Medically reviewed by board-certified pediatrician Dr. Ryan Blackman DO, FAAP.
Shiny, candy-colored nail polish. Shampoo that smells like strawberries. A spray bottle filled with something that looks like lemonade. Fun-looking “bubbles” on the colorful can of bath-cleaning foam. The household cleaners, cosmetics, and personal care products we use in our homes on a daily basis almost look good enough to eat and drink, but we don’t, because we know better.
But infants, toddlers, and young children are a different story altogether. They’re naturally curious and will touch and taste anything they can.
Danger is lurking around every corner of your home. So if you've got a little one in the house -- or one on the way -- following the tips below will help keep them safe.
Why Is It Important to Baby Proof Your Home?
Household injuries can happen to anyone, at any time, but the statistics show that they’re more likely to happen to little ones who encounter dangerous obstacles as they explore their environment. According to a study by the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System, nearly 65,000 children under the age of 5 were treated in U.S. emergency rooms for household-poisoning injuries between 2002 and 2016. And that’s just the numbers for ingesting a harmful substance, they don’t even take into account other household injuries, such as falls, burns, drownings, suffocations, and chokings. According to the National Safety Council, drowning is the leading cause of death for children ages 1-4, primarily caused by falling into a pool or hot tub or being left alone during bathtime. Children can drown in as little as one inch of water.
Making the home environment safe for small children means taking the time to secure each room of your home. For some advice on this, we consulted with board-certified pediatrician Ryan Blackman, DO, FAAP.
"I recommend going room by room to inspect for potential hazards. There are many things around the house that may seem innocuous to parents but are potentially dangerous to small children."
When Should I Start Baby Proofing?
Some babies begin crawling and exploring as early as 6 months old, and most children are walking by the time they’re about a year old. So if they find something that looks or smells interesting, they are likely to discover it the way they know how, by putting it in their mouths or playing with it. With this in mind, all baby proofing and child proofing in the home should be complete before your child starts crawling.
Let’s face it, though -- once your baby is born, you’re probably going to be sleep-deprived, with limited time or energy to tackle a large household project. Make baby proofing a priority when you’re still pregnant, perhaps during the “nesting” stage when you’re bustling around the house getting everything ready.
Protect Your Baby from These 7 Common Household Hazards
From the bathroom to the kitchen and every room in between, dangers to curious children lurk throughout your home. Here are some common household dangers that need to be addressed when childproofing your home:
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Choking: Nuts; hard candies; marbles; small or broken toys.
Cuts: Knives; forks; scissors; nails; sharp corners.
Falls: Stairs; furniture; the changing table.
Burns: Matches; lighters; fireplaces; stoves; candles; scalding water.
Poisoning: Cosmetics; cleaning supplies; medicines.
Drowning: Bathtubs; toilets; pools; hot tubs; garden ponds.
Suffocation: Plastic bags; window blind cords; electrical cords.
Room by Room Guide to Child Proofing Your Home
All of the above hazards are unfortunately common in many households. Dr. Blackman recommends looking at it from a room by room perspective to make sure you’re not missing any dangerous items.
- Install childproof latches on drawers and cabinets that contain poisonous materials, choking hazards, and sharp kitchenware.
- Keep all chemicals (cleaning solutions, detergents) located in a locked cabinet out of your child’s reach.
- Never place chemicals in previously used food or beverage containers.
- Pan and pot handles should always be turned away from little reaching hands when cooking.
- Stools and chairs should be secure and not give access to countertops, stovetops, or ovens.
- Infants and toddlers using highchairs should always be buckled and never left alone.
Living Room/Family Room:
- Televisions, bookshelves, and free-standing cabinets should be wall anchored to prevent tipping.
- Fireplace access should be restricted with physical barriers and gas fireplaces should also have a screen insert. Elevated hearth corners and edges should be protected.
- Electrical outlets should have guards and electrical cords should be hidden from access.
- Remote controls should have all battery covers secured.
- Window treatments should not include dangling fabric or cords that a child may wrap around him or herself.
- Sharp furniture edges should be padded.
- Do a sweep of the room every day for small objects like toys, marbles, and food items that may be choking hazards for small children.
- Certain houseplants are poisonous to children and animals. Ensure your child does not have access to them.
- Avoid previously used cribs and bassinets. Always buy them new, and make sure they comply with current safety regulations.
- Loose blankets, toys, and crib bumpers should not be in an infant’s sleeping area.
- Never leave a child alone, even for a few seconds, on a bed or a changing table.
- Install window guards to ensure a child cannot open enough to climb through.
- Always keep windows locked when not in use.
- Outlets and cords should be secured.
- Choose cool mist humidifiers over warm mist that can cause burns.
- Never leave a child in the bath alone, even older children.
- Place a non-slip bath pad in the tub to prevent falls.
- Cover tub faucet spouts that may cause head injuries.
- Have an absorptive non-slip bath mat in front of the tub or shower.
- Set your hot water heater to below 120 degrees to prevent scald burns.
- Ensure electrical devices like hair dryers are out of reach and stowed away.
- Store medicines and cosmetics in a locked cabinet out of reach from children.
- Use safety locks on cabinets and toilets.
