It is very important for parents to ensure that their home is a safe, secure environment their wee one can freely explore. As the mom to two very active little boys under the age of 3, I have learned a thing or two about baby-proofing a home. Pulling from this experience, here is a quick guide to help you towards a happy, baby-proofed home.
Safety vs. Sanity
First of all, I like to say that there are two types of baby-proofing: one is for safety and the other is for sanity. Certain items in your home will need to be concealed or put away in an effort to prevent your child from injury. Other things need baby-proofed to rescue you and any other caretakers from the endless task of telling your child "no" and pulling them away from something or repeatedly cleaning up the same messes.
Get a pen and paper and prepare to write down what hazards or inconveniences you can find in the next two steps so you can organize a shopping list of items to purchase.
Inspect for Hazards
Lay down on the floor and crawl around each room of your home that baby will have access to and take a good look around. From that low viewpoint, what dangers can you see that your child would be able to access? Consider sharp edges and corners, the pull string on blinds, stairs (going up or down), decorative items on display, cabinet doors, exposed outlets, and so on. If there are spaces that your child will be able to squeeze through, inspect those areas too. Write your discoveries down as you find them.
Also be sure to thoroughly inspect the equipment and furniture that your baby will be using or sleeping in (especially if they're used). Among other things, make sure there aren't large gaps in crib slats where heads or limbs can get stuck and ensure that harnesses or belts lock tightly and are attached securely.
During your inspection, since you're down there on the floor anyway, look for what items should also be baby-proofed so that you keep your sanity. Consider putting DVD players up on a shelf or behind locked glass doors (it's not a safety hazard for your wee one to push the buttons, but while you're watching a movie, boy does it get annoying when they keep turning it off or ejecting the disc!). Consider placing a gate between your kitchen and living room or the hallway and the living room to prevent your child from climbing on chairs or making various messes. Safety gates can also reduce the amount of baby-proofing necessary because if baby isn't allowed in certain rooms, those rooms may not need baby-proofed quite as securely.
I'd also recommend purchasing a cheap, mobile tension gate to lock yourself in a room to perform tasks such as folding laundry while still being able to peer at your wee one over the gate. Trust me, it is a vain effort to attempt to fold laundry in the same room as your grabby-hands wee one.
Prior to making specific purchases, I suggest researching the items that pique your interest on a website such as Amazon.com so you can read the reviews. Some items that seem like great ideas are often just gimmicks and don't work very well at all or are completely unnecessary. Also, try asking other parents that you personally know about what items they recommend.
Purchase Baby-Proofing Products
Once you have made your final choices with the help of other parents' experiences, it is the time to take your shopping list and hit up the safety department of your local baby superstore.
When to Actually Baby-Proof
The best time to actually baby proof your home is either before baby is born or before they are old enough to start getting into things. This way, you have time to get used to opening locked cabinet doors or pulling plastic outlet covers off prior to plugging appliances in. This also provides ample time to hopefully catch all the little things that you happened to miss.
Even though you may believe that you are sufficiently prepared for your wee one to raid your home, be sure you still keep a close eye on them anyway. There will most likely be some things you missed or accidentally leave out along the way and, trust me, where there is mischief, your wee one is sure to find it!