Children are a huge part of the joy at family holiday gatherings. Everyone loves to pinch the chubby cheeks, watch the toddling first steps, and listen to adorable nonsense ramblings.  But, far fewer people want to monitor the little ones’ safety during the festivities.  Following a crawling baby or curious toddler around a new environment is exhausting.  Unless family members takes shifts, one parent follows the child the whole time and barely has a chance to eat or pee, let alone sit down and talk.  If you want the parents to be able to relax at all, you need to baby proof at least a little.

  1. Close doors.  Most kids old enough to open a regular door knob are old enough to follow the rule of not opening closed doors.  So, its easy to close off the dangers of the bathroom or the breakables in other rooms.  A door that conceals anything especially dangerous (like the garage or a flight of stairs) can get a handle lock.
  2. Sudden drops.  In my home, you turn a corner —  whoa, a flight of stairs to the basement.  Without a gate, its a scary hazard.  Ask the parents if they can bring a gate, or, if children will be visiting often, invest in one yourself.
  3. Wood stove.  This is really a big concern if the child doesn’t have one at home.  Devise a plan to prevent children getting close or choose not to use it that day.
  4. Move pet bowls.  Its so simple that there is no reason not to do it.
  5. Vacuum.  It will get all the crumbs, clumps of dog hair, pine needles and hopefully any other tiny dropped objects off your floor so they don’t wind up in baby’s mouth.
  6. Keep food out of reach.  Keep platters and bowls on a high counter versus low coffee tables or kitchen tables with chairs for climbing.  Also, be mindful of tablecloths children use to pull up with that then might bring down many dishes.  Policing coffee cups, wine glasses, and individual plates is a much simpler task for parents when the rest of the banquet is out of reach.
  7. If you will be really upset if it is broken, move it.  Whether it is holiday decor or not, if you will mourn its loss, then its best to move it to a safe location.  Even with a watchful parent, accidents do happen.  And the culprit might not even be the baby!

Baby proofing these seven areas still leaves many dangerous or destructive gaps, but it is more manageable for parents.  While visiting, the parents might find other trouble spots and need to move your belongings accordingly.

If you are hosting a family with a small child for several days, it is probably in everyone’s best interest to baby proof more thoroughly in at least the one room where the child will spend the most time playing.

(Photo courtesy of Donnie Ray Jones via Flickr.)