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Babyproofing the Second Time Around

By Amalah



Hi! I have two sons who are within months of your two sons. My oldest (Grey) is three and a half, and my youngest (Thane) is almost six months. So far things have gone swimmingly — Grey is a loving, affectionate brother and Thane is a ray of sunshine. But Thane is starting to move. Already he’s rolling his way across the room. Crawling can’t be far behind. Grey was walking by 9 months. Thane is on pace or even faster.

My questions is, what the heck do I do about the “big boy toys”? Grey loves his Matchbox cars, small plastic figures and (worst of all) dice. Especially D20s (like these) which are pretty much designed to be a choking hazard. Pretty much all his favorite toys are inappropriate for an orally-fixated new crawler. And he carries them everywhere with him. They’re liberally scattered throughout our house. Making matters slightly worse, one of the most effective punishments for Grey is to make him be alone. He’s always wherever we are. So I can’t quite bring myself to tell him that all baby-unsafe toys must be confined to his room. He’ll never get to play with them!

How do I babyproof my house for a crawler in a way that is fair to his big brother? Do you have a plan?


My original “plan” consisted of asking a couple of friends how THEY babyproofed for THEIR second babies, and I guess their second babies should consider themselves lucky that they made it to their first birthdays, because mostly I got shrugs. It seems like it was a topic they stressed about once, then eventually gave up in the face of a zillion small toys containing zillions of small parts. “I pull stuff out of his mouth a lot,” one mom admitted.

And yet, they DID have good ideas.

She also said, however, that she designated and separated out the MOST dangerous toys (marbles, in her son’s case, and a game with small beads and pegs) and keeps them in her possession at all times. She stores them in a plastic bag in an unreachable drawer and her older son can play with them during the younger one’s nap time. She knows exactly how many marbles they own and when even just one is missing, because you KNOW that one marble will end up right in the baby’s path, looking all kinds of delicious. But since no one can exert that kind of mental energy about multiple kinds of toys, she said that she’s more or less stopped worrying about small wheels coming off of small cars and arms coming off action figures and concentrates on the stuff that is a choking hazard in and of itself.

So in your case…the dice. Round ’em up, count ’em up, bag ’em up. Keep them where Grey cannot get to them — maybe even in a secret spot that changes regularly, so he’s not piling up stepstools and boxes when you’re not looking (because what’s more fun than choking? broken bones! woot!). Tell him he can play with the dice when Thane is asleep, or when you’re there to closely supervise. Maybe he can only play with them on the kitchen table — not the floor, where Thane can find one that rolled astray. Maybe they can be his “restaurant toy,” if you need a good behavior bribe, or something.

(What? Bribe a child in exchange for a moment’s peace at dinner? US?)

My other friend — the first of us to have the second baby — went to Ikea in a fit of pregnancy nesting and bought a large modular bookshelf. One of those whole-wall deals, with lots of tight-fitting baskets and bins. She painstakingly organized her son’s toys by category and level of danger. Big plastic baby-friendly stuff went on the bottom, small stuff like metal cars and game pieces when on the top shelves. Of course, it took her older son five minutes flat to undo all of her organizing (and figure out how to climb to the top, though thankfully they’d bolted it to the wall), but she stuck with it. Eventually she attached photos and pictures onto the front of the bins that depicted what toys went in each one so he could help sort and clean up. It’s not perfect, and stuff occasionally gets mixed up, but she can at least be reasonably relaxed when her one-year-old yanks a basket off the bottom shelves and starts raiding the contents.

So I think we’re going to try a similar approach, now that Ezra is starting with the pre-crawl belly scoot. We don’t have anything TOO terrible, like dice or marbles (thanks to Noah’s sensory issues, he still mouths objects and we can’t really trust him with really small toys), but there are a few things that will likely disappear and become very, very “special big kid time” toys. (A bag of polished rocks, a wooden bead set, mini-Matchbox cars he keeps “winning” at preschool for cleaning up during the week that are KILLING MY SOUL, because he knows EXACTLY how many of these tiny identical cars he owns yet never remembers where he leaves them, etc.) We’ve always used bins and baskets throughout the house for toys, so I do plan to go through everything and 1) purge, 2) establish a choking hierarchy, 3) separate and move shit UPWARDS, and 4) label with pictures, explaining to Noah as best we can that we need to be extra careful about cleaning up so we can keep Baby Ezra safe. That boy does really love his baby brother, so I’m hoping he’ll get the “it’s for SAFETY!” message.

I still have the feeling I’m going to be pulling stuff out of Ezra’s mouth a lot. We’ll do our best, like we always do. Luckily I know (and already got to use! hooray!) the Heimlich. I’m REALLY hoping our commenters will have some awesome ideas of their own. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a Wii, five million electronic chargers, and a dozen empty wine glasses to find alternate homes for.

Photo by Daquella manera


Published June 1, 2009. Last updated October 29, 2017.
About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch


Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Ama...

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it’s pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to [email protected].

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.

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