So you've got a little one on the way – congrats! You'll quickly realize that your bundle of joy won't be getting into too much trouble these first months. However, even before your baby starts to move around, it's time to protect him from the potential dangers in your home. If you didn't get a chance to childproof your home while you were pregnant, now's the time to get started before any accidents can occur.
For you handy types out there, this can be a challenging and rewarding project. You need to discover where the possible hazards are then remedy the problems with the appropriate solutions. How should you go about this? You may have heard the suggestion to "think like your infant" and get down low. As ridiculous as it may feel, seeing your home from your child's viewpoint can be a good way to discover potential dangers – as well as to spot breakables you'll want to move to higher ground. So, take a crawl around your home in every room your child might possibly spend time in, and start looking for hazards. Take a notepad with you and jot down everything you see. But don't just stop there.
Here's the rundown on everything you may want to consider:
Drawer & Cabinet Locks
Drawer locks install on the inside of a drawer to prevent it from being opened by prying hands. Adults simply press down on the lock's lever to release the drawer. Cabinet locks install to the interior of cabinet doors and catch the door once it is opened one or two inches. Spring-action child locks are pressed down past the keeper so the door may be opened by adults.
Cabinets that cannot have interior locks installed can be fitted with exterior child locks. Several varieties are available. Exterior child locks may be permanently installed, or they may straddle door knobs with ratcheting action to keep two doors from opening.
Outlet covers are one of the most important child-proofing features. These are quick and easy to install. For outlets that don't get much use, simply insert the small plastic covers into the prongs of each socket. (Don't forget empty power strip outlets!) For outlets that are used often, you can opt for one of our favorite safety objects — full plate covers that are installed over the entire unit, with a sliding or turning outlet cover opening. These usually work by inserting the plug, sliding or turning to open the outlet, then pushing the plug into the wall outlet. The cover snaps close when the plug is removed. The advantage these covers have is that the lock is never misplaced or forgotten after outlet use, leaving the socket open — or a small plastic hazard lying around for your baby to stumble upon.
Gates should be one of the first safety items that parents install. Purchase and install safety gates at each doorway and at the top and bottom of each stairway. There are numerous versions of the "safety gate": Ones that swing, ones that slide, ones that retract. Some have a limited size range, while others are expandable. There are gates that use hardware to attach to the walls, and ones that can be pressure-mounted to protect wall surfaces. Some gates have available extension pieces, some can be built to enclose any size area, and some can be opened with a foot pedal. If you need a specific type of gate, chances are that someone makes what you need.
Surface Bumpers & Corner Guards
Furniture with sharp edges and fireplace hearths may need padded bumpers to cover sharp or rough edges. Most varieties are elasticized and stretch easily over the edge, while others come with adhesive. You can also find corner guards (soft cushions) if a full bumper is not necessary.
Fireplaces and wood stoves must be properly gated as well. Fence and gate systems should be permanently mounted to the floor and/or walls to secure stove areas.
Door Knob Covers
Door knob covers can keep children from wandering outside or from entering off-limit rooms. These devices fit loosely over the knob, hindering children from turning the knob to open. Adults squeeze the knob cover (without removing) to open the door. If your home is outfitted with French door-style levers, there are press and slide mounting plates that can protect these fixtures as well.
Once your little navigator is cruising and climbing, you'll want to consider furniture straps or brackets. These devices attach dressers, bookcases or any other precarious pieces of furniture to the wall so they won't tip over.
Wire Guards/Cord Controls
Cables, and cords, and wires – oh my! These are hazardous items to a baby. Tame them with a cord control kit or hide them with a wire guard.
TV, VCR, and DVD Guards
Kids just love pushing buttons. (We won't get into the "teenage years" conversation yet...) To avoid damage (to your child and your equipment), consider these transparent guards that won't interfere with your remote control.
You might be surprised at what your little one can get himself into. If he is tall enough to reach stove knobs when pulling himself up, look into guards or shields. And if you notice that he is strong enough to open the refrigerator or oven door, look into locks to prevent eager hands from getting into trouble.
Toilet Lid Locks
Once your child is crawling and pulling himself up, you'll want to ensure that he's not able to open the toilet lid.
Window Blind Cord Protectors
There are different versions of this helpful tool that keeps long cords out of the hands of children. If you have trouble finding any of these items at your local baby store, or are looking for more safety products, you can find a wide variety of items online. One Step Ahead is a great resource for this project.
Adds Alison Rhodes, founder of Safety Mom "Don't forget about window guards or venting locks. Windows should never be open more than 4 inches or the child could potentially fall out. And furniture should be positioned away from windows to be sure a child doesn't climb up and potentially fall out."
Fire Escape Ladder
If you don't already own one, you might decide that now is the time to invest in a fire escape ladder for your second story (and third story, if needed) rooms.
Smoke & Carbon Monoxide Detectors
If your home isn't already equipped with a smoke detector, having a new baby in the house should be strong motivation to install one (or more). Another detector that you might want to install is one for carbon monoxide, which is the leading cause of accidental poisoning deaths in America. Since carbon monoxide is an odorless, tasteless, and invisible gas, a detector is the best way to know whether or not this toxic fume is in your home.
There is a lot of ground to cover, but knowing that your home is safer for your child will make the effort worthwhile. So make a plan of action and get started!