Q: We are expecting! What should we do to babyproof our home?
A: Few events are more exciting or memorable than bringing your baby home from the hospital. Parents worry endlessly about how to protect their children from stranger abduction and violence, but in reality, one of the biggest threats to your child’s safety is your own home.
Children ages 1—4 are more likely to be killed by fire, burns, drowning, choking, poisoning or falls than by a stranger’s violence. In fact, in the U.S., about 2.3 million children are accidentally injured every year. That’s why the best time to start childproofing your home is before the baby arrives.
Keep in mind that the most important childproofing elements will change as the baby grows and becomes a toddler, and then a 5-year-old whirling dervish. While there are innumerable gadgets that can help childproof your home, experts say the best device is still supervision.
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Before you start the process, get down on your hands and knees and see how things look from down there. Where would you go if you could crawl or toddle? This will help you figure out which cupboards, drawers and other spaces your child might get into. As he or she starts walking and climbing, you’ll want to re-evaluate, looking higher each time.
Consider your furniture. Large or heavy bookcases, dressers and appliances are real hazards. Babies start pulling up on furniture shortly after they start crawling. If possible, bolt whatever you can to the wall. Push items like televisions back from the edge of their shelves, and always put heavier items on bottom shelves and in bottom drawers to make furniture less top-heavy. Keep dresser drawers closed when you are finished using them because they make perfect ladders.
Another hazard is furniture with sharp corners, such as coffee tables. Cover all sharp corners, wall moldings and hearth edges with bumpers to soften the impact if your child falls.
Select safe storage spaces for every potentially poisonous product in your home, including medications, vitamins, toiletries and cleaning products, as well as knives and certain hazardous cooking utensils. Many parents find locking cabinets and gates are helpful in limiting access to areas of the home that might contain dangerous items.
In addition, make a room-by-room sweep and take the following steps.
• Place screens around radiators, portable space heaters and fireplaces.
• Keep household plants out of reach, and know their names in case they are accidentally ingested.
• Set your water heater to 120 degrees Fahrenheit or below to prevent accidental scalding.
• Install ground-fault circuit interrupters on outlets near sinks and bathtubs to stop the electrical current if an appliance gets wet.
• Install toilet locks. Small children can drown in just an inch of water, so always keep the lid closed.
• Follow the latest safety guidelines for your baby’s crib.
• Do not use a crib with elevated corner posts or decorative cutouts in the headboard. These can be catch points for loose clothing, making them a strangulation hazard.
• Keep the crib clutter free — no pillows, blankets or stuffed animals.
• Move the crib away from windows, and make sure cords from appliances, window blinds and toys are beyond reach.
• As soon as a baby can stand, remove mobiles and other hanging toys.
• Keep nightlights at least 3 feet away from the crib, bedding and draperies to prevent a fire hazard.
• Place a rug under the changing table and crib to offer some cushion in case of a fall, and consider installing a safety belt on the changing table.
HomeWork is the weekly column by the Master Builders Association of King and Snohomish Counties’ Remodelers Council about home care, repair and improvements. If you have questions about home improvement, send them to firstname.lastname@example.org.