By Courtney Ronan
Childproofing your home: Ignorance is bliss … and danger. Children often seem hardwired with an inherent curiosity for all that is hazardous. If you’ve lived in your current home for a length of time and are convinced you’ve covered all your bases when it comes to childproofing, here’s betting you haven’t. And if you’re preparing for a move, it’s easy to overlook hazards around your new home, given all of the excitement and hustle-bustle that you unpack with your belongings.
Statistics have proven that home accidents account for more children’s injuries and fatalities than all childhood diseases combined. Ask any emergency room doctor for proof. Child safety specialists recommend taking a room-by-room approach to childproofing your home. Let’s start with the living room:
For starters, it’s a good idea to get down on your hands and knees and take a look at your living room from a toddler’s perspective. What can you reach? The living room typically is where families store breakables and valuables. In particular, look for side tables on which breakables sit; children have been known to shake tables or grab table legs, causing what sits on top to slide off. And consider these living room temptations to which no child is immune:
- Cords. They’re begging to be yanked. Child-safety experts have placed particular emphasis on mini-blind cords, which can choke small children. Keep all mini-blind cords out of reach. Tie together the cords of your electronics and various appliances, cleverly disguise them inside an old telephone cord, or use cord shorteners (available at most hardware stores).
- Outlets: If any of your outlets are unoccupied, place plastic safety guards over them.
- Lids: Glue felt, rubber, or cork on the lids of chests or pianos to keep them from slamming on little fingers.
- Plants: Keep them high. Although your objective here is to keep a falling plant from hurting your child, the common hazard plants present is the big mess your child could create when he spills dirt on your carpeting — particularly joyous event if you’ve just watered the plant.
- Bookcases: Secure them to the wall if you can, using shelf brackets attached to the side and/or top of the bookcase, and then screwed to the wall.
- Furniture/counter edges: Put corner protectors on sharp edges.
- Potential trips/falls: Tape down the corners of area rugs or electrical cords that might trip children.
Perhaps no other room in your home contains as many potential hazards as your kitchen. Consider just a few of the dangerous items you’ve got stored in one room: poisonous substances, sharp knives, hot surfaces, boiling water, cabinet doors, drawers, and perhaps folding doors. While these tips are hardly new, it never hurts to repeat them:
- Secure all household cleaners in a locked box or container.
- On your stove, keep the handles of pots and pans turned toward the wall.
- Keep all plastic bags locked away.
- Install childproof latches on all cabinets and appliances within your child’s reach. If you’re looking for a solution in a pinch or don’t mind the inconvenience, tie cabinet handles together using something durable — wire, twine, or nylon line, for example.
Buy two safety gates — one for each end of your staircase. Look for a model that swings open for easy adult access. Or improvise with a sturdy mattress or heavy table sitting on its side. And if aesthetics aren’t of utmost importance, attach plastic mesh to your stair banister using twine, metal wire, or plastic ties.
Make sure railings are close enough together to prevent your child from slipping through them. If not, use plastic mesh (3 feet high is the recommendation by safety experts) to prevent access. Secure the mesh using thick twine or even staples, if you’re looking for a more long-term solution.
- Install window guards. Window screens are inadequate protection for children, and in some regions of the country, window guards are required by law under local housing safety codes.
- The danger presented by sliding glass doors is by no means age-specific. Adults as well as children benefit when you mark glass doors with colored tape or stickers to distinguish them from doorways.
- Place sleeves on doorknobs to prevent toddlers from accessing dangerous areas of the house.
- Use door stops to ensure that doors can’t slam shut.
- As you did in the kitchen, lock or tie cabinet doors, and move all soaps and shampoos — especially colorful ones, or varieties that have tempting scents like vanilla or strawberry — to higher surfaces.
- To protect both children and parents, place a no-slip mat or stickers on the bottom of your bathtub. Give your tub a good scrubbing first to ensure maximum sticking strength.
- Don’t assume that because your medicine cabinet is up high, above your sink, that you don’t need to keep it locked. Head to your hardware store, and protect yourselves from the day when your child discovers an innovative way to reach that cabinet — and he will.
- Plug your bathtub water spout with a store-bought cover. Learn2.com suggests creating your own cover with rubber hosing. Slit the hosing down the middle, slip it on, and secure it with ring clamps or nylon line
- Install an anti-scald valve to your faucet or shower head. Such valves prevent water from reaching dangerously high temperatures. And deciphering those temperatures isn’t as clear-cut as it may seem; while the water temperature may feel acceptable to you, it may be too high for your infant. Turn down your water temperature to a maximum of 120 degrees; this figure is almost universally agreed upon by emergency room doctors, who see far too many young patients as a result of scalding water.
The best strategy, of course, is too keep your children out of the garage. But assume the worst, and take precautions in the event your child wanders into what is certain to be one of the most dangerous rooms of your home.
- Construct a wire mesh container for your dangerous items.
- Hide garage door openers, and make sure your garage door button is out of reach by removing any objects upon which your child could climb to reach the button. Keep your car doors locked to prevent children from turning on car lights (read: dead batteries), or from removing the parking brake.
- Most automated garage doors (recent models, at least) reverse direction upon contact with another object. Find out if yours will by placing a cardboard box in the path of the door. If the door ignores the box and crushes it, it’s time to get a new garage door.
- If you must keep a storage freezer, lock it and hide the keys. The same goes for all large cabinets — prime targets for hide- and-seek games. And if you’ve got an empty freezer that you don’t anticipate using anytime soon, get rid of it.