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Childproofing Your House

Author Armin Brott
Submitted 22-07-2008

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
    right in.

  • Keep baby’s high
    chairs away from the walls. His strong little legs can push off and knock the
    chair over.

  • 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
    the stove.

  • 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
    with ribbons.

  • Check toys for
    missing parts.

  • 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
    doors closed.

  • 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.

A great dad himself, Armin speaks not only as a specialist in parenting, but as a parent himself. He has written several books including The Expectant Father and Fathering Your Toddler.