Unfortunately, more than four million children end up in the emergency room each year as a result of home accidents. The good news is 90% of these accidents could have been avoided. While there is no replacement for vigilant supervision, proactive childproofing can go along way towards preventing needless accidents. As your child explores, teach him what is safe and what is off-limits.
Drawing on the knowledge of child safety expert Kimberlee Mitchell, experienced mother of two toddlers and owner of Boo Boo Busters Professional Babyproofing Service, below is a list of recommended childproofing tips for every home.
How To Create A Baby Safe Home Environment
The cheapest and quickest way to babyproof is to limit access to certain parts of the home that are neither safe nor appropriate for babies. The garage, laundry room, loft, terrace, office, gym, utility room, craft room, rooms under construction, etc. should be “off limits” for babies and should be secured with door locks. The front door and interior garage door should have flip locks so child does not have access to outdoors.
Common Hazards in Every Home
Some household dangers are obvious yet others can be more elusive. Albeit there are hundreds of dangers common to every household, they are easily rectified once recognized.
· Cover all outlets, power strips and old exposed wires. Engaged outlets with a cord plugged in and play areas (nursery, play room, living room) should have sliding plate covers or a big box outlet cover for oversized plugs on every exposed outlet. Push plugs can be used in less accessible areas only if the plugs are very difficult for an adult to remove. A determined child and/or a set of twins, can remove the push plugs given enough time.
· Use cord control kits to organize and house all wires.
· Anchor all armoires, shelving units, dressers, etc. or appliances (i.e. TV, VCR, computer, etc.) that can topple onto child as a result of climbing or pulling. When drawers are open simultaneously the unit, however sturdy, becomes front heavy and tips easily with weight of toddler on open drawer.
· Earthquakes are another good reason to secure heavy furniture to wall stud.
· Install window guards with emergency release latches on all windows on second level. Screens are not babyproofing devices. Beware of toy stacking. Children will pile up anything to get a view outside. Move furniture away from half walls where child can climb up and fall over. Consider having Plexiglas installed to extend dangerous pony walls.
· Mount safety gate at stair top and bottom. Professional babyproofers offer top quality gates, extensions, custom mount kits for wood and wrought iron banisters . Pressure gates are not recommended. If banister posts are more than 3″ apart, install a barrier.
· Install custom cut Plexiglas on stair banisters and decks that are no to code (2 1/2 inches wide) or if there are decorative embellishments on banister that will act as a foothold for a climbing child.
· Be sure all area rugs and mats have non-skid bottoms to avoid slipping.
· Never leave infant unattended on changing table or bed
· Never let child play on stairs unattended.
· Move all chemicals (including cleaning supplies, various beauty and childcare accessories and alcohol) to a high locked cabinet.
· Install magnetic child safety locks (Tot Loks) on all accessible drawers and cabinets that contain these toxic items. These are 100% kid proof.
· No unsupervised entry into garage and laundry room.
· CO detectors should be installed on each level of home near sleeping quarters.
· Find out which plants in your home and yard are poisonous. Landscapers commonly use White Oleander, which is highly toxic. If there is a plant in question, cut off a sprig, put it in a zip lock bag and bring it to local plant nursery for their input.
· Keep all pet doors closed off when child is present.
· Pets run through door and knock over child and/or child can escape to the outside via the door, which is at their eye level and quite inviting.
· Never allow your child access to an animal you don’t know is good with children. Don’t allow child to hug dog or kiss its face. Don’t bring small children to dog parks. Keep child away from pack of fast running dogs.
· Anything that will fit inside an empty cardboard toilet paper roll is a choking hazard.
· Replace all old door stops that have removable rubber tips with one piece door stops as the small rubber tip is a choking hazard.
· Do a visual safety sweep of home every day before child wakes to make sure all small objects are picked up off floor.
· Beware of older children’s toys that can be choking hazards. Use locked storage bins for small pieces.
· Install a peg rack on wall to hang purses, coats, bags, backpacks, etc. to keep out of reach.
· Install blind cord cleats and wrap all dangling cords to disallow strangulation.
· Avoid the most common drowning hazard and have a pool fence, cover or net installed over all pools and spas.
