Think keeping your kids home is all you have to do to keep them safe? Think again. According to the National Safe Kids Campaign, about 4.5 million children under the age of 14 are injured in their own homes annually. Of these, 2,700 die. If you want your house to be a safe have for your children, read on to find out how to baby/childproof your home.
First you’ll want to try to see all rooms from a toddler’s vantage point. Get down on the floor and look around at all the enticing objects, the curiosity-provoking cords, the precariously balanced heavy furniture that they might pull over on themselves. This will give you a better idea of what you’re up against. Let’s start with precautions to take generally and then go room by room and take care of all the possible dangers, shall we?
Electrical outlets: Plug ‘em up. There are inexpensive plastic safety plugs available almost everywhere to insert when outlets are not in use.
Electrical cords: Inspect all cords to be sure there are no frayed or cracked areas. Wrap them with black electrical tape. If possible, run cords behind heavy furniture or even tack them high up on a wall. Don’t worry about how it looks – remember it’s only temporary.
Telephone and window blind cords: If there is enough slack for Junior to put his head through, there is enough to strangle him. Use wind-up cord shorteners for the phone cords and bind the blind cords up high out of his reach. You can also secure table lamp cords to the table with cord guards.
Doors: Make sure that they latch completely and repair if necessary. Special plastic doorknob covers make it impossible for tots to turn the knob. Invest in some good, sturdy doorway gates available at baby and department stores to keep little ones from tumbling downstairs or getting into other dangers.
Drawers, cupboards, closets and cabinets: All drawers within reach should be fitted with latches that prevent the drawer from opening more than an inch or so. Latches for cupboards, closets and cabinets should be installed also.
Stair and landing railings: If the space between the rails is big enough for your child to stick his head through, it’s wide enough for him to get his head stuck (get out the power saw!) or worse – for him to fall through. There’s no pretty fix for this one – you’ll need to string mesh between the railings.
Freestanding furniture: You may think that your grandfather clock or glass curio cabinet is too heavy for your toddler to budge. Don’t count on it – more than one has fallen over on a curious toddler. All furniture of this type should either be bolted to the wall or floor or removed until your child is old enough to know better.
Furniture corners and edges: There actually are foam padded furniture edge covers you can buy at baby stores. Often you can get by with a thick blanket over sharp-cornered furniture (remember, it’s temporary) or plumbing insulation secured with duct tape.
Knick-knacks: Sorry, but these should be stored away for awhile, or at least displayed on shelves high above little ones’ heads. And if you really believe that you can “train” your toddler to leave your precious figurines alone, do not blame him when they are shattered against the floor. This includes small, toddler-mouth-sized items like coins, paper clips, matches, keys, batteries – anything lying around that he can choke on.
Kitchen: Knob covers for the stove and barriers that keep hands off the hot surface are available at baby and department stores. Oven latches keep kids from opening a hot oven door. There are also latches for refrigerators – this keeps toddlers from using them for an oxygenless hiding spot and keeps heavy objects from falling on them. Forget using tablecloths for a while unless you’re trying to raise a magician. Plastic grocery sacks and plastic produce wrap should be disposed of immediately to prevent asphyxiation. Use a kitchen trash can that fits under the sink or has a tight-fitting lid. When placing a tot in his high chair, always use the restraining straps. Keep a list of important phone numbers tacked to the refrigerator – poison control center, fire department, police, doctor’s office, dentist.
Bathroom: Use a plastic toilet lock. Store bathroom trashcan up high or in a locked cabinet. Make sure that all medicines (over-the-counter as well as prescription) are stored high above the floor in a latched cabinet. Medicine looks like candy to little ones. All cleaners should likewise be stored up high and in a locked closet or cabinet. Become familiar with poison control and never use syrup of ipecac without the direction of a doctor or poison control specialist. Special water thermometers are available to make sure bathwater doesn’t scald baby. Never, never, never leave a baby or toddler in a bathtub unattended. Use nonskid mats or appliques to prevent slipping. Use tub faucet covers to prevent little ones from accidentally turning the water on.