Once your baby becomes mobile every square inch of your home becomes an adventurous and potentially dangerous territory. Everyday items that you haven’t given much thought to become exciting things for your baby or toddler to pull, push, gnaw, grab or climb upon. You can’t take your eyes off your little explorer for a minute and you need to make sure that everything they will encounter is safe and will do them no harm.
Although we can’t wrap kids in cotton wool, we can take steps to make sure they don’t come to harm through their everyday exploring and curiosity in their toddler years.
Here are some things to watch out for when babyproofing your home:
Keep liquitabs out of reach
These are so easy and convenient to use but they should always be locked up and kept out of reach of small children. The brightly coloured liquitabs, used in washing machines and dishwashers, are attractive to children who may want to hold and squeeze them. But they can cause chemical burns if they are ingested or squirted in the eyes. In 2017 US research found eye injuries in young children had gone up 30-fold in the past few years caused by such tablets. The advice is to always keep liquitabs out of reach of children. Store them in a secure container and place them in high cupboards.
Keep household cleaning products locked away
Any household cleaning product will contain chemicals and ingredients that will be harmful to your child if ingested or if it goes in their eyes, so keep them out of reach in high cupboards away from little explorers. An easy tip is to pop a hair bobble over the handles of kitchen cupboards to make sure a little hand can’t pull them open and reach inside.
Be aware of blind cord safety
There have been some devastating articles in the press about young children being strangled by window blind cords. ROSPA’s own research shows that there have been at least 30 deaths across the UK due to looped cords since 1999 (18 of which have occurred since the start of 2010). To make sure your house is safe in terms of window blinds try the following:
- Install blinds that do not have a cord, particularly in a child’s bedroom
- Do not place a child’s cot, bed, playpen or highchair near a window
- Pull cords on curtains and blinds should be kept short and kept out of reach.
- Tie up the cords or fix them to the wall using one of the many cleats, cord tidies, clips or ties that are available
- Do not hang toys or objects that could be a hazard on the cot or bed
- Do not hang drawstring bags where a small child could get their head through the loop of the drawstring.
Make bath time safe
Baths are pretty slippery and small children are oh so wriggly, so it makes sense to pop a slip-proof bath mat into your bath or shower. You can then relax and enjoy bath times without worrying about falls and bumps.
It’s worth being aware that young children can drown in very shallow water, including bath water. A young child can drown in less than 2 inches of water so NEVER leave a young child in the bath unsupervised, no matter how short the time.
Cover up sharp edges
A mobile toddler can easily fall and hit themselves on sharp edges of furniture. You can buy a number of safety devices to secure over sharp furniture edges. For a homemade solution you can cut up old tennis balls and pop them on the corners.
Secure heavy furniture to the wall
Toddlers are curious little things and will often pull themselves up against items of furniture. What you need to make sure of, is that the furniture will not topple and fall down on top of them. You can buy safety anti-topple devices that you can easily fix to heavy furniture to prevent them falling. They come in the form of simple straps, which you affix to both the furniture and the wall, like these from Argos.
Take a tour of your home and secure any heavy furniture, such as bookshelves, desks, cupboards, wardrobes and free standing TVs, to the walls.
Keep pills and medicines out of reach
Brightly coloured pills can look like sweeties to toddlers, so always keep any pills or medicines safely out of reach in high cabinets. You would be surprised how quickly they can find them and start popping them in their mouths when they want to!
Place fridge magnets way up high
If a child swallows a magnet it can be extremely dangerous so always place any fridge magnets way up high and out of reach of curious toddlers.
Use the toilet roll choking rule
If a toy is small enough to fit into a toilet roll then it poses a choking hazard to a young child. Keep any tiny toys away from babies and toddlers. When it comes to foods always cut grapes in half lengthways to minimise risk of choking and take care with foods like melon and banana. Cut these up in small pieces so they cannot get lodged and swell in the throat. Also be aware of the choking hazards of foods like popcorn for very small children.
It is extremely helpful to know what to do if your baby or toddler is choking. You can attend first aid courses aimed at parents and you can inform yourself by watching videos such as this one so you know what to do in case of emergency.
Install stair gates
Use stair gates to prevent a child climbing up stairs unaided or entering any rooms which are off limits, such as the utility room or the pet’s room. Also put stair gates at the tops of the stairs to prevent the risk of toddlers falling down the stairs.
Guard fireplaces and hobs
Use fireguards to deter little ones from crawling up to or going too near an open or gas fire. You can teach them not to go too close from an early age but a fireguard will add an extra measure of caution and a physical barrier that they cannot cross. You may want to add a guard around your hob if your little one can reach up. At the very least try to do your cooking by using the burners farthest away from the edge, so little hands cannot reach the boiling pots and pans.
Keep hot drinks out of reach
Hot drinks are the number one cause of scalds among under fives. Every day in the UK, 45 children are taken to A&E departments with scalds from hot drinks – that’s around 16,500 a year. Always keep hot drinks well out of reach of children.
Unplug appliances and keep them out of reach
Whenever you use an iron or hair straighteners or other household appliances make sure you always unplug them immediately after use and place them high up and out of reach of your baby while they are still hot.
Electricity Sockets – to cover or not to cover?
In the past one of the first things parents would do to babyproof their home was to buy plug socket inserts that fit into the electricity sockets. They prevent toddlers from poking their little fingers in the plug holes, risking electrocution. However in June 2016 the Department of Health advised against this practice by issuing the following warning:
“13A electrical socket inserts should not be used in health or social care premises, nor supplied for use in a home or residence” and that “any socket inserts currently in use should be withdrawn and responsibly disposed of.”
Their argument was that the socket covers being sold are unregulated, and as they come in different sizes they rarely fit the sockets correctly. Most plug sockets have protective shutters as a built-in safety measure, however when you put inserts into the plug these shutters do not work. If the covers then come loose or are removed they can pose a risk of electrocution.
Official advice is therefore that no covers are necessary and that modern electricity sockets should have their own safety measures included. However if you want to be over-cautious then we would suggest purchasing electricity socket covers that do not have inserts. These covers are boxes that simply fit over the socket backplate and have a flap that closes so that children cannot reach the socket at all.
Act quickly if accidents happen
You can do your utmost to baby proof your home but accidents can still happen. Always seek urgent medical attention if they do by taking your baby to A&E or phoning NHS 24 by dialling 111. If it is an emergency always dial 999.