· When swimming with baby or small child always make sure they are within arm’s distance and PAY ATTENTION. Being engrossed in a conversation with someone while “watching your child” is very dangerous.
· Babies can fall into toilet head first and not be able to get out so be sure to install toilet locks.
· After it rains do a visual safety sweep of the yard to look for planters, buckets or water tables with pooled water and dump it out.
· Never leave the child unattended in or around water.
· Turn your water heater down to 120 degrees Fahrenheit to avoid risk of scalding.
· Use back burners in kitchen and turn pot handles in.
· Parents make habit of holding handrail when using stairs when carrying child.
· Keep doors to “off limits” rooms pulled closed.
· Beware of elderly or older children’s non-safe habits about household. They will unintentionally leave medicines out, drop pills, leave doors/cabinets/drawers open, etc. You can educate your family members to be mindful of their unsafe habits but at the end of the day the baby’s safety is still your responsibility.
· Be vigilant about supervising your child. You can babyproof your home like a safety fortress but there is no replacement for your constant attention.
· Turn off the TV if you are not watching it with your child. The program may be child-safe but the commercials might not. There are some pretty terrifying things on TV that will not physically harm a baby but can cause damage. See your pediatrician about this topic for more information.
A VIRTUAL HOME SAFETY EVALUATION:
The following is a room-by-room walk through of an average family home. Keep in mind that our homes were not designed for the safety of a baby or child in mind. Each residence has special features that are unique as well as common safety challenges. Below is a list of solutions to common safety hazards found in most homes:
· Install magnetic child safety locks (Tot Loks) on all accessible drawers and cabinets that contain toxic items (i.e. cleaning supplies, alcohol, vitamins, plastic bags, etc.)
· Gate off kitchen area.
· Keep child in high chair or pack and play during meal preparation.
· Latch all other drawers and cabinets. We recommend babyproofing for safety first and foremost, however it’s also a matter of convenience. If you choose, keep one cupboard with Tupperware lids unlocked for child to access but be sure they can not use this open cabinet or drawer as a step to climb up onto counter. Your child may not be able to reach certain drawers now but he surely will in no time.
· Never let child play with pots or pans as it sends the wrong message to child that these are toys. When child sees the same pots/pan on stove top he will want to grab his familiar “toy.”
· Consider latching all appliances child can access like the refrigerator, dishwasher, trash compactor, dumbwaiter and oven.
· Keep all appliances on counter unplugged and hide electrical cords.
· Do not hang dish towels on oven door as baby can pull towel and bring the door down into the bridge of his nose.
· Use back burners on stove and install stove guard and knob covers if child has access to them.
· Do not use small or breakable refrigerator magnets as they are choking hazards.
· Beware of leaving knives, scissors, coffee mug, etc. out on counter as child will grab at whatever they can get a handle on from their vantage.
· No unsupervised entry into bathroom.
· Use safety locks on door at all times.
· Install toilet locks to prevent child from drowning and throwing objects in.
· Latch all cabinets.
· Move wastebasket under sink behind a latched cabinet door or use a covered receptacle.
· Turn water heater down to 120 degrees to prevent scalding.
· Always check water temperature on your inner wrist prior to putting baby into it.
· Never leave a child in bath unattended.
· Never leave filled tub unattended and drain tub immediately after use. Children can wander in and drown.
· Use no-slip mat to prevent slipping and a spout cover to prevent scalding and cuts.
· Remove all electrical appliances from bathroom where child bathes.
Living Room/Family Room
· Eliminate baby’s access to fireplaces, wood stoves and hot tubs using gates developed for this purpose. If gates will not work on fireplace use specially designed fireplace lock on glass accordion doors and install hearth padding around edges of hearth to prevent child from falling onto it.
· Remove gas key from fireplace gas gauge and store in high place.
· Anchor all items that are tipping hazards.
· Anchor TVs.
· Remove all items (torchiere lamps, freestanding coat racks, statues, etc.) from home until child is older.
· Cover end tables, coffee tables, countertops, and low dressers furniture corners and edges with cushioning created for this purpose.
· No unsupervised access to decks. Beware of you child stacking toys/object to see over railing.
· Install a Plexiglas or net barrier if there is more than 2 ½ inches between railing posts.
· Put decals on sliding glass doors at baby’s eye level, so he or she doesn’t run into them.
