From the time they learn to crawl, babies are constantly on the move, exploring their exciting -- and sometimes dangerous -- new world. As a parent, you want to keep your child safe, but even the most vigilant parent can’t keep a curious toddler away from every possible household hazard. While accidents are bound to occur occasionally, babyproofing your home can help protect little ones from the most dangerous hazards and injuries, and give you the confidence to encourage your child's inquisitive and curious nature in a safe environment.
Adding safety latches on cupboards and drawers is one of the easiest ways to keep curious fingers from any number of dangerous household items. Pay close attention to the lower cabinets in kitchens and bathrooms, since these areas often hide chemical cleaners, medicines and sharp objects. When choosing a safety latch, look for one that will work with the style of cabinet in your house, as not all latches will work with all cabinets and drawers. Safety latches should be durable, easy for adults to use and shouldn't damage cabinets or drawers when they are removed.
Babies and toddlers often learn about the world through touch, which means that uncovered electrical sockets present a dangerous risk. Placing a simple plastic outlet plug in each outlet is an inexpensive option, but remember to always replace the plug after using the outlet. A swivel cover or outlet plate takes a little more work to install, but once it’s in, the individual outlet covers swivel out of the way when the outlet is in use and then move automatically back in place when the outlet isn’t being used, making it the more convenient option.
Related: Find out more about outlet safety
Whether you need to keep a newly crawling baby away from the stairs or an on-the-go toddler from a room with numerous dangers, a safety gate is your best bet. A quality safety gate should be easy for adults to use, but sturdy enough that it won’t fall over when pushed on. A baby gate mounted into the walls with screws is the most durable option and typically comes with a convenient door-like opening. Always use screw-mounted baby gates to block the top of the stairs, notes the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. A pressure-mounted baby gate is easier to install, but make sure that it cannot be pushed over and that your child cannot climb the slats in the gate or get her head stuck in the openings.
Related: Learn how to install safety gates
While you may not be able to keep your little one from unrolling an entire roll of toilet paper, there are several important safety measures to keep your bathroom free of dangers. For babies still in diapers, a clamp to hold the toilet lid shut protects little ones from the drowning risk of toilet bowl water. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission also recommends lowering your hot water thermostat to 120 degrees Farhenheit or using an anti-scald devise to prevent accidental burns during bath time. For more bathing safety, install non-slip mats in the tub and let your child pick out fun bathtub faucet and knob covers to prevent bumps or bruises.
Once your baby starts to pull himself up, it’s time to anchor heavy furniture and appliances to the wall with furniture wall straps or mounting brackets. Toddlers who try to climb on or pull themselves up on bookshelves or dressers risk pulling the piece of furniture over onto them unless the furniture is properly secured. For furniture with sharp corners and edges, such as coffee tables or fireplaces, attach padded bumpers to prevent serious injuries for an unsteady little one.
Related: Learn how to anchor a bookshelf
The cords on blinds or drapes can present a strangulation hazard for young children. Replace looped cords with individual hanging cords and keep the cords out of reach to prevent your baby’s head from getting caught. To keep toddlers from falling out of an open window, make sure windows are not left open more than a few inches and install a window guard or safety netting for additional security. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission notes that basic window screens are not enough of a safety barrier to prevent children from falling out of a window. Keeping cribs or play yards away from windows is also wise.
Related: Find out more about window safety
The kitchen may be the gathering place for family and friends during social events, but it also presents a number of dangers for babies. Sharp objects, alcohol, medications, matches, plastic bags and poisonous chemicals should all be kept out of reach or behind cabinets with safety locks to keep inquisitive young children away. Make sure that pot and pan handles are turned toward the back of the stove when cooking and teach your child to avoid touching a hot oven. You could also put up a barrier around the stove to prevent accidental burns. Purchase locks and knob protectors for the stove and dishwasher and remove tablecloths from dining tables until the baby knows not to pull on them.
Related: Learn more about using oven locks
Young babies will put almost anything in their mouths and, unfortunately, this activity can have some very serious consequences. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 71,000 children are brought to emergency rooms each year because of medication poisoning, often the result of an unsupervised child getting into medications. In addition to keeping medications, cleaners and other poisonous substances behind locked cabinets, the authors of “What to Expect the First Year” recommend ensuring that dangerous products come in child-resistant packaging and avoiding brightly colored cleaning supplies that might attract a small child. Also, make sure to dispose of old medications and hazardous chemicals in a trash can with a tight lid, rather than a kitchen or bathroom wastebasket.
Smoke alarms are essential to the safety of the whole family and should be placed throughout the house. Make sure the batteries are changed regularly and test smoke alarms once a month to ensure they are working properly, as recommended by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. Keep lighters and matches out of your baby’s reach and be sure that lighted candles cannot be reached or knocked over. “What to Expect the First Year” recommends that you also ensure there are working fire extinguishers in high-risk areas, such as the kitchen or near a fireplace, and that you check the pressure gauge on extinguishers annually.
Related: Learn how to test your smoke alarm