65 Ways to childproof your home
65 Ways to childproof your home
15:10 (GMT+2), Wed, 24 October 2007
Keeping your children safe is one of the most challenging aspects of being a parent. Adults know out of experience what is potentially dangerous, but it is different for a baby and toddler. For them the world is new, and every little thing in it should (and will) be examined. Unfortunately, some of these things can be very dangerous, so you want to make your house a safe place – where the possibilities of injuries and accidents are minimal.
In the nursery
Your little one will spend a lot of time here, so you should design the space with safety in mind:
Cots and beds
- Choose your cot carefully. Make sure the mattress fits snugly. The side rails should be close enough together so that baby cannot put his head through the openings. It is always better to buy a new cot, since they must comply with certain safety standards. Also, choose a cot with a side rail which an older baby cannot manipulate. Test the cot for stability in the baby store by pulling and shoving against it. You may be buying the cot when your baby is small, but you will be surprised how strong a toddler can be.
- If you do want to use a second-hand or antique cot, you should check slat spaces and stability. Be aware that many old cots may be painted with a lead-based paint, which is very dangerous for a baby. Look out for splinters, sharp edges, protruding metal or a side rail that can be manipulated by your baby.
- Choose the mattress carefully. Small babies should sleep on a safety mattress with adequate ventilation. A toddler can sleep on a plastic mattress, but you should inspect it regularly for wear and tear, and replace it immediately when a tear appears. Little children love to pick, and plastic presents a choking hazard. Never use plastic bags or linen savers (with plastic) as mattress covers. They are a serious suffocation and choking hazard.
- A small baby should always sleep on his back (use wedges to keep him in this position). This reduces the risk of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) and suffocation.
- Never put a cot, crib or bed near a window. Even small babies can strangle themselves on curtain or blind cords. A toddler can also fall through a window when jumping on a bed (that’s why jumping on a bed should never be allowed).
- Never hang objects like toys or mobiles near your baby’s bed with string. And never tie his pacifier or teether around his neck. He could strangle to death. Remember to remove his bib before you put him to bed.
- When your baby is able to stand up, adjust the base to its lowest position. Remove all mobiles and other unsafe toys that he can reach. Remove all bumpers, bulky bedding and large toys. An active toddler will use anything to help him escape the cot.
- Make sure that the side rail is locked in the raised position when you put your child in the cot.
- Never use electric blankets or heating pads in the cot or bed of a small child.
- Your child has outgrown his cot when he is about 90cm tall. It is likely that he will try to climb out of the cot and it can be a nasty fall. Move him to a bed instead.
- Inspect your child’s cot and bed regularly for any signs of deterioration or damage. Make sure all nuts, screws and bolts are secure to prevent the cot from collapsing. Replace it if necessary.
- Whether you use a compactum or a chest of drawers for changing, never leave your baby unattended (even a small infant can turn around unexpectedly). Make a habit of always keeping one hand on your baby while he is on the changing table to prevent a nasty fall.
- Install and use safety belts on the changing table (but even then you should not leave him unattended).
- Use a changing pad/mat with raised sides.
- Keep small and dangerous objects (small toys, nail scissors, diaper pins) well out of baby’s reach. The same goes for toiletries.
- Avoid toys with small parts that can come off easily and present a choking hazard. A good rule of thumb is: if it can pass though the inner tube of a toilet roll, it is too small.
- Baby gyms and mobiles are fashionable, but they can be dangerous. Install the gym securely so that it cannot be pulled into the cot. Remove baby gyms and mobiles when your baby starts to push up on this hands and knees.
- Always follow the age recommendations on the packaging. Toys are tested by strict safety standards, and the guideline is there to be followed.
- Be careful what you use as a toy chest. Do not use heavy wooden toy chests with hinged lids and latches. A child could get trapped inside and suffocate or catch hands and fingers when opening and closing. Rather choose a light plastic one with a removable lid. It is, in fact, safer to remove all lids until your child is a lot older.
- Keep night-lights away from the edge of tables or shelves. Rather use one that can be plugged into a socket, or a battery-operated touch-light for an older toddler.
- Use non-toxic paint for your baby’s room. Never use old paint, because it can contain lead. Also be very careful when removing old paint. Lead-based paint can cause serious health problems in babies and young children.
IN THE KITCHEN
The kitchen is a veritable trove of accidents waiting to happen:
- If you need to do something in the kitchen, put your baby in a safe seat where you can keep an eye on him. Toddlers can be strapped in a high chair, but make sure that it is sturdy, and always use the safety harness.
- Remove all ladders or small chairs from the kitchen. In fact, anything a toddler can use to climb onto a counter or gain access to the stove should
- Keep all detergents and insecticides locked away in a high cupboard.
- Also, arrange your kitchen cupboards so that breakables are out of reach.
- Use cupboard latches to shut the doors of those cupboards that you do not want your child to access.
- Use a refrigerator lock to keep the fridge off limits to little hands, or use the key supplied by the manufacturer. Hide this key from your toddler.
- Turn handles of pots and pans towards the back of the stove, and use the back stove plates where possible.
