Time to Play: Babyproofing the Play Area

Childproofing is no easy feat for any parent. Not only is it imperative for household safety, but it also helps to maintain sanity as well. Despite all of my concerted efforts to babyproof our home, somehow in the last few weeks I have fished out rogue Christmas tree needles, scrap paper, and tiny Legos from the baby’s mouth. These recent security breaches have put me on high alert, specifically for babyproofing the play area.

As the baby has become more mobile and less interested in baby-friendly toys, he’s magnetized by the older brother’s toys, and of course, every choke hazard and tiny plastic accoutrement. And because of this latest phase, in line with spring cleaning, I’m also working toward babyproofing the playroom.

While I’m all about making our main living space kid-friendly, I try not to allow our living room to be overrun with toys and other kid stuff. As of right now, because the baby can’t walk and is barricaded by baby gates for good reason, I’ve gone against my own grain and have kept his most played-with toys in the living room. And since most baby toys and books are chunky and softer, I’ve been using a stylish laundry bag as his toy box. What’s so perfect about using this basket is that it has durable handles and can be enclosed, making it super easy for him to dump the toys during playtime and even easier for me to pile them back in when he’s done.

The most complex part of babyproofing the playroom is merging the two kids’ playthings. Since my older son had free reign for four years before the baby was born, small toys and every choking hazard in the book has lived freely in the playroom. My plan of action for babyproofing the play area includes separating age-appropriate toys and games by height and securing tipping hazards. But it’s the hidden hazards that especially give me the most concern for the younger one; the things that I didn’t really consider safety hazards for the older kid are proving to be playtime obstacles for the baby.

So before tackling the herculean task of overhauling the playroom to make it baby-safe, here are some tips I found from my research. I defaulted to Kimberlee Mitchell when searching for pointers. This child safety guru’s website was helpful, especially because she highlighted issues that I normally wouldn’t consider a hazard. I’ve met Kimberlee several times at various industry events, and I’ve always found her insight to be practical and not overzealous.

– Crawl spaces, magnets, lead, and wicker baskets are items that Kimberlee suggests can be hidden hazards. Crawl spaces, including closets and areas created by the older kids, can be a hidden hazard. Magnets in toys geared for older kids can be swallowed by babies and cause serious issues. Lead can be found in older, often recalled toys, so be sure to check recall lists.

– Kimberlee recommends anchoring all free-standing armoires, shelving units, and dressers that can topple onto a child as a result of climbing or pulling. In our playroom, we have several storage shelves that have been mounted to the wall; however, since it’s been a few years, we will be rechecking those mounts and re-mounting any loose shelves.

– According to Kimberlee, anything that will fit inside an empty cardboard toilet paper roll is a choking hazard. This, for me, provided a tactile visual and something that I can show my older son when referencing what is unsafe for baby brother.

– Use locked storage containers for toys that can be a choking hazard. This is actually something I never considered but will be sure to implement during spring cleaning. Since our playroom has a closet, I will be adding a child safety closure so that the older kid can access toys and keep them out of baby’s reach.

Babies are swift when it comes to mischief, so anything can happen in a blink of an eye. Whether it’s Christmas tree needles or tiny plastic toys, I know from experience that my baby can always locate choking hazards. So beyond all of the usual babyproofing areas such as outlets and doorknobs, make a point to check hidden dangers and reinforce older mounts to safeguard the whole family.

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