Deciding to have a child is the beginning of a big stage in life. You are bringing a new person into the world and irrevocably altering your own life and that of your partner, family, pets, other children, and many, many others. Children are a lot of work, and part of that work includes making your home safe for your baby and, as they grow, young children.
Even small things, like uneven floors or exposed lighting, can be unsafe for children. Once the decision to have a child or bring a child into your home for an extended period has been made, you should make sure that your house is as safe as possible. Luckily, there are many tips and tricks for how to babyproof your home!
Newborns cannot go anywhere without their parents or an adult, but there are still some safety issues to consider. It is a good idea to remove all toxic chemicals from the ground or lower-cabinet level, as babies can start crawling before you are prepared for them to. It is also, given the still underdeveloped immune systems of newborns, a good idea to thoroughly clean, disinfect, and sanitize your home before bringing a baby home. While some germs are good, high-traffic areas like restrooms and kitchens, as well as things like doorknobs, refrigerator handles, and faucet handles should be cleaned regularly.
It is also a good idea to put up baby gates for any rooms that you do not want your baby in, across the tops of stairs, and across any door that you leave open to the outside. Pets are also a consideration. It is crucial to monitor pets with very young children. Many pets are okay with babies, but they may play too rough or accidentally hurt a baby. While this is not the fault of the pet, it is an excellent time to set boundaries between your child and pets and to start teaching children about respecting animals.
- Nationwide Children’s: Home safety for infants and toddlers
- National Safety Council: Baby-proofing your home
- Centers for Disease Control: Infants & toddlers (ages 0-3), safety in the home & community
- Mayo Clinic: Infant choking: how to keep your baby safe
Once children begin to crawl, the range of things around the house that they can touch, eat, and get into multiplies. Babies who are crawling are also generally at the age where they want to put everything in their mouths.One of the most important ways to make your home safe for a baby who is crawling is by making sure everything small, including dog food, chemicals, dishwasher pellets, laundry pellets, cat litter, and more is picked up off the floor or is in an area that a baby cannot reach. Although most babies will probably not seriously suffer from eating a piece of pet food they manage to find one time, it still reinforces the idea that it is okay to eat things on the floor, which can be dangerous.
Crawling children can also reach electrical outlets, stairs, the outdoors, and cabinets, so efforts should be made to assure that all of these dangers are covered, blocked, or closed. Also, electrical cords should be picked up off the floor if possible, since crawling children could chew on, get tangled in, or unplug cords that they can access. This is not only to protect your things but to protect the child. Electrical outlets can be dangerous, but so can pulling a television, bookshelf, or appliance over on themselves. Make sure that all furniture is secured so that it cannot topple.
- HealthyChildren.org: Childproofing your home
- ConsumerSafety.org: Baby-proofing your home
- University of Illinois Extension: Dealing with toddlers
Children who are walking are generally old enough to know not to put everything in their mouths but should still be watched and kept away from small choking hazards. They are now more mobile and able to get into more areas of the home. In the kitchen, pots and pans should always have their handles turned in so that a walking child cannot grab a hot pan off the stove. If you have oven knobs on the front of your stove, it may be best that your child does not go in the kitchen until they learn not to touch the dials. This is also the stage where children are interacting more as equals with pets, so children should be monitored to make sure they are not being mean to the animals or putting them in danger. It is also a good idea to cover any sharp surface with a bumper so that if children fall, they will not fall into a sharp corner.
- One Green Planet: How to keep kids and pets safe together
- Safe Kids Worldwide: Home safety checklist
- National Fire Protection Association: Cooking
- Commonwealth of Massachusetts: Home safety for infants and young children
Younger children, who are walking but not ready to be left alone for any periods of time, are very similar to children who are first beginning to walk, as far as safety measures go. Young children should be taught not to use the stove, but it is still a good idea to keep the handles of pots and pans turned in and the controls to all appliances out of reach. Keeping car keys away from younger children is also a good idea. A young child can easily turn a car on and cause damage, especially if they have access to a garage.
Similarly, knives, non-safety scissors, and coffee pots should also be kept out of reach. Most importantly, while it is never advisable to have a gun in a home with children, young children should never know where a gun is stored, should never be allowed to play with guns, and should never be able to reach or find guns. Also, a gun and ammunition should not be kept together, and guns should never be stored loaded.
- The New York Times: Children and guns: the hidden toll
- US Fire Administration: Keeping kids safe from fire
- Office on Women’s Health: Making your home safe for baby
Giffords Law Center: Statistics on guns in the home & safe storage