Within the first two years of your baby’s life, they’ll get into all kinds of baby and toddler mischief. In light of your baby’s curiosity, baby proofing your home is one of the most crucial things you can do to keep your little one safe inside your home.
As you might already know, your baby is curious by nature. They use those ninja-like baby fingers to open, close, climb, and eat just about anything in sight. And, while completely natural and part of their developmental milestones, that curiosity can get your little one into unsafe situations if your home is not equipped to prevent accidents.
Baby proofing your home requires you to find and fix any area of your home that poses a safety threat to your baby. This means safeguarding your home in such a way so that anything your little one may try to pull on, open, close, eat, stand near, or play with will not pose a safety risk. While it might seem unnecessary to tack every piece of furniture back to the walls, I can’t emphasize enough how important it is.
Stanford Children’s Health explains:
“Each year, about 2,000 children ages 14 and under die as a result of a home injury. Unintentional home injury deaths to children caused primarily by fire and burns, suffocation, drowning, firearms, falls, choking, and poisoning.”
While accidents sometimes happen even in the safest conditions, we must take all precautions possible to keep our precious children safe. So, baby proof as much as you can!
When Should You Baby Proof Your House?
It’s never too soon to start baby proofing. Ideally, you should have a fully baby-proofed house before your baby begins to crawl; most babies hit that milestone between 5 to 12 months of age. That means you have a little time before your baby is mobile to make your home completely baby-safe. But, with that said, it’s best to start with the basic, big-picture baby-proofing items before your baby arrives. This is mainly because the basic baby proofing tasks are often general safety precautions that ensure the safety of everyone in the home regardless of your baby’s age.
Baby Proofing Basics
Here are the basic, big-picture safety tasks — some of which can be done before your little one arrives.
1. Install Fire Alarm and Carbon Monoxide Detectors
The first line of defense for a house fire or carbon monoxide poisoning is a dual alarm. Depending on your state code, your home is likely required to have one alarm on each floor and in each bedroom.
Most smoke and carbon monoxide alarms are either hardwired into your home, or they operate on batteries. If your alarms rely on batteries, the rule of thumb is to change the batteries when the time changes (spring and fall) to ensure that the alarms’ batteries are fresh and working. You should also test each alarm in your house after you change the batteries to make sure they are working properly. Even if a fire or carbon monoxide poisoning seems unlikely to you, the statistics remind us that it’s not all that rare. According to the National Fire Protection Agency, fire departments respond to approximately 355,400 house fires each year.
If you’re looking for new alarms or need to update your existing alarms, I personally love the alarms that speak rather than just make a loud sound. I’ve always found that voices tend to wake kids more easily than the iconic beeping sound.
The Kidde Combination Smoke & Carbon Monoxide Alarm is great in kids’ bedrooms because its voice alarm announces “fire” when smoke is detected and “warning carbon monoxide” when CO is detected. This alarm features ionization sensors to detect high flaming fires, even if they don’t produce a lot of smoke.
Alternatively, if you already have smoke detectors in your home, you could just add a carbon monoxide detector like this plug-in monitor. Having a plug-in monitor is a good idea because CO monitors that are closer to the floor may be more sensitive, and may alarm earlier than a carbon monoxide detector on your ceiling.
2. Install Outlet Covers
Outlet covers are one of the easiest baby-proofing solutions. Always cover every outlet in your home, low and high, to prevent your baby from electrical hazards. Best of all, outlet covers are not limited to your home; they are a simple fix for any place that has exposed outlets. You can take a bag of outlet covers with you to use anywhere you go: hotels, visiting family, vacation rentals, etc.
Once your little one becomes interested in toys, they will also likely become interested in those funny little black holes in the walls that also happen to sit low to the ground, perfect for the rolling, crawling, curious baby. Outlet covers will deter your baby from becoming too curious about outlets in the first place, and certainly stop them from the electric hazards lurking behind them.
Buy twice as many as you think you need, and keep the extra boxes on hand for when they will inevitably get lost. I remember buying a few boxes of these at Target, and the checkout guy commented that I must have had tons of outlets at my house. I don’t – but I know how easily these outlet covers get lost!
Mommy’s Helper Outlet Plugs are basic plastic plugs that directly plug into your electrical outlets. They are extra-tight to make it harder for children to remove them. They come in a set of 36. (But again, buy a few boxes!)
If you’re worried that your baby will eventually pull the outlet covers out of their place (which some babies can do), or if you aren’t crazy about how they look, consider switching to self-closing outlet covers. These outlet covers require a simple installation and they provide a more permanent solution to the basic removable outlet covers. These come in a 6-pack, and they slide shut once you remove the plug.
