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Childproofing for Your Young Infant (6 Months to 18 Months)

Because this is the timeframe in which most babies learn to crawl, walk, and move around the house, this is what most people think of when they think of childproofing the house. The timeline for this transition is highly variable, which means you need to start early in terms of preparing the house, but not worry if your baby doesn’t crawl or walk right away.

Here are the numbers you need to know: A child will normally start to crawl anywhere from 6-10 months and start to walk anywhere from 9-17 months. This means, if your neighbor or best friend may a baby of the same age who starts to walk before your child even starts to crawl. And yet, this doesn’t necessarily mean there’s any reason to worry.

Motor and Cognitive Development

Exploration is as important to the child as it is stressful for the parent. Your child’s cognitive development is mirroring its motor development. In other words, as your baby learns to crawl, walk, run, and climb, it’s not just developing bone and muscle, it’s also learning that objects continue to exist even when they’re not observed. They learn to play peek-a-boo and then hide-and-go-seek. They begin to understand causality and begin to exhibit goal-directed behavior.

More than childproofing your home into a dreary institutional setting, you want to enrich the home with age-appropriate toys and books that you can read to the child. You want to create a safe living environment, but you don’t want to completely remove stimuli that will aid your child’s development.

Don’t Wait to Start the Childproofing Checklist

It’s also true that some babies may only crawl for a few days—or skip the stage altogether and go straight to walking. Again, don’t wait to start working on this childproofing checklist:

  1. Make Sure Dangerous Items are Inaccessible. Even before they crawl, babies like to put things in their mouth, but now the whole house becomes a potential source of objects. Knives, heavy pots and pans, glass and ceramic items of all stripes. Be prepared to say good-bye, for some time, to all the adorable but breakable knick-knacks you’ve collected over the years. And along with foreign objects in general, there are a number of potential poisons that can be easily overlooked and which infants are especially vulnerable to.
  2. Make Sure Dangerous Areas are Inaccessible. Falls from stairs are the common reason for ER visits in children under two. Baby gates are essential for stairs but may also be a good idea to make other areas of the house inaccessible. Some parents and childproofing experts even recommend gating the kitchen entry because of the number of hazards invariably found in the kitchen. Door and cabinet locks and knob covers may also be useful in making certain areas of the home off-limits.
  3. Secure Furniture, Doors, Appliances, and Outlets. Secure tip-prone furniture and use edge guards for sharp corners. Think about door stops or door holders. Get a latch for your oven door and refrigerator. Get a plastic guard for the stove. Keep smaller appliances like toasters and blow dryers unplugged and put away. Unless your home already has modern tamper-proof outlets, you’ll need outlet covers as well.
  4. Fire Prevention: Check smoke detectors every month and carbon monoxide detectors every six months. Cover or remove floor heaters. If you have a fireplace, install a grill and keep fireplace keys and accessories out of reach. Review all escape routes out of the house and know exactly what you’re going to do in the event of a fire.

Next Steps: Childproofing for Your Toddler (18 Months to 4 Years)

Go Back: Babyproofing (0-6 Months): What to do before Coming Home from the Hospital