Search High - And Low
When it comes to child safety in the home, it’s all about perspective. To identify possible dangers, you literally have to get down to a kid’s level and see things as they do. Nothing short of a rubber room can be completely child-safe, but by using an eagle eye and common sense, you’ll be able to remove the most worrisome hazards. Here are some things to watch out for.
Babies love to play with window blinds, but can get tangled in and strangled by long cords. Shorten all long cords and tie them up and away from the reach of little hands. A free blind tassel shortening kit is available by calling the Window Covering Safety Council at 800-506-4636.
Glass doors, like outside sliders or storm doors, are an invitation for trouble. Kids often forget the door is there and walk or run right into it. If the glass breaks, serious injury can result. Apply decorative decals at the child's eye level as a constant reminder of closed doors. Also make sure your glass is “safety glass.” This is usually stamped on the glass near a corner. If it’s not, have the glass replaced immediately.
Houses with windows low to the ground dare a child to climb out. Even if your windows are higher, kids can climb on the back of a couch or up on a bed to reach one. Invest in window screening as well as safety bars or latches and install them on any window your child might reach.
Bumps and Lumps
Look for sharp corners on walls and cabinets. Install soft corner guards on coffee tables, cabinet edges, night stands and any other sharp edge you find. Use baby gates at both the top and bottom of stairs to deter the youngest mountaineers in your family!
Prevent Trips and Falls
Add handrails that kids can reach, along with tread mats or carpet to wooden steps. Arrange chairs, tables, shelving and other pieces of furniture so that they’re not easily toppled. Also secure area rugs to prevent tripping.
Be sure any railing in your home is at least 36 inches tall and has no more than six-inch spaces between any of the spindles. While legal under most building codes, this six-inch space is still too wide for a really small child who could squeeze through the railing and fall. If you have a small toddler, pick up some child-proof netting and install it temporarily on the inside of the balcony to prevent little bodies from slipping through. The netting can be removed when the child gets bigger and it won't damage the railing.
Buy inexpensive, easy-to-install locks for all your cabinets that contain any household chemicals, including normal cleaning solutions, paint supplies, nail polish remover and other such poisons. With medicine cabinets, install the latch high up on the door since kids can climb up on the vanity in an attempt to reach it. Always store products in their original packaging to prevent confusion and accidental misuse.
In addition to smoke detectors, install carbon monoxide detectors outside of all bedrooms and in main living areas for immediate warning of the presence of CO. (Combination smoke/CO detectors are also available as a two-for-one solution.)
For children, outlets are one of the most dangerous electrical devices in the home. They are at perfect kid-height and children love to try to stick just about anything in them. The solution is simple: install plug protectors on every outlet. There are many different types of outlet covers, and most will do the trick. But avoid those that only cover a single plug, since they are small enough to be swallowed by a child; use at least the double-plug size. Also make sure that any electrical cords are up and out of the way.
Make sure children understand which are the safe and unsafe areas for climbing and exploring (counters and shelves fit into the latter category).
Replace latches on toy chests with slow-closing hinges, or remove their lids altogether; add ventilation holes as well. To prevent choking and suffocation, ensure that mesh-sided playpens have holes no larger than a quarter of an inch. Remove hanging crib toys when babies are able to pull themselves up. Also make sure kids' outdoor play areas are safe.
Look carefully around your child’s crib. This ought to be the safest area in the house. Kid-proof anything that could cause trouble including blinds, outlets, shelves, and furniture that can be pulled down, and remove all plastic bags and coverings (even the plastic wrap on a crib mattress can cause suffocation). Also make sure that the moveable sides of cribs and playpens are always in their raised, locked position, and that crib mattresses fit tightly, with no more than two finger-widths of space between the mattress and crib frame.