Close supervision is the best way to prevent accidents, but even the most vigilant parent cannot prevent every accident. Take these simple steps to make sure every part of your home is safe.
Get to Your Child’s Level
It may seem silly, but getting down to your child’s level can help you spot potential hazards. Spend some time looking around your home from your child’s eye level. Note anything dangerous within your reach and target these areas during your childproofing.
Common Household Hazards
When childproofing, keep in mind the most common household hazards. These include:
- Water—Even an inch of water can be a drowning hazard for a young child.
- Heat/flame—Hazards from heat and flame can come from several sources, including electrical appliances.
- Poison—Possible sources of poison in your home include medicines, cleaning products, and paint.
- Falls—Consider both places your child could fall from and things that could fall onto them.
- Choking/suffocation/strangulation—Pay special attention to sleeping areas.
Childproof Every Area of Your Home
These childproofing rules apply to every area of the house:
- Keep cords from blinds and draperies out of reach.
- Keep medicines, cleaning products, cosmetics, and any other poison sources in locked cabinets out of your child’s reach.
- Never leave your child unattended in or near water.
- Install smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors throughout your home. Check them monthly and replace batteries each year.
- Cover electrical outlets and keep electrical cords out of reach.
- Anchor bookcases, TV stands, and other heavy furniture to the wall.
- Consider covers for sharp corners on furniture, especially coffee tables.
- Open windows from the top if possible. If this is not possible, install window guards that can only be opened by an adult or older child. Do not put anything a child might climb on (eg, a low table or sofa) in front of a window.
- Install safety gates at the top and bottom of stairways.
- Check the floors often for small items that could be a choking hazard for a baby or toddler.
Make your child’s bedroom a safe place for sleeping and for playing. In addition to following the general childproofing guidelines above, consider these ways to keep your child safe in their bedroom:
- At the changing table:
- Never leave your child unattended.
- Keep diaper-changing supplies within arms’ reach and keep one hand on your child at all times.
- In the crib:
- Check with your crib’s manufacturer to make sure it has not been recalled.
- Use a firm mattress that fits snugly into the crib and fitted sheet.
- Keep fluffy items like pillows, quilts, and stuffed animals out of the crib. They could cover your child’s face and create a suffocation hazard.
- Do not leave any bulky items in the crib that your child could use as a step to climb out.
- Keep night-lights away from drapes or bedding where they could start a fire. Use a night-light that does not get hot, even after being on all night.
Take these steps to make your bathroom safe:
- Install no-slip strips on the bottom of the bathtub to prevent falls. Put a cushioned cover over the faucet.
- Close the lid of the toilet when it is not in use. Consider a childproof lid lock.
- Adjust your hot water heater so that water from the faucet is never hotter than 120°F (degrees Fahrenheit) (49°C [degrees Celsius]).
- Keep electrical appliances (eg, hair dryers) unplugged and out of reach when not in use.
- Have an electrician install ground-fault circuit interrupters. These decrease the risk of electrical injury if an electrical appliance is dropped into water.
It is probably best to keep children out of the kitchen, but that may not be possible for many families. Take these steps to keep your child safe in the kitchen:
- Put babies and young children in a highchair or play yard while in the kitchen.
- Install child locks on drawers and cabinets within your child’s reach.
- Keep knives and sharp utensils out of reach.
- Unplug electrical appliances when not in use so your child cannot accidentally turn them on.
- Turn pot handles toward the back of the stove so your child cannot reach them. If you have to walk with hot liquid (eg, a pot of soup), be sure you know where your child is so you do not trip over him.
- Keep a fire extinguisher within reach of your stove.
Garage and Basement
Even if your child does not spend much time in the garage or basement, it is still important to have these areas childproofed.
- Store tools in a safe area that is out of reach.
- If you have an unused freezer or refrigerator, remove the door so your child cannot become trapped inside.
- Do not allow children to play where vehicles might be entering or exiting.
- If you have an automatic garage door opener, keep the opener out of sight and reach. Know where your child is before opening or closing the door.
Make your yard safe for your children by childproofing your outdoor space:
- If you do not have a fence, teach your child the yard boundaries. An adult should always supervise outdoor play.
- Teach your child to never pick and eat anything from a plant.
- If you use pesticides or fertilizers, do not let your children play in the yard for 48 hours after applying them.
- Do not use a power mower to mow the lawn when young children are around. Never let your child ride on the power mower with you.
Childproofing your home may take some careful planning, but it is a small price to pay to keep your child safe. Take some time to look around your home and evaluate any areas that may need childproofing. And remember—no amount of childproofing can replace the need for adult supervision.
- Reviewer: Konda Mohan Reddy, MD, FAAP
- Review Date: 09/2011 -
- Update Date: 11/29/2011 -