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All the Not-Totally-Hideous Things I Use to Babyproof My House

A baby gate that doesn’t scream “baby gate.”

My wife and I live in a brand-new house just outside of New York City, and we’re the proud parents of a newborn and a 4-year-old. The new house has two flights of stairs and outlets every six or seven feet along almost every wall. On top of that, of course, are the cleaning products in the cabinets under the sink, the kitchen drawers with knives, the door to the garage, and all of the other things that adults take for granted but pose potential hazards to little kids.

But on top of that, we’re trying to keep the place looking as normal as possible because who wants to live in a house that’s filled with big, clunky gates and plastic locks on everything? These are the only-kind-of-ugly babyproofing products that we’re using to get the job done.

Safety 1st has been at the cutting edge of baby safety products for decades. (They’re also the ones who created the yellow “Baby on Board” stickers you’ll spot on windshields.) Recently, they released a line of products that take the pain out of some of the most important but annoying babyproofing procedures: securing cabinets, drawers, and appliance doors. In the past, babyproofing a cabinet involved infuriatingly precise measurements prior to drilling holes all over you kitchen, but now, Safety 1st makes a cabinet lock perfect for the drawers under the sink. It has a tab that pops up to prevent a cabinet from swinging open — you open it with a magnetic key just outside the lock.

There’s also the Safety 1st OutSmart line: Latches that can be secured to the door of a microwave or fridge, on a toilet seat, or used on cabinets, too. You open it by squeezing down on both sides of the square-shaped locking mechanism, but set into the front of this square is a prominent button that pushes in but does … nothing. A kid will poke at the decoy button for a while, then lose interest and move on. Just make sure to explain the OutSmart system to the adults in the house, as it will defeat many of them as well.

We have a hardwood set of stairs with 14 steps just waiting for a curious baby to bounce down, but that’s not going to happen because we use the Easy Step Walk Thru Safety Gate as well as a Regalo Top of Stair Safety Gate. Why two gates? Because a kid can fall down the stairs from the top of the staircase — or she can climb on up from the bottom of the staircase, then roll down. That makes having two sets of gates pretty crucial. The Top of Stairs gate works for either end of the staircase, whereas the Walk Thru Gate is good for the bottom or for closing off rooms. It took me all of ten minutes to install these gates using the tension-mounting system, but the more permanent installation using a drill and screws is easy, too. (I helped my in-laws install the gates at their house.) They also don’t have the mesh lining that screams “baby gate.”

We have plenty of those little outlet plugs in our house to keep fingers (or forks or twigs) out. But our house also has lots of outlets being used that no toddler should be touching either. The solution? These clear-plastic, cube-shaped cases attach over a retrofitted outlet plate and allow you to stick a plug in the outlet then cover the entire socket, plug and all, thereby keeping the kids safe while still enjoying your desk lamp, TV, charger, or whatever else needs power. At ten bucks each, it would be pricey to babyproof every outlet with these things, but they’re priceless for those prominent plugs that you want to keep using.

Unfortunately, I’ve yet to find a doorknob-babyproofing product that looks good, but I have found one that works well. These simple, affordable clip-on baby safety doorknob covers from Jool take about five seconds to install, but a baby (and even most toddlers) could spend all day trying to defeat one without success. Even adults have to master the art of gripping the knob through the slots cut into the cover. In our house, we use them to block entry to the basement stairs, closets, the garage, and when needed, to the guest room. Because last I checked, houseguests prefer waking up to an alarm clock, not a surprise visit from a kid.

We use these soft, bulbous, gel-like pads on all the baby-level corners in the house. They attach with a built-in adhesive and stay in place even when little hands tug on them, but an adult can easily peel one away as needed. While they are clear, they’re also pretty hard to miss, so your coffee table or desk will indeed look babyproofed, though not completely uglified. Just make sure that any surface to which you apply one is clean, or they won’t stick well enough. We’re still at zero injuries, and I intend to keep it that way.

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The Not-Totally-Hideous Things I Use to Babyproof My House