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Childproof Your Home

Safety First: How to Childproof Your Home

By Beth Weinhouse

Household injuries are one of the top reasons kids under age 3 visit the emergency room. Young children have the highest risk of being injured at home because that's where they spend most of their time. Even an infant that may not even be able to sit up yet faces hazards in the home, and these dangers increase as infants sit up, start crawling, and grow into active toddlers. The best approach to keeping your home safe is to reassess things regularly as your children grow and their mobility increases.

One good way to do this is to try to see your home from your child's perspective, consider crawling around your house on your hands and knees, exploring the environment the way your child would. You may never have realized, for instance, that a side table in your living room has sharp corners, right at your child's eye level. Search around for sharp objects, choking hazards, toxic chemicals, burn risks, and work to address those potential hazards.

When baby proofing your home, ensure the gear you buy - cribs, high chairs, bouncy seats, etc. - meets all current safety requirements. For instance, cribs should have bars no more than 2 3/8 inches apart to prevent the baby from slipping through and getting caught. Crib mattresses should fit snugly with no free space around the side of the crib. And avoid placing things like pillows and toys inside the crib.

Ensure there are no window shade or blind cords hanging from the windows where babies can reach them; cordless window coverings are the safest option with young ones in the house. Avoid hanging pictures or posters above the crib or changing table, and make sure mobiles are well out of reach. And set your water heater's temperature to 120 degrees Fahrenheit or lower to avoid any accidental burns from hot water.

Once your little ones start to move around, there are several useful child safety products to consider, as well as additional safety measures to take, in order to create a safe environment. Use safety gates to block the top and bottom of stairways. Cover electrical outlets with outlet covers, and use safety latches and locks for cabinets that contain toxic, sharp, or breakable materials. You may want to consider securing any furniture that could topple, including bookcases, chests of drawers, stoves, etc. with brackets, braces or wall straps, and use corner and edge bumpers on low furniture. Additionally, keep houseplants out of reach, as some are toxic if ingested. As kids reach a more mobile stage, your safety precautions should evolve with them. Install door knob covers and locks to prevent entry into non-childproofed areas, including bathrooms. Use the back burners of the stove for cooking, and keep pot handles turned away from the front.

One household hazard that's often overlooked is the risk of television tip-overs. The number of injuries caused by TV tip-overs has increased dramatically in the last 10 years as flat-screen TVs have gotten more popular. To prevent these injuries, mount or secure televisions to the wall or ensure they are stable on a low, sturdy piece of furniture.

Childproofing your home is an ongoing process. The cabinet lock that stymies your one-year-old might not keep out a dexterous three-year-old, for instance. The most important to remember is that even the most thorough child proofing isn't as safe as parental vigilance. Young children should never be left unattended. No house can be perfectly childproofed, and it only takes an instant for a child to get injured. Your presence is their best protection.

October 9, 2013, 4:28 PM

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