The Safety First Outlet Cover prevents curious children from accessing the outlets as well as the cords. With this cover, your little one won’t be able to yank the cord to unplug and expose the outlets. This cover also gives space to store excess cords, which is nice for aesthetic purposes while also reducing the risk of cord entanglement. Note that this does require installation.
3. Get Door Knob Covers
Whether you have a crafty toddler or simply a baby who has started walking, having a doorknob cover will prevent your little one from going outside or entering a bathroom to play in the toilet. Simply put, these are covers that go over your doorknobs so that young kids cannot turn the knob and open doors. I recommend putting these on all doorknobs once your baby is mobile. Before that, they aren’t necessary.
These are white plastic covers that come in a pack of 4. What’s nice about these covers is that they fit over a wide range of standard, spherical doorknobs. These tend to fit over more knobs than other brands.
If your doorknobs have lever handles, these are the covers for you. It’s easy to install these and your kiddo will not be able to figure them out no matter how wizard-like they may be.
4. Use a Water Temperature Guard
A temperature guard can be installed on your hot water heater to prevent your child from accidentally being burned by hot water in your home. Once your little one figures out how to turn the water on in the bathtub or sink, it is easy for them to mistakenly turn on the hot water without knowing it. Set your water temperature guard to 120℉ to prevent scalding. You can find these at Home Depot or you can contact your local plumber for the correct temperature guard for your specific hot water heater model.
5. Cover Sharp Furniture Edges
Whether it’s a coffee table or a fireplace mantel, those edges are sharp and unfortunately, at the right height for a crawling or walking baby to toddle right into. While there are not ways to prevent your baby from all those inevitable bumps and bruises, there are a few ways to soften edges and cover sharp corners.
These cushions are easy to use and can cover just about any sharp corner or edge. Simply press the 3M adhesive tape side to the surface, and you have a safer room for your little one to roam. Roving Cove materials do not contain BPA, phthalates, heavy metals, latex, or flame-retardants.
Skyla Homes created these clear and transparent furniture covers that seamlessly blend into any home decor. These covers use a pre-applied adhesive tape to attach the corner guards firmly and should not leave a mark when removed. Each pack contains 20 guards.
6. Gate the Stairs
The stairs are probably the largest, most obvious hazard in your home. They are also the most intriguing to babies and toddlers who are on the move. Always, always mount and install two stair gates: one for the top and one for the bottom.
The baby gate at the bottom of the stairs will prevent your child from climbing up the stairs without you, and the gate at the top will prevent your baby from toppling down the stairs. Trust me – you can’t rely on your baby or toddler to simply follow the rules. Sometimes saying “don’t go near the stairs” is met with a challenge and the next thing you know, your kiddo is attempting to climb up or down without you. (Speaking from experience.)
When you begin looking for stair baby gates, you will want to take some time measuring and noting how a gate will fit your specific staircase. Also, FYI – not all baby gates are designed for steps. You will want a gate that swings inward towards you and does not have a floor bar because you can easily trip on those. (Speaking from experience.) You will also want to stay away from pressure-mounted gates for your stairs. These gates can easily fail with a strong shove.
I suggest that you take some time researching and reviewing baby gates for stairs to find the one that will work the best for you. Here are two of my favorite picks to get you started.
The Cardinal Gates Stairway gate is designed for the top of stairs, and you can install it up to a 30-degree angle. It’s adjustable from 27-45” in width and stands at 29.5” tall. Cardinal Gates added an optional stop bracket that prevents it from being opened over the stairwell. Something you will appreciate once it’s installed is that it has a one-handed latching mechanism, so when you have your hands full of kiddos or laundry, you won’t stand fiddling with the gate to pass through.
The North States Easy Swing & Lock baby gate is a sturdy, permanently mounted gate that fits at the top of stairs. It swings fully open from one hinged side, and it doesn’t have a trip bar over the floor. It will only open over the landing, not the stairs, and it opens between 28-48″ and stands at 31″ tall.
Now that we have looked at some of the basic baby-proofing measures to take, let’s go through your house room-by-room and discuss some of the specifics for each area of your home.
Baby Proofing The Family Room
The family room is probably one of the most used rooms in the house. Chances are this is the room where you gather with friends and family, where you watch movies, play with toys, and simply relax. While most of the room might seem relatively harmless with sofa cushions and a nice padded rug, there are a few important items and areas to secure and make safe.
