It won’t be long before your little one gets mobile and starts exploring, so you'll need to child proof your house or flat and create a safe environment before your baby can crawl or walk. Here are some ideas so you can easily work your way through your home and get this important task out of the way:
Baby proofing is taking steps to make your home safe for your baby or toddler.
Baby proofing precautions you might need to take include:
Fitting safety devices to mechanisms like doors, windows or drawers
Adding barriers, like a baby gate, to keep your child away from hazards such as stairs or fireplaces
Locking dangerous things (for example, household chemicals, medicines) away or moving them out of reach
Securing heavy furniture like cupboards and TV stands to prevent toppling
Eliminating or covering sharp edges and corners.
When you start baby proofing, it’s helpful to look at things from your baby’s perspective, because what seems like a harmless, everyday object to you can be dangerous to your tiny tot.
It's also important to keep in mind that no safety measure can replace parental vigilance and careful supervision.
It makes sense to tackle most child proofing tasks before your baby starts crawling, and you may like to take on some of the bigger jobs during pregnancy to get them out of the way before your baby’s arrival.
You might find you have more energy for baby proofing during the second trimester of your pregnancy, between around 14 and 27 weeks pregnant.
This is when many mums-to-be get an energy boost and some of the more debilitating early pregnancy symptoms like nausea and fatigue may be wearing off.
Child proofing is an ongoing task though, so you may need to do several rounds of it and keep a watchful eye out for anything that may be unsafe as your infant becomes bigger and more agile.
For example, it’s a good idea to double-check all your safety measures before your child starts walking or moving around by holding onto the furniture.
You may also have to do additional rounds of child proofing as your child gets taller and is able to reach more cupboards, for example.
Here are some basic things to think about when child proofing your home:
Cover plug sockets. Experts advise using a lockable cover that fits right over the housing of the power outlet, and NOT the ‘blank plug’ type that you push into the holes of the socket itself. A properly fitted plug socket cover can be closed even when a plug is in the outlet, locking it into place so that inquisitive little fingers can’t pull the plug halfway out and accidentally touch the metal pins.
Tie up or cover electrical cables. Child proof all cables and cords, including the ones for your charging devices, computer, Wi-Fi router, home entertainment centre, lamps and household appliances. Your baby or toddler could get an electric shock if he or she chews on a cable. Flexes and cables can also be a strangulation hazard. Protect and hide electrical wires in child-safe cable tubes or secure them high up out of reach.
Block power outlets and cords with furniture. In some cases, you may be able to block access completely by using heavy furniture like a bookshelf or a TV stand, for example. Just make sure your little one can’t reach behind or under the furniture, and that the furniture itself is secured to the wall.
When child proofing your house, make the floor a safer place for your baby to crawl, walk and play by doing the following:
Remove any small objects that are in reach. Children love putting things in their mouths. Coins, buttons, screws and other small objects could be a choking risk, so take a good look around to make sure nothing that could be dangerous is in your baby’s reach. While you’re checking the floor, include low cupboards, shelves, baskets and boxes too. Move anything that’s unsafe out of reach or place it in a suitably locked cupboard.
Button batteries are especially hazardous, because if swallowed they can short-circuit and discharge, causing internal burns. Seek urgent medical attention – take your child to A&E or call 999 – if you think your baby may have swallowed a battery.
Remove or secure rugs. When your child is old enough to walk, rugs can become a tripping hazard. Even before that, you might find it safer to have a more obstacle-free environment when you’re carrying your newborn baby. You might decide to roll them up and pack them away until your child is older and steadier on his or her feet. If you’d rather not have a bare floor, use a rug-grip underlay to reduce the risk.
The outdoors is enticing for your tiny explorer, so child proofing your windows is important so your child can’t crawl or topple out. Here are a few things you can do:
Install window restrictors. These essential items allow you leave a window slightly ajar for ventilation, but without it opening far enough for your child to fall out. Be sure to buy a restrictor that’s suitable for the kind of windows you have in your home. These devices should not allow a window to open more than 6.5 centimetres. Even if you do use a window restrictor, never leave your child unattended next to an open window.
Add child proof window locks. This is an essential part of baby proofing your house, to help ensure that your toddler doesn’t accidentally open the windows.
Remove any furniture from under windows. Children can climb onto furniture to access a high up open window, so move any furniture that your child could climb up on.
Use cordless window coverings. Cords can be a strangulation hazard. If you do have any loose dangling cords, cut them shorter, tie them up, wrap them around a cord cleat or use other safety devices like cord wind-ups to keep them out of reach of your child.
To make sure your little adventurer doesn't wander out while you’re not watching, and to avoid door-related injuries, follow these guidelines for child proofing your doors and doorways:
Use door stoppers. These devices prevent doors from shutting completely, so your child can’t get a hand or foot trapped in a closing door.
Use baby gates to close off doorways. You could lock doors that you want to remain off-limits to your child, but in some cases you might like to have the door open between rooms but still prevent your little one from accessing certain areas. In this case, baby gates are a great solution.
Make glass doors and panels safe. Glazed doors should have safety glass whenever the glazed part is at child-level. Instead of replacing the glass, it may be possible to add a layer of safety film to an existing glass door or panel.
Install finger guards over door hinges. Sometimes when doors open a gap appears between the hinge and the doorframe, and little fingers could get trapped in this space when it closes up again. A finger guard installed over this gap can prevent painful accidents like this from happening.
From child proofing the coffee table and cabinets to securing the TV stand, take steps to make sure your furniture is safe and secure. Here are a few child proofing tips to consider when it comes to your furniture:
Secure large, heavy items. Sooner or later, your little explorer will try to pull him or herself up by holding onto objects. Make sure that any free-standing furniture like bookcases, dressers, chests of drawers, shelving units and the TV stand are all secured to the wall or floor so there’s no danger them toppling over onto your child. Anti-tip straps or brackets (which attach to the furniture and wall) may be supplied with new furniture, but you can also find them in most DIY stores for existing furniture.
Baby proof sharp corners. All sharp edges on furniture should be cushioned to prevent injuries if your toddler bumps into them. Put corner guards on table edges, especially lower-level furniture like coffee tables, bedside tables and TV stands.
Fit safety catches to cupboard doors or low drawers. This aspect of child proofing should also include sliding wardrobe doors. Keep your child out of cupboards that hold small, dangerous or breakable items such as medications, cleaning products, glassware and electrical appliances. Better still, keep such items high up and out of reach altogether.
Remove dangerous items from lower storage spaces. If a storage space doesn’t have any lockable doors, dangerous items should be placed high up and out of reach.
Check that glass in furniture is safe. If you buy cupboards, tables or any other furniture items that contain glass, check for the British Standards kitemark to make sure the glass complies with UK safety standards.
Until your child can confidently walk up and down stairs unsupervised, it’s important to block access to the stairs. This way, you can control when your budding mountaineer gets to practice using the stairs and you’ll always be there to catch any falls. Here are a few tips:
Block the stairs with baby gates. If you have stairs in the house, you'll need to child proof the stairs by placing baby gates both at the top and the bottom of the stairs. Once the baby gates are in place, it’s good to get into the habit of always closing them even before your baby starts to crawl. Experts advise keeping the baby gates up until your child is at least 2 years old.
Check your banisters for gaps. Measure the distance between the bannisters on your stairs. If they’re more than 6.5 centimetres apart, baby proof them by covering them with safety netting or boards to prevent your baby from squeezing through
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