Preparing your home for a child can be a daunting task, but following some basic steps can significantly reduce the most common hazards.
Unintentional accidents are the leading cause of death in children between the ages of 1 and 4, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Here’s the good news: turning your home into a safe environment for the younger crowd doesn’t take months or cost thousands of dollars.
“Childproofing the home is relatively easy, as long as you follow a few basic steps,” said Sally Morse, director of creative services for Hunter Douglas.
Use these strategies to create a comfortable and protected space for the crawlers and toddlers in your life:
Act like an infant
“Get down on your hands and knees, and crawl around just like your baby would,” suggested baby safety expert Hindi Zeidman, founder of the Ollie Swaddle cozy swaddling solution.
Taking in rooms from this perspective will alert you to potential child dangers.
Make note of large changes needed, such as gates on the top and bottom of stairs. Pay attention to the details: a splinter on a shelving unit or an untacked corner of carpet could be dangerous to an infant or toddler.
Watch the windows
“Use window guards on all second- and third-story windows and those on upper floors of apartment buildings to prevent children from falling out,” said Morse. “Install safety glass in large windows and French doors so they won’t shatter, even if a child falls on them.”
If your window coverings have cords on them, consider replacing them with cordless versions.
Also keep the crib, as well as any other furniture that could be climbed on, away from the windows.
Every year, 2,400 children suffer severe shock and burns as a result of putting objects into the slots of electrical receptacles, notes the Electrical Safety Foundation International (ESFi). Furthermore, according to the ESFi, an estimated six to 12 child outlet-related fatalities occur each year.
Outlets often fall into the category of items you don’t think about as a new parent, noted Brett Brenner, president of the ESFi. Yet children are often drawn to them.
“An outlet looks like a face,” Brenner said.
Today’s safest outlet solution can be found in tamper resistant receptacles (TRRs), which have spring-loaded receptacle cover plates. With these, the outlet only opens when equal pressure is applied at the same time to both sides, such as when you insert a plug. Without the equal pressure, the cover plates remain closed, preventing children from inserting objects into the outlet.
If your home doesn’t have TRRs, you can put them in for just $2 an outlet. Be sure to have a licensed electrician install them.
Store breakable items
“Why stress over ruined paintings, broken vases and other great home décor?” said Dr. Stacy Haynes, counseling psychologist and CEO of Little Hands Family Services. “Prevention is better than the cure.”
To protect your belongings, go through each room and pack away items, such as china and glass decorations, that could be easily broken. Store them until small feet are no longer running through the house.
Also keep holiday ornaments and other seasonal items in storage until you need them. When decorating for a particular season, place breakable items out of children’s reach. “Decorate on top of higher placed furniture until children age,” recommended Haynes.
Secure the bathroom
Check your tub and shower, and if you don’t have any non-slip decals in them, add some to prevent slipping.
Set your water heater’s thermostat to 120 degrees Fahrenheit or lower, recommends the CDC, to avoid the risk of children getting burned from scalding water.
“Make sure the medicine cabinet is locked at all times, as children often mistake medicines for candy,” said Morse.
Start the habit of keeping the bathroom door shut at all times so young children are not able to enter it on without assistance.
Remove hazardous materials
“Small magnets may seem fairly harmless, but they can easily be swallowed by babies and young children,” noted Zeidman.
Store away magnets, as well as choking hazards such as marbles, small toys, and other objects that could easily fit inside a baby’s mouth.
You’ll want to store other toxic materials too, like paint thinners and chemicals. Put tools high in the garage or in storage.
Remove any cleaners you keep under the sink and put them in a hard-to-reach place.
Find a new home for liquid dishwasher pods and laundry packets, which present a big risk to the eyes if they are touched, and to the stomach if they are ingested.
“Due to their small size, they can be perceived as candy,” warned Zeidman.