashing around! It’s not like you didn’t wash her hands afterward…

    Anyway, we’ve got those things that go around the knobs to keep our cabinets shut, but only because I don’t want all the crap under my cabinets on the floor. Once she figures out how to use those, we’re dunzo, anyway.

  15. Maria says:

    Thanks for sharing! I have a 7 month old who is starting to move around, and I’ve been thinking of child-proofing the house. Now that I’ve read your post, I figure I’ll just lock up any cleaning chemicals and medicines and call it safe. You have no idea how much money you just saved me… ;)

  16. Lily says:

    The helmet? Really? And what child, might I ask, will actually keep the helmet on and not FREAK out until it is off? And what about the one kid that will actually keep it on? When he/she is bigger and falls harder do you just get a bigger helmet. It will be like that guy from the movie The Benchwarmers. I’ll deal with a bump on the head thank you very much!

    Forget the child locks. I use the rubber bands that come from the broccoli. I’m amazed my kids haven’t figured out how to open them. Not to say they don’t pull on the cabinets and slam them shut while laughing hysterically at making a racket, but at least they aren’t getting into everything.

  17. kriswithmany says:

    The helmet I can see for a baby with some sort of physical problem – epilepsy, cerebral palsy, that kind of thing. Ridiculous for the average child.

  18. Chris says:

    Oh, thank goodness – someone who says you should use COMMON SENSE to raise your children.

    The danger of some of those things? The parents go off alert…

    I was at my sister-in-law’s house and they put one of those coffee table pads around the edge of their glass coffee table.
    A) I’d never seen one of them before. Ew. [I'd just (re)move the coffee table.]
    B) My 1-year old great niece is just learning to walk. She was crawling near the table and started to try to get up and I jumped and put my hand between her and the table edge and her dad told me, and I quote: “Don’t worry, it’s padded.”

    Yea, but her head isn’t. (Perhaps I should get her that helmet? NOT!)

    She crawled under it, popped up and hit her head. Oh, the tears… But it was padded…

  19. Anon says:

    I’m with you on the baby helmet and knee pads!! And the bath thermometer is pretty silly. So is the handle. I understand all the other ones, although the only ones I used myself are the outlet covers.

  20. Sarah says:

    The baby helmet is hilarious! I wonder who, if anyone, buys those?

  21. Diana says:

    Those outlet covers were a rip offf i sat and watched my non walking at the time 5 month old crawl up and pull it off like it was nothing. I gave up child proofing once my 1 year old bunked his head twice on the couch at first i was like poor baby and soothing him then felt wetness and too my horror his head was covered in blood he had bunked it on the most cushioned part of the couch,. then later on in the week we went walking and he cracked his head on the pavement again blood everywhere.and he was wearing a helmet because he was riding his trycle. I realized no matter what my children will get hurt, even if i put them in a helium bubble with amniotic fluid and wrapped them in bubble wrap they will get hurt, shoot i get hurt from time to time but i dont adult proof my home. I watch them like a hawk and when they do something i warn them dont climb you will fall and hurt yourself after a few times of them falling on there bums they realize not to climb the furniture as it is not a play area while at the park they go wild climb jump swing .. chemicals are high up in a cabinet. outlets i taught are a no no, .Even though i watch them they still get into things and do things im not thrilled about esp when i sleep (poop covered room to my horror and there fathers!) Teach them and try your best at protecting them and they will make it to adult hood with past bumps, scrathes and scars healed .

  22. Betsy says:

    I guess I’m just a slacker mom – I didn’t childproof much, with the exception of putting clear plugs into the outlets, and using mini bungie-cords for a short time on the lower kitchen cabinets (to slow him down and give us a chance to catch him in the act – although he was more interested in removing and collecting the bungie cords than he was in the cabinet contents.) Our bluestone hearth was never padded, I didn’t lock my cabinets, tables and chairs were left where they had been before he was born, and we didn’t make a big deal when he fell or got a scrape. We were also fortunate in that he was more interested with his toys than he was with playing in the toilet!

