It's OK to be nervous about welcoming a baby or toddler into your home. Typical rooms are filled with innocent-looking hazards for young ones like coins, houseplants and hard furniture. Here are a few tips for making a room safer for a newly mobile child.Photo by keeping it real.
For infants, there are several important safety basics like keeping toys out the crib; the US National Safe Kids Campaign has excellent advice with safety basics for babies under a year old. But right now we're talking about babies and toddlers who have started moving around. This is a very potentially dangerous stage, as little kids are born curious and love to grab things and try them out by tasting them.
The Most Important Safety Precaution: Supervision
Don't underestimate a baby who's just started crawling or scooting. They can get from one spot to another really fast!
To make your job of watching a small child easier, baby gates (especially installed on the stairs) and playpens will keep him or her out of harm's way. But whether or not you have one of those playpens available, there are other important things to look out for when baby-proofing a room or home:
Get on the ground and look at the room from the baby's perspective or from toddler-height. Assume anything within reach will be reached and evaluate for potential choking/suffocation, injury or other harm.
Some common safety hazards include:
Small objects: Anything that can fit inside a cardboard toilet paper roll is a potential choking hazard (look out especially for coins), so keep those out of reach.
Plants: Because some plants are poisonous to children (and animals), place these out of reach as well.
Cords: These include electrical cords (babies and toddlers can pull appliances or equipment causing them to fall) and drapery cords. Wind or wrap these short.
Hard edges: Pad the edges of low tables like coffee tables or a fireplace edge or somehow place a barrier so the baby/toddler can't run into or trip onto the edge. A gate or screened barrier around your fireplace (or other heat source like radiators) is recommended in general.
Outlets: We've all seen those little outlet plastic plugs, but child-resistant outlet covers that replace the typical cover are safer. In a pinch, the plastic plugs are better than nothing, though.
Dangerous substances like medication and cleaning formulas: Lock these in a tall cabinet. Watch out especially for household products stored in low cabinets.
Sharp objects: If you're baby-proofing the kitchen, get locks installed on the drawers and cabinets, especially the utensils drawers.
Open windows: If little kids can climb, they can also fall out of an open window. Window safety locks and gates are essential for preventing this.
There are lots of tools that can help you baby-proof a room. Keeping in mind the list above, some things you'll probably want to invest in as a parent include:
- corner guards and furniture pads
- outlet covers with sliding panels
- drapery cord wrappers
- window locks
- cabinet and drawer locks
- furniture straps to secure heavy furniture to the wall and prevent toppling
- hardware-mounted gates
Ask your pediatrician for a referral to a baby-proofer. These professionals will install locks and gates in your home and check for hazards you might miss.
For more safety advice for kids of all ages, see the Safe Kids Coalition.
Got any baby- or child-proofing tips of your own? Share them with us in the comments.