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DIY baby proofing proves unsafe in tests

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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – If you have little kids, then you know all about the custom, baby proofing items that you can buy to keep them safe. Outlet covers, and plastic catches to prevent little ones from getting into the cabinets are just a couple of examples. While there are a ton of baby proofing products on the market, some cost as much as 16 dollars each. That's why many try to baby proof on a budget, but we found the savings could be putting your kids at risk.

This story started as a way to help you save money. Instead of buying all the specialty items sold in stores, we wanted to find ways to help you baby proof on a budget. Tons of websites, reputable websites, talk about how you can use cheaper alternatives, like duct tape and rubber bands, to baby proof your home. But as we tested out each of these do-it-yourself versions, we were unpleasantly surprised.

We took Liam, a typical, curios two year old, and Brady, my 14-month-old son, and let them test out some of the DIY safety tricks.

First up, the electrical outlets. Instead of the plastic pieces that block the holes, DIY experts suggest using duct tape. So we did, and then we called Liam over. He struggled for only a second before pulling the tape right off. The outlet was completely exposed. Just as a comparison, we had him try his hand at the plastic pieces, sold specifically to cover the outlet. He couldn't get it off and he lost interest really fast. His mom, Jessica Stewart, wasn't surprised.

"He can't get them off. I can barely get them off they are such a pain," Jessica said. "When I am trying to vacuum, it's very difficult for me, and him too with his dexterity. But the tape, no time at all. And that was heavy duty duct tape."

And that was not the only DIY trick that failed our tests. Using a tennis ball on sharp corners instead of the specialty styrofoam pieces sounds good, but we struggled to even get the tennis ball on. As for Liam, he walked over and pulled it right off, exposing a sharp corner. 

Next, instead of catches or locks, we took the DIY advice to use a coated rubber band to keep the cabinets closed. To get the boys interested enough to investigate, we put a toy inside the cabinets with the rubber band on the knobs. Liam was not able to figure out how to bend down to get the truck, but he was able to open the cabinets enough that his mom knew this was a no go.

Jessica said, "He could get it open and even though he couldn't figure it out, I don't think it would take him too long to figure it out. Plus, with two of them, one would hold it open and one would pull it out so I would not use those. The locks that go in there work much better for me."

But even the locks opened our eyes to something concerning. I put Brady's pacifier in the cabinet with the custom child safety catch that's sold in stores. I let him watch as I placed the pacifier in there and then turned away. He was able to open the cabinet enough that he could reach in, and grab it in just a few seconds. He was clearly proud of his accomplishment

Now to one of the most expensive specialty items, sold for 16 bucks each to keep doors closed. Neither Liam nor Brady could figure out how to get around it, however, budget friendly sites says save the money and just fold a washcloth and put it up high between the door and the frame. Brady, who has already mastered opening doors, falls trying to open it when the wash cloth is in place. When Liam, who is a little older, tried it, he couldn't get it at first but then realized all he had to do was push on the door. It opened right away and the washcloth tumbled to the ground.

Of all the things we tried, the only DIY trick that came close to cutting it was putting velcro on the bottom of the remote to keep it out of little hands.

"Our remote controls are currently held together with rubber bands because my kids have broken them so many times and I never thought to use velcro and he tried once and gave up right away," Jessica said.

She added that this is the only DIY thing she's willing to try or suggest from the list of budget busting tips.

"I think it depends on your kid, but I look at how it went with my kid and he's two. I can't imagine what my four year old would have done with it."

Baby proofing is serious business. To find out a ways you can protect your children, print out this checklist from babycenter.com. It includes all of the things you need to review in your home before your child starts crawling.

Also, check out this complete guide from Parents.com on Babyproofing 101. It covers everything from toy safety, lead poisoning, fire safety and more.