Families with toddlers need to put safety of young members of the family ahead of the look of the house. Some changes in the house can help in achieving this objective.
In India, most of the first-time home-buyers are of the age between 25-30. Amongst them, a lot are newly married and some having newborns and toddlers. Babies start crawling from the age of 7-8 months and roam around the house. They will start taking steps to walk as early as 9 months and if late, by 15-16 months. While buying a property, please keep this growing bundle of joy in mind and follow the steps below:
If you are lucky enough to buy from a builder who is willing to make small alterations, great. If that option isn't available or you are buying a home on resale, I recommend few alterations in the home.
1. Floor - Apart from cleanliness, you need to ensure that the floor is structurally smooth, with no protuberance which can hurt the baby's knees, palms or feet. Various types of flooring is offered by the builder which are sometimes optional too. Tiles, need to be fixed nicely and marble should be laid without any broken corners. Wooden floor quality should be of top quality and fixed evenly.
2. Electrical points - Preferably at a height where small children upto 5-6 years can not reach. Plug points should not be left open and covered with holders available in the market. babies have small fingers and they tend to put their fingers inside these small holes. Switch points which are at lower level, like nest to bed, table lamp points should be covered with holders when unused & when in use, babies should not left unattended around those sockets.
3. Balcony railings - Designer railing look good and plenty have designs which are like straight steps where a child can easily climb like stairs! Please try to avoid such designs. If there's any vertical design which can not be climbed upon, that's the best. Also notice if any sharp edges are there which can cut your child. These are mostly wrought iron and if cut by these your child will need immediate medical attention.
4. Grill - Better to be careful than sorry. Cover your balcony even if you are on first or second floor. Builders will generally have a standard design of grills for all occupants to make the building look good. Take help of their vendors to fix the same kind.
5. Window - Modern day apartment building have open windows with sliding shutters and is extremely risky for children who can push them open & peep. You may not always remember to lock it and even if you do, children will quickly learn how to open it too. Window grills are a must and if builder doesn't allow it on outer facade, fix them internally for your child's safety.
6. Planter box - Penhomes, Duplex, apartment with large patio or balcony will have provision of planter box which may be hanging out of the balcony or within the square-feet area. Firstly, choose plants which are child-health friendly. Chidren tend to put everything in their mouth. So, cactus with thorns or other poisonous/harmful plantation are a big no-no. Have tulsi, marigold, hibiscus etc. instead and drop rose even if it looks more pretty.
7. Kitchen - Open kitchen is a craze these days. It looks good and living dining area seems more specious, but responsibility increases. No sharp cutters like knife etc should be left on the floor or even on the kitchen-slab close to the child's reach, the waste bin should be covered hidden inside a closed cupboard, floor should be always clean. White goods like microwave, toasters, mixer should be stored at a height. Refrigerator should be locked, washing machine and dryer should not be front loading and switches of all these high-voltage gadgets should always be at a height and covered when unused. Design your kitchen accordingly.
8. Bathroom - Always keep the door closed. Keep the water closet covered, waste basket with a lid; hair dryer, shaving kit away, plug points at a height which are out of children's reach. Water buckets etc. not to be filled with water unnecessarily. Bathtub area closed with sliding glass door(shower curtain is not enough). Avoid auto-locks. A door with auto locks get locked if the baby pushes the door after getting in the bathroom. If bolts are used, should be at the top of the door and not near the handle where baby can also reach.
9. Wall paint - Emission of toxic materials from fresh paints inside the house could be harmful for babies. Try not to enter the home till the smell fades away. With some low-quality paints the smell never goes. Please check with your builder as to what quality paint is being used and if there's no choice to better it, pay additional amount to get a safe paint done.
10. Fan & Air-conditioner - Children bedrooms are not only about their floor, paint and furniture. Please make sure you don't place the bed right below the fan or directly under the blow of air-conditioner. Use good quality products which require lesser maintenance and consumes lesser electricity, makes no noise.....in a nutshell, the best quality. Even better than the master suite you will use.
11. Staircase/internal lift - If you are buying a villa, row-house, penthouse, duplex or triplex there will definitely be internal staircase and sometimes a private lift. Be super-cautious. Fix small gate at the entrance of the stairs in lower floor as well as the higher floor to stop the baby from trying to crawl up or down. Spiral staircase is more risky(as there will be more gaps in between) than a three/two turn staircase with small landings. If you fix wooden planks, make sure it is fixed nicely without any uneven edges. Granites are generally more slippery, marble is extremely hard material and cold during winters. So, choose wisely.
At the end, being a responsible parent your focus should be more on safety measures than the beauty of the property you choose. A builder who is understanding and co-operating with your need should be chosen. Few large developers do not want to accommodate and they should also gradually get accustomed to the new-era "children/aged parents/pet friendly" homes as the requirement is changing. 'Beautiful' homes are no more the end of requirement.