This isn’t merely a matter of safety and courtesy for the visiting family or children, which is of course crucial. This is also a matter of protecting your own property (and avoiding any potential liability for an injury or mishap). After all, do you really want your sister’s toddler playing with your cherished handcrafted knick-nack from your last vacation? Or your beloved grandchild juggling your blown art glass? I didn’t think so.
Talk to the parents
First off, I would have a discussion about this issue well before the visit. Find out what the parents’ concerns are. Ask what the baby or child is doing. For instance, a new crawler or walker is sure to explore (and find) anything and everything.
Respect the parent’s wishes about what is or isn’t safe. So you think it’s silly to put plug protectors in? They didn’t have them when you had children, and somehow your kids survived, right? Still, it is truly a harmless thing to give the parents some peace of mind. If it doesn’t damage your house, why not let them do it?
There’s nothing saying you have to fork over a hundred bucks buying safety devices. Give the parents the option of bringing their own childproofing and babyproofing items.
Protect yourself and your stuff
Don’t be afraid to get a gate. If you really have many objets d’art lying about the house, or several hazards for a child, it will probably be easier to concentrate on your living room and the guest room the child will stay in. It’s better to confine children to a couple rooms you’re sure are safe than to have several rooms that are just kind of safer. It only takes one hazard to lead to disaster.
Even if you get a gate, don’t forget that there are some areas a child will have to enter at some point. If the child is potty trained, they will be going into your bathroom. When you eat meals, the child will be in your dining room.
Yes, that antique crib is lovely, but…
Don’t assume parents will want to use your vintage baby gear or children’s toys. Anything that hasn’t been made in recent years probably doesn’t meet the Consumer Product Safety Commission standards.
Be sure you advise the visiting family to bring their own important gear. All babies should have new cribs, travel playpens or travel baby beds. You should absolutely never place an infant or even young toddler to sleep on an adult bed. If they will be flying in without a car seat, you will be in violation of the law if you drive with a baby not using a proper car seat for their age. Again, work this detail out beforehand.
Think like a child
Before the children arrive, scour your house. Get down on your hands and knees. If you were a bored, antsy and curious baby or child, what would you do? You’d probably grab that shiny, pretty glass object off the shelf. You might try to climb that decorative trellis. Would you take a sip of that tempting bottle of cleaning solution? Might you trip over the lip on the fireplace surround while running in a state of hyperactivity? Perhaps.
Whatever you encounter that is precious or dangerous, secure it, remove it or place it out of reach. Don’t just look for the big, obvious things. Often it is the little, seemingly insignificant item that causes the most trouble.
Do you have butcher knives sitting in a kitchen drawer? Do something with them. Do you have medicine laying around? Put it up. What about your purse sitting on the floor? I’ll bet there are some serious hazards in there. Keep it up on a shelf. Do you have several pens and markers strewn around the house? Unless you want an impromptu mural on your living room wall, I’d suggest moving them.
You’re the host. Entertain!
The best way to ensure everyone is miserable is to forget these are children. If you give them nothing to do, they will find ways to stay busy. Probably that will mean doing something that you don’t like. Be sure to have activities on hand for the children. It doesn’t cost much to go to the dollar store and buy a few toys or coloring books.
If they are happy and entertained, you will have truly done your job of being a great host for children.