Babies and young children seem drawn to electrical outlets. Perhaps the holes just seem to be waiting for a finger to be inserted.
It is a no-brainer that humans and electricity do not mix well, especially baby humans.
But there is much more to childproofing your house than blocking a few electrical outlets. The cords introduce a number of often overlooked risks.
All of which can be easily managed once you have the awareness.
Your household electricity babyproofing shopping list:
- For outlets
- For cords:
Home Electrical Hazards
Standard American wall outlets pack a punch of about 120 volts.
That is enough to give an adult a nasty shock, tightening their muscles to where it is hard for them to let go.
European wall outlets are even worse, with a voltage averaging about double that of American outlets.
Just imagine the damage this could do to your little one. Sadly, about 2,400 babies and children are treated every year for shocks and burns related to wall outlets.
Even more alarming is the fact that roughly 12 of these children die every year.
Fingers are the easiest (and most likely) to be inserted into the slots of electrical outlets, but babies are copy-cats.
They watch your every move, and they will, at some point, see you plug something into the wall and will want to try it themselves.
If the object they choose happens to be made of metal, this poses an even greater risk. So, what can you do to keep your baby safe?
My 10-month-old loves anything that resembles some sort of string: ribbons, drawstrings on hoodies and sweat pants, and yes electrical cords.
No matter how many times she is told no, she just finds her way right back.
If your child is like mine, you are going to need to do some serious child-proofing with your electrical cords.
Once she finds them she is likely to try chewing on them – or practice unplugging and re-inserting them as Mommy and Daddy do.
This could leave her susceptible to electrical shocks and burns. This can lead to some very serious consequences.
Prevention: Remove Access to Cords & Outlets
Being a full-time wife and mother, I spend a lot of time at home.
Seeing the same thing day in and day out starts to bore me after a little while.
So, from time to time, I like to redecorate.
I find new ways to organize all of the little things (like papers and toys) and rearrange the furniture to give each room a fresh, new feel.
I believe it is safe to say I am not alone in this, and if this is you, you may use the excuse of child-proofing in order to play interior decorator.
Your furniture can be a great way to hide those tempting electrical cords.
As soon as my daughter started to crawl, in addition to plugging up all of the electrical outlets with those plastic covers, I began to rethink my furniture layout.
I pushed couches, chairs, and end tables up against the walls to keep them from sliding if my child were to use them to pull herself up, and, also to hide electrical outlets from her.
This meant fewer outlets and cords to babyproof.
Babyproofing Electrical Outlets
Standard Outlet Covers
The easiest, cheapest, and most common solution to baby-proofing your electrical wall outlets is to use these plastic socket plugs. They are inexpensive and can be bought in bulk.
They simply plug into the outlet, covering them so nothing else (like fingers or objects) can be inserted.
These are nice and convenient but do come with some small risks.
First, you have to pull them out every time you want to use the outlet.
This means that there is a chance you may forget to plug them back in, leaving the outlet exposed again to your little one.
Leaving them lying around also creates a choking hazard, as babies test everything with their mouths and these covers are the perfect size for eating.
Second, since these covers are cheap, that means they are cheaply made.
The constant removal and replacement wear on them, especially if you are like me and not exactly doing it carefully every time.
Eventually, the plastic prongs may break off.
This could create more choking hazards for your baby or could render one of your outlets unusable if it breaks inside.
Finally, they do not lock in place. While your baby may not mess with them much now, she will eventually become a toddler.
This means she is smarter and stronger.
These plastic covers can now be easily removed by her (especially if she has watched you do it multiple times), and then you are back to square one: choking hazards and shocking risks.
Best Electrical Safety Outlet Cap
We like the Leviton outlet covers. Mostly because they are cheap and come in a pack of 12.
A product like this is a dime-a-dozen though and you will barely notice a difference between brands.
Childproof Outlet Covers
If you are looking to up your outlet game then there are much safer options than the plastic plugs.
The main difference is the locking mechanism in the outlets. In order for them to be removed, the buttons need to be pushed simultaneously.
This is beyond the motor skills of your toddler so even if they attempt to do so they will not yet be capable.
But, just as the cheaper version you do have to remove them to use the outlet. So the same risks apply with an exposed outlet and a potential choking hazard.
Best Babyproof Outlet Plug
Still one of the cheapest items you can buy when babyproofing your home.
