If you’re expecting a baby, or already have a toddler, this home childproofing checklist will ensure you’re providing your child with the safest environment possible.
You don’t have to go to extremes, but there are a few basic steps you can take to prevent a mishap. And don’t worry – as your children grow, they’ll become less prone to breaking things or getting into mischief that might harm them, and you can gradually restore your home to its normal condition!
• Cover electrical outlets
Most electrical outlets are at baby-crawling height, and little fingers can get quite a shock. Inexpensive plastic guards that plug into unused power outlets and seal them off are essential in every room. The same goes for power strips and surge suppressors under your desk. As for electrical cords for lamps and appliances, run them behind furniture and keep them out of reach as much as possible.
• Lose fancy tablecloths
As they start to crawl, babies can easily grasp the corner of a fabric tablecloth and pull it down off the table, bringing with it grandma’s crystal punch bowl, books, dangerously heavy paperweights, hot soups, cutlery or worse. Placemats are far safer for the tabletop when children are in the house.
• Secure cabinets
Remember, eye level for a baby is ankle level for you, and crawling babies and toddlers have an unending curiosity about under-sink and under-counter cabinets. For both the kitchen and bathroom, purchase inexpensive plastic locks to secure cabinet doors and to protect babies from potentially hazardous detergents, cleaning fluids, dishwasher detergent and other things that — to a baby — seem good enough to eat. Anything truly poisonous or corrosive should be on an upper shelf – preferably one in the garage or basement. As for kitchen drawers that contain knives and other dangers – plastic safety latches are essential.
• Put safety gates on stairs
For houses with stairs, safety gates are critical to protect a baby from falling – and remember, gates are necessary at the top and bottom of the stairs. Be aware that spring-loaded gates are easy to install but are insufficient for prying hands – gates should be screwed or bolted into the doorjamb.
• Round off corners
Square or rectangular coffee and end tables and stone fireplace hearths usually have hard, sharp corners that can injure little ones in a slip or fall. Corner and edge bumpers in a variety of foam-like materials can smooth the way until your toddler is steady on his or her feet.
• Make windows inaccessible
Be certain that furniture placement doesn’t allow toddlers to crawl to window-sill height. Dangling cords from mini-blinds or curtains that reach nearly to the floor are a no-no and should be tied up and secured out of reach. Cordless window coverings are best.
• Secure bookcases and top-heavy furniture
Toddlers will climb – or attempt to climb – on anything, and bookcases along a wall must be bolted to studs in the wall to prevent the furniture piece from being pulled over. Scan rooms for any furniture that could be tipped, pushed over or otherwise made unsteady – then either secure it to the wall or remove it.
• Turn pan and pot handles inward
Kitchen stoves are endlessly fascinating to toddlers, and little ones can reach up when you’ve glanced away for just a second and grab a pot whose handle is facing out. Always keep pot handles turned inward, not outward, when you’re at the cooktop. Better yet, use your cooktop’s back burners when possible.
• Guarantee bath-time safety
Make bath time safe by purchasing a soft, cushioned, rubber nonslip mat, as well as rubber or foam safety bumpers for the bathtub tap or spout.
• Put small tabletop items in storage
Scan your home’s tabletops and shelves for small decorative items that a teething baby might find tempting. Remember, the mouth is a baby’s “organ of exploration,” and anything that can fit in a curious baby’s mouth will find its way in!
• Use doorstops
Curious toddlers’ tiny fingers can suffer a nasty squeeze in a closing door. Secure doors between rooms in your house with inexpensive rubber doorstops.
• Be careful of houseplants!
There are some common houseplants that are toxic if ingested – philodendron is one. Keep them out of reach or discard them when your baby starts to crawl.
Despite these warnings and concerns, don’t become obsessive and treat your home like it’s an obstacle course of catastrophes waiting to happen. It really isn’t – and most of these steps are simple common sense. Your home can be childproofed in a weekend. However, since babies crawl at an average of 8 months old, do it sooner rather than later!