The transition to parenthood when your first child is born is undoubtedly one of the most drastic changes you will ever make in your life, and many parents need every bit of those nine months of pregnancy to prepare. One item on that mile-long to-do list is babyproofing the home. While that’s an important step, many parents cross it off their list when their home is ready for a newborn and assume the task is finished. But in reality, every stage of development your child reaches carries its own dangers for pediatric injuries—crawling, walking, climbing, and so on, so it’s important to reassess your home’s safety at each developmental milestone, even including adolescence. Our physicians at Children’s Wellness Center have a few childproofing tips that are often overlooked for each age range, so following the steps below for your child’s age can create a safer home, so you can worry less and enjoy your child more.
Childproofing for Infancy
- Anchor all potentially tippable furniture (bookshelves, desks, etc.) to the wall. Be sure that all televisions are secured as well, because these are often overlooked as large, heavy items that can easily be tipped onto a child.
- Comb the house for choking hazards (which includes anything smaller than the opening in a toilet paper roll).
- Place a paper on the refrigerator or in another prominent place that lists the phone numbers for all emergency services, such as poison control, the local police station, your pediatrician, and any other relevant providers, as well as your own cell phone and work phone numbers. Not only is this helpful for babysitters, but it makes the information for emergency action easier for you to find in a hectic situation as well.
- Research any houseplants you have (or are planning to get), because some can actually be dangerous for children.
- Make sure your windows’ blinds do not have looped cords. Ideally, you should look for blinds that are entirely cordless.
Childproofing for the Toddler Years
- Single-use packets for laundry or dishwasher detergent can look like candy and be particularly dangerous because the soap is highly concentrated, so either avoid them or store them in a very secure place that is out of your toddler’s reach.
- On top of storing poisonous chemicals out of your child’s reach, choose a specific sticker or picture to put on these bottles and teach your child what it means
- Children can drown in as little as one inch of water, so install a lock on your toilet lid.
- Install window guards, and avoid having furniture placed in a way that children can climb on it to get to high windows.
- As soon as your child is using the bathtub without a baby bath, install a non-slip mat, and remember to never leave your child unattended in the bathtub.
- Store all medications out of your child’s reach.
- Install outlet covers on all of your electrical outlets, and be sure to use covers that are too large to be choking hazards.
- Remove or modify furniture that has sharp edges (such as certain coffee tables, television stands, etc.).
- If you have a fireplace with stones surrounding it or with a stone hearth, cover the stones to avoid injuries.
Childproofing for the Elementary Years
- As soon as your child is tall enough to reach the edge of your countertops, be cautious not to place anything too close to the edges of countertops.
- Make sure your child is still unable to get through door latches and other safety locks, and step up to more difficult locks if necessary.
- Show your child what the smoke alarm and carbon monoxide alarm sound like and explain to them what to do if they hear one of the alarms.
Childproofing for Adolescences
- Make sure all medications (especially prescription, but ideally over-the-counter as well) and alcohol is locked up. But keep in mind that this should also be paired with educating your teen about the dangers of underage drinking.
- When your child is able to drive, make very specific teen driving rules about when and where they are allowed to drive. The Georgia Department of Driver Services offers a wealth of information and tips for parents about keeping your teen driver safe.
- As much as you may trust your teenager, don’t avoid taking precautions. Not only can teens act out-of-character when they’re under peer pressure, but you can’t trust that their friends or guests will be as responsible as your child is.
- Consider a rule against allowing your teen to use certain equipment or appliances when you aren’t home, such as the lawnmower or power tools, the stove, or other potentially dangerous items, regardless of how routinely they use them while supervised.
Making your home a safe environment for a baby and toddler is one of the top concerns on many parents’ minds, but the older a child gets, the easier it can become to forget what new types of hazards they may encounter. While the list above is absolutely not a comprehensive one, it can be a helpful way to start thinking about your environment and help you think of precautions you may have overlooked. To further discuss creating a safe home for your child, schedule an appointment with Children’s Wellness Center in our patient portal. Plus, keep an eye out in the coming weeks for Part 3 in our childproofing series.