Childproofing Your Home
Close supervision is the best way to prevent accidents, but even the most vigilant parent cannot prevent every accident. Take these simple steps to make sure every part of your home is safe.
Get to Your Child’s Level
It may seem silly, but getting down to your child’s level can help you spot potential hazards. Spend some time looking around your home from your child’s eye level. Note anything dangerous within your reach and target these areas during your childproofing.
Common Household Hazards
When childproofing, keep in mind the most common household hazards. These include:
- Water—Even an inch of water can be a drowning hazard for a young child.
- Heat/flame—Hazards from heat and flame can come from several sources, including electrical appliances, water that is too hot, and outlets.
- Poison—Possible sources of poison in your home include medications, indoor plants, cleaning products, and paint.
- Falls—Consider both places your child could fall from and things that could fall onto them.
- Choking/suffocation/strangulation—Pay special attention to sleeping areas.
- Sharp objects—Always be aware of sharp objects that can cause injury, including glass, scissors, and knives.
- Firearms—It is best not to have firearms in your house. If you do have firearms, keep them unloaded and locked in a safe place out of reach of children. Store the bullets in a different place than the gun. Hide the gun keys in a different place than where you keep your house keys.
- Pets—Teach your child to respect animals by not teasing, provoking, or hurting them. Treat any animal scratches or bites promptly.
Childproof Every Area of Your Home
These childproofing rules apply to every area of the house:
- It's best to use cordless blinds in your windows. If that's not possible, keep cords from blinds and draperies out of reach.
- Keep medications, cleaning products, cosmetics, and any other poison sources in locked cabinets out of your child’s reach.
- Never leave your child unattended in or near water.
- Install smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors throughout your home. Check them monthly and replace batteries when you change your clocks in the spring and fall.
- Cover electrical outlets and keep electrical cords out of reach.
- Anchor bookcases, TV stands, and other heavy furniture to the wall.
- Consider covers for sharp corners on furniture, especially coffee tables.
- Open windows from the top if possible. If this is not possible, install window guards that can only be opened by an adult or older child. Do not put anything a child might climb on, such as a stool in front of a window. Window screens are not effective for preventing children from falling out of windows.
- Install safety gates at the top and bottom of stairways.
- Check the floors often for small items that could be a choking hazard for a baby or toddler.
- Keep your hot water under 120 degrees F.
Make your child’s bedroom a safe place for sleeping and for playing. In addition to following the general childproofing guidelines above, consider these ways to keep your child safe in their bedroom:
- At the changing table:
- Never leave your child unattended.
- Keep diaper-changing supplies within arms’ reach and keep one hand on your child at all times.
- In the crib:
- Check with your crib’s manufacturer to make sure it has not been recalled.
- Use a firm mattress that fits snugly into the crib and fitted sheet.
- Keep fluffy items like pillows, quilts, and stuffed animals out of the crib. They could cover your child’s face and create a suffocation hazard.
- Do not leave any bulky items in the crib that your child could use as a step to climb out.
- Keep night-lights away from drapes or bedding where they could start a fire. Use a night-light that does not get hot, even after being on all night.
Take these steps to make your bathroom safe:
- Install no-slip strips on the bottom of the bathtub to prevent falls. Put a cushioned cover over the faucet.
- Close the lid of the toilet when it is not in use. Consider a childproof lid lock.
- Adjust your hot water heater so that water from the faucet is never hotter than 120°F (49°C). You can also place anti-scalding devices on faucets and showerheads.
- Keep electrical appliances, such as hairdryers, unplugged and out of reach when not in use.
- Have an electrician install ground-fault circuit interrupters. These decrease the risk of electrical injury if an electrical appliance is dropped into water.
Keep your child out of the bathroom unless they are with an adult.
It is probably best to keep young children out of the kitchen, but that may not be possible for many families. Take these steps to keep your child safe in the kitchen:
- Put babies and young children in a highchair or play yard while in the kitchen.
- Install child locks on drawers and cabinets within your child’s reach.
- Keep knives and sharp utensils out of reach.
- Unplug electrical appliances when not in use so your child cannot accidentally turn them on.
- Use a refrigerator latch to keep the door closed.
- Turn pot handles toward the back of the stove so your child cannot reach them. If you have to walk with hot liquid, be sure your child is not underfoot to avoid tripping.
- Keep a fire extinguisher within reach of your stove.
Garage and Basement
Even if your child does not spend much time in the garage or basement, it is still important to have these areas childproofed.
- Store tools, paints, and other toxins in a locked, safe area that is out of reach.
- If you have an unused freezer or refrigerator, remove the door so your child cannot become trapped inside.
- Do not allow children to play where vehicles might be entering or exiting.
- If you have an automatic garage door opener, keep the opener out of sight and reach. Know where your child is before opening or closing the door.
Make your yard safe for your children by childproofing your outdoor space:
- If you do not have a fence, teach your child the yard boundaries. An adult should always supervise outdoor play.
- Keep toys age appropriate. For example, don't let your child play on swings, slides, or seesaws until they are ready. Keep in mind that monkey bars are not recommend.
- Teach your child to never pick and eat anything from a plant.
- If you use pesticides or fertilizers, do not let your children play in the yard for 48 hours after applying them.
- Do not use a power mower to mow the lawn when young children are around. Never let your child ride on the power mower with you.
Childproofing your home may take some careful planning, but it is a small price to pay to keep your child safe. Take some time to look around your home and evaluate any areas that may need childproofing. And remember—no amount of childproofing can replace the need for adult supervision.
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Last reviewed July 2015 by Michael Woods, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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