So much of parenting, regardless of how old your children are, revolves around keeping your kids safe. It starts even before they’re born, with months of research and frantic phone calls to friends and family for advice on choosing the sturdiest car seat/high chair/stroller and the most high-tech baby monitor. Then, before you know it, your baby is walking, then running like a miniature human tornado. That's when a baby-proofing checklist can really come in handy.
Once your baby is on the move, things that once seemed innocuous in your quiet, adult-only life (think: forks, drawers, and cleaning supplies) now take on a new, more menacing vibe. How do you baby-proof your house in a way that will truly keep your child safe ? I spoke with two experts from the International Association For Child Safety (IAFCS) to find out.
Many people think that this process starts when a child is mobile, so I was surprised to learn that baby-proofing should start as soon as the child comes home from the hospital. (Ideally, some steps should be taken before your baby is even born.) Jeff Baril, President of IAFCS and owner of Safe Beginnings, says that before you even begin to child-proof, you'll want to assess your surroundings and "take a baby's view of your home." This means altering your vantage point or even crawling around (just make sure your Nest camera is off as to not severely weird out your spouse) to notice things the baby will notice first. Baril also recommends that you be proactive when it comes to baby-proofing. "Don't wait until your child shows an interest," he tells Romper. "Be thorough. There is no downside to doing more." He also adds that a huge part of baby-proofing is really just noticing and changing your habits that may dangerous for a child. "Don't leave vitamins or medications where they are easily gotten to by your child," he offers as an example.
Below you'll find an easy-to-follow, step-by-step checklist for baby-proofing every room in your house.
When I think of rooms that have the potential for danger, my mind instantly goes to the kitchen. There are, however, multiple steps you can take to baby-proof this hazardous area.
- Secure electrical outlets with plastic plugs. "Babies love pushing objects into them," Baril says.
- "Latch drawers and cabinets. Baril says. "Teach your child that drawers and cabinets are not for them." Even as your child ages and begins to learn how to unlock the safety locks, it's still a good idea to keep them in place as it signals a boundary.
- Keep cleaning supplies and detergents locked in a high cabinet. You may also consider switching to non-toxic cleaning supplies like vinegar or non-chlorine bleach.
- As recommended by BabyCenter, "Move the toaster, coffeemaker, and all other electrical appliances out of your child's reach. Unplug them and hide the cords when they're not in use."
- Anything potentially harmful (medications, glass, sharp knives or scissors) should be stored high up and in a locked cabinet.
- Another useful suggestion from BabyCenter: Leave one cabinet filled with safe, fun items for your child to explore. This may include wooden spoons and rubber spatulas, lightweight bowls, and Tupperware container.
- Store pet food out of reach of children as it presents a choking hazard.
Your child probably won't be spending a ton of unassisted time in the bathroom, but it's still really important to make sure each room is baby-proofed. In addition to storing cleaning supplies up high and securing electrical outlets, below are a few measures you can take to ensure that your restroom is safe:
- Install a door knob cover or a hook-and-eye latch on the outside of the door. Be sure to close the door behind you and ask guests to do the same.
- Buy a non-stick floor mat that will help prevent slips when little slick feet get out of the tub. Having one in the tub is also helpful.
- Avoid mold in the bathroom by keeping the room well-ventilated, hanging towels and mats to dry, and as suggested by Parent.Guide, "Store toys in a mesh bag or container to allow air to circulate and naturally dry the bath toys."
- Store all appliances (blow dryers, straighteners, etc.) outside of the bathroom.
- Consider investing in a child-proof trash can.
- Invest in a toilet lock (there are some great products recommended by Safety.com).
- Get a rubber spout protector to prevent your child's head from knocking into the tub faucet. There are some that look like bath toys, and while cute, this type of spout protector may send a mixed message and encourage kids to play with it instead of leaving it alone as intended.
3. Living/Family Rooms
You want your kid to be able to play freely in certain rooms of your house, but you also want to make sure they're safe, especially as they begin to engage in child-led play.
- Baril tells Romper that parents should "move lamps or small appliances that have dangling cords that your child could pull on [and] bring the lamp or appliance crashing down."
- Secure and anchor furniture to the wall, as recommended by the International Association for Child Safety. This includes book shelves, TVs, and "any piece of furniture that is taller than it is deep or has drawers than can be opened and the center of gravity changed."
- Baril recommends "bi-fold door locks door knob covers," to keep children out of rooms when necessary.
- Move furniture away from windows. For example, it's not a good idea to have a couch below a window, especially if it's a second floor room. "Install devices to limit window opening to 4 inches," Baril tells Romper.
- "Eliminate dangling blind cords or install cordless blinds if possible," Baril says. Cords present a serious choking hazard.
You may already have baby gates in your house, and maybe you're even used to stepping over them like an Olympic hurdler hundreds of times each day. I was surprised to hear from IAFCS that there are some common misconceptions when it comes to what types of baby gates to use, especially on staircases.
"Pressure-fit gates do not belong on staircases," Baril says. Instead, use a hardware-mounted gate. Many parents avoid doing so because they don't want to drill holes in the wall to mount the gate, but this type of safety gate is much safer than a pressure-mounted gate (which can be pushed out) especially for places like the tops of stairs.
Colleen Driscoll, executive director of IAFCS says, "Gate mounting kits are available or consider calling a professional childproofer who has experience working with complicated stairway railings and moldings. Carefully, follow the manufacturer's instructions for height to avoid entrapment risks. One common mistake that people make is to install the gate above baseboard molding which creates an entrapment risks."
Kids Health also advises against "old accordion-style gates — these can trap a child's head."
5. Baby Nursery
Your baby's bedroom may be one of the first places they are ever alone, which is why it's especially important to make sure the nursery is safe and that you feel secure leaving the baby there.
Childproofing Experts (a website by IAFCS) has a great checklist for baby-proofing the nursery, and below are some their list's essential components.
- Install a smoke detector and carbon monoxide detector in the room.
- Make sure your crib is following the most current crib safety standards.
- Keep cribs, changing tables, and other furnitures away from windows. Cordless window treatments are safest.
- Think of the toddler your infant will become when decorating the nursery. Small tables, stools, and unanchored shelves pose a safety risk for children on-the-go.
- Make sure baby monitors and cords are at least three feet away from the crib. According to the IAFCS website, "60% of baby monitors [and] cords were installed incorrectly." They should not be mounted to or above the crib.
- Invest in an LED nightlight which does not present a burning hazard.
6. Other Bedrooms
Driscoll tells Romper that often bedrooms other than the nursery are overlooked when it comes to child-proofing.
"It’s important to secure televisions and furniture throughout the home," she says. "Sometimes, parents might not focus on their master bedroom for child-proofing but children often are in master bedrooms."
- Make sure houseplants are out of reach. Some may be poisonous (and none should be eaten, unless you're growing herbs for cooking indoors.)
- Pad sharp edges and corners, including the corners of the beds (you can find edge protectors on Amazon in many colors.)
- Install a door knob protective cover on the bathroom door to prevent children from going in unsupervised.
- Area rugs should have a grip pad underneath to prevent slipping.