Saturday, March 1, 2014

Toddler-Proofing the Living Room

Since I can't leave Hudson in a pack-n-play 24 hours a day, I knew I had to find a way to make our living room work for all ages. I think back to those days when he would just lay on a blanket or play-mat. Those days are long gone! He needs to play and explore. But I didn't want the space to feel like a day care - covered in toys with no sign of an adult living to be seen. So, by trial and error, I have found a few things that make our room work as a place for Jeremiah and I to relax as well as a fun space for a one year old.

These things that work for us, may not work for every child - but I thought I would share just in case!

Around Christmas-time, I realized a key to Hudson's happiness. He needs to be able to explore. I was forever telling him not to touch something or not to open a cabinet door. One day, by accident, I put a few of his books on the bottom shelf of my library cart. Immediately, he began taking the books off the shelf and putting them back on. Not in the color-coded, alphabetized way that I would have done it - but he was entertaining himself!

1. Give the child something they can "get into"

I have since rearranged the living room and the library cart has found a new home. I did, however, decide to give Hudson more spaces that are "his."

The bottom lower shelf of our entertainment center remains empty. I will either put some of his toys in this space for him to pull down. Or I often find him storing some of his own treasures on the shelf.

I know that not every child is the same - but Hudson seems to leave other areas of our living room alone if he knows what areas he can touch.

For example, he is now strong enough to open these card catalog drawers that hold our DVDs. However, it now only takes an occasional "no, no" to steer him towards another play area.

It's more fun for everyone if our entire living room isn't full of "no no"s.

2. Make the living room easy to pick up/hide toys. 

This took some rearranging, on my part. I moved the red hutch that used to sit in my kitchen into our living room. I can store Hudson's toys inside the bottom cabinets.

I also keep a large basket on the other side of the couch. Once Hudson goes to bed or down for a nap, I can pick up toys in less than a minute. I find that I can relax better in a clutter-free place.

When Hudson is awake and running, I keep the coffee table cleared. I have coasters and a candle on an old cast iron griddle (or a tray of any kind would work). I can easily move all these items out of his reach.

Hudson also seems to play better when the toys are picked up. He loves to pull items out of baskets or tubs.  More adventurous, I guess.

After I took down our Christmas tree, I decided to keep Hudson's books in the galvanized tub. He loves to pull them out and look at them on his own. He has also started helping me pick them up sometimes.

3. It's ok to "fence them in."

I think kids need boundaries. We are able to close the doors in our long hallway. Hudson loves to run up and down the hall and I love that he gets some energy out in this way.

Since our house has a split level foyer, we put a gate at the top of the stairs.

At first, I thought that the gates would be annoying - but they are easy to swing open and closed. And if this will save us from a tumble, I am all for it.

We also chose to put gates at our kitchen doors. There are just too many things to "child-proof" in the cooking area.

I have learned, though, that if I need to entertain Hudson in a new way, letting him walk in a normally off-limit area is a big deal! He loves a walk through the kitchen or getting to explore the guest bedroom. He quickly notices if a door is open the hallway too. He will take off running! He knows the normal boundaries.

Since the VCR (yes, we still have one of those) is just too enticing for those little fingers, I put an ottoman in front of the tv.

This keeps little hands and toys out of the electronic devices and makes Hudson not go nose-to-nose with Daniel Tiger on the TV. "Ugga-Mugga"

4. Don't put all the toys out at one time.

This is a tip that I learned from my mom. She would rotate our toys - if all the toys are out all the time, it's less exciting. This also helps me avoid the "day-care look." If I bring out a different tractor or some other blocks, Hudson is immediately entertained.  I reserve certain toys for the car or long trips. Other toys are great for when I need to fold some clothes in the basement. And clean up is a breeze.

We keep his tunnel put up until he is having a rough day. It's an immediate mood booster.

5. Rotate the toy locations in the living room.  This is easy to do if you are keeping toys or books in tubs and baskets.

For now, his books are in front of the hutch.  (It's also keeping Hudson from getting into the "hidden toys" in the cabinet. He loves when I let him open the doors and choose toys).

The books used to be over by the entertainment center.

Just moving the tub made everything seem new again.

For now, this is working for us. Until we are able to play outside in warm weather, I will keep trying to entertain this little guy inside.

And for those of you who are wondering, I do have to pick up toys that get tossed through the banister down the stairs. But for now, it's not a huge problem and only seems to happen once every few days.

I would love to know tips that other mothers have learned. It's hard to get every idea or solution into one blog post, and I love learning from other moms how they are surviving.

A friend of mine just posted about how to entertain a little boy with a broken leg - check out her post for some great ideas! 


  1. Thank you!!! Look me up on insta (tori2477) .... We have a split foyer and have to baby proof soon as he is 5 months! I could use tips (I have photos of our upstairs living...) the placement of the couch and tv seem like the only spots possible....

  2. Cute ideas!! Your red hutch looks cute in the living room!

  3. Pic #2 - WHALES !!!
    Pic #11 - a little pre triathlon stretching
    Pic #12 - if he mows in that onesie getting grass stains out is gonna be a hot mess
    Pic #20 - I AM THE PLAYGROUND KING OF THE WORLDDDDDDDDDDDDD!!!! (said in a jack dawson from titanic tone....with arms held high)