Preparing your home for your first grandchild
27 October 2021
The arrival of your first grandchild is an exciting time, but it’s also a very different experience to raising children in a less technological age.
In many respects, becoming a grandparent for the first time is better than being a new parent. There’s the same joy of new life, the thrill of spotting inherited features and traits, and the satisfaction of the family expanding. Yet you’re one step removed from the less pleasurable aspects of being a new parent, like sleeplessness and limited free time.
There’s less pressure on grandparents to create a baby-ready home than there is on parents, but you’ll still need to be ready to welcome the newest member of your family. Technology and social norms have both changed immensely in recent decades, and these are some of the things prospective grandparents should do to prepare their home for a new arrival…
It’s unlikely that a baby will be in every room of your house, so you shouldn’t need to make wholesale changes akin to when your own first-born arrived. However, some steps are still essential. Fit magnetic locks to ground-level cupboards containing anything harmful like cleaning products, and move sharp or breakable items to wall cabinets or higher shelves.
Skirting-level plug protectors keep out inquisitive fingers, and a stair gate will ensure upper storeys or key rooms are permanently out of bounds. Gardens also need consideration; are there thorny rose bushes or water features which could pose a risk? Similarly, if the baby will be having a bath, many older homes don’t have anti-scald hot taps or soft-close sink cabinets.
Once you’ve ensured your grandchild can’t fall downstairs or raid the spice cupboard, invest in a few practical items. It’s not worth buying a dedicated changing table unless the baby will be a daily visitor; look for trays which can be fitted onto existing furniture, or drawer units with removable trays which will remain useful once nappies are consigned to history (again).
Choose one or two rooms where the baby can play freely, which means you don’t have to hide every ornament and vase before each visit. Invest in dust sheets for messy sensory play, keeping little hands away from deep-pile carpets or freshly-decorated walls. Stressed parents often forget to bring everything they need, so keep nappies, wipes and toys in stock.
This is one area where there have been big changes since the millennium. The static-laden baby monitors of yesteryear have given way to digital devices which communicate via WiFi and often have wide-angle or night-vision video cameras. Some monitor sleep patterns or breathing, while smart bassinets offer multiple rocking settings and emit gentle white noise.
If the baby is staying overnight, smart lighting allows you to gradually dim illumination levels or turn a lamp off without having to creep across the room and risk disturbing it. If you haven’t yet invested in a smart speaker like an Amazon Alexa, this is a good time to introduce whole-home connectivity – you only need a 10Mbps ADSL connection.
Even though they have limited ability to interact with their world, babies still benefit from sensory input. Children’s TV shows like The Baby Club on CBeebies are ideal background entertainment, while audiobooks and Tonies provide engaging stories if you’re not able to sit and read The Gruffalo from cover to cover.
You won’t need as many toys as your own children will have bought (and they might bring preferred items with them on each visit), but a few teething toys and sensory blocks will be warmly received. You can also conjure entertainment out of anything to hand, cutting holes in tissue boxes to create hide-and-seek games, or using kitchen roll tubes to play peekaboo.