I recently interviewed Tom Treanor, an Advanced Certified Child Proofer, about keeping your home safe for your twins.
Here are his top tips for twin childproofing your home:
When to do Twin Childproofing
At what age should we have our entire twin childproofing preparations in place?
Sometimes, people will wait until the baby is walking. I think a lot of times, dad promises to do it. Dad says, “I’m going to install a gate.” Dad says, “I’m going to put the cabinet locks and the toilet lid lock on.”
Unfortunately, he just never gets around to it, because we know how busy it can be. When you get home from work, you want to play with your kids. You don’t really want to be bothered putting together a gate for the top of the staircase.
When dad eventually makes it out to the store and tries to pick out the right gate and bring it home, nine times out of ten, it’s the wrong gate for the staircase. If the gate does fit, they can’t figure out how to install it as they don’t want to ruin the banister.
The primary age to have your twin childproofing preparations in place is about eight months.
Crib Safety for Twins
But while we’re consulting and talking about child safety, one of the things I would like to say is even as young as four months, three months…when the babies first start rolling over in the cribs, it’s important not to have any blankets or pillows or bumpers in there.
Because the American Academy of Pediatrics has made the statement and suggestion that a bare crib is best. No blankets, or pillows or toys or stuffed animals or even crib bumpers, or even the breathable bumpers. All of these are dangerous for kids. So, that’s something that we should look for at four or five months. As I said, once the baby starts rolling over, you don’t want them to roll into the corner of a crib bumper.
The other thing I would worry about early on is contaminants. If you’re touching a baby after you’ve maybe come in contact with something that contained lead, children are very susceptible to lead poisoning.
(RELATED: Love podcasts? Check out the entire Dad's Guide to Twins Podcast archive for additional twin tips and interviews with twin dads.)
You want to be careful if you’re touching any garden hoses, which are known to be coated with lead, or holiday lights, extension cords or anything like that. You can actually pass that into the baby’s bloodstream, by touching their skin after handling that. Very small amounts can cause retardation of the brain.
Overlooked Home Hazards
What are some of the frequent hazards around the home that parents may overlook or not know are even potential risks for their children?
Furniture and TV tippings. A recently released statistic states that, one child every two weeks dies from TV or furniture or both, TV mounted on top of furniture. They don’t separate the statistics on furniture or TVs.
So, it’s TVs, furniture or TV and furniture. A lot of people will get new flat screen TVs and mount them on the wall in the living room. They’ll take the old TV that was in the living room and put it on top of a dresser in the child’s bedroom or in the playroom, on top of a milk crate. And those old, big box TVs are really heavy. Unfortunately, they do fall.
What are some things we can do to prevent those tip-overs?
Furniture straps are very, very inexpensive. The knowledge to install them is limited. It’s a simple stud finder.
TV straps are probably about $15 for a flat screen and most of them come with the holes, the bolts that go in to the back of the TV. The holes are already there, you could bolt it to the dresser and the dresser to the wall, or you could just bolt the TV to the wall.
You could also have it professionally hung. You could explain it to the wife as, “Look, we’re just trying to keep the kids safe” and get a nice surround sound system out of it, too. But if you just want to connect your TV to the wall, it will probably cost you $15 if you have a stud finder already, or if you have a very good ear to hear.
(NOTE: Still expecting? Get weekly updates on your twin pregnancy here.)
Safe Zones for Your Twins
I think people are really not aware about the toys. A lot of toys I see in a child’s play area are surprising. Whether it’s balloons with strings on them. I probably see a balloon tied to a highchair, at least once a week.
We warn clients that a highchair or a playpen is a safe place to leave a child if you have to go to the bathroom, if you have to walk away for a few minutes.
The most important thing is to make sure that they are strapped into a highchair and that there’s not something that they could hurt themselves with, within close proximity to that highchair and/or playpen.
It’s the same thing for cribs. If your child is in a crib, you have to move the video monitor wires. It says it right on the box, but we’ve been dumbed down. So, we don’t read the instructions, because it’s just a video monitor. All right? And the baby’s not rolling over yet, so the wire’s okay next to the crib. But pretty soon, that baby’s six month’s old and mom’s gotten used to seeing the close up of him. And that wire for the video camera, that’s sitting on the ledge of the crib, is now within his reach.
And watch out for hot cups of coffee, knives, blind cords from window blinds, balloons, the strings, and choke-able stuff.
The other thing that we’ll see in kids play areas is a toy that might have come from overseas. Maybe somebody went on vacation and they went to the Bahamas and bought one of those little dolls. The kid loves the color or the shape of it, so they let them play with it.
