Poke into any parenting group, and you quickly learn that there are two main approaches to babyproofing your house: You can make yourself a little crazy (and go broke; did you know baby-proofing can cost $2400?!) by considering every eventuality, and then purchasing a product to prevent against it; or, you can take a more relaxed tactic, outfit your home with basic baby-proofing supplies, and then let your child’s behavior dictate what else you’ll need.

I (and my wallet) am in the second camp. There are so many babyproofing products on the market but, now that I’ve done this dance for a while, I know – babyproofing is all about your specific kid: What does she get into? What rooms does she frequent? What dangers exist in your home?

Here’s my low-stress approach (wine optional) to baby-proofing the house:

  1. Consider the Big Picture: Your Child + Your House
  2. Install Outlet Covers
  3. Breathe
  4. Start in the Kitchen
  5. Move on to the Living Room
  6. Baby-Proof the Bathroom
  7. Finish Up in Baby’s Room
  1. Consider the Big Picture: Your Child + Your House

Get down on the floor, and take a look at your home from a child’s eyes: What serious dangers are within easy reach? What hazards and challenges does your home present?

Relocate valuables and sand down sharp edges (or add corner guards). Store cleaning products, paint, hazardous substances, and other dangers out of the way, behind lock and key. Install high door locks. Place walk-through baby gates at the top and bottom of the stairs. For general safety, set your hot water heater below 120ºF.  Make sure you have fire extinguishers on each floor, and sufficient smoke and carbon monoxide detectors placed throughout your home. Secure heavy, clime-able furniture (e.g. clothes dressers, entertainment centers) to the walls with furniture straps.

  1. Install Outlet Covers

Not going to lie: As soon as my kiddo could scoot, I went a little overboard with the plug covers. The good news is, outlet protectors are one of the cheapest and most useful baby proofing supplies you’ll buy, hands down. Babies are curious and they investigate everything, so think of outlet covers as inexpensive peace of mind. You can pick up a 36-pack of outlet plugs for just a few dollars, or get fancy with self-closing outlet covers.

  1. Breathe

The fun (not) starts here. Baby-proofing your house can be a stressful process: your mind is running through all the potential what-ifs and your mama-bear (or papa-bear) instinct is kicking in, all while your credit card is getting dinged. And dinged, and dinged.

Do yourself a favor, and take a deep breath. A little deeper. There, that’s it. Babyproofing can be simple. You can take the relaxed approach. Your little one is going to be just fine. Now, let’s go.

  1. Start in the Kitchen

Confession: My oldest is 5, and the kitchen still gives me anxiety. Knives, and ovens, and open flames – yikes! The dangers are there, you’re usually distracted, and an accident can happen in an instant. So, let’s start with babyproofing the kitchen.

There are few oft-recommended gadgets I won’t recommend, at least not to start. Let’s take safety latches, for example: They can be a pain to open, they don’t always work, and they’re not really necessary, if you rearrange your bottom cabinets to hold baby-safe pots and pans. Lock up vitamins and meds, and place choking hazards, magnets, and cleaning products far out of reach.

So, what you will want? Some way to close your kid out of the kitchen, that’s what! A wide, extra-wide, or even super crazy-wide baby gate should do the trick. Then, grab a good cabinet lock (for your cleaning products, even if they’re up high). Leave the rest – the knob covers, the appliance locks, the burner guards – until your baby is walking and reaching. (I never needed them.)

  1. Move on to the Living Room

Your kiddo is going to spend a lot of time in the living room/family room/den, so this is one place you want to make very safe for baby.

Wobbly toddlers and new runners trip, slip and fall often, so start by slapping on a bunch of those corner guards we talked about earlier. Store knickknacks out of reach. Secure your fireplace with a hearth guard. Tape back any hanging blind pulls (they’re a strangulation hazard), or install cord winders, or indulge in that much-desired upgrade to cordless blinds. Baby-proof the TV, and don’t forget those with anti-tip straps. Make sure your outlet covers are in place, and tape extension cords down with electrical tape.

  1. Baby-Proof the Bathroom

Surprisingly, the bathroom requires just a bit of baby-proofing. Place medicines, soaps, electrical gadgets, and other potential dangers (e.g. your razor) out of reach. If you’ve set your hot water heater to under 120ºF, you won’t need any of those fancy water thermometers or other doodads.

What I do recommend is an easy-open cabinet lock (like strap locks or sliding D-locks), so you can keep at least one cabinet completely off-limits to baby. If your baby is fascinated by water, you might want to consider a toilet lock. Finally, a no-slip bath mat is a lifesaver (literally), when your kiddo is old enough to sit up (or – shudder – stand) by himself at bath time.

  1. Finish Up in Baby’s Room

Your little one will spend a lot of time in her room, so make sure her nursery is safe: Be sure your crib meets current safety standards. Throw away crib bumpers, and take blankets, stuffed animals, and other suffocation hazards out of the crib. Add outlet covers EVERYWHERE. Secure heavy furniture to the walls with straps.

A few other considerations: Our most-loved bedroom baby-proofing supplies boiled down to a single item that we purchased over, and over, and over again: finger pinch guards for the door. They are incredible, especially if you have breezes blowing through your home. (Hinge guards are also available.) In that same vein, you may also want to swap out your toy chest’s standard hinge for a soft-close safety hinge.

That’s it – the extent of my first-round baby-proofing for any house. Remember, as your kiddo grows and explores, you’ll learn more about what he does (and doesn’t) need, as far as additional child safety and proofing goes. (Great ideas here. Also here.) In the meantime, enjoy the milestones!

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