Tuesday October 30, 2018
It is a sad fact of life that every year that millions of children are injured in their homes and many are aged under four years. What seems hard to understand is that almost all the injuries are both predictable and preventable. The distress that parents/carers suffer as a result of injury to a child is heartbreaking and for those whose child dies from their injuries, the suffering is immeasurable.
Baby proofing your home is your responsibility and is a crucial part of child care. It doesn’t cost a fortune to do but it is something that should be done as soon as your baby learns to sit up, as very quickly, curiosity will have them shuffling or crawling around. Highly intrigued by the exciting world around them and totally oblivious to any of the dangers. In the United States, 9.2 million children are treated in hospital for injuries in their home, whilst in the UK this figure is two million children aged 0-4 years.
This easy to follow room-by-room guide helps you to baby proof your home and to create a safe environment for your baby – one that can be continually re-assessed as your child grows older and taller so that your home remains a safe environment so that your child does not get injured and become a statistic. You can also download your free checklist below
This guide works everywhere!
If you are traveling with your baby on holiday or staying with friends or family in their home, pack a copy of this guide in your suitcase along with some plug covers and cable ties and you will be packing the confidence that you will be able to safeguard your baby wherever you are.
No great expense is involved
Stair gates and playpens are useful for keeping toddlers safe and if the new price is out of reach, it is worth buying second hand from newspaper adverts, eBay or friends, but do inspect the equipment carefully to ensure that it is in good working condition and really will do the job well. Other essentials such as cable ties, fridge, and cupboard locks and socket covers are all very affordable. Most of the suggestions for baby proofing your home are based on common sense that usually just involves some rearrangement of the furniture.
Except for three key items
A very good investment (if you do not already have some in place) is to buy and install some smoke detectors in your home and to buy a First Aid kit to keep somewhere accessible, along with a fire extinguisher to fix in the kitchen. These are three good items for everyone to have, but if you do not have them, whilst you are making your home baby safe, it is the ideal time to put this right. It is also a good idea that if you are not First Aid trained, to either further a course online, attend one locally or borrow a First Aid book from your local library so that if an accident happens, you will know exactly what basic First Aid to use.
The most important point of all
Whilst money can buy various pieces of equipment, the most valuable factor of all is your attention. Once your baby has become mobile, tempting though it is, you must NEVER leave them unsupervised because of the speed with which they can move, climb and reach out is truly alarming and you need to be there just to pre-empt any danger that your child will get themselves into because they have no sense of danger at all, so you need to be their personal ‘bodyguard’.
Each room in your house has some hidden hazards and reading through our list, you will find yourself looking around each room ‘through new eyes’ in the same way your toddler will view it. The most hazardous room in your house is your sitting room with the most serious injuries happening in the kitchen, bathroom and on the stairs. We are covering every room and the garden too because once you have childproofed your home, you will find that it brings tremendous peace of mind and that you will be able to relax and enjoy your baby at this important and magical stage when every day brings new words and new achievements.
Warm, comfortable and popular, the living room is the place to relax and enjoy some music, television or catch up with news from friends and family who have popped in. Points to check include the flooring; fitted carpet is perfect for a softer landing when your adventurous toddler takes a tumble. If you have a wooden or stone floor, is it worth considering getting a carpet or a large rug for your baby to sit and play on? Make sure that the edges of a rug are not easy to trip over – special adhesive tape can be easily bought for this job.
How safe is your furniture?
Children love to be able to look out of the window, so the first question is whether you have any chairs or sofas that can be used as a climbing frame to reach the window sill as these will need to be re-arranged. At this stage, it is well worth investing in some child-resistant window locks. At the early stages of walking many children pull themselves up on pieces of furniture so it is a good idea to check how sturdy each piece is – particularly bookshelves, which seem to draw young children like a magnet as they all seem to be budding librarians wanting to re-arrange them – but some bookshelves can easily topple. It doesn’t mean that you have to part with your bookshelf, but it does mean that securing it to the wall will make it much safer.
Raising the level!
