A room-by-room guide to making your home safe for your child. By Hasmita Amtha
You may be tempted to buy every safety gadget on the market before your baby even arrives, but take your time to figure out just what you need. Your home only needs to be secured once your baby starts crawling.
Getting your home baby-ready isn’t limited to the four walls of the nursery, and each room should be considered when approaching this task.
Often referred to as the “heart of the home”, the kitchen is a multifunctional space where the family gathers.
- Try to keep clutter to a minimum, which will decrease the chance of an accident.
- When planning storage, bear in mind that cabinetry offers an exciting place for a little one to explore.
- Consider installing safety locks on cupboards and drawers you don’t want to be opened by small hands.
- Keep all small appliances, harmful chemicals and detergents, as well as heavy, sharp and breakable items in high places your child will find hard to reach – even when he’s standing and walking on his own.
- Toddlers can often reach the top of a stove, so it’s advisable to purchase a stove top or hob guard, which acts as a barrier to prevent your child from touching hot plates or pulling down a simmering pot. An eye-level oven is ideal, but you can also purchase an appliance latch, which will prevent your tot from opening the oven door.
- Place unbreakable items like tea towels and plastic containers in bottom cabinets, so your child can open them and explore the contents safely.
There are two main hazards in the bathroom – slipping and access to medications.
- To prevent falls, choose slip-resistant surfaces, place a non-slip rubber mat in the bathtub and a non-slip bath mat on the floor.
- While a shower is economical and perfect for a big family with mixed age groups, a bath makes washing babies and toddlers more manageable. A shallow, wide bath makes it easy for you to wash and play with your child.
- Consider installing a thermostat that can be controlled to avoid scalding from hot water – most contemporary taps allow you to set your desired temperature.
- Higher shelves above the bath ensure that toiletries are kept out of small hands.
- Storage and accessibility are also important to keep in mind. Keep all medications, including vitamins, prescription drugs, antacids, aspirin and mouthwash in a locked, high cabinet. Cosmetics, and bath and hair products should be kept out of your child’s reach, and sharp objects like scissors, razors and nail clippers should be locked away, along with any cleaning detergents.
- Children have been known to drown in as little as 6cm of water and toddlers can easily lean over into the toilet bowl, lose balance and fall in head first. Avoid this by installing a toilet lock.
- If you’re concerned your busy toddler might wander unsupervised into the bathroom, always make sure that the bathroom door is closed. If your child can reach the doorknob, place a childproof cover over it or install a hook-and-eye lock on the outside of the door.
- Keep a non-slip step stool nearby for your little one. While a single-step stool may be perfect for your toddler to reach the bathroom sink, if it is too short it will force your child to stand on his toes, which could lead to a fall.
In your living room, there’s no need to completely redecorate your space. Rather re-evaluate major furniture pieces and accessories.
- Couches tend to be one of the pieces of furniture we buy for longevity. If you have a white fabric couch, for example, you may want to consider reupholstering this in a darker fabric that hides stains, or choosing leather, which is durable and easier to maintain. You may also want to only replace or reupholster your couch when your children are older, as it will probably take much wear and tear during the toddler years.
- Coffee tables can be one of the most dangerous pieces of furniture in the room due to their height and sharp edges. Swap out your coffee table for an ottoman, which you can still rest your feet on, but won’t be a hazard to your baby.
- Play it safe when it comes to your decorative objects. Remove all breakable pieces, such as glass vases as well as bigger heavy items like a side lamp that your child is likely to knock over, attempt to pick up or purposefully push to the floor.
- Decluttering your living space and keeping your décor to the minimum will reduce the risk of an accident. Include a trunk or child-friendly basket in which you can store toys.
Before splashing out on decorating your baby’s nursery, consider what’s safest and most convenient.
- When it comes to selecting the hard finishes, such as paint and flooring, opt for eco-friendly, hypo-allergenic materials. Plascon’s Professional Evolution paints are lead-free, zero (to low) VOC and eco-kind. For floors, consider carpets that are hypo-allergenic, such as Belgotex’s SilverCare range, which inhibits bacteria, reducing odours in the carpet and eliminating dust mites by destroying their food source. Bamboo or cork flooring are also good options.
- For bigger furniture pieces, secure top-heavy furniture to the wall with a strap or nails. Adventurous toddlers often attempt to climb bookshelves or into drawers, causing furniture to topple.
- When tackling the bigger furniture pieces, ensure that the crib has a sturdy bottom and a wide and stable base with no sharp edges. The legs of the crib must be securely attached and the mattress must be firm and fit snugly (less than two fingers on each side). Avoid soft, fluffy bedding such as pillows and comforters, which may cause suffocation.
- When your little one is finding his feet, rug pads with non-skid backing will prevent tumbles and tears if you don’t have carpeting in the room.
- Avoid placing your child’s crib near a window. Not only do the drapery and cords pose a choking hazard, but a toddler could try to leverage himself on the crib to climb out a window – which is especially dangerous if there are no burglar bars in place.
Beware of these hazards in the home
- All exposed electrical wires need to be attended to. Take a walk around your home and note down all electrical hazards, then arrange to have an electrician fix them.
- Curious crawling babies are likely to want to touch everything at eye level – which makes plug sockets particularly tempting. Purchase protectors to avoid any accidents.
- As a rule of thumb, keep your electrical appliances out of the bathroom and out of sight in general – a mere tug at a cord could bruise your little one. A hairdryer or iron that is inadvertently switched on could severely burn your child.
- Ensure that all the cords from blinds, entertainment systems and home technology are neatly tucked away, as they pose a strangulation risk. If possible, mount your TV to the wall so your child can’t tug on any exposed wires and cause it to fall.
Xanet is an award-winning journalist and Living and Loving’s digital editor. She has won numerous awards for her health and wellness articles and was a finalist for the Discovery Journalist of the Year in 2009 and again in 2011 for the Discovery Best Health Consumer Reporting and Feature Writing category. She is responsible for our online presence across social media channels and makes sure our moms have fresh and interesting articles to read every day. Learn more about Xanet Scheepers.