How to Childproof Your Home: A Checklist for New Parents
Unintentional injuries at home are a leading cause of death among small children. Before Baby goes mobile, it’s important to have a safety plan in place and a checklist on hand so that you don’t overlook any potentially dangers in your home. Here, then, is a list of the most important items you should consider when making your safety plan to childproof your home.
Childproof Your Home Checklist
Safety latches prevent little hands from opening doors that can lead to danger. It’s important to install safety latches before your child starts walking. Place latches on all of the lower drawers and cupboards in your kitchen, especially the one under the sink, where you likely store poisons and other items that could pose a danger to your child. Do the same in the bathroom, where you should also install a toilet lock to keep the lid closed.
Once Junior starts reaching for those doorknobs, it’s going to be a challenge to keep him from opening doors that shouldn’t be opened. Two options for keeping your child on the right side of the door are mechanical locks and doorknob covers. A mechanical lock, such as a chain or hook, can be easily installed far above your child’s reach. Doorknob covers are ingenious inventions that let you open the door by squeezing tabs on the cover that little hands can’t manipulate.
Medicines and Poisons
Locks and latches work for a while, but children are clever and curious, and once they’re able, they’ll be climbing on countertops and figuring out how to get into forbidden places. Once your child reaches this stage, it’s important to put medications and poisons well out of reach where your child can’t possibly get to them. It’s also a good idea to communicate with your child early and often about the dangers of pills and poisons.
The Right Flooring
The best flooring for kids in terms of injuries is carpet, but carpeting can harbor bacteria and allergens that can cause respiratory discomfort. Vinyl, laminate, and cork would be better options for young children, as they are softer materials and easy to keep clean. Hardwood floors are also great for kids, as they are great natural insulators and tend to be warmer under foot. If you do have tile or stone floors in your home, it may be a good idea to lay down soft rugs that the children can play on.
The Right Water Temperature
Scalding is a serious concern for children, who may inadvertently get burned in the bath, shower, or sink. Set the thermostat on your water heater to 120 degrees Fahrenheit so that all of your taps will be scald-proof. Also remember that children can drown quickly in just a few inches of water, so it’s essential to never leave your child alone near water.
Outlets pose a risk for curious little fingers, so installing outlet protectors or safety caps is essential when you have little ones at home. The same goes for power strips, which should be covered to keep children from pulling out plugs or sticking small items in the outlets. The outlets in your kitchen and bathroom should be updated with GFCIs, or ground fault circuit interrupters, which shut off the electricity to the outlet when something plugged into it falls into water. An electrician can quickly update your outlets to childproof your home.
Mount the TV and Shelves
Little kids love to climb, and you can bet your bottom dollar they’ll be climbing on shelves and furniture as soon as they can. An unmounted TV can be dangerous to little climbers, so it’s a good idea to mount the TV to the wall using the appropriate hardware. Shelves and dressers are also dangerous to climbers, since they can easily topple over. Mount these to the wall with L-shaped brackets. Heavy objects sitting on tables or shelves should be moved well out of reach.
Burns account for a large number of childhood injuries, and keeping your child safe from fire and extreme heat is central to safety. If you use your wood- or gas-burning fireplace, install gates that are heat-resistant, and make sure they’re closed when a fire is burning. In the kitchen, a stove guard–a plastic or metal shield that restricts access to the front of the unit–will make it impossible for your child to turn on the stove or oven or reach the burners. When you’re cooking, keep your child away from the stove and out from underfoot. Turn all pan handles toward the back of the stove to prevent accidents while you’re cooking.
A stair gate will keep your little one from climbing up and falling down the stairs. Get a high quality gate with a latch that’s too difficult for small hands to open. A gate that screws into the wall is better than one that uses tension to stay upright. If your stairs are tile or hardwood, consider installing a carpet runner on the risers to help blunt accidental falls.
While children are in the stage where they put everything in their mouths, it’s important to carefully examine your home for small items your child can reach. Make sure the backs are securely attached to battery-operated items like the remote controls, and put potted plants with rocks in their soil out of reach. Look at your rooms through your toddler’s eyes, and if you see something that can fit into your child’s mouth, put it where your child can’t access it. If you have older children, make sure they keep small toys out of reach.
Additional Safety Precautions
Plastic bags and drapery cords are other serious hazards that put children at risk in the home. Keep all plastic bags out of your child’s reach to childproof your home. Dispose of plastic packaging and other hazardous packing materials right away. Swap out your corded blinds or drapes with cordless versions to protect your child from accidental strangulation. Otherwise, cut the loops the cords form, and keep the ends of the cords far out of reach.
The best way to keep your child safe at home is to provide constant supervision, but since you can’t glue your eyes to your beloved 24/7, childproofing your home adds an extra layer of protection. Spend a weekend childproofing, and you can enjoy peace of mind knowing that your child is safe at home.