- Keep cords of kettles, toasters, electric woks and frying pans away from the edges of counters.
- Put a drawer lock on the drawers that have knives or other sharp and dangerous items in them. Also, remove all knife blocks from counters.
- Use appliance locks to keep your toddler away from your appliances. This is especially important for your freezer, dishwasher, washing machine and tumble dryer.
- Always check inside appliances, like your dishwasher, washing machine, oven, microwave and tumble dryer before you use them. Never assume that they are the way you left them, even if it was just a minute ago.
In the living room
Families spend a lot of time in the living room, so it is important that this room is safe for all its members:
- Lock all alcoholic beverages away in a cupboard and hide the key.
- Pad all sharp corners with corner cushions.
- Put screened barriers in front of open fireplaces. Limit access to matches, lighters and fire accelerants.
- Place audio-visual equipment so that children cannot pull them off
- Bolt bookcases and wall units to the wall if they’re not sturdy enough to withstand a toddler pulling or pushing against them.
In the bathroom
Like in the kitchen, the bathroom is another place where your baby or toddler shouldn’t be allowed without supervision:
- Never and under no circumstances leave your baby or toddler alone in the bathtub – not even in a few centimetres of water for a few seconds. Also, never leave a baby or toddler alone in the bath with an older sibling.
- Use a bath seat with suction cups to bath your small baby. It keeps baby safe while you have a hand free to wash baby. Use a non-slip bath mat on the bottom of the bath for toddlers and young children.
- Teach your child from a young age that a person sits still in the bath, and that no rough games are allowed.
- Set your geyser to a low temperature. Toddlers are very adept at opening taps by themselves. This way you can protect your child against serious burns if he does open the tap himself. (And you will save on your electricity bill, too!)
- Lock all medications away, including infant and children’s medication and vitamins.
- Use a special lock for the toilet, so that your toddler cannot open it.
In the dining room
The following applies especially to the dining table, where all sorts of accidents can happen:
- If your toddler is too small or active to sit at the dining table, he should sit in a high chair. The high chair should have a sturdy base, and it’s a good idea to have some toys handy to amuse him.
- Choose a high chair with a five-point safety harness, since a toddler can climb out of the chair if it only fastens around the waist.
- Never use place mats or tablecloths, since babies and toddlers love pulling on them.
- If you store crockery and glasses in a sideboard in your dining room, always keep the cabinets locked and hide the key.
In the garage
Many houses these days have direct access to the garage from inside the house, which makes it accessible and much more dangerous for your child:
- Keep doors leading to the garage locked at all times.
- Never allow your child to go into the garage unsupervised.
- Place small objects on a shelf that is out of reach – or better yet, lock them away in a cupboard.
- Put a child-resistant outlet cover on all electrical outlets in the garage. (In fact, this applies to all outlets in and around the home.)
- Install a lockable broom cupboard in your garage and place all dangerous garden equipment in there (picks, axes, scissors, etc). Also lock all dangerous substances away (paint, kerosene, gasoline, charcoal, lighter fluid, pesticides and fertilisers, etc).
- Lock all tool boxes.
- Keep the individual parts of power tools apart from the tools themselves.
In the garden and pool
While these aren’t exactly in the home, one can never stress the importance of the following enough:
- Lock your garden tools safely away in a garden shed or garage. The same goes for pesticides and fertilisers.
- If you do not have an enclosed garden, you should always supervise your child when he plays outside.
- Show your toddler which trees are safe to climb. If there are no suitable trees in your garden, you could opt for a jungle gym.
- Know your plants. Let an experienced gardener look at your garden and point out any poisonous ones. You need to remove these to make your garden a safe place.
- When it comes to pool safety, children need to be taught respect for swimming pools from an early age, even if you do not have a pool of your own (your children will be in the vicinity of a pool at some time or another – whether at a friend or family member’s house, at school, or on holiday.
- Take your children for swimming lessons. Your children need to know how to swim, as well as how to help themselves if they were to fall in the pool accidentally.
- There should be a gate around a pool, and it should be locked at all times. Only parents are allowed keys, and teach your children to come and ask you when they want to swim.
- Alternatively, you can also purchase a pool cover/net. Always lock the gate or put the pool cover/net on, even if you are going to use the pool again the next day.
- Both gates and covers/nets need to be inspected regularly. Covers can be dangerous, because children could climb in under the cover if a clasp is broken. Covers also trap rain water, which can become a drowning hazard. Children are under no circumstances allowed to jump or play on the pool cover.
- Never leave any child at the pool unsupervised. Many children have drowned because the telephone or doorbell rang, or because the food on the stove was burning. Plan your day so that you do not have to multitask on a nice day that your children may want to swim. Take a cordless phone with you, or get an answering machine. Learn to ignore the phone and doorbell. This is the one time when your children’s safety is more important than anything else.
- Teach your children never to play rough games around the pool. No riding bicycles, ball games, pushing and shoving or bullying is allowed. Make sure that they understand the consequences of this (such as no pool for a week) and stick to it.