Debra K. Whaley, M.D.
If you have ever raised, babysat or even seen a child, you probably know that the idea of having a completely childproofed home is an out-of-reach ideal. However, there are many things you can do to make your home as safe as possible for your young one.
Literally. Crawl, roll, kneel, whatever it takes to see the world from your child's point of view. Then, look around at all of the exciting things there are for you to touch, pull and climb. What is between the cushions? Sticking out of the bottom of a chair? Hanging over the edge of the oven?
Lock up everything from cabinets, to toilet seats, to doors. Chemicals, medications and sharp objects are all potentially harmful to a curious child who doesn't know how to use them. The best way to curb your child’s curiosity is to keep these dangerous objects out of sight and out of reach.
A lock that's nearly impossible to open is great, but only if it gets re-locked every time. If products are too inconvenient for the older members of the house, the likelihood of them being reset decreases – no matter how many reminders you give. Emphasize the importance of utilizing safety devices to older siblings, but keep ease-of-use in mind when selecting products. Extremely complicated products can also be a hazard in the case of an emergency. For example, you don't want a safety gate that only one member of the family can operate because if that person is gone in the case of a fire, the rest of the family may be in danger.
Young children have a way of tearing down just about everything in sight, so make sure that the latest target doesn't fall down and injure them. Flat screen TVs are great for saving space, but because of weight distribution, they are much easier to tip over than older television sets. To prevent accidents like this, mount your flat screen on the wall or invest in a set of TV straps. Anchor furniture over 30 inches tall to the wall, and ensure that the cords for your electronics are out of reach. If you can't hide a cord completely, fasten it to the floor or wall. When securing cords, furniture or decorations, make sure the anchoring devices you are using are firmly attached to the walls, and that if the anchor falls, it can't be swallowed by your child. A good test is to use an old toilet paper roll – if the object slides easily through, then a child can easily swallow it.
As they say, two heads are better than one. One person cannot possibly think of all the potential dangers the average home has to offer, but if you search the Internet, you will find input from thousands of parents, baby publications and safety councils. Don't discount the opinions of peers and parents, but keep in mind that changing technology means changing childproofing standards. Back in the day, it was difficult for a child to bring down a TV, but now flat screens make for easy tipping. Research can also introduce you to great products, or point out innovations that aren't so great. Read reviews, visit consumer protection websites and sign up for product recalls to stay up-to-date on what does and doesn't work.
There's no such thing as too much knowledge, so here are some great places to start learning about how to prepare for your newest addition:
Childproofing your home can be overwhelming, but keep in mind that you don't have to go through the process alone. Talk to your doctor if you are nervous or, if you want to take it a step further, hire a consultant whose job is to walk around homes looking for potential baby dangers.
The most important thing is to be aware of your child at all times. You will not catch every potential danger, and you
will experience some minor accidents here and there. No home is perfectly childproof, but as a parent that cares, you are making yours about as close to perfect as it can get.