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I see that my six-month-old is getting to be a dangerous guy and we're going to start baby-proofing. Eight-year-olds typically don't need baby-proofing, though, so there's a light at the end of this tunnel.

At what age (of my youngest child) should I expect to be able to return my house to "normal"?

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See also this related recent question: parenting.stackexchange.com/a/7922/316 –  Rory Alsop Apr 28 '13 at 13:37
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2 Answers 2

up vote 6 down vote accepted

You child proof all at once, but you unproof in stages, depending on the item:

  • stair gate when they can safely navigate the stairs consistently.
  • small choking hazards when they stop putting everything into their mouth.
  • sharp furniture corners probably never in an active play room. In the rest of the house, when they can walk consistently without falling down.
  • heavy furniture anchored to the wall when they are strong enough to push it off themselves if it falls on them.
  • medicine When they've consistently demonstrated the proper use and dosage.
  • abusable medicine (narcotic painkillers, etc.) probably never.
  • pool when they are consistent strong swimmers.
  • knives when they've shown they can be safe while helping you cook.
  • matches when they've consistently demonstrated proper fire safety.
  • power tools when they've consistently demonstrated proper safety procedures.
  • guns probably never.
  • Your stuff you don't want them to ruin so far as I can tell, probably never :-)

You can see a lot depends on the maturity of the child. Most of the visible gates and locks go away around age two or three. Also, the age you can trust them to stay away from something is sometimes lower than the age you can trust them to use something unsupervised. For example, we keep our kitchen knives out on the counter, but the kids (age six and three) don't try to get into them. They will move heaven and earth to get into candy, though.

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This is a great list, but it would be really useful to add approximate ages to these categories. –  Charles Apr 26 '13 at 17:15
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With my son we did minimal baby proofing in the first place. The extent of what we did:

  • medicines and cleaning products were kept up in high cabinets (which they were anyway, but we just took care not to leave them out / in reach)
  • we put a stair gate at the top of the stairs
  • we had a cupboard door lock on the large pantry-style food cupboard in the kitchen. In hindsight I would not have bothered with this.
  • we had those little plug socket blocker things. In hindsight I would not have done this because I've now found out that (with UK sockets at least) they can actually make the socket MORE dangerous.

When he was 3 we moved house and we didn't bother with any baby proofing at all in the new house.

My daughter is now 16 months and we've followed the same principles - minimal changes to the house. I would far rather teach her not to touch certain things so that if I forget to latch the cabinet lock or we visit someone else's non-baby-proofed house, it's not a problem. Again the stair gate is the only significant baby proofing, and we'll take that down once she's reliable going down the stairs forwards on her own, some where between 2 and 3.

The only other thing I would baby proof if I had it would be a pond or swimming pool, in which case I would keep the protection up for a bit longer.

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