Baby-proofing your home is hardly a one-time event. As your child grows, so do potential hazards around the house. An adult-friendly home is laden with possible pitfalls for a child. Keeping your child safe means learning about the risks at every age, preventing accidents, and educating your child on how to make safe decisions and avoid danger.
Even when you’ve exhausted your baby-proofing checklist, the reality is that children will still tumble, fall, bump and scrape. That’s what makes education one of the principal elements of home safety for kids. As your child grows, new hazards emerge. You’ll not only need to adapt the environment to stay ahead of their curiosities, but also make sure they understand their role in creating a safe place to play and explore.
That’s why along with your supervision and safer surroundings, you can make home safety a lifestyle by making sure that as your child grows, they know about what’s safe and what’s not.
Prepared Parent: Baby-Proofing Before Baby Gets Moving
Childproofing and setting up a safe nursery before the baby arrives is a smart way to create a safe home from the start. When taking steps to make your home safer, be sure to:
- Keep baby monitors and cords three feet away from the crib.
- Make sure changing and bath areas are secure from slips, rolls and tumbles. When baby arrives, be sure to always keep a hand on him or her when changing or bathing.
- Ensure all cords are secure, including those on blinds and window coverings. Remember, any cord can be a hazard.
There are some decorating trends that over time that have been proven as a risk to your child’s safety. We now know that it’s especially important to keep the crib free of pillows, blankets and stuffed animals. These items pose a considerable risk for suffocation and possible choking. Be sure to keep baby’s head and feet covered when they sleep and check their skin for coolness or dampness to determine if you need to add or remove a layer of clothing.
While these practical tips are essential to a baby-proofed home, creating safety habits now is great practice for the years ahead. Additional safety habits to keep in mind include:
- Closing the toilet lid or placing a latch on top.
- Using baby gates to keep your child safe from stairs or rooms that haven’t been childproofed.
- Anchoring your television and unstable furniture, such as a bookcases, dressers and loose tables that baby might try to use to pull him or herself up.
Never leave your child alone in a room that could pose a safety risk. Supervising your newborn or small one is the most effective way to reduce the risk of injury or death from an unexpected or unsafe situation. While infant mortality rates have dropped nearly 15 percent in the US over the last 10 years, deaths caused by unintentional injuries rose more than 10 percent. One of the most potent ways to protect against SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome) and accidental harm is for parents to share a room with their baby in the beginning.
Quick and Curious: Safety for Crawlers
The curiosity of a crawling child is unmatched. If they see something that intrigues them, they will make a beeline for it, much more quickly than any parent could imagine. That’s why when you childproof your home, you can keep your crawling kiddo safe by:
- Covering electrical outlets and removing nightlights, air fresheners and other plugins that are easy to pull out. You’ll also want to secure or even hide electrical cords.
- Adding padding to tables with sharp corners or edges.
- Installing latches on doors, especially to cabinets and appliances.
- Placing a sticker or two low on glass doors so baby knows to stop crawling. Be sure to keep those doors securely latched.
- Packing away valuables and breakables, and putting cleaning products and other potentially toxic chemicals high up in a safe, dry place with a latch or a lock on the door.
- Always keeping the floor and low tables clear of small debris and other choking hazards.
- Emptying bathtubs and buckets of water immediately after use.
- Blocking access to floor heaters and radiators.
- Never holding your baby while cooking, and being sure all pot handles face the back of the stove. Adding plastic covers over knobs is another added measure of safety.
To a crawling baby, the world is just waiting to be explored. Each and every knob, latch, button, colorful tab or shiny object needs to be inspected and discovered. One way to catch anything you may have missed is to get down and eye-level with the world as your baby sees it. That way, you won’t overlook a potential hazard that they could face head on — literally. The cardinal rule in this stage is put it away or put it high up. Your baby will be loads faster and more inquisitive than you expect.
Looking for Trouble: Childproofing for the Toddler Years
Toddlers are just about guaranteed to do three things: run, climb and fall. One thing that you can never guarantee is that they’ll listen to you when you say “no” or “stop.” That’s why explaining to your child why something is a safety hazard is important. It allows them to think about what they’re doing and make the decision to choose a safer option. Some ways to practice and explain safety habits to your toddling child include:
- Keep all windows latched and add stoppers so they can’t be raised if they are accidentally unlatched. Explain to your child that screens won’t keep them from falling out, and that a fall could hurt their head. Remind them of a time when they fell and didn’t like it. Explain that closed windows are safe, but if they see an open window, they should tell you right away.
- Keep medicines in childproof containers in high cabinets that latch or lock. If your toddler hasn’t shown in any interest in them, you may not need to explain the dangers, but to be safe, you should avoid referring to them as “adult candy” or using any descriptors that might be enticing. This applies to all medicine, not just prescriptions. Tell your little one that eating something from this cabinet could make them very sick, and remind them of a time when they were ill.
- Keep hot foods and liquids in the center of tables or at the back of counters. This is also a good time to make sure knobs on your stove and oven are securely covered, and that your child understands that these are things that could burn or scald them, which is really painful and can leave a scar.
- Make sure doors lock from the outside so you toddler can’t accidentally lock himself or herself in a room. Also be sure to secure doors that provide access to off-limits areas, like garages or workshops. Never leave a child unsupervised in your kitchen. Let your child know that they should never play with locks on doors, because doing so may make it hard for you to get to them.
Creating a safe space for your child to explore will help nurture their instinct for discovery, while also keeping them protected from harm. Unintentional injuries are the leading cause of death among kids in the US, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). While this shouldn’t make you paranoid, it hopefully inspires you to be protective and educate your children on the importance of safety by showing them how to be safer right in their own home.