For the difference between these and the plastic caps you would be nuts not to upgrade!
You can cover the wall outlet altogether with an outlet box. These are easy to install and simply attach in place of your current outlet plate.
This option is great for those outlets that keep the same things plugged in all the time, like alarm clocks, televisions, and computers.
Best Babyproof Outlet Box
We like the Safety 1st outlet cover as it includes a sord shortener as well.
We discuss these as a standalone item later in this post, but if you can kill two birds with one stone all the better!
These are less convenient to take on and off and best used for thoe items that are going to remain plugged in long term.
While it is more effort to install, the safest and best option is to change the outlet plate altogether.
The outlet plugs have plastic covers that slide closed making it impossible to insert anything.
There is nothing for you to remove when you want to use it.
Simply use your device plug to slide the plastic cover aside and plug it in.
When you are done the cover slides back over on its own thanks to internal springs.
This is great for the inevitable times your child will unplug something, letting you breathe easy knowing the opening will automatically shut.
Best Safety Outlet Plates
While these plates are safe once installed unless you know what you are doing probably best to get an electrician in to install.
But once done it is by far the most convenient option we have discussed.
Power Strip Covers
Finally, where you need to utilize a power board to create multiple outlets you can house these entirely with these specially designed covers.
Very handy around things like your TV and computer where your demand for appliances probably exceeds your available outlets.
Best Power Strip Covers
They are made to accommodate thick cords and prevent your child from being able to tug on or unplug them.
Babyproofing Electrical Cords
As mentioned earlier, you can take care of a lot of cord hazards by rearranging your furniture and running them along the walls behind them.
Any exposed cord is likely to be pulled on at some stage and whatever is attached at the other end may come down on your baby’s head.
The good news is a lot of furniture is designed to hide cords anyway to make things aesthetically pleasing with holes in the back to feed things through.
If you are not already using these, then now is the time to start!!
Don’t be afraid to do some DIY drilling if you don’t have these holes already built-in.
Shorten Electrical Cords
Cords not only pose a shock and burn risk to your little one. They can also be choking hazards should they get wrapped around your child’s neck.
The best solution to help you prevent this from happening is to shorten the cord.
Ideally, you want to make it so your cords do not hang longer than 12 inches. This way there is not enough slack for your child to get caught on.
I like being creative, and I like saving money. So, naturally, I am an advocate for the DIY solution for anything that comes up around the house.
There are some great, easy options for DIY fixes to your toddler vs. electrical cord dilemma.
Coil up your excess cord length (keeping it about the size of your palm) and use zip or twist ties to hold the coil tight.
If you use zip ties, be sure to cut the tail flush so that it does not injure your child.
You can also use store bought cord shorteners.
Best Cord Shorteners
Just wrap up your cords inside, and they remain hidden inside the plastic casing.
I recommend using Velcro strips to attach the case to the wall or under furniture to keep it from hanging or resting on the floor.
Cover Trip Hazards
But there is one more hazard you need to be on the lookout for when it comes to electrical cords: tripping.
Whether your child is crawling, walking, or running, any uneven ground could mess up their footing.
Long cords that run across the room are just waiting to catch a foot and trip someone up.
You end up with falls, skinned knees, and sad eyes.
The best option would be to eliminate the risk altogether.
Extension cords should be used temporarily (like if you are vacuuming or using an electrical appliance outdoors) and unplugged when not under your direct supervision.
If you are using an extension cord because there is not an outlet nearby, consider rearranging so that your electrical devices are closer to the outlet.
There may be some cases where that is not possible.
If you absolutely must use an extension cord long-term, you want to make sure that it either runs along the wall (and not across the room where it could trip someone) or that it is covered up.
An easy, DIY solution is to use wide duct tape along the length of the cord to keep it secured to the ground.
If you do not want to (or cannot, due to rental agreements) leave sticky residue on the floor, you can use these duct cord covers.
Best Duct Cord Covers
They are basically little plastic speed bumps that sit flush to the ground, making them easy to step or crawl over without tripping.
With channels of varying sizes running through them, they can accommodate cords of just about any size.
We may not always like it but the fact is we live in a world run by electricity.
This means that there are electrical cords running throughout our homes, just waiting for little hands (and mouths) to find them.
It may take some time and effort to find and childproof them all, but if you can prevent a number of accidents from befalling your child, it is well worth it.