As soon as baby can sit up and pivot on her tummy, it's time to start childproofing your home in anticipation of the next big baby milestone that’s not far behind— crawling! Once baby is on the move (generally between 6 and 10 months), she enters a whole new world of potential dangers and disasters, so now's the time to double down on safety.
You probably did a round of baby proofing before your little one even arrived on the scene, but recheck those safety preparations, since baby’s height, reach and mobility are significantly greater these days. We caught up with Dina DiMaggio, MD, a pediatrician at Pediatric Associates of NYC and NYU Langone Medical Center in New York, to round up the most important tips on how to childproof your home.
General Childproofing Tips
While there are plenty of childproofing services out there, consider childproofing the house yourself. “It’s better if parents childproof on their own, because then you know what to look for—especially if you’re someplace away from your home, like at a hotel or the grandparents’ house,” DiMaggio says. “If someone else comes in and does it for you, you may not be aware of what could be a hazard.”
Start childproofing your home by getting on all fours and crawling to get a baby's-eye view of the many dangerous temptations that lurk, DiMaggio says. Keep in mind that anything that fits through a toilet paper tube is a potential choking hazard, and dangerous items can easily get hidden in deep carpets, corners and under cabinets. Run through this childproofing checklist—and remember to do regular sweeps.
• Move all dangerous items (cleaners, knives, heavy objects, medications, etc.) to cupboards and drawers out of baby’s reach.
• Latch closed any cupboards, doors and drawers within baby’s reach to avoid pinched fingers or unaccompanied explorations; purchase baby-safe doorstops for every door to prevent accidental closings.
• Move all electric cords behind furniture.
• Put safety covers over electrical outlets
• Secure heavy furniture such as bookcases and cabinets to walls to prevent accidental tipping.
• Put TVs and other heavy items on sturdy furniture and move as close to the wall or corner as possible, or upgrade to a flat screen and hang it on the wall away from baby hands.
• Move all tall, wobbly lamps behind furniture.
• Put baby gates or fences at the top and bottom of every set of stairs, no matter how short the flight.
• Block access to all floor heaters and radiators.
• Use garden fences or Plexiglass to block any space of more than four inches between stair or balcony rails.
• Put colorful window-clings on sliding doors and any other large panes of glass.
• Install window guards and stops, and put safety bars or gates on all windows, landings and decks.
• Place food and water for pets out of baby’s reach.
• Install fireplace screens around all hearths (but remember—screens get hot too).
• Place logs, matches, tools and keys out of baby’s reach.
• Never leave any amount of water in an open container or bucket.
• If there are guns in the house, keep them unloaded and locked in a gun safe, and make sure all firearms are equipped with trigger locks.
Childproofing the Kitchen
The kitchen is a natural gathering place for many families—after all, they say it’s the heart of the home. And what’s more fun for baby than banging away on pots and pans? But childproofing the kitchen—land of sharp knives, hot cookware and cabinets galore—is a must. Follow these important childproofing steps:
• Install covers for stove and oven knobs, a latch for the oven door and a stove guard to block burners, or upgrade to a stove with big removable knobs and touch control.
• Get in the habit of cooking on the back burners, turning pot handles toward the wall, and placing hot food and drinks away from the edges of tables and counters.
• Put lockable covers on garbage cans, or place in latched cupboards.
• Install safety latches on refrigerator and freezer doors.
• Forgo tablecloths—if baby yanks, everything on top will come crashing down.
Childproofing the Nursery
Your next childproofing stop is baby’s room. Even if you keep a watchful eye on your little one while he’s zooming around, you’d be surprised how quickly he can find trouble overnight. Keep these childproofing tips in mind:
• Remove mobiles and anything else hanging above the crib.
• Move the crib away from anything that could be used for climbing or be pulled into the crib.
• Lower the crib mattress so baby can’t climb out.
• Make sure dressers and other nursery furniture are secured to the wall to avoid tip-overs.
Childproofing the Bathroom
Medicine bottles and open water are the big concerns here. “A lot of kids love playing with water, and it only takes a second to get into the bathtub,” DiMaggio says. Here’s how to go about childproofing the bathroom so bathtime stays all fun and games.
• Make sure all medications have childproof tops and are stored high out of baby's reach.
• Place soft covers on the bath spout and knobs.
• Put non-slip mats in and beside the bathtub.
• Install safety locks on toilet seat covers.
• Unplug hot items like curling irons and store beyond baby’s reach.
Childproofing the Backyard
Backyards are prime play spots for little ones—as long as you take a few safety precautions. Pools and tools should especially be on your childproofing radar. Here, some top tips for childproofing the backyard:
• Make sure backyard fences are sturdy and gates latch securely.
• Empty wading pools and store upright after every use.
• If you have a pool, surround it by a locked fence at least four feet tall. You may also want to install a safety alarm on the door that leads out to the pool.
• After it rains or snows, check for any collections of water and drain completely.
• Keep all yard and gardening tools securely stored away.
Childproofing the Car
Is the house completely childproofed? Congratulations! But you’re not done yet. Your vehicle can contain its fair share of potential dangers for baby—but thankfully, childproofing the car is pretty simple using these key steps:
• Make sure baby’s car seat is rear-facing and install correctly.
• Use the rear door child locks.
• Engage the window locks.
• Never leave keys in the car.
• Secure unused seat belts, since they can pose a strangulation hazard.
• Make sure any tools, toxic substances and choking hazards are securely stored out of baby’s reach.
• Check that the garage door safety sensor works.
• Never leave your child in the car alone, even for a second.
Illustrations by Brown Bird Design
Updated September 2017