Your little one’s arrival comes with a lot of planning. Getting the nursery ready, buying diapers, planning for a baby shower, and, of course, getting prepared for delivery. As you add items to your baby registry, a typical section that parents-to-be and new parents aren’t sure how to tackle is baby proofing.
It is often put further down on the list of something to do once your little one becomes mobile. Baby proofing can be quite an undertaking, depending on your home and lifestyle. We put together this ultimate baby proof checklist to get you started in the right direction.
Common Injuries in the Home
Since children spend most of their time at home, it is no surprise that most injuries in children under the age of 14 occur in their homes. In fact, according to Indiana University’s School of Public Health blog, HealthMed, 9.2 million children visit the emergency room due to unintentional injuries. Each year a little over 12,000 children die from unintentional injuries, which is why baby-proofing is so essential, as is keeping up with the age-appropriate safety adjustments needed as your child grows older.
As a parent, you have to look at everything from the baby’s perspective. Often this means getting down on your hands and knees and looking for hazards. Despite your best efforts, there is always the potential for your little one to get injured at home. Some of the most common injuries are:
Since children are incredibly active and quick, you need to ensure they are safe from any surface that may cause them harm. Some ways these common injuries occur are:
- Falling from couches or slipping on floors
- Getting fingers caught in cabinets or drawers
- Bumping into sharp edges
- Swallowing small objects/ poisonous liquids
- Lodging objects in ears or nose
- Pulling things down on themselves
The best way to prevent these common injuries is to baby proof your home. Also, always keep a first aid kit nearby and the phone number for your local hospital and poison control handy. Accidents can happen even in the best baby-proofed homes.
Babyproofing: Where to Start
With all of those common injuries in mind, you may be feeling overwhelmed and not know where to begin. Experts and doctors talk about baby proofing like you should already know what that word means in its entirety. But what is baby proofing? Webster’s dictionary defines baby proofing as “to make safe for infants and young children by eliminating or minimizing potential hazards.” Before you scramble to call in an interior decorator to redo your home to make it more baby-friendly, there are many steps you can take to ensure that your current decor is safe for your little one.
A fantastic resource is the International Association for Child Safety. They have tips and tricks for keeping your child safe in your home at any age. They also have certified specialists who are trained in the art of baby proofing. If you feel more comfortable, you can hire one of these specialists to come in and ensure that your house is ready for your baby to crawl around and start pulling themselves up.
If you are more inclined to do the baby proofing in your home yourself, the IACS has lists you can use for reference based on your child’s age. Baby proofing does start from day one.
Tackle the Big Things First
While baby-proofing your entire home can seem overwhelming, starting with the large items can make it seem more manageable. Often, the bigger objects will also need to be secure for a longer amount of time. Some of the bigger things include:
- Mounting your TV or large dressers to the wall.
One of the significant causes of injury every year is children pulling large pieces of furniture or TVs down on themselves. Even though children do not have the physical strength to tip over these heavy pieces, all it takes is a little well-placed leverage. Use some furniture anchors to strap these pieces to the wall safely. Assess what you have on top of the dressers as well. Keep cords tucked behind and keep objects away from the edges. Use mounting brackets to place TV’s on the wall and tuck their cords.
- Installing Child-safe window blinds
Blinds can be a significant cause of child injuries. Dangling cords are hazardous, and little ones can very quickly get caught up in them. Getting tangled in the cords can lead to asphyxiation. It is so prevalent that in the U.S., one child dies every two weeks from strangulation. Search for blinds that are child-safe or cords with a continuous loop, a joiner that will separate with pressure, or a cord stop located at the top.
- Locking Toilets
Toilets pose as significant a drowning risk to babies and toddlers as bathtubs do. Since little ones are top-heavy and very curious, they will look into a toilet bowl to see what is there and fall in. Toilet locks will keep little heads and little hands out of the toilet bowl.
- Turning down the water heater or putting in anti-scald devices.
Children’s skin is incredibly sensitive, especially to hot water. Your home’s water heater is generally set to 140-degrees. At this temperature, a child can get third-degree burns after only three seconds! Turning your water heater down to 120-degrees will help reduce the chance of burns. Another measure you can take against burns is installing anti-scalding devices. These devices are placed on faucets and showerheads. There are also water temperature indicators that you can put in your child’s bath to change color if the water is at an unsafe temperature.
As your child becomes more mobile and more aware of their surroundings, you will be ahead of the game by hitting these items first. You are then ready to tackle the first area of your home.