As your baby gets mobile, you will need to reassess how your favorite ornaments are displayed as they will prove very intriguing to a small pair of hands. All the ornaments need to be raised off coffee tables and low shelves, so they are out of reach and it is a good idea to secure them in their new place with a little ‘Blu Tak’, so they cannot be easily toppled. Even houseplants will have to be moved to ensure that they don’t get an unexpected haircut by little fingers! No wonder hanging baskets remain popular! You may decide that you want to keep one houseplant or unbreakable ornament on your coffee table so that your child learns not to touch it – this can be a really good idea as it means you can visit friends’ homes with confidence knowing that your child will respond positively when told not to touch something.
Coffee tables are popular and found in most homes – either stylish and clear or hidden under a mountain of magazines and papers. If you have long been promising yourself to have a good sort out of these, be warned – your toddler will definitely beat you to it! If your coffee table has rounded edges, these will be safer should your toddler tumble near them, but if your coffee table has sharp corners, it is far better to buy some plastic safety corners that slide over the sharp corners and not be nearly as painful should your toddler fall.
If you have electric sockets at a low level, cover any unused ones with socket covers so that little fingers cannot get near them or and to ensure that pencils etc. don’t get poked into the holes.
All those cables!
There are always plenty of cables in a living room for televisions, DVD, sound systems and lamps. Can you imagine how much fun this colorful pile of spaghetti must look to a toddler? The simple solution is to invest in a large pack of cable ties and use them to secure each individual cable into an orderly fashion – and importantly- a shorter, safer length that can be tucked behind a piece of furniture such as the TV unit so that it is inaccessible. There are also cable management sleeves that you purchase that can be used to effectively hide cables away.
Beware of that cuppa!
It is great when family or friends pop in to say ‘hello’ but it is a sad fact that many young children are badly scalded by hot drinks, in fact, ten times more one-year-olds than older children are suffer burns and scalds. It comes as a surprise to many that a young child can still be scalded by a cup of tea or coffee 15 minutes after it has been made.
A treasure trove!
Looking through your child’s eyes, your kitchen will seem so much fun with jars, tins, pans, graters, knives and all those brightly colored cleaning products. According to RoSPA, there are 67,000 accidents involving children in the kitchen each year in the UK and many of these include cuts, burns, scalds, and poisoning. When childproofing your kitchen, you must remember that a toddler can stand on tiptoes and stretch – making many things more accessible – and if they can’t reach, they will drag a kitchen chair over so that they can. Other hazards, such as the open washing machine door are within easy reach, so it should be kept closed at all times. Vigilance is definitely the key in the kitchen and good education too. Teach your child from the earliest age about the different dangers and the things they should not touch.
Check the furniture
Like in your living room, are there any kitchen shelves that can topple? Do you have any stools that can easily be pulled over? How easy is it to get into the fridge with all that lovely food? Luckily, easy to fit fridge locks take moments to make access impossible to your toddler!
The cooker poses a real hazard especially if you leave pots and pans with handles hanging over the edge. Get into the good habit of always swinging the handles inwards so that they cannot be easily reached. Stove guards are available for many different types of stove and are excellent as they prevent pans from being pulled over. If there isn’t a guard available, you must never leave your child unsupervised whilst you are cooking and teaching your child about the dangers and reinforcing the warnings every day is essential. Be extra careful when you boil the kettle and afterward put it well out of reach and likewise if you have finished using an iron.
Knives and bleach to play with
Many drawers and cupboards in the kitchen contain potentially hazardous items including knives, scissors, graters and cleaning products and they can all seriously harm your child. The only way to ensure that accidents do not happen is to fit effective cupboard and drawer locks – and importantly, to use them. There is a variety available on the market but the magnetic locks that use a key are said to be the most efficient. The under-sink cupboard is a particularly important one to lock as cleaning products can poison and burn.
If you have shelving at the end of your kitchen island, pre-baby it probably had attractive breakable items on display… Post-baby, it is a good idea to swap these for some wicker baskets containing placemats and tea towels, in the knowledge that they will be re-arranged on a daily basis!
