Childproofing your home
What's a perfectly safe home to you can be a dangerous place for your baby so try seeing your home through her eyes and making some changes
Posted: 10 December 2006
Why you should think about childproofing your home
You might think that your home is a very safe place, you’ve no exposed wiring, no loose carpet on the stairs and no shelves hanging precariously off the wall. But if you get down on your hands and knees at baby level and think about how your baby will be interested in pulling on, climbing on, chewing and poking absolutely everything within grasp, things can suddenly look very different. Most accidents involving young children happen in the home and while every child will have his or her share of bumps and scratches, a seemingly safe home can be the scene for far more serious and even fatal accidents.
If you take your eye off your baby for just a few seconds she can quickly get herself in trouble as she’s naturally inquisitive and may know little fear. So what can you do? There are plenty of eventualities in child–rearing that you can’t plan for, but luckily with home safety a lot of them you can take steps against. Every home is different and will present different dangers, but here are some of the dangers you need to look out for.
- Scalding - Scalding is one of the most common accidents that befalls babies in the home. Make sure your kettle and its flex are well out of reach of your child and consider turning down your thermostat to prevent accidental scalding. Keep hot drinks well away from babies and toddlers and never handle a hot drink while you are breastfeeding.
- Electrical sockets - They’re tempting for babies' little fingers and they’re at ground level. If you have sockets with switches then make sure they’re switched off when not in use and fit covers on empty sockets.
- Stairs - Your crawling baby will quickly learn how to climb up stairs, but getting down is another matter, and she may fall down them. You’ll need to fit gates at the top and bottom of stairs until she’s old enough to use stairs safely. Loose or worn carpet and anything left on the stairs could cause you to trip when carrying the baby or cause your child to trip when she’s a bit older. If you have children you need to have a secure and reasonably high banister rail.
- Off-limit rooms - If you have a room that you can’t baby proof you’ll need to fit a safety gate to keep her out.
- Wires and leads - Your baby is likely to pull on any leads for electrical appliances and may pull lamps etc. on top of herself. Make sure the leads are well tucked away (you can buy lead holders to tuck them into) and consider placing standard lamps behind furniture where they can’t be pulled over.
- Sharp corners - Furniture like coffee tables, dining tables and chair legs may have sharp edges. You can buy special protectors for these.
- Stability - At some point your child will reach the stage where she likes to pull herself up to a standing position using whatever is to hand. Bookshelves not attached to walls, light tables and other objects can cause serious injury if the baby pulls them over onto herself. You might want to hide some furniture away in an out-of-bounds room or make sure shelves are fixed to the wall.
- Fires - Fireguards are a legal necessity for a lit open fire when children are present. Make sure that the guard is not one that can be pulled over and that there are no metal strips that will become very hot within your baby’s reach.
To protect against the risk of fire keep matches, candles and all other inflammables well out of your child’s reach. Make sure you have smoke alarms fitted and check them regularly to make sure they’re working.
- Windows - If you don’t already have them then fit locks on windows to restrict how wide they can open. Make sure that you open sash windows from the top rather than the bottom and once you baby is climbing keep anything she can climb up on a safe distance from any windows. With glass patio doors or glass doors that aren’t frosted or lined, use coloured stickers so your baby can see them, or alternatively just don’t bother cleaning them!
- Cooking - You'll need to take particular care when cooking. Obviously it makes sense to keep pan handles turned inwards to prevent upsets, and if you have an oven at ground level you'll need to ensure that you're baby stays well away when it's on or still hot.
- Toxins - Cupboards where you store cleaning products, pesticides, DIY substances, medicines, beauty supplies and first aid equipment need to either be religiously locked or out of your little one’s reach. Make sure that products are fitted with child-safe caps too.
There are less obvious toxic substances around the home too, tobacco, alcohol, some plants, toiletries, air fresheners and so on. Make sure all are kept well out of reach.
- Irons - You need to be particularly vigilant when ironing as you need the flex free to be able to iron properly, but your baby could easily tug on it and pull the iron onto herself.
- Cords - Keep curtain and blind cords tied up and out of the way where your baby can’t wrap them around herself.
- Sharp objects - It sounds obvious, but keep sharp objects like knives, scissors, letter openers etc. locked away in drawers.
- Household waste - While you hope it won’t happen, it’s far from impossible that your child might explore the contents of your bin so think twice about what you put in it and make sure toxic waste is disposed of carefully.
- Toilet bowl - Once your baby starts climbing your toilet bowl could present a hazard, special clips can be used to secure the seat.
All of this is, of course, no substitute for keeping a very close watch on your baby when she’s mobile and constantly being alert to possible dangers but preferably without reducing yourself to an over-anxious wreck! Accidents will happen, it's the nature of life, but a little forward thinking can reduce your quota considerably.
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Discuss this story
Not wanting to scare people at all, I thought it might be useful to share some personal experiences from the days pre- the whole baby safety industry of how commonplace accidents can be, and how easily preventable on occasion or conversely how sometimes there's just nothing you can do about it at all!
I personally fell victim to a loose carpet and sharp edged stool combination as a youngster and ended up with seven stitches across one cheek. (I still bear the rather undramatic scar to this day).
And my youngest brother when a toddler drove his trike down the stairs (well he more somersaulted it down them) and lost his four lower front milk teeth. Ouch. I think we had a gate but an older sibling probably helpfully left it open...
No terrible and lasting harm done but a lot of stress and frayed nerves at the time!
Anyone else got any? Childhood reminiscing or recent adventures of your own children equally welcome.
Posted: 28/07/2005 at 10:21
I clearly remember choking on a button when I was about 3 years old! Not quite sure where I found it or whether my brother gave it to me telling me it was a sweet (!!) but I do rememebr both my mom and dad holding me upside down and shaking me! Luckily no serious damage done, but moral of the story - watch what you leave around..
Posted: 28/07/2005 at 10:33
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My mum says I pulled a table lamp onto my head by the chord once! Luckily it wasn't very high so I just had a small bruise.
Typical me, always trying to work on my hairstyle.
Posted: 01/09/2005 at 12:03
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