Parenting is about taking a deep breath and managing risk. And when it comes to child proofing, sometimes it’s about managing the management of risk. Which is to say: If the risk of a kid killing or injuring themselves in the pan cupboard is nearly zero, why manage it the same way you’d manage the knife drawer? That way lies anger and burnout because, ultimately, Child proofing a home is a thankless and difficult task. After all, if the various locks or covers work then nothing happens. That’s the best case scenario. Nothing. So it pays to prioritize.
For some perspective and guidance on where to start, it helps to look at statistics from the Center for Disease Control. According to the most recent data, there are five major causes of death for kids from zero to 4 years old (the time period for which childproofing is likely to be most effective). They are: Suffocation, Drowning, Motor Vehicle Accidents, Burns, and Poisoning. The leading causes of accident injury for the same age range include: Falls, Being struck against or by an object, Bites and stings, Swallowing a foreign body, and Cuts.
It’s important to note that a kid can’t be protected from all of these things by child proofing. For instance, the proper use of car seats and safe sleep habits are key in combating the biggest dangers. And, yes, car seats are ultimately a form of child proofing. But that’s a semantic argument. The point here is to highlight the stuff that you absolutely need to child proof–the stuff you want to get done day one.
What? Window Treatment Cords
Why? Airway InjuriesHow? The best advice is to install window treatments that do not have cords. No matter how well a cord is managed there is always a risk of a kid getting it wrapped around their neck whether accidentally or through play.
Changing window treatments doesn’t have to be an expensive task if parents opt to install cordless blinds or shades on their own. But there are plenty of options that offer high tech convenience through smartphone integration if an upgrade is desired along with safety.
Why? DrowningHow? It’s likely most parents-to-be with a pool have already installed a safety fence. But what many parents discount when considering protection from drowning is the bathroom. From sinks, to bathtubs, to toilets, the bathroom is all about holding standing water. Even a small amount of standing water can cause a serious issue. Parents can fight that risk individually, through toilet lid locks and direct supervision, or globally with a closed door and a doorknob cover. The latter is inexpensive but still requires remembering to close the door.
What? Kitchen Stove
Why? BurnsHow? Toddlers love several things that make a stove particularly alluring for them: knobs, flames and food. The most obvious choice to protect against pot grabbing and burns is to never leave a stove unattended. But that rules out making coq au vin ever again. Luckily there are a variety of products to cover knobs or keep little hands from grabbing pot handles while waiting on the French feast.
What? Under Sink Cabinet
Why? PoisoningHow? A parent will be tempted to put locks on every kitchen cabinet and drawer. This is a bad idea. The fact is that every cabinet and drawer does not need a lock. However, one of the ones that absolutely does is the cabinet in which the cleaners and chemicals are stored. But please note that this is true also for every cabinet in the home at the ground level that stores chemicals and cleaners. Parents should also expand their definition of “chemicals.” Shampoos, wound care and beauty products all fit the bill.
Why? FallsHow? When child proofing stairs there are a couple of important guidelines to consider. First, do not use gates that rely on compression and friction. Instead, opt for gates that are anchored to walls. Second, install gates at both the top and bottom of staircases.
What? Furniture and TV
Why? Struck by ObjectsHow? Anchoring furniture and hanging TVs is a hassle. But it is also crucial and often overlooked in child proofing. Parents often do not think that a kid could pull dressers of bookshelves down on top of them. An annual 33,000 ER visits in response to tipped TVs and furniture prove them wrong.
There are some important guidelines. Mount TVs out of reach, securely on the wall. For every piece of furniture anchored, use at least two straps or anchors. Only anchor to the studs.
What? Knife Drawer
Why? CutsHow? Finally, the last crucial drawer to child proof. It’s the good old knife drawer. Parents should lock it down.
This list offers a very good start in a child proofing. But these are only priorities. Parents need to remember there are plenty of other places in the home to consider when child proofing. Still, the risk will never be lowered to zero. That’s just the way it is. Welcome to parenthood.