For parents, grandparents and anyone else likely to have small children around, basic household childproofing is recommended. It takes little effort but could prevent tragic accidents.
For many parents, extreme child-proofing of at least one or two rooms in the home is key not just to safety but also to sanity, especially during the toddler years.
Once a room is thoroughly child proofed, toddlers require reasonable supervision – but not that a parent be constantly inches away and on the run, ready to perform the next protective lunge!
Use our guide as a checklist as you work your way around the home, adapting it to make it safer for babies and young children.
Coffee or side tables
It’s best to add soft foam or rubber covers to tables with sharp edges, to protect children’s vulnerable heads and new teeth.
Certain types of tables, such as glass-top tables, are best stored off-site or in areas that small children don’t access at all.
Glass table tops may shatter with surprisingly little force, and children may be seriously injured or even killed if they fall through them.
A United States Consumer Product Safety Commission study found that in one year, 143,070 children age 5 and under had to visit emergency rooms as a result of table accidents, many of which resulted in lacerations, contusions or worse.
Fireplaces and heaters
Fireplaces and bar heaters must have barriers or covers to prevent children from getting too close to open flame or elements.
Power strips and plugs
Make sure that power strips aren’t accessible and that plug points are covered. All cords should be secured so that your child can’t pull on them.
Ornaments and photo frames
It’s best to keep most ornaments and photo frames out of reach. For example:
- glass from photo frames can easily break and cut your child
- small ornaments can be choking hazards
- larger ornaments can fall and injure a child
- your child might be tempted to chew on scented candles.
Children may be seriously injured or killed if they accidentally pull heavy bookcases or cabinets over on themselves. This can occur when they try to climb or even just hold onto heavy furniture at a low position while trying to balance.
Heavy bookcases or cabinets should be secured to the wall or, if this isn’t possible or won’t provide a sufficient level of safety, stored until the child is older.
All plug points should be covered, especially when not in use so your child can’t stick their fingers or other objects in the holes.
Doors should have stops on them to prevent slamming. Children can lose fingers or sustain serious crush injuries from getting them caught in a slamming door.
Windows should be well-secured and not easy to open. Keep furniture away from the windows so it’s not easy to climb onto the windowsill.
Never have blinds with looped cords on your windows if you have small children. The risk of entanglement and strangulation is too high.
Your medicine cabinet should be well out of reach and also locked, just in case. Don’t underestimate the ability of a toddler to climb! Ground-level cabinets should also be locked, even if they only hold towels or toilet rolls. This is to prevent small children from being accidentally trapped in them.
Get a clip for the toilet seat that will keep it secured when not in use. The toilet is a drowning hazard – and you don’t want your little one putting their toys in the loo either.
It’s best to keep the bathroom bin out of reach, just in case someone throws away a razor or unused medication.
The kitchen is the most dangerous area of the home. Examples of kitchen hazards are:
- knives and sharp utensils
- detergents and corrosive cleaning liquids
- fridge magnets can be a choking hazard
- heat from the oven door can cause burns
- splattering oil from frying and cooking
- hot water from the kettle.
Because kitchens are potentially dangerous, and because they’re areas where you’re typically busy and likely to be distracted, some parents install child gates to prevent babies and toddlers from entering at all.
Install childproof locks on all kitchen cabinets, no matter what the cabinet holds.
If you have a dishwasher, ensure that it’s kept closed at all times. Because it’s at ground level, the dishwasher is an easy way for children to get their hands on cutlery or knives.
Little kids love to pull on things. Don’t leave any cords for appliances, such as the kettle, hanging in easy reach.
Invest in a lock or door clip for the fridge to prevent your child from opening the door. You don’t want your toddler sampling the open bottle of Chardonnay (or dropping it on his or her head).
Baby chairs and bar stools
Baby chairs themselves result in injuries and fatalities, due to falls. Toddlers may also fall off high bar stools, or pull these items onto themselves. It’s best to put them out of the way until children are a little older.
Pool cover or gate
Pools, Jacuzzis and water features should be securely fenced or covered at all times. Make sure gates are always locked and that pool covers meet the required safety standards.
Remove any plants in your garden that are toxic or harmful. This includes all poisonous plants, such as poinsettia, lily of the valley and pennyroyal.
It’s also best to remove plants with small fruit or berries that could be a choking hazard, such as olives, holly and gooseberries. Alternatively, fence these off so small hands can’t reach them.
You have to use your judgement with prickly plants, such as cactuses, roses and bougainvillaea. If they’re in a position that makes them a particular risk to small children, it may be best to fence them off securely or take them out.
Make sure that your garden is securely fenced and gated. There should be no access to neighbouring gardens or to the street.
Where there’s a choice, opt for soft ground covers such as grass or AstroTurf rather than hard surfaces like paving stones or gravel.
Playground equipment is great for kids but make sure that it’s all up to scratch. For example:
- swing sets and jungle gyms must be secured to the ground
- all equipment must be rust free and have no sharp edges
- the ground underneath any climbing sets must be soft
- sandpits much have clean sand that’s free of debris and a cover for when it rains.
Sometimes, the best solution is to remove the problem entirely. Some household objects are too much of a concern to have around when children are very young.
Storing these items offsite until they children are older can prevent accidents, as well as keeping the items themselves safe.
Examples of household items that it’s best to store away in the early years may include:
- heavy bookshelves or cabinets that could topple
- furniture with sharp edges (especially glass-top coffee tables)
- big mirrors or artwork that could fall if bumped
- valuable carpets and antiques that could lose value if stained or damaged
- light coloured fabric sofas that could get stained
- expensive non-essential electronics.