Over the river and through the woods, to grandmother's house we go ... to find uncovered electrical outlets, sharp corners, expensive crystal bowls, open aspirin bottles and bleach containers in the unlocked cabinet under the kitchen sink.
Sure, visits to Grandma and Grandpa's house in gauzy TV images appear to be sweet, bonding experiences shared over glasses of farm fresh milk and warm, aromatic chocolate chip cookies. And those visits can be all sweetness and light. Until one of the kids finds Grandpa's heart medicine in the easy unscrew tops and then proceeds to gulp a few pills down with the milk.
Developmental experts all agree: Children's relationships with grandparents are wonderful and can be extremely beneficial for both parties. But when small kids leave the safe confines of their childproofed homes to spend time—an afternoon or a weekend—at a grandparent's home, the same safety rules should apply. If unlocked kitchen cleaners pose dangers at your house, then they can be hazardous at Grandma's. If your child isn't a stair climber at home, then the stairs should be blocked at Grandpa's, too.
Though it can be a touchy subject, with some grandparents balking, "We never needed outlet covers or gates when you were young," it's important to walk through your parents' and in-laws' homes (if you plan to spend any significant time at those homes) and look for potential dangers. Then help remedy them. Unless you plan to stick closely by your child's side at all times to make sure that he encounters no hazards, you need to make the home safe. With gentle explanations as to why these things could be dangerous to the little people the grandparents desperately love, you could help ease the blows by not only purchasing the safety devices required, but also volunteering to help put them into place.
Simple Home Fixes
Here are some suggestions on how to help safety-proof a grandparent's home for young children:
- Buy and install outlet covers where ever the children may play or be left unattended.
- Buy exterior cabinet locks (the kind that you put on the outside of cabinets to keep the doors shut) and put them on the cabinets where potential hazards are kept. Be sure to show the grandparents how they operate.
- Locate all medicine and household poisons (cleaners, bleach, etc.) and make sure they are moved to a location that's inaccessible to grandkids.
- Scan the rooms for things grandkids could break or on which they could injure themselves. Think: Kitchen knives, candy dishes, fireplace tools, scissors, pencils, picture frames, letter openers, dangling electrical cords, vertical blind cords, any weaponry and collectibles Grandma may have on display to which curious fingers may be attracted.
- Suggest the use of childproofed doorknob covers or hooks at the tops of doors leading outside so grandkids won't slip out when a grandparent is distracted or out of the room.
- Supply and install easy-to-remove tension gates to keep areas out of reach or to keep grandkids from scaling or descending stairs.
- Buy removable corner cushions for sharp cornered coffee or end tables.
- Survey the yard (if applicable) for potential dangers.