Back when sharp corners and electrical outlets were the only hazard to kids in the home, childproofing was easy: use outlet covers, put locks on doors and drawers and maybe install a baby gate on the staircase. These days, all those old dangers remain — but there is a slew of new ones that many parents might not know about. In fact, a study from the University of Alabama at Birmingham found that first-time moms failed to identify more than half of all hazards present in a model home.
Whether your kid is 12 months or 12 years, you need to kid-proof your house and your technology. Here is a checklist to help keep your home safe.
Fire might be one of the scariest things for a new parent to imagine their kid getting into, but in truth it isn’t a major concern because so few features of a home cause fire. As long as you keep candles and matches out of reach — such as on a high shelf or behind a locked drawer — and put a grate in front of the fireplace or fire pit, you shouldn’t have much to worry about.
As with fire, glass isn’t as much a threat as many parents believe. Any glass item in your home should be stored well out of baby’s reach, perhaps even put away until your kids are old enough to know not to touch. Glass and ceramic tableware, like plates and cups, should be kept in higher cabinets, and little kids should only eat off kid-safe stuff.
Electricity is a bigger threat than ever before, considering the wealth of electronics in the modern home. Old safety precautions continue to be necessary — i.e., put outlet covers on every outlet within your kid’s reach. You should also avoid storing batteries in drawers that young ones can open; a battery in the mouth (or worse, in the stomach) is a serious health threat.
A slightly more difficult childproofing mandate is keeping your cords in check. A toddler will grab and tug on everything, sending your valuable (and dangerous) electronics flying. It’s a good idea to mount your larger, more expensive tech (like televisions and speakers) and tuck the cords into the wall. With smaller devices, try to hide cord behind furniture or put the cords away when the baby’s at play.
Suffocation is a much more significant threat than fire for children, who love putting things in their mouth and lack the strength or coordination to clear their airways. In fact, suffocation is among the leading cause of accidental death for young children, toddlers and babies, so this should be your focus I your childproofing efforts.
First, you should pay attention to your kids’ sleeping areas. Babies and toddlers should not sleep with stuffed animals, and you should not keep them in drop-side cribs, which have been banned because kids can get stuck, unable to breathe, between the mattress and the crib.
Next, you should be aware of anything within reach that your kiddo might be able to grab. Small toys are major choking hazards and should be kept in separate rooms from young ones. You should also steer clear of balloons, waste basket liners and plastic packing material.
Kids are little, which means it’s much easier for them to fall and injure themselves at low heights. It’s a good idea to put up child gates to prevent young ones from accessing stairways, where a slip could result in broken bones (or worse). Similarly, you can install grilles on second- and third-story windows to dampen temptation to jump or dangle.
Reports have recently pointed out that falling furniture is a major cause of injury and death in children. If your furniture is easily climbable and not particularly stable, you should consider fastening it to the wall. Additionally, drawer stops and heavy items on lower shelves can reduce the risks.
Finally, physical threats aren’t the only thing impacting kids these days; now that babies can (and do) use connected devices, parents need to be aware of what messages they are receiving online. It’s imperative that any device accessed by kids has parental controls, which will filter the type of content that kids can see. You should also protect your devices with antivirus tools, so if kids navigate to corrupted corners of the web, your network won’t be compromised.
It’s a good idea to talk to your children as they age about potential dangers inside and outside the home. If your kids know what’s out there, they might be smarter about avoiding threats, helping you rest easier as a parent.