Childproofing your house can be difficult! The process is an ongoing one to ensure a baby, toddler, and child safety at home or to keep kids safe while visiting a friend or relative’s home.
Karen Sheehan, MD, MPH, medical director of the Injury Free Coalition for Kids at Children’s Memorial Hospital in Chicago, reminds adults to consider a child’s developmental stage when childproofing a home.
- Infants are barely mobile, but even young babies can roll or otherwise move considerable distances.
- Crawlers and early walkers can get into trouble anywhere.
- Older toddlers can be extremely curious and resourceful about climbing, opening doors, and getting into places that may surprise adults.
A good approach to childproofing your home is to see each room through eyes of a child. Get down on the floor and look around. Ask yourself questions like, “What’s that? Can I put it in my mouth? What would happen if I crawl in there?”
A Childproofing Safety Check for the Whole House
Once you start childproofing, you’ll probably notice safety hazards throughout the house, from the laundry room to the linen closet. Be methodical during your childproofing “tour” of your home. Count the number of electrical outlets within a child’s reach, including those behind furniture. You’ll need a plastic electrical outlet safety cover for each one.
Next, pay special attention to choking hazards. Make sure that cords hanging from drapes or appliances are tied up and out of reach of curious hands. Babies and young children can also choke on balloons, jewelry, toys, coins, rubber bands, decorative rocks or marbles in potted plants, and hundreds of other things.
Sharp objects like knives, cooking utensils, and gardening implements should be kept out of sight and, ideally, out of a child’s reach or locked up. That goes for cleaning supplies too – kids shouldn’t be able to get to them. Poisoning is a common, but preventable occurrence. If you don’t actually use a particular chemical or cleaning agent in your house, don’t keep it; if you do need it, lock it up. Just in case, keep the number to the 24-hour nationwide poison-control center handy: 1-800-222-1222.
If you have guns in the house, keep them unloaded, out of sight, and locked away from children and teens of all ages.
Room-Specific Childproofing Safety Check
Make sure each room in your home is checked for its unique hazards:
- In the bathroom. Keep all medications, including over-the-counter (OTC) remedies, out of sight, and use safety latches on medicine cabinets. Keep scissors, tweezers, and other sharp objects out of reach. To avoid burns, set the hot water heater no higher than 120 degrees. Never leave your child unattended in the tub, and place toilet lid locks to keep small children from playing in the toilet bowl and possibly drowning. Store buckets upside down to prevent any water accumulation; remember that small children can drown in just a few inches of water.
- In the bedroom. A crib should be a safe haven for babies to sleep, so remove all toys, comforters, pillows, and other items that pose a risk of suffocation. As babies begin to sit up on their own, move mobiles out of their reach. Maintain smoke alarms in or near each bedroom and test them to make sure they actually work. If not, replace older devices with new smoke detectors.
- In the kitchen. When cooking on the stove top, use rear burners, keep handles turned toward the back of the stove, and don’t leave the room when the stove is on.
- In the basement and garage. Hang tools and ladders out of reach, and store any gasoline, lighter fluid, paints, pesticides, or other chemicals in a locked cabinet.
- At windows. Windows are an often-overlooked aspect of home safety. Remember, screens are designed to keep insects out, not to keep kids in. Don’t place furniture under windows, which creates an invitation to climb and explore. If you do open your windows to let a breeze in, be sure the windows are out of children’s reach.
Install safety locks on windows throughout the house. Windows should still provide a viable escape in case of fire, however, so make sure they’re not painted shut. Also, if you have window fans or air conditioning units, make sure at least one window in each room is not blocked.
- In the backyard and around decks. If you have a pool, maintain a tall fence around it (usually determined by local building codes) and keep it locked when not in use. Never allow your children to swim unsupervised. Be sure that doors leading to the yard, deck, and any balcony also have childproof locks.
- On the stairs. Safety gates should be positioned at the top and bottom of each flight of stairs.
Childproofing your entire house probably isn’t necessary if children are there only as guests, but focus on the area or rooms where visiting children will spend the most time. And keep in mind that young children should be supervised at all times, so everyone can remain safe and sound.