8th July 2019

The hidden enemies of babies and how to handle them

“I won’t let the house get taken over by baby stuff!” we all vow. Then the baby happens. And boy (or girl), does it happen. Soon, there are multi-coloured foam tiles where your stylish geometric rug used to be, and annoying plastic safety thingy-majigs making previously simple tasks take about twice as long.

But we all live in what is essentially a colourful padded cell for a reason – we’re desperate to keep our babies safe from danger. And when you become a mum, you realise that danger is everywhere, which means we can go a bit nutty with the baby-proofing. To the point that our homes are kind of adult-proof too, since nobody wants to come round anymore because they have to drink out of sippy cups.

These are a few of the everyday items which will suddenly scream “DANGER DANGER!” and what you should do about them to try and keep your family alive and/or keep things in perspective.


When your baby first gets mobile, your stairs will become a source of fascination to them. Stairgates are often the first babyproofing purchase new parents make – and generally the most expensive one. But they aren’t always necessary; it all depends on the layout of your house, really – if there are strategically located doors which mean that your baby can’t get to the stairs unattended anyway, you might be better off making the most of this and focus on teaching them how to climb the stairs safely when you’re around to supervise. Going downstairs is more dangerous anyway, so popping a gate at the top of the stairs can be far more valuable, especially when your “baby” becomes an actual child, moves into a real bed and starts padding around in the dark at all hours, the little bugger.


Ah, the simple grape. So small, so nutritious, so DEADLY. If you’ve ever been to a baby first aid class, the instructors will have scared the bejesus out of you with all their chat about choking hazards, and grapes are at the top of the list. But you needn’t banish them from your home forever; you just need to always chop them length-ways (and maybe squish them a bit too). Crisis over.

The oven/other hot things 

“Hot!” is a common first word for a reason – babies are constantly getting told to stay away from ovens/burning fires/active volcanoes by us tedious killjoy parents. It is difficult to baby proof an oven (or indeed a volcano) since blocking it off renders it pretty useless when you want to, like, eat, but you can always shove a chair in front of it if your baby is knocking around in the kitchen while it’s on. Otherwise you’ll just have to embrace your new catchphrase: “No! Hot! Don’t touch! Hot!” ad nauseum.

The washing machine and other large appliances

Sure, we’ve all heard horror stories about small children getting trapped in washing machines, but in reality this is a pretty rare phenomenon. They’re far more likely to simply fiddle with all the buttons and mess with your spin cycle, wreaking laundry schedule havoc on the entire household. Some washing machines have lock buttons to ward off meddling little fingers; if yours doesn’t again it’s just a case of teaching them not to. Or, more usefully, teaching them how to do it right, so you can sit back and relax while they wash their own stinking socks.

Plugs and sockets 

A controversial one. Socket covers used to be another of the first and most obvious babyproofing purchases parents would make, but in recent years the NHS have urged families not to buy them, because they actually make sockets MORE dangerous – yes, really. The fact is, British sockets have been designed so that even the smallest of fingers can’t poke into the holes, so we can all chill out on that front.

Cleaning products and other toxic liquids

While most nasty substances are sold in child proof containers, there’s probably something evil lurking in your cupboard that baby hands can get to. To be on the safe side, little plastic locks are cheaply and readily available, making it nigh on impossible for your little one to pry their way into your cupboard. The slight downside is that the more grown-up members of the household may also find it nigh on impossible to get into the cupboard. So the sink remains forever filthy but hey, at least we’re all safe.

Coins and other pesky little things

No matter how much of a Marie Kondo job you do on your house, you will never be able to rid it entirely of tiny little choking hazards. Likewise, contactless payment might be ubiquitous these days, but you’ve still got coins knocking around, haven’t you? At some point – perhaps even on a daily basis, especially if they’re teething – your baby will put something in their mouth that’s not supposed to be in their mouth. You will freak. But most stuff gets spat out (filthy pound coins don’t actually taste that nice, who knew?) and if it doesn’t… well, you have a legitimate reason to go to A&E. Chances are, whatever they’ve ingested will pass safely through their system, and you’ll change their nappy and come out with a cash prize, but some items are more dangerous than others: especially, annoyingly enough, those teeny little batteries which are often found in kids’ toys, so always head to hospital if you’re worried they’ve swallowed something dodgy.

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