Baby Proofing the Kitchen
Even though many surfaces in your kitchen are either bolted down or permanent, there are still a few baby proof areas. Take a look at things like:
- Installing locks or stops on things like cabinet drawers and doors, switches, refrigerator or freezer, and the oven door.
- Make sure small objects are out of reach, such as magnets or batteries.
- Ensure that the kitchen sink is locked, especially if you store cleaners or poisons there.
- Keep knives, small appliances, and cutting boards away from the edge of counters. Anything that can harm your child if they pull it down on their heads needs to be out of hands reach.
- Put childproof covers over oven knobs so your child cannot accidentally turn the stove on
- While cooking, put your child in their high chair or playpen so you can see them at all times
- If you are using the stove, keep pot and pan handles turned inwards and use the back burners to reduce your child’s chance of getting burned
- Remove tablecloths from the kitchen table
- Place a lock or lockable cover on the trash can
- Keep your dishware and glassware out of your child’s reach
- Unplug cords while not in use
Baby Proofing the Living Areas
Living rooms have large items that can cause baby harm, such as TV and furniture. Other things to look out for are:
- Cords from phones, lamps, fans, or television
- Older children’s toys or games that can be a choking hazard
- Always check the floor for small objects that your baby can put in their mouths and choke on
- Sharp edges on tables or chairs
- Add screens or cushions to fireplace hearth or doors
- Place non-skid mats under rugs to prevent tripping hazards
- Place socket covers on all electrical outlets
- Move easy to knock over items such as lamps behind larger pieces of furniture
- Make sure you have a carbon monoxide monitor in your home
- Make sure all your smoke detectors are in working order, you have on every floor of your home, and outside the bedrooms in the halls
- If your home was built before 1978, make sure have any peeling paint sealed or redone
- Remove indoor plants that may be poisonous and place them out of reach
- Keep your, and any visitors purses up and away from your child
Baby Proofing the Bathroom
The bathroom poses many risks for your little one. Besides making sure the toilets are locked, keep:
- Under the sink locked
- Drawers locked
- Cleaning supplies and other hazardous liquids locked away
- Unplug cords for curling irons and hair blow dryers, as well as other corded tools
- Empty all bathtubs and other large tubs of water as soon as you are done with them
Baby Proofing the Stairs
If your home has stairs, this becomes a hazard as soon as your child starts to roll and continues until they are big enough to negotiate the steps independently. To mitigate falling hazards, place a baby gate at the top and bottom of the stairway.
Also, make sure the stair railing spaces are in line with the current child safe spacing guidelines. If they are too far apart, your child may be able to get their head caught in between the slats and have a difficult time getting themselves out of the railing.
Baby Proofing the Nursery
You may be thinking, I just put that room together, and now I have to baby proof it? Don’t worry. It’s not as daunting of a task as it may seem. Ensure:
- There are not any blankets, pillows, or bumpers in the crib
- Verify that your crib had the appropriate safety rating
- Make sure the cribs are put together correctly with the screws wholly tightened. Check that all slats are no more than two ⅜ inches apart
- Keep all baby supplies out of your child’s reach
- Place the crib away from other furniture, chairs, heaters, and away from the window
- Keep the mobile far away from babies grasp if you use one
- Make sure all packaging is removed from the room
- Check to see if the crib mattress fits on the frame properly with zero gaps
- When using the changing table, stay at your babies side so they will not roll-off
Baby Proofing the Backyard
The backyard may seem like an impossible area to baby proof. However, you can do a few key things to make sure your little one is safe.
- Install a kid-safe pool cover or fence. Many infant and child deaths are pool related. Keeping the pool covered or enclosed when not in use can keep your little one safe until you can teach them to swim. Even then, children should not be in or near the pool unsupervised.
- Poisonous plants. Inspect your backyard for plants that may be poisonous to your child if ingested. It may be a good idea to remove these plants to reduce the risk of your child accidentally eating them.
- Watch your child at all times in the backyard since it is easy for them to pick up acorns, rocks, leaves, and even bugs and put them in their mouths.
Baby Proofing the Garage
You may be thinking, but my baby doesn’t crawl around the garage. Even so, as your child grows into toddlerhood, they may try to venture out into that area. To prepare, make sure to:
- Keep tools and toxic substances out of your child’s reach
- Double-check your garage door safety sensor to make sure it works properly
- if your laundry is in the garage, make sure detergents, bleach, and other tools are up high in a locked cupboard
- You may want to install a lock on the door that goes from the house into the garage to keep your child from accidentally gaining access to the garage
Baby Proofing the Car
The car is another place that seems odd to baby-proof; however, you want to make sure that it is safe for your child since you spend a lot of time in your vehicle. Make sure:
- Your car seat is installed properly
- Install sun shades to the windows to block the sun’s rays from getting on your child’s face or legs
- Check the car to make sure there are not any small objects that pose a choking hazard
Do a Final Sweep
Once you have gone through every area of the house and completed the baby-proofing checklist, do a final sweep to make sure there isn’t anything you may have missed.
