When your baby gets old enough to start playing, there are many things to take into consideration. It’s an excellent idea to give your baby to have their own space to play in—you might not realise it, but babies need independence!
The best way to do this is to give them a safe, designated play area.
Since your home will be different from my home or anyone else’s home, it will take some thought and creativity on your part to create the perfect baby play area.
Toddlers are natural explorers, and to them, your home is one colossal discovery zone. This is a good thing because investigating their surroundings and trying new things is how children learn.
What becomes tricky is keeping your curious toddler safe while they learn and explore.
If left to their own devices, toddlers will gleefully scout what’s fallen under the sofa (and likely taste it), reach for items that might topple over, and otherwise, bounce around the house unaware of any potential dangers.
That’s where a safe toddler play area comes in. Direct supervision is ideal, but even when you’re right there, your child can get hurt. Online baby product directory at My Baby Nursery.
Here’s how to keep your toddler safe when you can’t watch closely for a few seconds, or you need to make a quick dash to the bathroom, and some general tips you can follow that will help in your planning.
How to Set up a Safe and Secure Play Space
Don’t Rely on Rules.
Most toddlers are too young to understand even simple rules of what’s off-limits—at least consistently.
Explaining that the kitchen cabinets are a no-go or disciplining toddlers for knocking things over likely won’t work because they don’t have the required cognitive skills yet.
If you tell your toddler “No,” they’ll likely try again in a few minutes.
Children don’t readily understand consequences or rules until they’re at least three years old. (Even then, they’ll still need lots of reminders.)
Choose a Safe Play Area
No matter how large or small your home is, you can create a safe space for your toddler. You have a few options, depending on the age of your child. You can also put your child in their crib in a pinch, though it shouldn’t be used as a play space in general.
Very young toddlers might still be able to use self-contained, stationary activity centres, swings, or exersaucers, where they can stand at a platform or sit in a swing and still have access to some handy toys.
Some toddlers love the playpen. Others resist being confined to a small space once they can walk and explore.
Increase the odds that your child will enjoy this safe space by stocking it with their favourite playthings. A playpen is a good solution for a run to the laundry room or a similar, quick task.
For older toddlers and those who don’t like to be confined, try expanding their play spaces.
You can purchase toy “walls” that entertain kids with lights, sounds, and other fun tactile and visual elements while keeping them contained in a safe area.
These give toddlers room to walk around and encourage independent play for more extended periods.
You can allow your child more room to roam if you block off danger zones (such as stairs, the kitchen, and bathrooms) with baby gates, put foam child protectors over sharp hazards, and anchor furniture to the wall.
Giving your little one room to wander and explore while you stay nearby helps build independence and satisfy natural curiosity—while protecting them from danger.
Toddlers tend to put anything and everything in their mouths; if an object can fit through the hole of a toilet paper roll, it can be a choking hazard for a child under three.
If you let your child handle an item that isn’t specifically child-safe (such as your cell phone or keys) when you’re closely supervising, be sure not to leave it in a play area. Only put 100% safe toys in the secured play area.
However you create a safe space for your child, always aim to remain within eyesight.
Protected play spaces let you supervise while still allowing you to fold the laundry across the room without little hands dismantling your piles.
If you need to be away from your active toddler for more than a few minutes, look for ways to set up the secure play area near you so you can continue supervising.
Put the playpen in the kitchen while you cook—or even right in the bathroom so you can take a more extended shower.
Secure and Childproof Your Home
In tandem with creating safe play spaces, be sure to also childproof the rest of your home.
Toddlers are constantly developing new skills (such as climbing out of the playpen), so you’ll need to stay one step ahead.
In the blink of an eye, curious and fearless toddlers may learn to scale a bookshelf, unlock safety gates, unbuckle harnesses, or wiggle through the opening between the couch and the wall.
For those reasons, try never to be out of eye- or earshot for more than a minute or two. Additionally, keep these essential safety tips in mind:
- Start childproofing before your baby is mobile. If you need help, check online for local businesses that will come to your home and childproof for you.
- Then, childproof everything. Windows, cabinets, cooking equipment, stairs, electrical outlets, and any hazardous materials or weapons—they all need to be locked up or made inaccessible to small hands.
- Keep a monitor nearby. If you can’t always see your toddler, put a video or audio baby monitor with them, and keep the receiver with you at all times. If the monitor has a cord, secure it properly, so it is not a strangulation risk.
- Don’t be gone for long. It’s easy to think it will only take you a few minutes to shower, but it’s just as easy to get distracted and linger a bit too long.
- Accidents happen fast, and no matter how well you think you’ve secured your child’s play area, you may have overlooked something that could cause harm.
What to Buy for Baby’s Play Area
There are a handful of things that we recommend purchasing for your baby’s play area to make it a safer and more fun place for them to be around.
One of the first things to purchase for your baby’s play area is an activity table. These tables are great because they are just the right level for your toddler and it encourages off the flooring play. You can place a train set on it, puzzles, a dollhouse, toy cars, you name it.
When your baby is still young, you probably want to keep them in a playpen, so you can keep them confined to a smaller place. My Baby Nursery has a wide range of baby nursery playpens for your little bub.
A play mat is another fantastic item to put in a play space for babies starting to crawl and showing curiosity about their environment but cannot really get up and go yet.
Playmats have tons of buttons to push, lights that blink, and other colourful and textured objects that can be manipulated.
If your baby’s play area is part of a larger room, such as a basement or living room, you may want to “wall it off” so that the baby has his own dedicated space.
Chances are, your little one is going to have his fair share of slips and falls in his play area. So, it’s a good idea to install some foam flooring, a pretty cheap way to protect him from falling.
