Keeping children safe is a top priority for parents. Gates on the stairs, plugs in the outlets, locks on the cabinets, and cleaning products up high are just a few examples of childproofing “to do’s” parents worry about from the minute they bring their baby home.
And once your baby starts rolling and crawling, it’s only a matter of time before they are pulling up and walking—and that’s when the real fun begins. You will spend the next several years trying to find the balance between letting your toddler explore their environment and keeping them safe from harm.
How to Baby-Proof Your House
If you grew up before the big push for child safety, then you’re probably asking yourself, “What’s the big deal?” After all, so many of us spent our younger years with exposed outlets, open staircases, and free access to anything in the cabinets.
Consumer safety has come a long way since then, and parents and caregivers want to provide the safest environment possible for their children – especially when you consider that many of the unintentional injuries that children experience each year happen at home. Even children’s toys can be dangerous, so always check for age-appropriateness and a choking hazard warning.
Start by Acting Like a Baby
In order to know exactly what needs to be secured, put away, or removed completely, you need to think and act like a young child. Kneel down on the floor and look around. Ask yourself a few questions when you’re down there.
- What could an infant pick up when they are first learning to crawl?
- How about when they start pulling up and walking?
- What hazards are now at their eye level? What is small enough (and intriguing enough) to want to put in your mouth?
Most Common Child Choking Hazards
- Small toys like Legos
- Small balls or marbles
- Balloons or balloon pieces
- Pen or marker caps
- Screws, nails, or other hardware
Assessing the environment on this level will help you determine what needs to be childproofed in your home.
If you have an older child who plays with toys like Legos, consider designating a space in their bedroom for play and keep the door closed at all times.
What Should I Childproof?
The internet is full of “how to” lists for childproofing your house which can make it difficult for parents to know who they should trust. Fortunately, there are organizations that publish up-to-date standards that do not link to products they might profit from. The following childproofing tips come from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC).
Baby-Proofing the Whole House
- Cover all electrical outlets with child safety plate covers or use plugs if you need access to the outlets.
- Install safety gates in areas to help prevent falls down stairs and to keep a child out of a room. For the top of the stairs, only use gates that screw to the wall.
- Keep houseplants out of children’s reach.
- Place a barrier around the fireplace or other heat sources.
- Secure cords from lamps, computers, TV’s, etc — anything that can be pulled down.
- Keep sharp furniture corners cushioned/covered.
- Keep sliding glass doors closed and locked.
- Lock windows and use window stops or window guards. Make sure screens are secure and limit window openings to four inches or less, including the space between the window guard bars.
- Shorten the cords on draperies and blinds (make sure they are out of reach). CPSC recommends cordless window coverings in homes with young children.
- Bolt or otherwise secure heavy dressers, entertainment centers, and bookcases to the wall.
- Make sure you have properly working smoke alarms on every level of your home, inside each bedroom, and outside sleeping areas to alert you of fires.
Baby-Proofing the Kitchen
- Unplug small appliances and keep them out of reach.
- Remove sharp items from countertops. Store kitchen/utility knives, razors, and other dangerous tools and sharp objects out of reach (this also applies to tools in the garage).
- Install stove knob covers, and latches on drawers and cabinets. Consider having one cabinet that is “toddler-safe” with plastic bowls, cups, and spoons for her to play with.
- Get rid of tablecloths—little ones learning to pull up love to grab onto these.
Baby-Proofing the Bathroom
- Use a non-skid bath mat in the tub.
- Make sure the hottest temperature at the faucet and shower head should be no more than 120 degrees Fahrenheit to avoid burns.
- Install latches on drawers and cabinets. Keep medicine cabinets latched and/or locked. Consider storing all medicine in a locked cabinet in the kitchen.
Baby-Proofing the Bedroom
- Do not put a bed, or any other furniture, under a window. Toddlers love to climb furniture and placing beds, couches, or other items under a window gives them easy access to a dangerous situation.
- Make sure all closets can be open from the inside.
- Install a carbon monoxide alarm to help prevent carbon monoxide poisoning.
- Keep pillows, blankets, and bumpers out of the sleep environment.
- Avoid handmade mobiles that have not been properly tested for safety and durability.
- Securely fasten dressers and bookshelves to the wall with braces or anchors to avoid furniture tipping over.
Miscellaneous Items That Pose a Threat
- Plastic bags, matches, candles, and lighters should not be kept out of reach at all times.
- Keep poisons and chemicals like household cleaners, detergents, medicines, and cosmetics, out of reach or locked up.
- In garages and basements, securing chemicals, paints, solvents, cleaners, and other hazardous materials your toddler could get into.
- Store guns unloaded and locked, with bullets kept safely in a separate location.