9 Childproofing Musts for Your House

Be diligent about protecting your child from harm inside your house, even before the crawling stage starts.

By Devon Thorsby, Editor, Real Estate |May 4, 2018, at 9:00 a.m.

9 Childproofing Musts for Your House

Slideshow

Make your home safe for your baby.

Female couple watch proudly as their baby son crawls along the floor

(Getty Images)

Babies have that special ability to make us feel confident that we’d do anything to protect them. That vow typically gets called into action the second your baby starts moving around on his or her own. Babies are unaccustomed to dangers that have become second nature for adults to steer clear of. Whether your firstborn is getting ready to crawl or you’re moving with your baby to a new home, proper childproofing is a necessity to keep your kid safe. Here are nine musts for baby-proofing your home.

Start early.

Start early.

A parent or nursery worker is opening or closing a baby safety gate.

(Getty Images)

Your child is unlikely to be exposed to the dangers of electrical outlets and basement steps until he starts crawling around on his own, but you should be proactive about childproofing long before then. “The key is to put [childproof devices] on before they really need it,” says Hal Norman, president of Home Safe Home Childproofing Inc. in the Chicago area. Most calls for consultation come in when a child is about 6 or 7 months old, he says, but you can baby-proof in stages as the child ages and becomes more mobile.

Focus on most-used rooms first.

Focus on most-used rooms first.

Blue nursery

(Getty Images)

The most baby-proofing should take place where your child will spend most of her time – namely, the nursery and living room. Reduce the chance of anything falling on your child, and secure doors so she won’t pinch her fingers, among other safety musts. Pay particular attention to the nursery, Norman says, because “that’s really the only room in the house where you close the door and leave the child alone.” Newborns require other considerations, like a bare crib to avoid suffocation. As your baby becomes more mobile, rooms more likely to have toxic cleaning chemicals behind cabinets, like the kitchen and bathroom, also need attention.

Reinforce railings.

Reinforce railings.

Foyer

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For children who aren’t yet steady on their feet, falls happen often, so it’s important to reduce the chances of a fall causing harm. More than 948,000 nonfatal injuries to children between 0 and 4 years old as a result of falling were reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 2014, the most recent data set available. Check all railings, especially if they’re open to a lower floor, to ensure they’re stable, tall enough to keep a kid from climbing over and that gaps between vertical bars are too narrow for a little human to squeeze her body or head through.

Put gates up.

Put gates up.

Baby boy on the landing of his home. He is behind a baby safety gate that is stopping him from the danger of the staircase.

(Getty Images)

Keep kids from tumbling down the stairs with gates at both ends of any steps. Additionally, gates help to keep a crawling or walking baby from entering rooms without your supervision. While plastic, removable baby gates often come to mind, Norman says many clients are most satisfied with wooden gates designed to blend in with their home, like those offered by the Gatekeepers brand. “They blend in with the house, they become part of the house and they’ve become a tremendous selling feature for families that have wanted to [sell] and have sold their home,” he says.

Cover corners, outlets and cords.

Cover corners, outlets and cords.

American Electrical OutletAmerican Electrical Outlet

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The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission recommends using devices specially designed to keep kids from coming into direct contact with corners and hard edges of furniture and appliances, electrical outlets and cords, as well as the cords that may be attached to window treatments. Bumpers and corner guards often made of foam or rubber soften the hit should a baby lose his balance and are often less than $10 to cover four corners. Outlet covers, power strip covers and electrical cord shorteners also run $10 or less. Move the crib away from windows to reduce access to cords, and secure the cords well above your child’s reach at all times to prevent a strangulation hazard.

Secure doors and cabinets.

Secure doors and cabinets.

Toddler cruising along the kitchen - part of a series - focus on unsecured cabinet door

(Getty Images)

For all those dangerous chemicals, sharp objects and breakables you’ve cleverly hidden from sight, you also need to ensure your child won’t be able to open a cabinet or closet door. Baby safety locks come in a variety of styles and can be applied to just about any opening you’d prefer to stay closed around your child, including cabinets, toilet lids and even the fridge or oven. Norman recommends magnetic locks from his experience, noting they’re “far superior to plastic locks” and can easily be disarmed so adults aren’t equally locked out of the fridge when it’s snack time.

Secure top-heavy items.

Secure top-heavy items.

Little boy trying to open and look inside drawer chest.Please check my Playground \ Kids playing lightbox

(Getty Images)

Televisions, floor lamps and other pieces of furniture can injure your child and be costly to repair should they fall. And with young kids, it’s all too possible for the most seemingly out-of-the-way items to suddenly come crashing to the ground. Keep everyone safe and the room’s furniture intact by anchoring all top-heavy furniture to the wall or another sturdy surface. Most childproof furniture straps cost less than $20 for a pair.

Renovate when necessary.

Renovate when necessary.

A circular saw is being used to cut a stud in the kitchen at a home remodeling construction site.

(iStockPhoto)

Not all houses are as kid-friendly as they could be, but most work well with proper childproofing. But in situations where second-story railings are less than 3 feet high or a landing on the stairs opens up to the room below with nothing to block a toddler from the edge, baby-proofing may take more than a few locks on the cabinets. “I may excuse myself from jobs like that, because it really does entail a renovation or the help of a contractor,” Norman says.

Anchor everything.

Anchor everything.

Screwdriver inserted into screw head. Macro photography isolated on blurred background. There is space for text

(Getty Images)

A gate, lock or safety strap is important, but it’s even more important that these baby-proofing items are properly installed and secured. Norman notes that many clients request as few holes in the walls as possible, and while he avoids going overboard with nails and screws, a surface attachment often doesn’t measure up. “Any device is only as good as how it’s installed, and if you’re relying on pressure or tape, it’s only going to give you that much peace of mind,” he says. Babies grow up fast, but they’ll need some protection while they explore for at least a couple years. Once your child understands boundaries, break out the spackling paste as celebration for another milestone met.

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Devon Thorsby is the Real Estate editor at U.S. News & World Report, where she writes consumer-focused articles about the homebuying and selling process, home improvement, tenant rights and the state of the housing market.

She has appeared in media interviews across the U.S. including National Public Radio, WTOP (Washington, D.C.) and KOH (Reno, Nevada) and various print publications, as well as having served on panels discussing real estate development, city planning policy and homebuilding.

Previously, she served as a researcher of commercial real estate transactions and information, and is currently a member of the National Association of Real Estate Editors. Thorsby studied Political Science at the University of Michigan, where she also served as a news reporter and editor for the student newspaper The Michigan Daily. Follow her on Twitter or write to her at dthorsby@usnews.com.

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