Keeping a safe distance
Whilst you are busy preparing and cooking a meal, it is essential that you can do so without worrying about your child’s safety and without being distracted which could result in you hurting yourself. When your baby is young, they can spend time in their bouncer (positioned at a safe distance) and you can entertain them with your singing. Once they are able to sit up, a playpen well away from the cooker is a good solution to the problem as you can see your child and be confident that they are safe whilst you work. If you don’t have a playpen, but your fridge is a safe distance from your cooker, some fridge magnets could prove entertaining to your child, alternatively, giving them their own kitchen drawer with toys can work well too. The solution you find for keeping your child safe whilst you cook will also work when you have to tackle the pile of ironing too. When you have finished the ironing, remember to place the iron carefully at the back of the work surface with the lead tucked behind so that it is inaccessible to your toddler – irons can retain their heat for a surprisingly long time.
Baby-proof your Stairs
4,200 children in the UK end up at Accident & Emergency Department of their local hospital after falling down the stairs. Falls are the second highest type of accidents in the home involving young children and they really can be avoided. Fit stair gates at both the top and bottom of the staircase and ensure that all family members use them properly and ensure that they are closed properly each time. Good quality second-hand stair gates are always available but do check that they work well before parting with your money.
Check that carpet on your stairs is fitted securely and is not fraying. If you have painted stairs, always ensure that your toddler is wearing shoes as the stairs can be slippery. Always keep the stairs clear of all obstructions such as toys, piles of magazines, ironing etc.
Never let your child near the stairs on their own and always remain close to them – even once they have mastered the skill of climbing them. Teach your toddler how to climb the stairs safely, holding onto the banister. Teach them how to descend them safely by turning around and sliding down on their tummy feet first. By the time your toddler is 2+ they will be confident enough to learn how to climb down the stairs safely using their feet, but even when they can do so, always be behind your child on the way up and in front of them on the way down, just in case they topple.
And so, to bed
Your child’s bedroom is a room not just for sleeping, but where your child will enjoy a quiet play and read – both looking at books on their own and sharing a story with you. Be ‘hazard aware’ and baby proof this room too.
Check all the furniture to ensure that it can’t topple and screw any shelves to the wall to ensure stability and make sure there is nothing near the window that can be climbed on. Fit window locks and deal with any long cords from blinds as these need to be kept really short using a cable tie, as, without this, the cord presents a danger as a child can be accidentally strangled. Is there anything heavy on a cupboard or shelf that could cause injury if it was pulled off? Check that all lamp and baby alarm cables are kept in good order with a cable tie and pop a socket cover on any unused electric sockets.
A welcoming cozy bed for your toddler
Whether your child is in a cot or bed, is it safe? Have you checked the safety guidelines and is it kept free of pillows and soft toys? Remember that in the USA, the main cause of accidental death for children under a year old is suffocation. If your toddler is just moving from the cot to a bed, it could be worth getting a safety rail for the bed or putting folded blankets on the floor next to the bed in case they fall out. If you have fixed a mobile above where they sleep, is it well out of reach and with no long strings? LED lighting is a good option in all bedrooms as the light is more relaxing and importantly, the bulbs do get too hot.
If the door to your child’s room is close to the top of the stairs, it is a good idea to fit a stair gate across the bedroom doorway so that they cannot reach the stairs on their own.
Toys aren’t always fun
Always check any new toys that your child is given to ensure that they are age appropriate – if they are not, it is usually because the toy has small parts and for a younger child, this provides a choking hazard. Regularly check that the toys are in good condition and are not broken. Children of all ages should be encouraged to tidy their toys up at the end of each day and to put them in the toy box as this ensures that they will not trip anyone up or be painful when they are stepped on.
If your child has a toy box, does the lid slam shut or does it have a safety mechanism to hold it open? Check that all the drawers in the bedroom are kept firmly closed too.
And other bedrooms too
The same safety guidelines regarding cables and cords can be applied to your bedroom and another added to the list concerning the contents of your bedside drawers. Many adults keep medicines in these drawers which of course could prove very tempting to your child – either move them into a lockable medicine chest or fit a lock to your bedside drawer. Make sure you don’t leave loose change and keys lying around too. Be careful if you use hair straighteners as last year they were responsible for 6% of the burns suffered by young children.
If you have older children in the house, their bedrooms could present hazards to your toddler especially as there could be toys with small pieces or small round batteries or coins left around. Bunk beds look very appealing to toddlers, but of course, trying to climb the ladder could well result in an accident.