It is essential to double-check from the same level as your child. If you just check from the adult level, you may miss a few things.
A few general items to look out for are:
- Restrict access to rooms that are off-limits to your child by either shutting doors or using safety gates
- Make sure you keep your house clean regularly to prevent any choking hazards and things like paper clips, leaves, loose coins, or small pieces of paper
- Keep a lock on any liquor cabinets
- Gate off any accessible radiators or heating vents that can cause burns to your child
- Keep batteries locked away and out of reach
- Keep residue from cleaning products, shampoos, and makeup off of countersinks and ledges
- Double-check door stops to make sure they do not have removable caps
- Use childproof door handles on any exit and entry doors
- If you are a gun owner, be sure to keep your gun safely locked away
- Be sure to keep scissors and other sharp objects locked away in drawers and out of reach
- For older children, make sure you always use safety gloves and glasses if they are doing any woodworking or science experiments
Must-Have Baby Proofing Products
There are many different baby proofing products available on the market though some are easier to use than others.
Electrical Outlet Covers
Outlet covers are placed into the electrical sockets so your child cannot put anything into them. While many covers are for empty outlets, Eudemon makes one that covers the sockets with cords in them.
Straps come in handy for securing furniture or televisions to walls. You can buy them in a two-pack for your television like these from The Baby Lodge, or you can purchase TV anchors plus anti-tip straps in a set. Check out this one from Lenink.
To keep your little one out of cabinets and drawers, you can install either magnetic or traditional cabinet locks. Standard locks allow you to pull the drawer open a little, then you apply pressure, and the drawer opens. Magnetic locks use a magnet as a key to open the cabinet or drawer. Check out this easy to install set of magnetic locks.
There are a couple of different types of appliance locks. Some latch around fridge handles, while others attach straight to the doors. There are latch models that you need a key to undo, while other models are pressure release.
Frequently Asked Questions About Baby Proofing
Do you have to baby proof?
Yes. If you have electrical outlets and heavy furniture, the need to baby proof is imminent. While it may be a lot of work, it may also prevent unneeded trips to the doctor’s office or ER.
When can you remove baby proofing?
It depends on the area. Slowly but surely, layers of baby proofing will start to melt away. Baby gates and child locks generally disappear between the ages of 2-3. At this age, they will stay away from things when you tell them. Medicine cabinets and cleaning supplies will not be until they are much older, in the 6+ range. Knives, guns, and power tools are areas that require training and parental discretion.
Do you need a baby gate?
Baby gates can be useful to help keep your child safe. It allows you to set boundaries and keep your little one out of an area that may not be safe for them. Baby gates also protect your child from stairs. Little one’s bones may be flexible. However, a fall down a set of stairs can do a lot of harm.
How do you childproof a drawer?
The most common way to baby proof a drawer is to use magnetic locks. The lock goes mounted inside the drawer and is unseen from the outside. The drawer will only open if you use the corresponding magnetic key. These locks are for cabinet drawers and doors and come in a set with a single key.
How do you childproof a sink faucet?
Sink faucets can be childproofed by using a handle lock. Handle locks prevent your child from turning the water on at all.
How do you contain a walking baby?
Baby gates contain a walking baby and keep them out of areas that may be dangerous for them. Playpens are another way to set a specific location for your child to play in.
Final Thoughts on the Ultimate Baby Proof Checklist
Even though the thought of baby proofing your home may seem completely overwhelming, if you tackle it in the beginning, then you will only have to make small modifications as your child grows older. Baby proofing is almost a misnomer since your home has to be safe for your child for longer than just when they are babies and toddlers.
Since keeping your child safe is your number one priority as a parent, all the effort you put into baby proofing your home will be more than worth it.
Remember to start with the big picture and use a checklist to make sure you hit every area. Even the best baby-proofed house has the potential for hazards. Always do a sweep of your floors before you put your baby down to play. You never know what one of your animals or a visitor may have tracked in.
Looking for more tips for your little one? Head over to our Ages and Phases Section to see more topics.
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Krissy lives in California with her family of three that make up “The Hadicks.” With a passion for research and helping others, The Hadicks was developed as a resource for other parents and parents-to-be!