Q: Our baby isn’t crawling yet, but he will be pretty soon.
Basically he goes for anything within his reach. I’m assuming he’ll be the same
way when he starts crawling. What should we do to childproof our house?
A: Once your baby realizes that he’s able to move around by
himself, his mission in life will be to locate–and race you to–the most
dangerous, life-threatening things in your home. So if you haven’t already
begun the never-ending process of child-proofing your house, better start now.
The first thing to do is get down on your hands and knees
and check things out from your baby’s perspective. Taking care of those pesky
wires and covering up your outlets is only the beginning, so start with the
Anywhere and Everywhere:
- Move anything valuable out of the baby’s reach.
- Bolt to the wall
bookshelves and other free-standing cabinets (this goes double if you live in
earthquake country); pulling things down on top of themselves is a favorite
baby suicide attempt.
- Don’t hang heavy
things on the stroller–it can tip over.
- Get special guards
for your radiators and move your space heaters and electric fans off the floor.
- Install a safety gate
at the bottom and top of every stairway.
- Adjust your water
heater temperature to 120 degrees. This will reduce the likelihood that your
baby will scald himself.
- Get a fire
extinguisher and put smoke alarms in every bedroom.
Especially in the Kitchen:
- Install safety locks
on all but one of your low cabinets and drawers. Most of these locks allow the
door to be opened slightly–just enough to accommodate a baby’s fingers–so
make sure the kind you get also keep the door from closing completely as well.
- Stock the one
unlocked cabinet with unbreakable pots and pans and encourage your baby to jump
- Keep baby’s high
chairs away from the walls. His strong little legs can push off and knock the
- Watch out for irons
and ironing boards. The cords are a hazard and the boards themselves are easy
to knock over.
- Get an oven lock and
covers for your oven and stove knobs.
- Use the back burners
on the stove whenever possible and keep the handles turned toward the back of
- Never hold your baby
while you’re cooking. Teaching him what steam is or how water boils may seem
like a good idea, but bubbling spaghetti sauce or hot oil hurts when it
- Put mouse- and insect
traps in places where your baby can’t get to them.
- Use plastic dishes
and serving bowls whenever you can–glass breaks and, at least in my house, the
shards seem to show up for weeks, no matter how well I sweep.
- Post the phone
numbers of the nearest poison control agency and your pediatrician near your
Especially in the Living Room:
- Put decals–at baby
height–on any sliding glass doors.
- Get your plants off
the floor: over 700 species can cause illness or death if eaten, including such
common ones as lily of the valley, iris, and poinsettia.
- Pad the corners of
low tables, chairs, fireplace hearths.
- Make sure your
fireplace screen and tools can’t be pulled over.
- Keep furniture away
from windows. Babies will climb up whatever they can and may fall through the glass.
Especially in the Bedroom/Nursery:
- No homemade or
antique cribs. They probably don’t conform to today’s safety standards.
- Remove from the crib
all mobiles and hanging toys. By 5 months, most kids can push themselves up on
their hands and knees and can get tangled up (and even choke on) strings.
- Keep the crib at
least two feet away from blinds, drapes, hanging cords, or wall decorations
- Check toys for
- Toy chest lids should
stay up when opened (so they doesn’t slam down on tiny fingers).
- Don’t leave dresser
drawers open. From the baby’s perspective, they look an awful lot like stairs.
- Keep crib items to a
minimum: a sheet, a blanket, bumpers, and a few soft toys. Babies don’t need pillows
at this age and large toys or stuffed animals can be climbed on and used to
escape the crib.
- Don’t leave your baby
unattended on the changing table even for a second.
Especially in the Bathroom:
- If possible, use a
gate to keep access restricted to the adults in the house.
- Install a toilet
- Keep bath and shower
- Never leave water
standing in the bath, a sink, or even a bucket. Drowning is the third most
common cause of accidental deaths of young children, and babies can drown in
practically no water at all.
- Keep medication and
cosmetics high up.
- Make sure there’s
nothing your baby can climb up on to raid the medicine cabinet.
- Keep shavers and hair
dryers unplugged and out of reach.
- No electrical
appliances near bathtub.
- Use a bath mat or
stick-on safety strips to reduce the risk of slipping in the bathtub.