Baby Gates And Beyond: The Basics Of Childproofing

We share essential tactics and tools for creating a safe home for your youngest family members


The prospect of childproofing your entire home in one go can be pretty daunting, so it might reassure you to know that for most parents, it’s more of an ongoing process than a one-time event that can be achieved with gadgets or gear.

Each home has its own childproofing needs, and every family has its own childproofing philosophy – some parents decide to lock and secure everything possible, while others take a minimalist approach. Here’s an overview of basic home safety considerations for anyone who cares for babies and toddlers.

It’s probably easiest to break your childproofing efforts up into stages. For the first few months, your baby is probably doing a lot of sitting and lying around. In this stage, it’s mostly your own habits you’ll be developing, like keeping stairs and floors clear to reduce tripping hazards, and being careful with hot beverages or anything that could be spilled on the baby.

Once your little one starts reaching and grabbing, you’ll want to pay special attention to anything that could wind up in her mouth (a good rule of thumb is that anything that could fit inside a toilet paper tube is a potential choking hazard). Also, be mindful of what’s in your baby’s immediate surroundings. Can she reach and pull down heavy or dangerous items from a nearby coffee table? Get her hands on blinds or drapery cords? Tug at the power cords of appliances like TVs or cellphone chargers? It helps to get down to her level and scope out what your baby can see from where she sits. Always remember that baby seats and swings belong on the floor, never on a counter or table top.

It’s a whole new ballgame once your baby becomes mobile, through crawling or scooting. Permanent hardware-mounted baby gates are ideal for the tops of stairwells, and basic pressure-mounted gates will work for keeping babies and toddlers contained within other areas. Outlet covers and drawer locks are both indispensable and inexpensive pieces of childproofing gear that are well worth stocking up on. Even if a drawer or cupboard is secured with a child lock, you should make sure toxic or dangerous substances (medications, chemical cleaners, etc.) are kept well out of reach on high shelves. If you like, designate one lower cupboard for your little one, and fill it with baby-friendly items, like plastic containers and wooden spoons, that your child can have fun getting into safely.

Once your toddler is able to reach doorknobs or handles, you might want to consider using doorknob covers or guards to foil his attempts to open doors. Again, you’ll want to be vigilant about what you leave within reach at the edges of countertops and tables, especially in the kitchen. If your kitchen and laundry appliances have child-lock features, learn how to use them. Attach heavy shelving units or other furniture that could topple forward securely to the wall, and be careful about where you leave stepstools (or other items that could be used as stools) – it’s amazing what kids will use to reach to something they’re intrigued by!

Above all, remember that your best childproofing tactic is supervision – your careful planning and watchful eye trump any piece of equipment!

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