May 2, 2009
home & garden
Baby, it's safe
While some parents make their homes childproof, others believe in teaching their kids about safety
By tay suan chiang
Home owners Ruth Soh and Gabriel Chan were so happy when they moved into their five-room HDB flat in Bishan four years ago.
It was just the way they wanted it, complete with a cute cottage theme.
'It felt like an English countryside home for two lovebirds,' says Ms Soh, 38, a public relations consultant, with a sigh.
The centre of attraction was the crystal chandelier in the living room that the couple bought for about $600.
But the houseproud pair had to give their dream home a massive makeover when daughter, Caitlin, came along in 2007.
It was goodbye to the unblocked views of the cityscape surroundings from the windows of their 11th-storey flat.
'The lovely view is now marred by window grilles which we installed last year,' says Ms Soh.
Little Caitlin is still too short to reach the windows, but her parents are not taking any chances.
'We like to carry her to the window to show her the view. With the grilles, we don't have to worry about her falling out,' Ms Soh says. The couple spent about $1,200 on the grilles.
Down came the chandelier, which the couple threw away, and in its place is a ceiling fan, which cost about $200.
'Since Caitlin perspires easily, we thought it was better to have a fan than a lamp,' says the mum, who usually plays with her daughter in the living room.
And what was once a tidy home is now littered with toys. A colourful rubber mat that Caitlin likes to play on sits in the centre of the living room.
Unfortunately, the colours jar with the rest of the furnishings.
As Caitlin grows older and taller, Ms Soh says she will soon have to consider putting rubber protectors around the sharp corners of furniture.
'We plan to install gates around the home such as in the kitchen and balcony to keep Caitlin out,' she adds.
Other home owners who have new additions to the family are also finding that they have to make new 'additions' to their home to make it safe for their young ones.
Nine months ago, housewife Yong Wai Na, 35, began putting rubber protectors on the corners of her coffee table and cabinets to prevent her son, Sean, two, from banging into them and hurting himself.
She has also covered unused sockets with plastic guards so he does not stick a steel object into them, as boys are wont to do, and electrocute himself.
The gadgets are not aesthetically pleasing, but Ms Yong says they are necessary for her child's safety.
'I wished I had taken steps to protect the knobs on my hi-fi set though, as they have been yanked out by Sean,' says Ms Yong, who lives in a terrace house near Newton.
Housewife Lilian See, 28, recently installed locks on her cupboards to prevent her five-year-old twin sons, Russell and Luke, from opening them.
'I've also put a lock on the fridge as the boys know how to open it,' she says.
Two years ago, she got rid of the floor-length curtains in her four-room apartment and installed roller blinds instead.
That was because the twins would crawl to the curtains to try and climb on them. Rather than wait for an accident to happen, Ms See changed her curtains to blinds.
'I have them partially lowered, so the boys cannot touch them,' she says.
While child-proofing the home is the way to go for some parents, other parents say teaching the child about safety is just as important.
'You can put safety measures all around the home, but the best solution is to teach kids to respect the stuff and obey boundaries,' says Ms Yong, who points out the dangers around the home to her son.
Civil servant Adeline Chong, 34, and mother of 30-month-old Aerin says: 'My husband and I feel she should learn to adapt to the environment and be able to tell what is safe and what isn't,' she says. 'We tell her not to touch knives, the hot water flask, the stove and the fan.'
Ms Chong did not child-proof her home, except for installing a barricade after Aerin rolled off the couple's platform bed twice.
Relations manager Fiona Manini, 36, began teaching her two children about respecting their surroundings from an early age.
She says she has too many decorative items around her four-bedroom condominium apartment to keep away from her children, Allegra, five, and Giacomo, two.
'No home should be like a museum where kids are afraid of or reprimanded for touching things,' says Ms Manini. 'As parents, we need to teach them how they should handle things and what can be touched but not played with like a toy.'
But she does note: 'Kids these days are a lot more intelligent and know what's safe and what's not. But as a precaution, I never leave a child unattended.'