7. Mount Your TVs
If you have a TV in your family room, make sure it’s mounted to the wall or that it’s anchored to the wall with furniture straps. TVs are often large and heavy; were it to tip over, it could seriously injure your child.
The most secure way to keep a TV safe and out your baby’s reach is to mount it on the wall. I suggest that you use cord covers as well for any exposed wires or cords.
For those who have a TV on a console or media table, consider using furniture straps to anchor the TV to the wall or the piece of furniture itself (as long as the furniture is also anchored to the wall).
These furniture straps have three different configurations so you can secure the TV to the furniture, the wall, or the furniture to the wall. In this pack of two straps, you will use the hardware included in the kit to properly secure the TV to ensure that it is not a tip-over hazard. What I like about these furniture straps is that the plates are made of metal as are the buckles, and the straps are made of woven nylon. These are very solid and sturdy materials so you don’t have to worry!
8. Mount Bookshelves and TV Stands
Bookshelves, TV stands, end tables, and any furniture that could tip over if a child stands or pulls on it, should be secured.
Many furniture companies include anchor straps with their products, and it’s advised to use the manufacturer’s hardware that is specifically designed for your furniture. If you need to secure a piece that does not include anchor straps, there are many choices online.
The Ella Homes Furniture and TV Anti-Tip straps come as a 6-pack. You can use these anchors for bookcases, dressers, cabinets, and TVs. The plates are made of ABS plastic, which is a strong and durable plastic that is designed specifically to withstand your child’s tugging; these anchors are also proven to be safe in the event of an earthquake.
9. Tie Up Cordless Blinds
Going cordless with all window blinds and shades in your home is a good idea. Recently, the Consumer Product Safety Commission instituted new safety regulations for window coverings requiring that all blinds, shades, and drapes be cordless or have a very short cord that does not pose a threat to young children.
Blinds with cords can easily lead a curious child to find themselves tangled inside the long cords, leading to injury or worse, strangulation. Going completely cordless with all home blinds is a good idea, and removes the hazard altogether. And while that might be the ideal solution, it can be expensive. If replacing all of your corded blinds isn’t an option right now, you can take measures to keep cords out of reach. For example, hooking the cords onto the nearby wall. Here are examples of what you might use to hide and secure blind cords.
Cord winders are an excellent alternative to cordless blinds themselves. These winders allow you to wrap the extra cord around the loop, secure it, and keep them out of reach. The winders are clear, clean-looking, and made of robust and durable polycarbonate.
Safety wraps are the same concept as the safety winders, but these are mounted to the wall next to the window. You simply wrap the extra cord around them, so that the cord is secured on the wall and out of reach. Each pack contains three wraps, and they’re easy to install. You don’t need any screws or hardware; they use 3M adhesive tape to secure the wrap to the wall.
10. Fence Off Your Fireplace
Everyone loves a cozy fire, especially in those cold winter months. And as beautiful as they can be, they can also be major child safety hazards in a few ways. First, most fireplace mantels have sharp hard corners if they are elevated on a hearth. For this issue, you can use any of the corner covers that we mentioned above. Second, when you have a fire going, they generate very hot heat, a very obvious burning hazard. Usually, a strong gate in the front of the fireplace is sufficient, or you can use a five-panel gate to block all access.
If you want a large gate, here is a good recommendation:
This fireplace fence is a five-point gate with rotating joints to completely quarantine the fireplace, keeping your kiddo away from any hot surfaces, sharp corners, and especially, flames. Keep in mind, this gate can also be used around larger items or areas — Christmas trees, for example. The gate is constructed with durable tubular steel, and it can be locked.
Baby Proofing The Kitchen
It’s often said that the kitchen is the heart of the home, and that’s true in my case. We cook together, complete art projects, and even have little dance parties! With that in mind, keeping the kitchen safe for the children is vital.
11. Add Cabinet and Drawer Locks
In any kitchen or bathroom, you have cabinets low to the ground that little people love to open and explore what’s inside. Not only do you want to keep them out of specific cabinets with sharp silverware, plastic bags, personal care products, or cleaning supplies, but you also don’t want them pinching their little fingers.
It’s a good idea to find cabinet locks for those cabinets that hold potentially unsafe items were your child to get a hold of something in them. That said, I also try to keep a few cabinets unlocked and open them for my curious kiddos to explore. Measuring cups and mixing bowls, for example, are perfect for a little drum action and hat-wearing play. It keeps them occupied, and I don’t have them looking for what might behind all those other cabinets.
Luckily, you can find dozens of different cabinet and drawer locks.
