Nothing compares to the joy of having a child. From the moment they are born, giving you sleepy, milk-drunk smiles, to when they begin to move on their own, every moment is a wonder to behold. But with mobility comes a clumsy, curious little human, who wants to explore the world around her.
There are countless dangers lurking within your home. Though you may not notice them, your child is bound to find those things that can seriously injure her.
Sadly, child-related accidents are very common. According to the CDC, every year, over 9.2 million kids (between the ages of 0-19) are treated in emergency rooms for unintentional injuries, and about 12,000 of these will die.
Falls from stairs or windows account for the majority of nonfatal injuries (about 2.8 million, and over 50% of these under the age of 1), while traffic accidents are the cause of the most fatalities (such as children running out of the house into the road).
This guide will provide detailed information on how to childproof every aspect of your home. Everything from TVs, fireplaces, to medicine boxes and kitchen drawers.
Critical and Common Mistakes
Many of these accidents could have easily been avoided with proper child proofing precautions. Unfortunately, there are many common mistakes made by parents who, even with their best intentions, overlooked something in the process.
Some of the most common mistakes made include not getting on your child’s level (hands and knees) to see potential hazards from their perspective, forgetting to secure furniture, and relying on window screens for safety.
Not Reducing Yourself to your Baby’s Level
Please take this in the most literal sense possible. You need to get your hands (and knees) dirty and get on the ground. What can you see and reach that could be a potential hazard? Don’t assume that the world looks the same from up there. It doesn’t. You may find outlets you forgot about, power cables that cannot see from up high, and bits and pieces that may have fallen under a couch that could be a choke hazard.
Careless Battery Storage
Batteries are among the easiest things to lose track of in the home, and the most harmful to your child. Chewing or swallowing a battery could result in death and is not something to be taken lightly. These can be popped out of a dodgy remote control, and low level drawer, or something that has been dropped on the floor previously and forgotten. If you can eliminate button batteries from the house altogether then this will offer some additional peace of mind.
Awareness of Dynamic Hazards
We can do all the preparation we like around the home, but nothing will substitute constant vigilance. There are hazards around the home that are constantly moving and can be a danger to your baby.
To explore an example let’s look at a simple glass of water. Easy to place down on a coffee table, or next to the couch without thinking twice. You turn your back for a few seconds and:
- They tip the water on the floor and risk slipping over
- They drop the glass and break it, and risk cutting themselves
- They try and drink what is in the glass. A sip of wine instead of water can make your baby very sick
Your purse or handbag is another common dynamic hazard. Coins, keys, cards, make up – not only can these be hazards but also very inconvenient if they go missing.
Child Proofing Services
Keeping your child safe is likely one of your top priorities. One option is to put your child in a plastic bubble to protect her from all of the dangers that the outside world has to offer; but, obviously, that is not realistic. You are going to want to child-proof your home, and you will want to begin preparing before your child begins to move.
There are many great child proofing companies that can help you do just that. They have access to many products not available in stores, and will carefully assess each room in your home to come up with a plan that is custom made to fit you and your child.
However, due to cost and convenience, many parents will still choose to child proof their homes themselves. If this is you, we are here to help you be as prepared as possible, thinking like your child and looking for every potential danger you can think of.
DIY Baby Proofing and Managing Hazards
1. Furniture: Injuries from Tipping Over
The first stop on our child proofing journey will be your larger pieces of furniture, namely tall dressers and entertainment centers. These tend to be very top heavy and are not made to withstand the uneven weight distribution of a climbing toddler. They are prone to tipping and falling, which can cause serious injury to your child.
Most injuries sustained from falling furniture resulted from a child climbing, more than likely trying to reach something on top of a dresser or shelf. On average, 71 children are injured every day from tipping furniture, and a child will die every two weeks as a result of these injuries.
Back in 2004 a little girl named Meghan Beck died when her dresser tipped over and fell on top of her. The risks are real and an accident can happen in the blink of an eye.
