How to Keep Kids Out of Cabinets

For kids, many of the bathroom or kitchen cabinets are “off-limits." This, of course, makes the prospect of digging inside to see what Mom and Dad are hiding all the more enticing. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, nearly 2.4 million children younger than age 6 ingest poisonous substances. From physically making it impossible for your kids to open cabinets to using discipline and consequences for playing inside of them, take measures to protect your kids from what's in your cabinets.

Get on your hands and knees and explore the cabinets in your home for a younger child’s point-of-view. Mark any cabinets the child can easily access, either on his knees or standing, with a piece of masking tape.

Install child safety locks or latches on any cabinets your child can access. The AAP urges parents to install these latches on any cabinets that house potentially toxic or dangerous chemicals and items, including household cleaners. However, installing latches on all cabinets can help teach children from a young age that they’re off limits and not intended for play.

Move any dangerous chemicals or anything else not appropriate for children to a separate cabinet. Place a lock on this cabinet door. Take your children through the home and explain which cabinets he’s allowed to open, and which are restricted. For example, it's acceptable for your child to go into a cabinet and retrieve a drinking glass. Let him know, however, that other cabinets are off-limits, including the locked cabinet and those containing the pots and pans.

Sit your older child down and explain the dangers associated with ingesting poisons or other harmful chemicals. A toddler younger than age 3 or 4 probably won’t understand that drinking poisons is potentially fatal. For an older child, sit him down and explain that drinking cleaning products or consuming medications can give them an upset stomach and make them very sick. Remind your child of how bad he felt the last time he had a stomach bug, and that drinking poisons will make him feel even worse.

Explain to your child the consequences of being caught digging through a “restricted” cabinet. According to KidsHealth, timeouts are an effective punishment for toddlers and children ages three through eight 2. Older children also respond to other forms of punishment such as loss of privileges. Let your older child know that if he’s caught digging in a restricted cabinet, the punishment is a loss of privileges to video games or no dessert after dinner that evening.


Create a “kid-friendly” cabinet inside the home. House anything your kids might need from other cabinets in the house, such as drinking glasses, bowls or plastic plates. Let the kids know that it’s perfectly acceptable to dig through and use anything from this kid-approved cabinet.