Childproof Your Home: A Room-by-Room Guide

Will you have little house guests for the holidays? Here's how to get your home prepared for their arrival.

Kitchen
Do not leave young children alone in the kitchen. Equip cabinets that contain cleaning products with easy-to-install childproof latches. In addition, consider the following:

  • Keep small appliances at the back of counters, and electric cords well out of reach. Unplug appliances when not in use so children can't operate them; this also avoids shocks in case a youngster pulls one into a water-filled sink.
  • Store plastic storage bags out of children's reach. Tie knots in used plastic bags before you throw them away. This will keep youngsters from playing with them and possibly suffering accidental suffocation.
  • Place sharp knives on the top rack of the dishwasher or in the silverware basket with blades down to reduce the risk of injury to a curious child.
  • Fill the detergent dispenser cup of your automatic dishwasher only when you're ready to run it.
  • Keep pet food and water bowls away from toddlers and infants.
  • Use a covered trash basket, and install a safety latch on the cabinet where it is kept. This will prevent little ones and pets from foraging in trash that may contain broken glass, splintered bones, or poisonous substances.
  • Teach older kids to use appliances safely and with supervision, including the microwave oven.
  • Place food and drinks near thecenter of a table or at the back of a counter. Avoid using tablecloths except for special occasions: They are easily pulled off by toddlers and pets.
  • Exercise extreme caution around the stove when children are present. Cook on back burners, with the pot handles turned back out of small children's sight line and reach. Use safety covers for stove knobs if they are within reach of a young child. Store cookies and other tempting foods away from the stove. And keep a step stool far away from the cooking area.

PLUS: 9 Easy Kitchen Cleaning Tips

Living Room and Bedroom
The following measures may be too drastic if your home is visited only infrequently by a child but are recommended if you have children or grandchildren around regularly.

  • Check furniture placement to be sure everything is secure. The TV is a particular hazard when it is heavy and tippy, especially on a high shelf. Secure large wall mirrors and artwork.
  • Keep small decorative items outof reach. They can present a choking danger. Put sharp objects away, too.
  • Some recliners can cause serious injuries by closing on a child's fingers, arm, or head. Choose a recliner model that doesn't snap shut hard, and keep children away from its scissors-like mechanisms when operating. Likewise, remove any chest or trunk that has a heavy, hinged lid, or fasten it closed.
  • Secure electrical cords, especiallyin traffic zones. Insert plastic safety caps into all open electrical receptacles. Teach children to stay away from electrical cords and outlets.
  • Install screens and safety rails by fireplaces and on radiators to prevent burns. Keep kids away from wood stoves and space heaters, or avoid using them while small children are present.
  • Keep toddler's toys on reachable shelves, or else out of sight. Make sure a toy chest has a safety lid. Teach kids not to climb inside furnishings.
  • Use protectors to cover sharp corners on tables and other furniture that children might bump into.
  • Falls are a leading cause of injuries in children. Don't allow kids unsupervised access to balconies, porches, or windows. Pull climbable furniture away from windows.
  • A baby's crib should meet safety regulations. Slats should be no more than 23/8 inches apart so a newborn's head can't get wedged between, and the mattress should fit snugly. Stop using a crib when the child can climb over its rails.
  • Secure drapery cords out of the reach of children. Don't place a crib or young child's bed within reach of these or within reach of electrical cords, outlets, lamps, wall mirrors, or pictures.
  • Falls on stairs are a leading cause of injuries in children. A few precautions can reduce the dangers significantly.

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Stairs

  • Use safety gates to keep small children away from stairs. Use only gates that meet current safety standards; older accordion-style gates can trap a child's arms, legs, or head.
  • Balusters should be close together to keep children and pets from falling through or getting their heads stuck. If balusters are more than 4 inches apart, install a barrier while your kids are young. Be sure the railing is sturdy, and discourage even supervised sliding down the banister, since a youngster is pretty sure to then try it on his or her own in your absence.
  • Wooden stairs and socks or slippers make a slippery combination.
    Carpeted stairs are safer, especially if they have no raised metal edges for the child to trip over. Keep stairs and landings free of clutter.

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Bathroom
Never leave a baby or young child alone in the tub. A toddler can drown in an inch of water. And don't leave water in an unattended tub. Use this checklist to cut down on other risks.

  • Purchase a soft cover for the bathtub spout to protect kids from painful
    collisions with the tub spout.
  • Keep hair dryers and other electrical appliances unplugged, out of reach, and away from sinks and bathtubs to prevent burns and electrocution.
  • Use tub mats to prevent slipping. Nonslip strips and appliques often are too widely spaced to protect children.
  • Adjust water heater temperature down to between 120° and 130°F -
    hot enough for an adult shower, but not so hot that it could scald a child. Make it a habit to turn faucets off tightly so they're not easy for children to turn on.
  • Keep cologne, makeup, bubble bath, and other hazardous products in a closed cabinet, out of reach and sight.

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