Other home areas:
- Ensure pool and spas are appropriately covered and have a 4-foot safety gate that encloses the entire pool area. Be sure the gate latch is out of reach of children and is locked at all times. Consider a pool alarm system.
- Laundry area should have all chemicals and detergents out of reach and in locked cabinets if possible. Avoid use of laundry pods.
- Garage, basements, and sheds should be locked to restrict child access.
- Fertilizers and automotive fluids like antifreeze should be kept out of children’s reach and locked away if possible.
- Tools and sharp objects should be secured away from children’s reach.
- Stairwells should be secured with gates at the top and bottom.
- If there is a firearm in the home make sure both the unloaded firearm with trigger lock and ammunition are stored in separate locked containers in separate areas.
- All caretakers should have CPR training. Teach your children how to dial 911 in an emergency, and post the poison control phone number (1-800-222-1222) in a prominent place in your home.
Baby Proofing Your House: Do’s and Don’ts
Before we discuss some specific baby proofing products, here are some quick do’s and don’ts that can help prevent poisonings, burnings, falls, and other household accidents.
- DO include a well-stocked childproofing kit (or several) on your baby shower registry, like this baby safety kit or this one from Safety 1st. (Need some ideas for what else to put on your registry? Read What to Buy for Baby: Everything You Need When Preparing for Baby’s Arrival.)
- DON’T leave any personal care products within a child’s reach, like on a bathroom counter or a bedroom nightstand.
- DO keep diaper rash ointment on a high shelf above the changing table or locked in your medicine cabinet.
- DON’T ever entice a child to take their medicine by telling them “it tastes like candy.”
- DO talk to your kids (when they’re old enough) about being safe around household products. If you have older kids too, remind them to always re-latch cabinets, drawers, gates, and other safety measures in the home.
- DON’T leave youngsters unattended; curious children can move at lightning speed!
- DO use non-toxic natural baby and children’s products. Puracy’s Baby Care Box includes doctor-developed Organic Baby Lotion, Natural Baby Shampoo & Body Wash, Natural Baby Bubble Bath, and Natural Children’s Body Wash that are non-toxic, naturally derived, hypoallergenic, and biodegradable. Puracy also makes other gentle baby essentials like stain remover, laundry detergent, and so much more.
Checklist: The Best Products for Baby Proofing and Child Proofing Your Home
The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission outlines 12 categories of safety devices that every home with young children should have. Here are a few products to consider in each category:
1. Safety latches and locks for cabinets and drawers so children can’t access cosmetics, medicines, cleaning products, matches, knives, etc.
There are a number of different styles of cabinet locks and latches on the market, so you’ll want to do a little research before determining which type is the best for your needs. For instance, if you’re renting, you might not be allowed to alter your drawers or cabinets with devices that must be screwed in, so you’ll want to choose locks and latches that don’t require hardware. Meanwhile, if your cabinets and drawers don’t have handles, certain styles of locks won’t work.
Here are a few products to consider if you’re looking to secure your home’s cabinets and drawers:
Eco-Baby Magnetic Safety Locks don’t require drilling or screws, and they stay completely out of sight.
Munchkin Xtraguard Dual Action Multi Use Latches can be used on cabinets and drawers as well as appliances, toilet seats, and more.
Jool Baby Child Safety Strap Locks are versatile and can be used on cabinets, drawers, appliances, toilets, and trash cans.
You can also invisibly secure drawers and cabinets with 3M Command Picture Hanging Strips. Just attach one side to the inside frame and the other to the door, then test them out to make sure the Velcro offers enough resistance so that babies can’t open the door but adults can.
2. Safety gates so children can’t fall down the stairs or climb up them.
3. Door Knob Covers and Door Locks so children can’t enter certain rooms.
4. Anti-Scald Devices for faucets and showerheads.
For anti-scald tub fillers, contact a local plumber and consider switching out your plumbing hardware.
Here’s an option for baby bathtime: MotherMed Baby Bath Thermometer
And don’t forget to cover the hard metal faucet to avoid painful head bumps. Here’s an option to consider: Alpha Baby Faucet Spout Cover
5. Smoke Alarms for the safety of everyone in the home.
6. Window Guards and Safety Netting to prevent falls from windows, balconies, decks, and landings.
7. Corner and Edge Bumpers to cushion fragile heads against sharp edges (furniture, fireplaces, counters) in the home.
8. Outlet Covers and Outlet Plates to help prevent electrocution or electrical shock.
9. A Carbon Monoxide Alarm to help prevent CO poisoning.
10. Cordless Window Coverings to prevent against strangulation.
If replacing window coverings isn’t in your budget, there are ways to secure any cords you do have. Here’s an option to consider: Up & Away Magnetic Window Blind Cord Safety Pack
11. Furniture and Appliance Anchors to prevent tip-overs.
12. Extra Protection for Pools and Spas to prevent drowning.
Check with your pool supplies company or hot tub manufacturer for child proof covers. To secure the cover you already have, consider the following option: The Essentials Co Hot Tub Spa Cover Locks
Expert Tip: For further information on how child proof your home, check out the American Academy of Pediatrics child proofing website.
Now that you know how to child proof your home, you’ll breeze through the early years stress-free (and injury-free!). Then come the teenage years -- and those, we don’t have any tips for!