Apartment Baby-Proofing: Creating a Temporary Safe Zone

baby-proof apartmentJust because you haven't gotten around to having your own kids yet, doesn't mean your friends or family members haven't been procreating. So what do you do when a dinner turns into a playdate? Here are 10 tips for temporarily baby-proofing your home, so all can enjoy your delicious dinner without worrying about Junior jamming little fingers into a light socket.

By applying a few of these tips to make your apartment baby-friendly, you are guaranteed a spot in the cool-friend/aunt/uncle hall of fame.1. Create a Baby Room: Decide on a room in the apartment on which to focus. If you are going to spend most of your time in one room, make it that one. Move important, fragile or tempting items into another room and close its door. You might also want to consider moving larger furnishing into another room if you can. That way, those little crawlers have a wide-open space to explore.

2. Create a Baby Area: If your apartment is a one-room studio, make up a baby area. By laying pillows in a circle and layering blankets in the middle you can make a "nest" where the little ones can play. All the toys and kids go on top of the blankets. (You'll find it's also easier to take turns "guarding" the group when the pillows serve as obstacles the kids have to crawl over to get out. Tip: The better the crawler, the more pillows you'll need.)

3. Light sockets: A lot of people compensate for an apartment's lack of electric sockets with power strips that might just as easily serve an appliance store. Then there are those daisy chains that allow people to plug in the blender in the bathroom, but still use it in the kitchen. With all of those sockets around, your apartment probably has "keep the baby away" written all over it. To baby-proof, try to elevate or tape up those power strips and extensions so a baby can't reach them; cover the floor-level ones with child-proof outlet covers or strips of electrical tape. (Hardware stores sell them for about $2.25 a roll.)

4. Consider Corners: Look around your apartment for anything with sharp corners. A fancy glass table can be instantly baby-proofed by covering it with a blanket that can be tucked under its legs. Other corners can be covered with taped-on bubble wrap (small bags are under $10.00). If you don't want to bother with bubble wrap, pad packing tape with cotton balls and tape it to the corners of tables, window sills and counters. What it lacks in attractiveness it will make up for in points for "cool," when those moms realize how hard you worked to keep their little ones safe.

5. Fling-ables: Look around for things that, when flung, might cause injury. Babies, especially the ones able to pull themselves up with the help of tables and chairs, are quick to reach for anything not locked down. So make sure that anything they might grab will not hurt them or anyone or anything in their immediate vicinity. In fact, just remove anything that an ambitious baby might try to grab.

6. Special Items: Watch out for your favorite or most valuable items. For example, if you have a laptop at one end of a table, don't forget that spilled milk can travel fast. And while you don't need to dress like a cross between Mary Poppins and SuperNanny, maybe don't wear that vintage Chanel. The best thing is to put all the valuables away for the evening. That way no one is begging forgiveness for sticky fingers, and you won't rue the day you let those fingers near your favorite sweater.

7. Sparkly Things: Make sure the only sparkly or kid-beckoning items you leave out are items they can neither swallow nor destroy -- unless you are OK with them being destroyed. For some reason, kids seem to love entertainment systems. So maybe consider throwing a tapestry over the whole thing. Out of sight, out of mind. (As a side note on the entertainment system, as well as bookshelves and CD or video cases: Make sure that these things can't be pulled down and on top of children who are used to pulling themselves up by whatever they can. If you are concerned about this, make sure to keep kids away from them.)

8. Keep It Organized: Have some uptempo, baby-friendly tunes on hand to play in the background - or even to host an impromptu dance party. Also, placing stickers on hands, walls and under tables are a good way to keep busy hands busy (just check with the moms to make sure stickers are age appropriate for their little ones). If there are enough wee ones at the party, it can't hurt to schedule activities and people to serve as baby monitors throughout the afternoon/evening.

9. The Makeshift Baby Gate: If you can't borrow baby gates from neighbors and it's too big of a hassle to ask friends to bring theirs, get creative about blocking off stairways and open rooms. Chairs turned on their sides are a fairly decent alternative. Reuse that electrical tape to hang a sheet over an open doorway. Just be careful that whatever you use to block a path doesn't end up becoming more dangerous than the path itself.

10. Be Prepared: Give yourself a budget, but go ahead and stock up on a few items that any mother will be thrilled to have in case of emergency. While most will bring their own diapers, lotions and bottles, it would be a great gesture to provide your littlest houseguests with a few additional games and treats for their playdate in your home. Once you know the ages of the babies, you can go online to figure out what the appropriate snacks and toys are.

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