· Always keep baby away when from the grill. Hearthgates work well for this purpose.
· Do not use deck furniture to eliminate risk of climbing.
· Always lock all doors leading to decks.
The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, National Safety Council and the American Academy of Pediatrics have the following helpful safety suggestions for your child’s nursery.
· ALWAYS place your baby to sleep on his or her back. This greatly reduces the risk from SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) or suffocation. Since the American Academy of Pediatrics recommended back-sleeping five years ago, SIDS deaths in the USA have declined by 38%.
· Remove all soft bedding-pillows, comforters, blankets and stuffed animals-from the crib to further reduce risk of suffocation. Instead of a blanket, dress baby in a sleep sack or sleeper.
· Make sure the crib itself meets current safety standards. This means:
1. The slats are no wider than 2 3/8″ apart
2. The mattress is firm-not soft (foam or coil – your preference)
3. There is no gap between mattress and crib walls. Two fingers worth of space is too much.
4. Corner posts are level with the height of the end panels (just 1/16″ higher at most)
5. There are no decorative cut-outs in the headboard or footboard.
6. Top rails, when raised, are at least 26″ above the mattress support in its lowest position.
7. Hardware is secure-no loose or broken screws or pieces. Recheck periodically.
8. Drop sides cannot be accidentally released by a child. (According to the National Safety Council, the crib sides should require two separate steps to release. If this is a one step process, it should require a minimum force of 10 pounds to release.)
9. Look for a JPMA safety certification seal on newly manufactured cribs.
10. Top rails should be covered by teething guards.
· Keep blind cords, curtain pulls, décor, electrical cords and mobiles out of baby’s reach.
· Maintain a cool room temperature give a recommended range to prevent overheating.
· Place baby’s crib away from any source of draft.
· Make sure baby’s fitted sheet is secured to the mattress and will not pop loose.
· Place a baby monitor in the nursery far from child’s reach.
· Consider purchasing a special crib mattress that circulates air around baby. This helps prevent the “rebreathing” of carbon dioxide, which is believed to be a leading cause of SIDS.
· If you use bumper pads, make sure they are tightly secured to the sides of the cribs. Trim excess ties or straps. Straps should be loose, easy to push down to mattress and not hung up on any hardware. You don’t want your child to get a foothold on bumper to be able to climb out.
· When child is sitting up remove bumper pads and all other animals or pillows and lower crib mattress to lowest position.
· Once the top of the crib rails are less than three-fourths your child’s height or they are 36 inches tall, it’s time to move to a toddler bed.
· If you have a child who climbs out of the crib before the above point, seriously consider using a crib tent. Some parent’s don’t like it but the potential alternatives are far worse.
· Install finger guards on fast-closing doors.
· Anchor all furniture, cover all outlets (even ones behind crib), and install locks or window guards on all windows.
· When baby is sitting up remove all mobiles and any type of canopy over bed as they can pose choking or strangulation hazards.
· Do not place heavy object on shelves or hang pictures above crib.
· Use earthquake putty on all objects placed on shelving. Use Velcro the secure base of pictures on walls – stick to wall and back of frame and it will prevent it from falling and breaking during quake.
· Use locks on sliding closet doors until baby can open and close without pinching fingers or slamming causing glass doors to crack.
· Pick up room every night before bed so in the event of an emergency you can get to your child quickly without incident.
· When child is in toddler bed, use pressure gate in doorway to prevent child from walking around house unsupervised during the night. Instruct child to call for you when he is awake in the morning.
Fire & Health Safety
· Store fire escape ladders in every bedroom on second level and above.
· Place working fire alarms in every bedroom and on every story and remember to check them regularly. Day light savings time is a good marker to use check your alarms bi-annually
· Install carbon monoxide detectors on each level of home near sleeping areas.
· Install natural gas detectors on each level of home near sleeping areas.
· Create and practice a disaster plans. (ie. fire escape plan, earthquake plan, disaster plan.)
· Purchase disaster preparedness kits.
· Make sure all fire/smoke alarms are in working order.
· Place the phone number of the poison control center near the telephone. You will need to know your child’s weight to treating a poisoning. Never use ipecac unless instructed by a professional to do so.
· Learn first aid and CPR and keep your skills up-to-date.