While it might feel like forever before your little one starts crawling—and touching, and tasting, and exploring all kinds of sharp things—babies start moving around their world faster than any of us think. And while baby gates are one of the major solutions to keeping your child safe and out of trouble, open-concept condos mean baby gates and other barriers aren’t always going to be a viable solution.
So with that in mind, here are some vital tips for solidly baby-proofing your rental condo—and keeping your baby safe without forfeiting your deposit.
Get a kid’s-eye view
The best way to figure out what needs doing for your particular space is to check out the situation on the ground. Get down on your hands and knees, get a baby’s-eye view, and see what in your living space is reachable or enticing.
In the kitchen
Since so many condo kitchens are open-concept, designed to be moved around while cooking, the kitchen’s the place that can give parents the most heart attacks per square foot once the crawling phase hits. Unless your landlord’s amenable to installing safety latches on your lower cabinets, consider storing your cleaning products, chemicals, and other poisonous substances on a high shelf in the closet, or if there’s no space to be had there, in a tough plastic storage container whose grip is strong enough to keep small hands from opening it.
There are also drill-free cabinet locks on the market, which latch the handles of lower cabinets together or use magnets to keep cabinets shut, and for the condo-dweller with a small child, they can be an absolute life-saver when it comes to getting the safety you need without shelling out for repairs when you move to your next home.
To make sure your knives or other sharp kitchen tools aren’t reachable by grabby fingers, a knife block stored well back and out of reach—or better yet, a magnetic strip that’ll hold your knives well out of the way on the wall or inside a high cabinet.
Small spice bottles can be emptied into magnetic tin containers that’ll attach easily to the hard-to-reach upper half of your fridge, saving you some storage space and making sure that if something falls, it’ll dent and bounce rather than turning into a puddle of broken glass.
Once your kids get to the toddler phase—and can pull themselves up to reach a little higher—make a habit of cooking on the stove’s back burners, with the pot handles well out of reach, so nothing hot can be pulled down and cause an accident.
The sharp corners of kitchen islands can also be a concern, especially during the early walking phases, where motor control isn’t so great.
In the bathroom
The major worry in the bathroom for small children is slipping or drowning: babies and toddlers are a little top-heavy, so it’s distressingly easy for them to drown in very little water or scald themselves playing with a bathtub faucet.
Make sure the bathtub or shower is always clear, keep the toilet lid down, get rubber mats for your bathroom floor to keep any slips from happening, and when it comes to cabinets, safety latches are once again very much your friend.
That Ikea bookshelf has been with you forever, but once your kid starts moving under their own power, it’s time to make sure it’s sturdy enough to not tip over if pulled on hard. If you’re able to anchor taller furniture into the wall, that’s a great solution; if not, putting heavier items on lower shelves will move the centre of gravity downward and reduce a tipping risk.
Once your child starts walking, moving items like TVs and computers well back on their stands—and floor lamps behind other objects so they can’t be reached—is a must. Newly walking toddlers like to pull themselves up on whatever’s available, and you want to make sure what they use to get up won’t come down.
This is perhaps the most constant and finicky part of childproofing your space: Finding all the tiny items that could block a small child’s airway and making sure they stay out of reach. Go through your lower drawers or cupboards, the area around your home workspace, and where you hang your purse or bags to see if any paper clips, dry beans, coins, craft supplies, or anything else small enough to fit in a child’s mouth is reachable.
Cover your outlets
When you’re renting, replacing your electrical outlet covers is pretty much off the table, but there’s a lot you can do with electrical tape and persistence. While the plug-in outlet covers aren’t recommended anymore (see above about those choking hazards) a solid layer of electrical tape or even masking tape can cover empty outlets without damaging the outlet covers and raising your landlord’s blood pressure.
If you don’t already, this is the time to make sure your balcony door stays locked—and that any blinds you have covering large windows don’t have any cords dangling where a small child could pull on them or loop them around necessary body parts. Tying your curtain cords up with a rubber band or simple, secure knot is a two-minute job that can make a life-or-death difference, and while most balcony railings are fairly high, patio furniture is a climbing risk you don’t want to take.
The front door
Check to see if your toddler can reach the front door. If you have a door that unlocks automatically when opened from inside, invest in a child-proof cover for that handle or see if your landlord and condo board will allow a chain lock to prevent any unauthorized hallway adventures.
Baby-proofing sounds seriously intimidating when taken all at once, but it’s possible—and plausible—to stack the odds in your favour and limit the amount of trouble a crawling child or toddler can get into. Be patient with yourself, do a little bit at a time well ahead of time, and remember that child-proofing is a process: hazards will change as your little one grows, and attention is the best remedy.
Best of luck!