Easy Steps for Childproofing
As infants turn into toddlers, child safety becomes critical. Get tips from a pediatrician on keeping your home safe for your toddler.
By Connie Brichford
Medically Reviewed by Pat F. Bass III, MD, MPH
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Baby milestones such as crawling and first steps are thrilling for parents, but they also bring new child safety challenges. As babies grow more mobile, they will start exploring the fascinating, novel environment that is their home. You can make your job as a parent easier with a few simple, inexpensive child safety precautions.
Childproofing is an important part of child safety. “Look into childproofing before your child can move around on her own,” says Ken Haller, MD, an associate professor of pediatrics at Saint Louis University School of Medicine. “By the time he or she starts exploring, you might find that you’re too busy following your child around to have time to childproof.”
Child Safety: How to Childproof Your Home
Child safety does not mean buying a truckload of expensive devices or replacing items in your home with plastic “kid-safe” versions. Child safety simply means putting some things out of reach or in a different room.
The top three child safety hazards are:
- Small objects or toys that can be swallowed
- Sharp objects that can poke and pierce the skin
- Fragile objects that can break, turning into sharp, smaller pieces
Understanding how kids see the world and why they need to explore will help create a safe environment. “Exploration is a sign of normal development. Kids are crazy about novelty and curious about objects they can manipulate,” says Dr. Haller.
He suggests looking “at the world from your child’s point of view — get down low and look around.” Spending just a few minutes looking at a room from the floor will be revealing. “Make sure to sweep a hand under the furniture," Haller says. "You’ll be amazed at what you find under the couch.” Kids will also pull hanging things, so check table runners, tablecloths, and electrical cords. Cords can be especially dangerous because they are often attached to fragile objects, such as lamps.
What to Buy to Ensure Child Safety
If your home is relatively new, the electrical outlets might have a built-in safety device. If not, plastic outlet covers are a cheap and effective way to keep a child safe.
If your home has stairs, get a child safety gate. “People are good at remembering to block stairways that lead down, but we also need to block stairs leading up,” says Haller. “We forget that a kid can climb up the stairs and then fall back down.”
Even if your house has no stairs, safety gates can separate rooms. “The amazing job you did childproofing the living room can go to waste if the kid gets into the dining room,” says Haller. If you don’t want to childproof the whole house, a few safety gates are a great investment because they control just how far your child can go.
What Not to Buy to Ensure Child Safety
If you got a baby walker at your baby shower, take it back. Haller strongly discourages the use of baby walkers because they let children get around much more quickly. “If they go over the stairs or off the porch, the walkers are so heavy that [children] can then break limbs and even necks if they land the wrong way.
Video: Baby-proofing in 7 steps
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