Childproofing the House
Now that your child is roaming freely throughout the house, you're going to have to think like a one-year-old to anticipate her moves and be sure she will be safe. A one-year-old, of course, doesn't think so much as explore and experiment. She will go everywhere and touch everything, and much of the going and the touching will take place with all of her fingers, her entire body, and her mouth.
Watch your child closely for a few days and notice where she goes when she's exploring. Move anything toxic (such as cleansers, lotions, and food) out of her reach and then lock the cabinet where those things are stored. Use childproof locks to secure the toilet as well as any cabinets and doors that she can open. Be sure any weapons in the house are not loaded and are in a locked cabinet with the bullets or accessories kept in a separate place. Childproofing is a process that will take place over a few days because you'll keep noticing new places your child can explore. Also, those places will change over the coming year as your one-year-old gets bigger and stronger.
One of the most important places you'll want to keep your child from exploring on her own is the staircase. Because she is just learning to walk, she will be very interested in going up and down the stairs. While it's fine for her to practice when you're nearby, steps and an unsteady toddler are not a good match. Childproof your stairs by placing baby gates at the top and the bottom.
While many toddlers like to walk up stairs (very slowly), they mostly practice some form of sliding or climbing down them. It is often safer for your one-year-old to bump down the steps or to turn around and slide on her belly than it is for her to walk down, which requires depth perception and balance skills that she may not yet have mastered. If your child doesn't try these methods on her own, you might want to teach her and encourage her to slide, rather than walk, down the stairs in your house.
Electrical Outlets and Equipment
Many parents know they should get child safety plugs to be sure their children don't put their fingers, or anything else, into electrical outlets. Outlets, however, are just the beginning. Wires and appliances should all be carefully taped down or hidden from your toddlers. Children can get electrical burns and can be electrocuted from chewing on wires.
While few toddlers get hurt by electronic equipment such as VCRs or DVD players, children can easily break them if they touch the buttons repeatedly or try to move them in order to study them more closely. Keep anything you don't want your child to play with out of his sight and reach.
Heavy TVs and stereos can fall — more easily than you think — on a small, curious child who tries to touch their buttons and pull on their wires. Even dressers and bureaus can fall on your child, especially if he tries to open the drawers and climb on them. If anything in your house is loose or easy to pull, protect your child and secure that item using locks, bolts, or chains. Things to consider securing include TVs, stereos, desktop computers, and heavy furniture.
Corners and Edges
As one-year-olds learn to walk and explore the world around them, they will inevitably fall and will often take a bump on the head (or knee or elbow), on the way down. Likewise, as they cruise along holding onto furniture, they will grab onto whatever is nearby. Covering up corners and edges will ensure that your child's bumps are not serious.
You can find edge and corner covers — which stick to furniture with adhesive — at stores that sell baby goods and at some large hardware stores. You should take care to cover fireplace edges and the edges of radiators, especially if they are on the floor and made of metal — these can be sharp enough to leave a pretty nasty gash on a one-year-old's head! Gates should be put around fireplaces, radiators, and wood stoves, too, so that a baby won't walk over and touch them.
A cabinet is like a mystery box to a small child. The under-sink cabinets in the bathroom and kitchen, as well as those in wall installments, are on the same level as a one-year-old, and unless you install special latches they will be easy for your child to open. One-year-olds will want to open cabinets, take everything out, play with and possibly eat it, and perhaps climb inside the cabinet. Cabinet locks and guards are especially important safety devices. They should always be kept on cabinets that hold medicine, cleaning supplies, tools, and anything that a child might want to taste, such as food, soap, perfume, and liquids.
If your child is endlessly curious about cabinets, you might give her one filled with toys and things she can play with, such as pots and pans, plastic containers, and toys.
Even with all of the safety precautions you think to take, your child will bump her head, open cabinets and take something out that she shouldn't, and walk into the edges of doors. Amazingly, most of her injuries will be minor. When she does get hurt, don't ignore her pain and fear. Acknowledge that it hurts and reassure her. Make sure she doesn't have a cut that needs a bandage or other medical care, and then help her get past the injury. Give her something else to play with, or take her to a different room. If she still seems upset or frightened, show her how to correctly perform that action that resulted in her injury so that she feels more confident and safe.
Children respond very positively when adults acknowledge and validate their experiences. At the same time, they need to hear your opinion about what happened because they trust that the adult more fully understands the situation. So, if you say, “Oh, that must have hurt. I never like it when I fall and bump my head. But I see that you're okay, so maybe we can do something else now,” it takes care of their feelings and allows them to rely on you for reassurance.