If you were to choose one product to effectively childproof your furniture, you would be wise to choose furniture anchoring straps. They attach from the back of your furniture, with the help of a couple of small screws, to a wall stud.
This prevents the furniture from falling to the ground, being caught by the straps if it begins to tip.
2. Drawers: Injuries from Sharp Objects
Chances are you have a lot of drawers in your home. They can be found in the bedroom, kitchen, office, and bathroom, and can contain anything from a harmless pair of socks (the ones you have picked up for the tenth time today) to sharp knives and scissors.
If your child is able to open a drawer, she will. You can guarantee that its contents will be strewn about several times a day. Regardless of whether this creates a harmless nuisance or a dangerous risk, you are going to want to child proof those drawers to keep them from being opened.
Latching straps are a great choice. They are easy for you to unlatch when you need to access a drawer’s contents, but they keep the drawer shut tight so curious little fingers cannot find their way in.
3. Kitchen: Injuries from Appliances and Cabinets
Your kitchen is home to many dangerous items. Home to many small appliances, your child could be cut or burned or shocked by things like blenders, toasters, microwaves, ovens, and garbage disposals. Any appliances you may have that can cause injury to your child need to be unplugged (and stowed away in a locked or inaccessible cabinet if possible).
Just like your drawers, your cabinets can hide many things, including harmless and harmful. One of the biggest risks with neglecting to child proof your cabinets is accidental poisoning.
Most families, including mine, keep their cleaning supplies in a low cabinet. Either in the kitchen or bathroom, under the sink. This gives your child easy access to chemicals that could poison or burn them.
About every 13 seconds, a poison control center is called. Of these about half of these are for accidental poisonings in children under the age of 6. Over 90% of these cases happen at home, the result of common household items and cleaners. You want to be especially careful of detergents and bleaches, not only because of possible ingestion but also because of the toxic fumes they give off.
While traditional cabinet latches are a decent choice, they still allow the cabinet to be opened partially and can trap little arms or pinch little fingers. Instead, try a latch with magnetic lock.It keeps the cabinet shut flush, allowing no gaps, and can only be opened with the included magnetic “key,” leaving you the only one who can access its contents.
4. Doors: Internal and External
Your child is faster than you may think, and if she sees an opportunity to escape or explore she is going to take it. It is very important that you keep the doors leading outside shut and locked at all times, or block the access completely with a baby gate.
You do not want your child running outside into the road and getting hit by an unexpecting driver.
There will also be rooms inside the house that are no go zones for your child. It is easy to forget to lock a door when you are in a hurry, and sometimes it would just not be practical. So blocking the access for your child is again the safest solution. A baby gate will close itself and removes memory lapses from the equation.
Your bathroom is likely not a place you want your child playing on a regular basis. Not only is it infested with germs, but there are other dangers lurking in there as well.
You do not want your child playing anywhere near your toilet. Not only is the toilet water disgusting, she could fall in and drown if you are not careful.
It is best to keep your child out of the bathroom entirely, unless it is bath time and you are accompanying her. But should you forget to close the door behind you when you leave, you can always have a back-up safety precaution. Get a toilet seat lock so that she cannot lift the lid and cause herself any trouble.
5. Bookshelves: Injured Fingers & Toes
Every parent dreams of their child being an avid reader, but most do not want their toddlers pulling out every book on the shelf. To your child, pages are meant to be ripped and thrown around and eaten.
Your books could be in serious danger from this little monster. Your child could also be injured if she tries to pick up that prized 1000-page hardcover novel, ending up with injured toes when she realizes the weight is too much for her to hold.
While there are no great products for child proofing your bookshelves (besides buying a new, expensive shelf that has locking glass doors), there is an easy solution to keep your child from pulling your books out. Using old bicycle inner tubes like giant rubber bands, you can keep your books accessible to you and out of the hands (and off the feet) of your child.
