Archive for the ‘Parents’ Category

Make a safety gate for stairs without damaging the bannister

09 Aug

Stair gate overviewGates at the top of a flight of stairs are essential to save toddlers from a nasty fall, and they are fairly easy to install in most homes if there is a wall on each side of the stairs. However, the bottom of a flight of stairs (and sometimes the top, too) often has a bannister on one side. In my house, we installed a traditional gate at the top of the stairs for safety, but at the foot of the stairs, one side of the stairs has a handmade wooden bannister, and the other side has a wall of faux brick; holes in either side here would be tougher to repair than holes in wood paneling or drywall. If you don’t want to drill holes and damage your bannister and walls, you’ll need a more creative gate.

My gates consists of two layers of cloth stitched together with a layer of cotton batting in the middle. The right and left edges have large grommets that can be attached to a post or hook with cable ties, carabiners, or other fasteners. I wrapped black cloth around our newel post to protect it from scratches, and I attached one end of the gate to the post using black cable ties. The other side is the side that can be opened; it attaches to the wall with a carabiner through an eye hook and with two removable Command Cord Bundlers ( They use a removable adhesive, so they will not leave a hole behind when they are removed. I used cable ties to create loops to connect the grommets to the cord bundlers.

Stair gate on newel postStair gate carabiner attachment

Please note that this gate is not a foolproof safety solution; it is a deterrent to keep children from entering the stairs unnoticed. Kids can learn to open the gate, and they can also peel the cord bundlers off the wall if they push the gate hard enough. My daughter did both of these things eventually…but by that point, she was confident on the stairs and didn’t need as much protection. The gate still functioned as a deterrent; it slowed her down enough that she couldn’t run upstairs without someone noticing.

Taking down the gate for good is easy: cut the cable ties from the newel post, peel the cord bundlers off the wall, unscrew the eye hook from the baseboard, and patch the single hole in the baseboard. This homemade gate leaves only one hole, which should be a lot easier and less conspicuous to repair than trying to patch multiple holes in the newel post and faux brick.

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Make an airtight diaper pail for less than $5

23 Feb

Homemade, airtight diaper pailsFor me, the benefits of cloth diapers (saving money, avoiding blowouts, and reducing trash output) easily outweigh the inconveniences (washing, stuffing, and storing the diapers). However, storing three days worth of smelly diapers requires several effective diaper pails to keep the house from smelling like a litter box. Diaper pails can be surprisingly expensive, though, so you may want to make your own like I did. Why spend $30 on one bin when you can have a whole fleet of them for less than half that much?

For less than $5, you can make a diaper pail that will easily hold a day’s worth of diapers; I use three of these bins in different locations around the house so we never have to carry a dirty diaper very far. It is a simple matter of buying two identical trash cans and making minor modifications so one trashcan can serve as the lid for the other.

Tools and materials:

  • Two FNISS wastebaskets from IKEA ($1.99 each as of this moment)
  • Cabinet knob
  • Foam pipe insulation
  • Utility knife
  • Drill
  • Duct tape or gaffer’s tape

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Cloth diapers: better, cheaper, and a bit more work

07 Feb

Diapers and dinosaur modelIf you have a baby in need of diapers, you might be surprised at how easy cloth diapering can be. I have been using cloth diapers on my daughter for five months and have only good things to report. In my experience, cloth diapers have been better than disposable diapers on nearly all levels. I’ll admit that disposable diapers are simpler and more convenient than their reusable counterparts, but they also seem to have more leaks and blow-outs, too, which is far from convenient. Just as important to me: I’m on track to save hundreds of dollars on diapers this year alone because washing diapers is cheaper than buying disposable ones.

There are lots of brands out there and a lot of choices to make. I’ll explain how I chose these diapers and how to use, wash, and maintain them.

What kind of diapers to get: The diapers shown here are the bumGenius “Cloth Diaper 4.0 One-Size” model. This style of diaper comes in two parts: a sturdy shell with elastic and fasteners to hold it on, and a removable microfiber pad that fits inside to absorb any liquid and keep the shell leak-free. Two-part reusable diapers are common these days, but there are also all-in-one diapers that let you skip the step of stuffing the pad into the shell before you use it. I prefer the two-part variety because I can dry the shell and the pad separately. Line-drying the shells makes their elastic and quick-drying capabilities last longer, while the pads will dry quickly in any dryer with no ill consequences. The pocket style also lets me stuff in an extra pad when desired, such as for overnight or traveling.

Diapers on drying rack Diapers and inserts Pile of diapers

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