If your play yard is going to be in an area near stairs (not recommended), or you want to keep your child out of other rooms of the house, a baby gate is a great solution.
Electrical Outlet Covers
If your play area has electrical outlets within your child’s reach, it’s vital to cover them out with outlet covers.
Tips for Maximising the Safety of Your Baby’s Play Area
Safe Baby Play Area
- Your play area must be safe; many children are injured or killed in accidents at home. You can do some things to make your play area as secure as possible, and here are some of them.
- The play area must always have someone to supervise at all times. Whether it’s you, your partner, another family member or an older, responsible sibling, someone should be keeping an eye on your baby at all times.
- The ideal play area will be in a safe place, with no access to stairs, no furniture or other items that might topple over, etc. There should also be nothing that your child might try to climb up onto or play with.
- Cover all electrical outlets with a socket cover. It’s even better if you can put the play area in a room without any electrical sockets in reach at all.
- Make sure that there are no dangling cords, curtain or blind drawstrings, or anything else that might be a strangulation hazard if within your baby’s reach.
- The play area should be spotless at all times. Even the most insignificant piece of dust in the ground will quickly end up in your curious baby’s mouth. Be sure to clean it regularly, and keep an eye out for any foreign objects that might end up in your baby’s reach.
- Give your play area a smooth, easy surface to play on. When your baby is crawling or learning to walk, they will be falling over a lot. An excellent solution to this is interlocking foam play mats: they make a perfect floor for your baby’s play area.
- Pay close attention to the baby toys you purchase. Always be sure to adhere to the age limits suggested by manufacturers, and remember that any toys with small parts are a choking hazard.
Baby Gate Safety
Before you buy a baby gate, consider the size of the space and whether a gate can be mounted safely where you need it. Never use pressure-mounted gates at the top of the stairs.
Use those that screw into the wall; pressure-mounted gates should only be used to block off a room or the bottom of the stairs—where there is no risk of falling. Never use gates with tempting footholds, horizontal slats, or accordion-style gates without a top filler bar.
Playroom Hazards and How to Avoid Them
Because children tend to spend a lot of time in playrooms, we researched some of the most common playroom hazards and what you can do to try and avert them.
They’re soft and cuddly, but your child’s stuffed toys can also be dangerous. To minimise the risk of suffocation, keep these toys away from areas where your infant may sleep or lay.
Babies and toddlers can pull off small pieces — like buttons and eyes — and choke on them, so make sure these are secure on all toys.
Finally, stuffed animals can harbour germs and bugs. Wash them regularly, and kill critters like lice and mites by putting them in the freezer overnight.
Children can be seriously harmed by accidentally swallowing small magnets. The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) recommends that toys with magnets be kept away from children younger than six. Search your child’s playroom for these toys, and remove them until your child can use them safely.
Furniture That Can Be Tipped Over
Safety brackets secure furniture — like bookshelves, dressers, and other furniture that can tip over — to the wall. If you can’t guarantee the item, move it out of the playroom.
An indoor trampoline seems less risky than an outdoor one, but it is still unsafe.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), kids should never use trampolines unless they are an athlete being supervised by a professional trainer.
If your playroom is equipped with a trampoline, give serious thought to replacing it with a less risky toy.
Art and Craft Supplies
From Play-Doh to crayons, glue, and paint, the vast majority of art and craft supplies marketed toward children are nontoxic.
However, that does not mean they’re entirely safe. If ingested, even nontoxic supplies can cause side effects like diarrhea, headaches, and nausea.
Until your kids are old enough to use these materials properly, consider making safer art supplies from scratch.
Small Toys and Trinkets
Choking is the fourth leading cause of accidental death in children under five. A toy small enough to fit through a toilet paper tube or small object tester presents the most significant choking hazard.
Dress-up jewellery, toy parts, balloons, and hair clips are everyday playroom items that should be stored out of your child’s reach until they are at least five years old.
Packaging and Bags
Kids’ toys and gadgets often come packaged in plastic wrap, foam peanuts, and other materials that can present suffocation and choking hazards.
Err on the side of caution by unpacking all boxes in an area your child can’t reach and disposing of packing materials immediately.
Other Common Household Hazards
The most dangerous items in your child’s play area aren’t limited to toys. Here are other hazards to look out for and what to do if you find them.
Dangling Electrical Cords
Dangling electrical cords can increase the risk of electrocution, strangulation, and tripping.
Ensure all of the electrical cords in your home are in good condition and secure them behind furniture or with a cord cover.
Broken Window Locks
Each year, thousands of kids are injured by falling out of windows. Keep your home’s windows shut, and ensure all window locks work correctly.
Fix or replace those that don’t, and install a monitored security system with window sensors for added peace of mind.
Window Blind Cords
Blind cords are a notorious choking and strangulation hazard, especially for infants and toddlers.
Use a blind cord wind up to store excess cord out of your child’s reach, or switch them out for window treatments without cords.
Keeping your family safe is a round-the-clock effort. While you can’t safeguard your children from all harm, using our advice may help reduce preventable injuries inside your home.
When your kids are outside or away from your residence, consider protecting them with a wearable GPS tracker.
Designing a neat baby play area is pretty easy if you do enough planning. Above all, make sure that it’s safe.
While the above tips should help, using common sense will help adapt the directions to your particular home. Check out our range of baby nursery products and furniture for all your baby needs.
Despite our best efforts, sometimes accidents happen. Every toddler will eventually get a scraped knee or a bruise from a fall.
Learning to walk and explore the world is a dangerous endeavour. But soon enough, toddlers will make way for steady runs and confident cartwheels.
And before you know it, your curious toddler will turn into a curious big kid, capable of safer choices while making their way in their world.