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Do you know what this is? This antique item helped parents to sleep in peace

Posted November 28, 2019

Some inventions come and go. They lose relevance due to the changes in our way of living. And so, sometimes we pick up an item in an antique store and cannot tell what it’s for, even though some years ago it was commonly used. Can you tell what this is? This thing allowed many German (and not just German) parents to sleep more calmly at night.

This is a simple device that looks a bit like compass, but it is much bigger. In fact, even when folded it can be as long as 40-50 cm. Do you know what it is?

Do you recognize this thing? Image credit: Betten-24 via Wikimedia(CC BY-SA 3.0)

This is a Bettschere, or, as we would translate this word, bed scissors. They were used for hundreds of years throughout Germany and the rest of Western Europe. Its name comes only from its shape – it doesn’t actually cut nor have a blade. It is made from wood and typically has 2 or 3 limbs.

This simple device is meant to train small children to sleep in bigger beds and to prevent them and their blankets from falling out. You see, the first bed of the child is a crib. It is impossible to fall out of a crib. When children grow a bit, they have to move to a normal bed. It may have guards, but eventually the child has to learn not to fall out of the bed. And Bettschere helps with that. It is inserted between the mattress and the frame and forms a temporary guard on the side of the bed. One, two or several Bettscheres can be used at a time.

Some bed scissors had three legs. Image credit: Betten-24 via Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Bettschere provides just enough protection that the child will not actually fall out of the bed, but it is flexible and small enough that it will allow child’s body to lead over the edge a bit. This will make the child learn to stay in the middle of the bed. At the same time, bedding does not fall on the floor. All in all, parents can sleep more peacefully, knowing that the child is safe and he or she won’t be calling in the middle of the night because the blanket fell off.

Bettschere is simple in its design, but genius at the same time. It’s scissor shape means that it can be fitted to different beds without any modifications. Because it does not really attached to the bed, the frame also does not have to be modified. Bettschere can span a bigger or smaller distance, depending on what parents want. The height of the guard is easily adjustable too. And when Bettschere is not needed anymore, it stores away in a neat little package.

Bed scissors in action – the simple design of this thing allowed for an easy adjustment of height. Image credit: Dguendel via Wikimedia (CC BY 4.0)

It is ok if you don’t know what this is. Bettschere went out of fashion long time ago, although some people are still using even more simple versions of it. On the other hand, nowadays beds for small children often come with some sort of a guar system. Bettschere was a very simple, but genius solution and in some cases that’s just a better way to go.

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