  23. Kristin says:

    I’m with you. It’s not that we don’t believe in keeping our children out of harm’s way but some common sense needs to be applied. A friend of mine threw her kids in the backyard and told them that yes, they couldn’t come in for 30 minutes because they needed their outside time. She then proceeded to lock the back door so her 2 year old physically couldn’t get in. He then proceeded to pile up various backyard toys in order to reach the gate lock and waltzed his way right in the front door. To her utter amazement. My neighbor realized that her youngest (of 4) wasn’t going to idly sit by and watch his sibling “escape” through the front door. He figured out the front, back and garage doors by age 2. So she took the next step and taught him street smarts. Same with me because said toddler would then cross the street to come play with my toddler. All of our kids have been taught from day 1 to look for cars and for heavens sake, you don’t sit down and play marbles in the street (much to the chagrin of a neighbor from down the street who very helpfully approached me one night to inform me that my kids were in the street….I stared at him for a moment before saying “well, they are on bikes?”). It’s called teaching your kids how to survive and have some sense about them….it’s like outlet covers. I think they are necessary for the babies and early toddlers. But you are an idiot parent if you don’t explain several times to a toddler that you do NOT put things in there without asking. And then you proceed to show them the proper way to plug things in because are they going to listen to you? No, not until they’ve accomplished their goal.

    Sorry to ramble :-)

  24. Kristine says:

    I had a baby gate on the stairs to keep my son from climbing up. As I was coming down and stepping over I tripped and fell on my right hand and broke my wrist! My son was just turning one at the time. I had to change his diaper with my left hand and a foot. My sister video taped this and it’s amazing what a mom can do when need be. So much for child proofing ;)

  25. Lisa Sunbury says:

    I agree with the author’s point of view to a certain extent. Some of these child-proofing measures are extreme. I’d never advocate the use of knee pads, helmets, or furniture padding to keep baby “safe.” But, I learned from Magda Gerber about the importance of creating a safe play environment for children, in order to allow them to explore and move freely, and independently. Both adults and babies can relax when a parent doesn’t have to constantly worry and re-direct a baby away from dangers in the environment. In the end, it is a combination of childproofing, and close attention that will go a long way towards keeping children safe from major harm. Minor bumps and bruises are a part of learning, and no-one wants to let a baby learn about the dangers of a hot stove by allowing him to touch one, but there has to be a balance between creating a space within the home for baby to explore with abandon, and constantly restricting, re-directing, or prohibiting them from doing what comes naturally . I also don’t think this has to mean that parents have to live with nail polish on the carpet, pen on the walls, or half bald babies, if they don’t want to- it makes sense not to allow young children access to nail polish, scissors, and pens, or to supervise closely if you do!

  26. Agnes says:

    well, what we did for our son (2,5yo now) was changing the position of kitchen and bathroom door handles to vertical so they couldn’t be opened by him alone. When I’m around, he can be with me in the kitchen, when I’m not, he isn’t, the cabinet locks we have used earlier on were too easy for him to figure. Our daughter is about to start crawling (7mo) so we will see how it works with 2 of them in the house:)

  27. Jeanette says:

    hahaha laughing so much at this post! I have three littles and number four is about to join us soon. We realized pretty quickly that having a coffee table period was pointless and got rid of it. We tried a few types of outlet covers, but at the end of the day I would always find them stacked up with the Hot Wheel cars in nice neat rows. My hubby finally installed special outlets in the boys’ room – ones that a child cannot possibly stick anything into but they are fairly easy for adults to use.
    and Lisa, I don’t care how much you try to “not allow young children access to nail polish, scissors, and pens”, if they want it bad enough, they WILL find a way to get to it. My daughter never cared, but my boys – whew, what haven’t they gotten into?!

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