The wander years: Toddler-proof your home

Two-year-old Sebastian Borjas rolls on the floor at his home and plays with a hammer - a soft children's hammer. Toddler-proofing a home can be a challenge for parents. Borjas' mom, who operates Boomer Babies Day Care, 2439 Via Linda Drive, has installed heavy duty electric socket covers and fenced off areas of her home to help keep Borjas safe.

Sebastian Borjas sits down to read a book at his house where his mother, Sarah Borjas, operates Boomer Babies Day Care in Lawrence. Borjas has installed heavy-duty electric socket covers, visible at right, and fenced off areas of her home to help keep Borjas safe.

Two-year-old Sebastian Borjas is an explorer.

“He’s into everything,” says Sarah Borjas, Sebastian’s mother and owner of Boomer Babies Day Care, 2429 Via Linda Drive. “He’s a curious kid. That’s what I expect toddlers to be. He’s definitely reached my expectation.”

Little Sebastian’s love of taking things apart keeps his mother on high alert.

“Everything in my house is childproof,” Borjas says.

Borjas and other area childcare providers say maintaining a safe environment for adventurous toddlers is a round-the-clock job that shouldn’t be taken lightly.

“Children are so much faster and brighter and more curious than we give them credit for,” says Ronda Miller of Apples and Oranges, 214 Lawrence Ave. “You need to constantly be vigilant — and that’s night and day.”

But toddler-proofing a home need not be at the expense of a child’s sense of independence or opportunity to grow and learn, they say. They offer their advice for a safe and fun environment for children during their wander years.

Borjas has moved beyond the typical plastic outlet covers. She uses a heavy-duty brand that costs a bit more, but is worth it, she says.

“They’re ridiculously difficult, even for me, to get out,” she says. “I would never buy anything else.”

Miller suggests arranging the furniture so it block outlets, adding a extra level of protection.

She also advises parents to make items that could be climbed on inaccessible to children and bolting such things as shelves to a wall.

Miller says she makes sure that any items that can be thrown by a child are soft and not heavy. She also checks the size of toys using a toilet paper roll as a measure.

“If a toy can go down inside of that, then it’s one that I don’t use,” she says.

Miller says parents should be vigilant when children play with Play-Doh or paint for the first time, because they may want to eat it. When introducing Play-Doh to a child for the first time, Miller says she makes a homemade kind with a salty flavor.

Marilyn Hinkle, who runs a family childcare service in Lawrence, suggested parents crawl on the floor of their home to see what dangers may be lurking at a child’s level.

“I think that’s an easy, practical way of helping your child be in a safer environment,” she says.

But a parent need not stop there. While on the crawl, a parent can also take note of what can be added safely to a child’s environment to make it fun and educational. Hinkle recommends chair rails decorated with animals or alphabets.

She also suggests family pictures of the toddler, the toddler’s family and grandparents to decorate a refrigerator. A picture can be a reminder of an accomplishment, such as climbing a slide. Or it can be one of family, a reminder that the child is a part of a larger unit.

Hinkle says children love beautiful things. She often displays flowers from her garden. They provide an opportunity to educate about color and scent and types of flowers, she says.

Borjas says it’s important for a child to have a sense of independence, even in a home where drawers and cupboards or entire rooms are off limits. Borjas says she keeps one kitchen cupboard set aside especially for Sebastian. It contains his meal plates.

“He really loves to be able to put his plate on the table,” Borjas says. “That’s one of the ways that I’ve found to just keep a little bit of their independence while keeping it safe.”