Childproofing Your Home

Parents worry endlessly about how to protect their children, but many overlook one of the biggest threats to their children’s safety and well-being — their own home. Experts say that children between the ages of 1 and 4 are more likely to be killed by fire, burns, drowning, choking, poisoning, or falls within the home than anything else.

In fact, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control about 2.3 million children are accidentally injured every year and more than 2,500 are killed. That’s why it’s so important to carefully childproof your home.

We know that home safety measures can seem overwhelming, so below we have provided some tips to properly protect your children from potential accidents.

Scope out the territory

The most effective way to ensure your baby’s safety is to take a baby’s-eye view of your home. Get down on your hands and knees and see how things look from down there.

What’s within reach? What looks tempting? Where would you go if you could crawl, toddle, or walk?

This will help you figure out which cupboards, drawers, and other spaces your child might get into. As he starts walking and climbing, you’ll have to reevaluate again, looking higher each time.

Carefully lock up or stow away every potential poison or other hazard, including cleaning products, medicines, vitamins, and knives. Use gates to limit your child’s access to areas of your home that might contain dangerous items.

Protect outlets

It’s a good idea to protect electrical outlets with outlet covers. Unfortunately, the removable little plug-in caps can easily end up in your baby’s mouth. Instead, replace the outlet covers themselves – at least those that are accessible – with ones that include a sliding safety latch.

If you’re using extension cords in your home, cover any exposed outlets with electrical tape.

Use caution with furniture and fixtures

According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), more than 16,000 children under the age of 5 went to the emergency room in 2006 with injuries caused when television sets, bookcases, and other furniture and appliances tipped over on them.

Large or heavy bookcases, dressers, and appliances are real hazards: Bolt whatever you can to the wall. Push items like televisions back from the edge of the furniture they’re on or move them out of reach, and then secure them, too. Always put heavier items on bottom shelves and in bottom drawers to make furniture less top-heavy.

Install gates

Most parents consider safety gates essential childproofing tools. They allow you to open outside doors for air while keeping your child indoors, they contain him within a designated room, and they block his access to dangerous stairways and forbidden rooms (such as the bathroom or kitchen).

Unfortunately, if out-of-date or used improperly, safety gates can themselves pose a hazard to children. In general, look for gates that your child can’t dislodge but that you can easily open and close. (Otherwise, you’ll be too tempted to leave them open when you’re in a hurry.)

Never use pressure gates at the top of stairs. Instead, install a gate that screws to the wall – it’s much more secure.

Check ties on blinds and curtains

According to the CPSC, the cords on window coverings are a frequent cause of strangulation of children, killing a child between the ages of 7 months and 10 years every month in the United States.

Window blinds pose a particular hazard because a baby’s neck could become trapped in the cords that raise the blinds or run through the slats. A child can become entangled in a looped window cord and strangle in a matter of minutes. Use cordless window coverings wherever possible, and avoid placing your baby’s crib near a window.

Secure your windows and doors

According to the CPSC, every year about eight children under the age of 5 die from falling out of windows in the United States, and more than 3,000 are injured.

Always open double-hung windows from the top or fit them with locks to prevent small children from opening them.

Low windows shouldn’t open more than 4 inches. Window stops are available that can prevent windows from opening more than this. Some newer windows come with window stops already installed.

Window screens are not strong enough to prevent falls. To make windows safe, install window stops or window guards, which screw into the side of a window frame, have bars no more than 4 inches apart, and can be adjusted to fit windows of many different sizes.

Prevent drowning

According to the CPSC, more than 430 children under age 5 drowned between 2005 and 2009 – not in a pool, but in their own home. Accidental drowning is the leading cause of death for children ages 1 to 4.

Most in-home drowning deaths involve babies in bathtubs. Never leave your baby unattended in the tub – even if he’s in a ring or bath seat. Supervise your child whenever he’s in the bathroom, and install a safety latch on your toilet lid to prevent him from accidentally falling in.