We certainly consider ourselves minimalists around here when it comes to baby “stuff.” We never wanted a house overrun with gadgets and accessories, and even though Coraline has toys and books in almost every room, we try to keep them contained. We feel it’s important that she understands some things are just respected, such as mommy’s plants, daddy’s stereo, and the cat’s food — we refuse to completely rearrange our home. This is why we are also childproofing minimalists (cue horrified gasps of perceived negligence). We aren’t reckless, but why lock the toilet lid shut when she is never left alone in the bathroom? Why latch all the cupboards when she is never alone in the kitchen? I mean, I understand why toilet and cupboard latches exist (Coraline wants so badly to play in the toilet water), but it just seems easier all around to keep a close eye on her. And I don’t understand why toilet water is considered a child safety issue, but what you wash your floors with isn’t.
We installed a gate at the top of the stairs (and one at the bottom is likely coming, too) and plugged the outlets. But rather than imagining every possible scenario in which Coraline could make like Chris Sharma and scale the kitchen cupboards, I find myself worried more about what not-so-obvious dangers are present in our home. Here are a few places you may want to make some changes before you start nailing furniture to the walls. And as I’ve said before, clean — as in non-toxic — is green, so look at is as precautions for both the baby and the earth.
Cleaning products Whenever I see a Swiffer WetJet, I want one. They market it well — it seems easy and effective. And with Coraline crawling all over, I’m pretty anal about keeping the floors clean. But if I had to choose between putting her in contact with water, propylene glycol n-propyl ether, and isopropyl alcohol, or water, vinegar, baking soda, and lemon juice, I choose the latter. Vinegar is a natural disinfectant, and baking soda is an efficient scouring agent; lemon juice covers up the smell. I just soak a rag and then attach it to my regular Swiffer sweeper. These natural cleaners work great in the bathroom, too. And if you have low windows or full-length mirrors that baby loves to stand at (and put their mouth on) try cleaning with club soda in a spray bottle instead of Windex.
Ants These persistent scavengers skeeve me out, and seem to be unavoidable in the summer months. While ant traps and spray are efficient, they are highly toxic and have no place around baby. Plain ol’ soapy water works well to kill ants on contact, or you can make your own traps out of sugar, water, and borax (which, though chemical sounding, is nothing more than sodium borate, a natural mineral). Check out this Web site for bait recipes and tips.
Laundry You’ve likely already found that a baby-specific or natural detergent works best to get laundry clean without irritating baby’s delicate skin. That’s because many conventional detergents contain harsh chemicals and phosphates, which are as bad for the environment once they wash down the drain as they are for our skin, the body’s largest organ. If you haven’t already, switch to a natural, plant-based detergent like Charlie’s or Seventh Generation. And toss the stain stick and fabric softener, too; pre-soak stains in vinegar and water or borax and water, and add ¼ cup of baking soda to your wash cycle to soften fabrics.
And at the risk of sounding like a broken record: go organic, choose glass (or stainless steel) over plastic, and avoid anything that could contain phthalates, BPA, lead, PVC, chlorine, or other nasty chemicals.