6. Television: Injuries from Tipping Over
The television is definitely an area of your house you want to child proof. Not only is this the centerpiece of most lounge rooms, they are expensive to replace and also can be very easy to tip over.
TV’s have a magical way of drawing us to them, and your child is no exception. She is prone to getting super excited, trying to swim with the Octonauts. In a split second, she could pull the TV onto herself and cause serious damage to the television and herself.
Just like top-heavy furniture, the majority of child injuries from TVs were the result of it toppling over. On average, every 45 minutes a child is seen in the emergency room to be treated for injuries from a television falling on them.
Since you likely have a flat screen television, your best bet would be to put it up on your wall with mounting brackets. This eliminates any risk of your child reaching it and pulling it down. Then you can all enjoy your TV time, dancing and laughing with all of her favorite characters, without the worry of any potential accidents.
7. Electrical Cords: Mouth Burns from Chewing
Cords are tantalizing to a child; who knows why. They seem to draw children to them, asking to be pulled and chewed on. This poses a very dangerous risk as your child’s body is not made to be shocked and burned by a damaged electrical cord.
While electrical burns are not as common as those from fire or hot water, they are not to be discounted. According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, over 4,000 injuries from electrical cords occur every year. Many young children are treated in emergency rooms with burns on their mouths as a result of chewing on an exposed cord.
You are going to want to hide any cords you can behind or under furniture. For those you cannot cover easily, you can purchase cord shorteners. These allow your excess cord to be wound up inside the plastic casing so that they cannot be accessed by curious fingers or sharp teeth.
Just like your electrical cords, you are going to want to take care of child proofing your electrical outlets as well. Your curious little child will be watching your every move, observing how you plug in and unplug various cords. She will want to copy you, but instead of cords she will try fingers and any little items she can fit in those slots.
Next thing you know, you have electrical voltage running through a little body that cannot handle it.
Roughly 3,900 cases accidental electrocution are seen every year. About a third of these are toddlers who had access to an exposed wall outlet and either inserted an object or their own fingers into it. In a study done in 2005, it was found that approximately 100 children die each year from electrocution by unprotected outlets.
You can always get those plastic outlet covers to keep little fingers out, but with these come additional risks. They can be pulled out by a determined toddler or not replaced when removed, leaving the outlet exposed again.
They are also cheaply made and can break inside of the outlet, rendering it useless. Instead, change out your wall plate altogether and replace it with a child proof version, with sliding plates that automatically close when something is unplugged.
8. Windows: Injuries from Falls
Windows are highly dangerous for children. The sights and sounds of the outside world call to them, and the standard screens are not enough to keep a child from falling out. They are made to be removed easily in the case of a fire, and are not meant to withstand the weight of a child.
It is rather unfortunate that over 5,000 children fall from a window every year, resulting in serious injury or death. Children under the age of 5 accounted for about two-thirds of these cases.
Many parents make the mistake of thinking that window screens will keep a child from falling, but they are not strong enough to hold the weight of a child and further precautions need to be taken.
Since you do not want your neighbor calling you (or the cops) because your child is on the roof, you are going to want to make sure your windows are safe and inaccessible to your child.
The best option is to keep them closed and locked at all times, but since that is not realistic, try using a window guard instead. You can usually find the type that has metal bars, but if you do not want your home to feel like a prison, you can use a mesh one instead.
9. Staircase: Injuries from Falls
Your staircase is an area that needs special attention when it comes to child proofing. Every kid wants to accomplish the great feat of climbing stair mountain. But until they have the coordination to do it safely, they are at risk for falling and causing serious injury to themselves.
There are many things that can contribute to an increased likelihood of a stair-related accident: items near the stairs that are tripping hazards, children being carried by their parents up and down the stairs, or larger items being climbed on to get over an installed baby gate.
However, the biggest issue is a staircase that do not have a baby gate installed at the top and/or bottom. On average, an astounding 100,000 children are taken to emergency rooms every year to be treated for injuries sustained from a fall down a staircase.