I have these locks for our pantry and a few other cabinets in our kitchen and I am really happy with them. They’re high quality and do the job. These cabinet locks work for knobs and handles up to 5” apart. They’re your basic safety U-lock that is one of the most affordable and easy-to-use options; there is zero installation. You simply put the U-hook around knobs and tighten the lock.
Eventually, your toddler will learn how to open these, but they’ still do a great job for several months before you will
These magnetic cabinet locks are durable and are very child-proof. Even the most talented lockpicker won’t be able to get past these!
The reason you want to use magnetic locks, and not the traditional locks that get screwed in, is because these work equally well and they don’t require drilling a hole into your cabinets.
Instead of using screws, these work by using 3M adhesive tape. The lock is mounted on the inside of the cabinet making them invisible. The strong magnets secure the lock so the cabinet is tight. In order to unlock the cabinet, you use a magnetic key to disengage the lock. Keep in mind, if you do use these locks, you will want to keep the magnetic key in a high, out of reach cabinet so your child will not access it; it is a small piece that could pose a hazard.
These cabinet locks are basic, inside-mount locks that do not require drilling or magnets. They are also a concealed lock that is not visible from the outside. Mounted inside with sticky tape, a springboard latch will keep what’s inside your cabinet inaccessible. To unlock, simply slide your fingers inside at the latch and press down to unlatch the lock and open the rest of the way. Note that these locks, while completely effective, do allow your kiddo to jostle the cabinet.
12. Get a Fire Extinguisher
Every kitchen needs to have a fire extinguisher. (And this isn’t just for baby proofing; it’s for general household safety.) Make sure you have at least one fire extinguisher in your home, and check the expiration date.
I suggest keeping it in your kitchen for easy access (but somewhere out of reach of your little one).
This is an inexpensive but reliable fire extinguisher designed for home use. It is a multi-purpose fire extinguisher that fights wood, paper, trash, plastics, gasoline, oil, and electrical equipment fires. Important to note is that it comes with a metal pull pin, which is both durable and easy to use.
13. Move Household Cleaners Out of Reach
Most people store their chemical cleaners under the sink, but it might not be the wisest choice if you have a baby or young children. Exposure to those dangerous chemicals can cause a trip to the hospital or even be fatal if enough of the chemical is digested.
“Every year, around 12,000 kids under the age of five are treated in emergency rooms for exposure to household cleaning products. Of those injured, around 6% face a life-threatening situation or suffer long-term disabilities from their poisoning.”Keep Your Child Safe
If you do keep your cleaners under the sink, be sure to have a robust set of cabinet locks and keep all cleaners with nozzles in the “off” position. Also, remember that even if you use a more natural cleaner, these can also be toxic if ingested. Keep all cleaners out of reach and in a locked cabinet, preferably up high.
My cleaning products are stored in a high cabinet next to the refrigerator. This gives me so much comfort since I know I don’t need to stress about my kids playing with the cleaning products. Before I moved them, I used to worry about it all the time, especially since my kids enjoy opening the kitchen cabinets a lot. This is such a better strategy!
Additionally, you should ditch your conventional cleaners and replace them with non-toxic cleaners. Many conventional cleaners are full of dangerous toxins that can damage the respiratory tract, contaminate the air with VOCs, and leave toxic residue behind. There is simply no need to use toxic cleaning products – the natural ones really do work!
One of my favorite non-toxic cleaning brands is Branch Basics. You can use the starter kit to clean anything in your home, including your laundry. Made with organic ingredients, and certified by Made Safe, this is a truly clean brand.
14. Get Stove Knob Covers
Consider investing in stove knob covers especially if those knobs are at the edge of your countertop (like a gas stove may have). You don’t want your little one inadvertently turning a knob, releasing gas into the air, or burning themselves with a hot burner left on. Luckily, there are easy-to-install knob covers to prevent your little one from these hazards.
The Jool clear knob covers are a large, universal design that features five durable, heat resistant covers. They work by covering the entire knob so that they are inaccessible for a child to touch or turn on. Very easy to use and certainly will give you peace of mind!
Other Important Safety Tips in the Kitchen
Here are a few other simple safety tips that you should remember when baby-proofing your kitchen.
- Keep plastic bags out of reach. They are a suffocation hazard.
- Store foil and plastic wrap out of reach. These boxes contain sharp edges.
- Don’t store medication in the kitchen. It is always recommended to store medication in a bathroom area, in a locked medicine cabinet or box that is kept out of sight and out of reach.
- Keep vitamins out of reach.