Water – treat with care
It is a sad fact that a child can drown in just two inches of water. The best way to keep your child safe is to fit a latch high on the outside of the door and to let your child into the bathroom only when supervised by an adult. It is a sobering fact that the main cause of accidental death for children aged under four is drowning.
Make your bath safe by fitting a non-slip mat and wrapping a flannel around each tap once you have run the water – your child’s head could be tap level and this prevents any sharp knocks.
Always do the elbow test!
You must never leave your child unsupervised in the bath – if the phone rings, let it ring. Even if you have a special bath seat this only aids sitting in the bath – it does not and cannot prevent topples. Always check the temperature of the bath water before you put your child in the bath. Run the cold water first, then add hot water and always test the temperature with your elbow – the water should be blood heat and feel neither hot nor cold on your skin.
If your toilet is in the bathroom, always keep the lid down and don’t use the clip-on toilet fresheners as these are very appealing to small children. If you store medicines in the bathroom, make sure that they are properly stored in a lockable medicine cabinet that is fixed high on the wall. If you have a cupboard containing cleaning products, lock it.
Out into the garden…
A garden is a great place for toddlers to ‘let off steam’ and to try out all their new skills including walking, running, jumping and balancing. It is a great place when a change of tempo is needed for you both and on a warm summer’s afternoon, it is the perfect place to enjoy a picnic together. Like your home, it is well worth thinking about baby proofing your garden ready for the next good weather!
Always supervise your child whilst they are outdoors and never leave them unattended. If you have a playpen, this can be moved outdoors for short spells, but try to place it somewhere shady. Remember, whatever time of the year, it is good to put sun protection on your toddler’s sensitive skin.
Is your garden escape proof?
Just as dogs have a knack of finding a hole in the hedge or fencing, your curious toddler will too, and this needs to be avoided at all costs. Check that there are no gaps and if there are, get them fixed speedily. Could your toddler open the garden gate? If the answer is yes, it is worth fixing a second stronger bolt high on the outside or use a combination lock whenever you are in the garden together
If you have a pond, this needs to be covered or enclosed so that there is no chance that your child could fall in. Check that you don’t have poisonous berries on bushes as they are often a lovely color and very tempting. Trim the berries off the hedge up to adult height and teach your child never to touch them.
Store garden equipment safely.
Make sure all your sharp tools are carefully stored well away from little hands and don’t use them with a toddler around. Be particularly careful of your lawnmower and never leave it unattended in the garden. Make sure there are two of you when there is mowing to be done; one for the job and the other to supervise your toddler and the quality of mowing!
You can have fun digging the soil with your toddler as many children are fascinated to learn how plants grow. Grow some vegetables and fruit together but remember that many children are allergic to strawberries and cherry tomatoes are a choking hazard and they also have poisonous leaves. If you use fertilizers and weed killers, keep these well out of your child’s reach so that they are not accidentally swallowed.
Unfortunately, there are plenty of things in the garden that can be potentially dangerous, and these range from the gravel on the drive that a toddler can try to swallow, to seeds and berries that can also be choke hazards.
Keeping the sandpit clean.
Children love playing with sand and a sandpit can be a great investment – either one bought new or second hand, a homemade one works great too. The sand used to fill it should be washed sand as this does not stain and importantly, you will need a tight-fitting lid for the sand pit which should be replaced whenever the sandpit is not in use otherwise it will become the popular public bathroom for all the cats and dogs in the neighborhood!
Congratulations! You have reached the end and have successfully childproofed your home and garden. You can now enjoy peace of mind knowing that you have a created a safe environment for your toddler. But remember, always remain vigilant and your child’s personal bodyguard. No wonder my Mum used to talk about always needing ‘eyes in the back of her head’.
Make good parenting contagious…
Download Your FREE Baby Proofing Checklist (4373 downloads) here
If you have found this guide helpful and informative, feel free to print off some extra copies of your checklist and give them to your friends. Distribute them amongst friends, at your next Baby Clinic or at your local playgroups. Together we can lower the annual statistics for the number of young children injured under four years.