Your best (and only) choice to guard your staircase is a baby gate, one for the top and one for the bottom. The top gate needs to be the most secure, being hardware mounted and tall enough that a child cannot topple over. Both will also, ideally, have a locking door, both to keep her safe and to allow you ease of access.
10. Fireplace: Injuries from Burns
Everyone likes to cozy up by the fire on a cold winter’s day, but fire is not the friendliest of things for children.
As of a study done in 2013, over 126,000 children (under age 19) were treated for burns from fires that year. Young children, especially under the age of 4, are at a high risk for injury and death resulting from fire and burns.
Whether your fireplace is operated by gas or wood, you are going to want to make the area around it safe for your child. A 3 in 1 gate is a great choice. You have the option to either mount it to the wall, creating a barrier around the fireplace so your child cannot get too close, or you can use it as a standalone play area for your baby or toddler.
Then you can enjoy family time, watching the snow fall outside, without fearing for your child getting burned.
11. Medications: Choking & Poisoning
Chances are you have got some medications and vitamins lying around the house. If you think your child cannot get into them, you may be in for an unfortunate surprise.
Over 800,000 people are treated in emergency rooms every year due to ingesting medications, several suffering poisonings from accidental overdoses. Of these, over 70% are children between the ages of 1 and 2.
Child safety caps are not reliable, so even if you think that bottle in your purse is safe, you will want to think again. Gather all of your medication and vitamins into one central location, preferably somewhere cool and dry so they do not get ruined.
Invest in a medicine safe (essentially a large plastic or metal box with a pad or combination lock) and store all of your pills and first aid items inside, keeping them out of your child’s reach.
12. Garage: Overheated Vehicles
A lot of parents do not think of their garage as an area to child proof, but even here you need to take precautions to keep your child safe. There have been many cases of children climbing into unlocked vehicles and getting trapped inside, overheating, and dying.
Another parental nightmare that is all too common are children unknowingly playing around or behind a car when they are reversing out of the driveway. Running over your own child is unthinkable, but it happens and should be a consideration in your baby proofing process.
It is best to get into the habit of always locking the doors to your vehicle when you go inside the house, and then locking your garage door so that your child does not have access. Again, a well-placed baby gate can provide an extra layer of protection.
Other Household Hazards
Finally, you are going to want to scan the rest of your house for various hazards that may be waiting for an unsuspecting child. Get down on your hands and knees and see things from her perspective.
Look for loose rugs that may cause her to trip, and place grip pads underneath to keep them from gapping. Any furniture that can easily slide needs to be pushed against a wall to prevent falls if your child were to use them as support to stand.
Sharp corners and edges on furniture need to be softened with foam padding or rubber edging. Curtain drawstrings can be choking hazards, and they should be wound up and kept out of reach so they do not find themselves wrapped around your child’s neck.
Anything that could be used as a ladder or step, like boxes, shelves, or furniture near windows, needs to be guarded or moved into an inaccessible room.
We are all guilty of throwing away those product registration cards when you buy a new appliance. When it comes to your baby products registration will give you immediate notification of any product recalls that could be hazardous to your baby.
A little extra time and effort here could be the difference in your baby being exposed to the hazard or not. Any product-related issues that could hurt infants would usually get air time on the news, but who has time for news when you have kids to look after? If you register your phone number and email address then you can act quickly in the event of an incident.
Always Be Prepared
No matter how prepared or vigilant you may be, accidents will happen. Do not beat yourself up about it. Rather, make sure you are always prepared. Learn CPR and some basic first aid (including treating burns). Make sure you have the poison control number ready to go.
Having basic knowledge and preparation could mean the difference between life and death in the case of an injury or accident involving your child.
Also remember to apply all of the same principles if staying at a relative or friends home for the night, or if on the road and have to stay in a hotel or Airbnb.