I'm going to start off this blog post with a sad and disturbing statistic, and I apologize in advance if this subject matter is touchy or upsetting to anyone out there. Every single year, more than 3.4 million children are hurt in unintentional home injuries. Even more heartbreaking, roughly 2,300 children ages 0-15 die every year from these accidents. While I usually try and keep these blog posts light and amusing, with the serious nature of keeping our children safe, this article will be much more straightforward. If you're even remotely unsure that your home is safe for small children, please, read on.
Now, this may sound funny, but my first suggestion is hardly a joke. Empathy is one of the most powerful tools available to us humans, so I recommend parents getting on their hands and knees and crawling through their home. Put yourself into the mental state of a toddler. Remember, to a child that small, everything is a toy, and usually, every toy must be tasted. Electrical cords aren't dangerous and full of electricity, they are toy snakes. Heavy furniture and sharp objects are as interesting as Sesame Street to a young mind, so take a thorough look throughout your home, using the eyes of your child. While I can give you the longest list of safety precautions ever written, if I haven't been inside your home, chances are I will miss something. That is why this first step is so crucial and it is one you should do at the beginning and end of your childproofing.
Before we start going room to room, go through your entire home and inspect every electricial cord while doublechecking to make sure there are no frayed wires or cracks along the cord itself. Next, wrap all your cords in electricial tape. I recommend black, as colored tapes are more likely to attract the attention of small children. If possible, hang your cords high or run them behind furniture to keep them out of reach from young hands. As far as the electrical outlets themselves, buy up some of those cheap plastic safety plugs from Target or Wal-Mart to cover any holes not in use.
While phone cords aren't as much of an issue anymore due to the prevelance of cell phones, they do still exist, and while antiquated, they are still deadly. Cord shorteners should be used to bind the cord together. Unlike your house phone, technology hasn't turned window blinds irrelevant, so use the same cord shorteners here as well. Lastly, lamp cords can be dangerous too, so don't forget to secure them to the table they sit on with some cord guards.
When it comes to doors, there are these plastic doorknob covers which make opening doors for us adults slightly more difficult but impossible for toddlers and small children. Get those on every single door in your house. While you're covering the doorknobs, make sure the doors all latch completely and correctly, and if they don't, buy any replacement parts necessary to get the door fully operational again. While they may be slightly costly, purchase gates for the doorways as well. There is no price too high for the safety of our children.
Target and Wal-Mart also sell latches for cupboards, closet doors, cabinets, and drawers. Regardless if a drawer is within reach of little arms, latch everything! Kids can be quite accomplished climbers, so never assume they can't reach something. Human life is determinded and sometimes mischevious, and that goes for 2 and 3 years too! Trust me, what your children can pull off, especially when you aren't watching, will amaze you for decades to come.
For those with multi story homes, stair and landing railings can be one of the most dangerous parts of a house to a young child. Make sure the rails aren't so wide that your child can either get his/her head stuck or fall through, and if they are, it's time to buy some ugly mesh. It's easy to install, just wrap the mesh to the rails. Like I said, it's not going to look pretty. There are a few things in this world more important than having a gorgeous house, but the safety of our children is definitely one of them. Of course, stairs MUST be gated AT ALL TIMES! Gates big and sturdy enough are easily available from baby stores and other retailers.
This really only requires one sentence: If you aren't bolting your heavy cabinets, dressers, grandfather clocks, and well, all heavy furniture really, to the floor and/or walls, you're living in the stone age and are an incredibly irresponsible person. I don't care if that sounds judgemental, as it is far too easy to bolt down heavy furnitire/artwork and the risk that they'll pull it over, regardless if you think the piece is too heavy to be moved by a child that age, is too high.
The other danger furniture reguarly poses small children are their sharp edges. Some people say duct tape and a thick blanket is all they need, but for me, there is no substitute for the edge covering protectors sold at baby stores. While I've seen some really great DIY jobs with various different types of padding, that just wasn't the route I decided to go. Just show common sense and if you are doing it yourself, slam your hand onto the corner after covering it as hard as you can. If you hurt your hand, imagine how a babies skull will fare against it.
If you openly have knick-knacks and/or books displayed, store them away for a while. I wouldn't call someone a bad parent for stacking their belongings as high as possible, but in my mind, it just incentivizes learning to climb. Bigger pieces, like globes or hard cover books, can really do damage if they fall onto a child, and smaller bits, like coins, pens and the like, are just choking hazards. Batteries are an especially dangerous item, as their small size makes them perfect for accidentally being swallowed.
The kitchen is quite possibly the most dangerous room in the house for a small child, supervised or not. You're going to want to go latch crazy in here. The fridge, the oven, all your drawers, cabinet doors, everything should be given a latch. Plastic grocery bags and plastic wrap must be eradicated from the premises, while using tablecloths needs to be a practice of the past. Don't worry, you can start to use all these items again, just once your child is old enough to not suffocate him/herself. Your trash cans need to be tucked away as well, and be sure they are armed with tight fitting lids. Lastly, this may sound strange, but keep the phone number for poison control on your refridgerator. While it is easily Googleable, save yourself that step if you ever have to call.
Along with the kitchen, the bathroom is one of the more accident prone locations in a home. First, let's take all those medicine bottles you lazily leave on the sink and put them in the medicine cabinet. Second, let's latch that cabinet up, along with any other cabinet door and drawer. There are special toilet latches as well, which you are definitely going to want to install. Lastly, there are protective covers for your faucets in the sink and tub, so children can't accidentially (or on purpose) flood your bathroom.
I'm going to be honest with you, even if you follow every piece of advice I listed here, your child may not be safe. Every house is unique, thus making the rules to keep children safe not exactly uniformed. If you've got stories and/or your own personal child safety inventions, reach out to me on social media and let know all about it!