I always warn my clients…if it’s not sold in the United States in, say, the past five years and intended for a child of your child’s age, don’t let them play with it.
Many items that are made and sold in the shops down in the Bahamas are painted or glazed with lead. And again, the lead is a big thing.
(RELATED: Still looking for the right twin gear? See my Twin Baby Gear Essentials.)
Up until I think it’s five or six years old, the growth of the brain can be seriously retarded by introduction of lead to it. So, we really want to be extra careful when it comes to possible contamination.
There was a case…I was taking an early childhood development course. And there was a textbook case where the parents had given the child an ashtray to play with. Simple, seems harmless. It was a clay pottery type of ashtray, which they didn’t use for smoking or anything. And the baby just liked the color of it. And they handed it to the baby and they were supervising the baby with it. And you wouldn’t think anything of it, but it was glazed with lead and he had mental retardation from it.
Twin Specific Childproofing
What have you found are unique aspects of child-proof needs for twins, based on your own home or with some of your clients?
What I have in my house now is ridiculous. In 1999 I started, so probably 17 years, I worked for a person before him. But I’ve met with parents of twins, many times over the years. They are some of the greatest customers, because obviously they need more control over the area.
The supervision is not what it is with a singleton. You could be tending to one and the other one is getting away. So, they have been good clients over the years. We do recommend a little bit more for them. As I always say, “Baby-proofing is half price.” You only have to buy one gate for two kids.
In my own home, I’ve put up more gates in the past six or seven months than I ever thought I would. We still have the accidents. The “I thought you were watching them.”
My six-year-old doesn’t close the gate. My six-year-old brings some of his Legos into their play area.
We have a “safe zone” in our living room, which is gated off. We split our living room in half and that’s their area, with a couch and everything in there is child-proof. The TV is to the wall and the cabinets are locked on the TV stand. Just the other day, I came out and Jesse, my little guy, was standing at the top of the basement stairs. And I just put him behind the gate.
I said, “What happened?” Well, obviously, my six-year-old, Cole, had walked out and left the gate open.
What would I recommend parents of twins doing? Everything. Just do everything you can.
Have more questions about twin childproofing, you can reach Tom via his website, All Star Baby Safety.
What is Twinproofing?
Twinproofing is how you childproof your home when you have twins. Having twins in your home requires special safety considerations.
You Need Basic Childproofing for Twins Too
The classic tips on how to childproof your home shared above by Tom are a solid foundation to make your home safe for the twins.
As a basic strategy, try to prevent your twins from accessing, reaching, touching, or discovering anything that can do them harm. Expand your mind as you look at your home.
Get down on your hands and knees so you are at your kids’ level and look around. Analyze your home and see what trouble you can get into and what things you can reach that you didn’t think about before.
The kitchen and bathroom are areas where you need to be very cautious because of the overabundance of potential hazards (water, chemicals, sharp objects, etc.).
In the rest of the house, look at power outlets, cords, drawers, shelves, window blinds, and anything else that can be reached by your twins.
Regular Childproofing Isn’t Enough
While general advice on childproofing your home works for twins, you can’t stop there. Twinproofing your home requires extra vigilance and prevention.
Singleton babies can only do so much damage by themselves.
Twins, on the other hand, take mischief to a whole new level.
Keep in mind that each of your twins is an individual. This means that each of your twins has their own thoughts, imaginations, and crazy of ideas of how to get into trouble.
If one your twins doesn’t come up with a creative way to get into trouble, his or her sibling will. Once that idea is formed, it will be immediately shared with the other sibling and you’ll have double trouble.
Two little minds working together to reach the forbidden object or open the off-limits drawer can quickly invent a method or solution to get what they want.
Twins Enable Each Other’s Mischief
Your twins will be each other’s partners in crime. Twinproofing means you need to account for what your twins can do, not just by themselves, but with each other’s help.
Twins will help push each other up to places one can’t reach. Twins will combine their strength to break things. Twins will both squeeze into places only meant for one.
Look at your house from a new perspective: your twins’ view. What trouble could you cause if you were their size and had a ready accomplice to join your adventures?
One danger zone to consider is the door. Your twins will chase each other around the house and one will turn and slam the door on the other twin. Little fingers or toes can easily be smashed when this happens. Childproof your doors with simple finger pinch prevention devices you can buy at the home improvement store that keep the door from shutting all the way.
You’ve got your work cut out for you. Start twinproofing your home today and you’ll get a head start on your curious, and often mischievous, twins.
Picture by Cheryl