When you are a parent, keeping your child safe is at the top of your priority list. It can feel overwhelming as a new parent, with so many hazards at every turn for your child, but the best place to start to protect them, and also the one where you have the most control, is in your own home.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 2.3 million children are accidentally injured each year and more than 2,500 die from preventable injuries. This is why it is imperative that you childproof your home and maintain safety.
To avoid feeling overwhelmed by the important task of childproofing your home, try dividing the task. One way to get started is to safety your home according to the age of your child, which you can do by keeping in mind your child’s height and mobility. It is important to implement these safety methods before your baby/child reaches these stages (i.e. baby-proof before you bring baby home from hospital, childproof for crawlers before your child starts to crawl, etc.). Another method is to childproof your home one room at a time, starting with the room your child most frequently inhabits.
And keep in mind that not every home you visit will be child-safe, so remain on high alert when visiting others. Never assume that homes with other children maintain the same level of safety as your own home. And when you travel, always remember to childproof your hotel room as best as possible.
The following checklist will help you to childproof your own home, give you some ideas to use when visiting other s and provides tips for making your hotel room as safe as possible for when you travel.
Let’s get started …
Get down to your child’s level – One of the most effective ways to keep your child safe is to get down to their level – to simulate their height and their reach. If you have a baby, lie on your back and see what you can reach in that position, see what is within wriggling and (before you know it!) crawling distance and safety accordingly. When you toddler begins to walk, revisit this method and remember that childproofing is a constant effort. While there are many wonderful devices available today, supervision and continuous safety checks are the best way to keep your child safe.
Go Room by Room
Childproofing your entire house in one day can seem overwhelming, no matter how big or small your home. In order to avoid feeling defeated before you begin, try tackling your home one room at a time, starting with the places where you child spends the majority of their time.
Your Child’s Bedroom
- Ensure your crib and mattress meet the current federal safety standards (i.e. cribs with drop sides are no longer manufactured because they can cause injury, so do not borrow one from a relative who used one years ago).
- For newborn babies, it is best to have a crib that is completely empty (i.e. no blankets, stuffed toys, pillows, etc.). Crib bumpers have also been shown to cause accidental suffocation, so it is best to leave those out for newborns.
- As soon as your toddler can stand up, lower the crib to the lowest setting so that your child doesn’t pull themselves out of the crib.
- Once your child demonstrates a will to climb over the top rail of the crib, it may be time to change to a toddler bed, or place the mattress on the floor.
- Ensure all furniture is bolted to the wall, including chests of drawers, change tables, shelving, etc. A toddler can easily pull furniture down on top of themselves.
- Avoid blinds or curtains with strings as accidental strangulation from window coverings is one of the leading causes of death for young children in the home. According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), a child between the ages of 7 months – 10 years is killed each month in the U.S. by strangulation due to window coverings.
- Never hang anything on the wall around the crib. Wall art can become detached and fall into the crib or your child can pull it down with the same result.
- As soon as your toddler can stand up, remove all mobiles from the crib. This can be another strangulation hazard.
- Ensure the bathtub has slip-proof mats both inside and outside of the bath, even when using a baby bath inside the tub. And never ever leave a child, of any age, unattended in the bath. Accidental drownings can happen in even the smallest amounts of water.
- Use temperature gauges when running baths for babies. Thermometers or even some bath toys can tell you when the bath is too hot. And never leave your child in the bath as you run the water.
- Use soft spout covers on all taps and shower heads that are with reach.
- Install a locking mechanism on the toilet seat.
- Install locking devices on all cupboard doors and medicine cabinets. Every cupboard door is a hazard to young children, despite what is inside.
- Keep all medications and poisonous products out of the reach of children. Dispose of any outdated medications safely. If you live in the U.S., you can call your local waste disposal agency for information on drug disposal. The CPSC reports that 30 children die each year in the U.S. from accidental poisoning. Be vigilant with poisonous and toxic materials in the home.
- Remember to keep the bathroom closed whenever not in use.
- Install locking devices on the refrigerator, freezer and oven doors. Also lock all cupboard doors and drawers, regardless of what is inside (fingers can easily be trapped in doors and drawers).
- Ensure all small appliances and any cords are safely out of reach.
- If your oven has knobs, install covers so that your child cannot accidentally turn them on.
- Put your trashcan up high, or install a locking device on the cover.
- Keep all chemicals, cleaners, soaps, etc. out of reach and in locked cupboards.
- Use foam panels or rubber bumpers around sharp edges/corners of tables, chairs and countertops.
- Never cook with your baby/child in your arms and keep hot food and drinks well out of reach.