- Don’t use small magnets on your refrigerator. If you want to use magnets, use the large, flat ones that cannot be swallowed.
Baby Proofing The Bathrooms
Bathrooms are often a very interesting place for babies and toddlers to wander into. They become fascinated by water, toilet seats, trash cans—you name it. That said, those curiosities are precisely the reason it’s important to baby-proof these areas.
15. Get Toilet Lid Locks
Believe it or not, toilet lid locks are crucial. It might not seem like a hazard beyond maybe a pinched finger, but toilets are actually drowning hazards.
“Young children are especially at risk. They can drown in less than 2 inches of water (6 centimeters). That means drowning can happen in a sink, toilet bowl, fountains, buckets, inflatable pools, or small bodies of standing water around your home, such as ditches filled with rainwater.”Kids health
Because of this, we need to be cautious and keep both babies and toddlers out of the bathroom. And in the case they do wander in without supervision, it’s a good idea to have every part of it baby-proofed. A toilet lid will keep the toilet closed to avoid pinched fingers, and most importantly, prevent your kiddo from playing with toilet water and possibly falling into it.
The Wappa Baby toilet lid lock secures the toilet using 3M adhesive tape and allows for easy installation. This lock stops babies from opening the toilet lid, while also being easy to use for adults. You simply rotate and push with one hand to unlock the toilet lid. And for anyone wondering, you can completely deactivate the toilet lid lock for certain occasions (say, if you have guests coming over for a party). Overall, it’s one of the best choices on the market.
16. Lock Up Medication
Keep medications as far away from your children as possible. Many pediatricians advise that you create as many hurdles as possible to access medication (including vitamins). This means you store medication in child-safe containers/prescription bottles; you store those bottles out of reach in a locked cabinet or box. And you store that cabinet/box in an inaccessible place that your child doesn’t go near. For example, you could store your medicine cabinet up high behind a door in your bathroom, or a locked box up high in a linen closet.
Depending on the medication, certain medicines can be lethal to a child. Also note, this is something all house guests should do as well. You might make sure that the guest bathroom or bedroom has a specific area for a locked medicine cabinet or box for your guests to use. Don’t be afraid to explain to all guests that all medication or other personal belongings that are not child-safe be stored out of reach and locked up if possible.
17. Cover the Water Faucet
Once your baby is sitting up and taking a bath or playing in the tub, they’ll likely take an interest in the water faucet. This can be a safety hazard because the faucet is metal and can really hurt your little one if they bump their head.
Luckily, there are water faucet covers that provide a softer surface and cushion so your baby won’t injure themselves. And, let me tell you, there are many adorable choices; you’ll want them all! Here are a few picks.
This faucet cover is shaped like a whale — so adorable! It uses a robust rubber construction that is BPA, PVC, and phthalate-free to keep your baby safe during bath time. Easy to clean and dishwasher safe!
Baby Proofing The Bedrooms
Don’t forget to walk through your bedrooms, even if you don’t find that you spend too much time there. Luckily, most of what you’ve been doing throughout your home already will continue in the bedrooms.
Tips for Baby Proofing Your Bedrooms
- Make sure to mount your dressers to the wall along with any other tip-over hazards. You can use the same mounts that you purchase for your bookshelves.
- Cover all electrical outlets with outlet covers in your bedroom.
- Consider covering corners of your nightstands to prevent head injuries.
- Keep cords away from your children, such as cords for your TV or lamps in the room.
Final Thoughts on Baby Proofing
Baby proofing is a never-ending job. Don’t try to do it all at one time. Try to start baby proofing during pregnancy and wrap-up before your baby starts to crawl. Once your baby is on the move, whether that’s rolling around the room or crawling at lightning speed, you want to be ready!
Founder and CEO | The Gentle Nursery. Yasmine is the CEO of Biomeology, a company that makes supplements for mothers and babies. She is a graduate of the University of Southern California, a doula in training, and a Functional Nutrition Coach.
Yasmine’s driving mission is to help reduce the rates of disorder, disease, and trauma in mothers and children and to inspire others to lead a healthier, happier, and non-toxic life. After learning about the toxic chemicals found in mainstream baby products, Yasmine created The Gentle Nursery to help other parents make healthy choices for their babies. With a 10-year background in research, analytics, and leadership for a Fortune 100 company, Yasmine applies the same principles and attention to detail to every article she writes and researches. Yasmine’s advisory team includes an amazing team of moms, medical professionals, chemists, and other experts that help ensure accuracy and perspective. Yasmine is the author of The Baby Registry Handbook.