- Remember to turn pot handles towards the back of the stove and use rear burners whenever possible.
The Laundry Room
- Use locking devices on any front-loading washers or dryers, to prevent your child from crawling inside or opening them while in use.
- Ensure all chemicals, cleaners and soaps are far out of reach and in locked cupboards.
- Single-use laundry detergent packets are particularly harmful for children if swallowed, due to their highly concentrated formula. Because of their bright color and toy-like appearance, children may be tempted to play with them and/or bite into them. If possible, avoid using these altogether. The same is true of dishwasher packets.
- According to the U.S. CPSC, nearly 20,000 children under the age of 5 are rushed to the emergency room each year with injuries caused by furniture or televisions tipping over onto them.
- Bolt all furniture and large appliances to the wall, including the television.
- Ensure all cords are kept out of reach and are secured. You can buy devices to cover electrical cords and keep children safe.
- Keep remote controls out of reach, so that children cannot get to the batteries.
- Block all access to any heating devices and/or fans.
- If you have a fireplace, install a grill and keep in in place at all times. Keep matches out of reach. Keep the chimney clean.
- Minimize clutter on shelves and tables. Remember that anything and everything is up for grabs, literally. Keep the space as clear as possible to minimize hazards.
- Cover all table and furniture corners with rubber or foam.
- Secure all lamps and keep cords out of reach.
General Household Safety
- Cover all electrical outlets, either with replacement outlets that include a sliding safety latch or with plug-in caps that fit tightly (ones that are loose can easily be removed by toddlers and they will likely end up in their mouth!).
- Use locking devices on all doors that lead to descending stairs (i.e. the basement)
- Use safety gates across the top of all stairs and ensure they are kept closed and locked at all times. Never use pressure gates at the top of stairs as they are not 100% reliable.
- Buy cordless window coverings whenever possible. Cut off or tie up all strings/cords.
- Place brightly colored stickers on sliding glass doors.
- Ensure windows and deck doors remain locked at all times. Use window stops whenever possible as they prevent the windows from opening more than a couple of inches. Move furniture away from windows.
- If any household or deck railings have openings wider than 3.5 inches, use safety netting as a safe-guard.
- Maintain your floor areas. Small pieces of food, paperclips, small stones from shoes, etc. can all be choking hazards for your young child.
- Replace batteries in smoke and carbon monoxide detectors once a year and test regularly. Keep a working fire extinguisher in the kitchen of your home.
- Post all hotline numbers in a place from which you can get fast access if needed.
- Ensure none of your household plants are hazardous (i.e. philodendron).
- Never leave water, no matter how small the amount, in buckets or containers around the home. This includes cleaning solutions.
- Always maintain a fully-stocked first aid kit. Include medicines that are age-appropriate (i.e. infant Tylenol or Advil, toddler-aged medications, etc.).
- As soon as your child is old enough to understand, review your fire evacuation plan with your child.
- If you own a gun and/or ammunition, ensure it remains tightly under lock and key at all times. Teach your children that guns are not toys and teach gun safety as early as possible.
- If your home has a pool, make sure you have fencing and a locked gate in place. Empty kiddie pools when not in use and never leave your child unattended around any amount of water.
Tips for Introducing Pets Safely
- Allow your cat or dog in your nursery before the baby arrives. That way, your pet can familiarize themselves with the new furniture, layout of the room and scents that linger on bedding, curtains, and furniture.
- Familiarize your pet with the scent of baby’s clothing by allowing them to nestle into a pile of fresh laundry.
- If possible, bring home your baby’s hat or an outfit from the hospital and allow your pet to familiarize themselves with the baby’s scent, before they arrive home.
- Try to treat your pet the same way you did before the arrival of your baby, so as to prevent feelings of jealousy (yes, pets get jealous!).
- Introduce your pets to your baby safely, with full supervision, and never leave your child unattended with an animal, no matter how much you trust your pet.
Childproofing for Travel
- Remember to take electrical outlet covers with you when you travel. All hotel rooms will have several plugs so be prepared. If you forget, electrical tape can also be used to cover outlets.
- Secure cords for window blinds, telephone cords and any other hazards immediately upon arrival. Plan according to your child’s height and mobility to keep your child as safe as possible.
- Ask the hotel for extra towels, roll them up tightly and place them underneath the fitted bed sheet, along the outside and bottom of the bed, to create a safety barrier for your child while sleeping.
- Use thick tape (electrical or masking tape will work) to tape down the toilet seat. Whenever possible, keep the door to the bathroom closed.
- Keep all windows and doors to the balcony closed and locked at all times.