How To Child-proof Your Home: the Essential Twenty Point Checklist

If you have babies becoming mobile toddlers, or children who visit regularly, child-proofing your home can be crucial. It can even make the difference between life and death. Children can unintentionally damage to your precious belongings but, more importantly, can seriously harm themselves. Hazards are everywhere in the home. Its impossible to foresee every potential problem, but steps can be taken to prevent common accidents and injuries. Run through this checklist to make sure you’ve considered the danger areas.

1.    Toxic substances should be kept well out of reach, if necessary in a locked cupboard or drawer. They include household bleaches and cleaners as well as medications and even cosmetics. Never store toxic substances in other containers – for example, bleach in a coke bottle.

2.    Does your garden contain toxic plants, including mushrooms? If children are to be allowed unsupervised play, then you might consider removing them, fencing them or, for older children, warning them very sternly of the plant’s dangers.

3.    Cupboards may contain small items that can be swallowed and sharp items that can cause injury. Curious children can easily pull heavy items off shelves onto themselves, with potentially serious consequences. A variety of child-proof locks and clasps are widely available to prevent small children gaining access to cupboards and drawers, while some display items can be secured to shelves with double-sided sticky pads. If necessary, relocate items to safe places.

4.    You may want to attend to doors that can lock from the inside (such as those with Yale locks) and can trap kids on the wrong side of the door. Slam preventers are a possible measure, which also protect small fingers.

5.    Does your home include tables or units with sharp corners and edges at head level or lower? One solution is to rearrange furniture so that children are less likely to run into them. Alternatively, specially designed corner guards are available.

6.    Ensure that furniture cannot be pulled over. Dishwashers and ovens have caused deaths when children have opened the door and stood on it. A chain securing these items to the wall solves the problem, and where there are gas pipes, will prevent a leak.

7.    Many gadgets are available to prevent kitchen accidents. They include fridge locks, covers for the knobs on stoves, and transparent shields to cover oven doors that reduce the door temperature by up to 50%.

8.    Mats and occasional rugs that can slip beneath running feet can be secured by attaching anti-slip materials to the underside.

9.    Wires and leads for lamps, computers and other appliances can be a trip hazard. Use cable organizers, secure leads to skirting boards, or run beneath mats and carpets.

10.    Covers for electrical sockets prevent children sticking fingers into them.

11.    Children can drown in half a bucket of water. Never leave water containers lying around, empty the bath immediately after use and make sure that water butts and even the shallowest fish pond are inaccessible. For indoors, you can even buy toilet seat locks.

12.    Other outdoor hazards include manhole covers or grilles that are enticing to children. Place a heavy plant pot on top. Garden sheds (and garages) are often full of toxic and dangerous items – make sure they are locked.

13.    Open fires, even with fireguards, can be too risky, even if children are never left unsupervised. However, fireguards designed specifically to be as childproof as possible are available. Other heating appliances can also be dangerous, so swap your old bar heater for an oil or fan heater.

14.    When drawing a bath, most of us run the hot first and then adjust by adding cold. With kids around, run both taps together and add hot afterwards to achieve the right temperature. This lessens the chance of kids scalding themselves.

15.    For children’s bath-time, use a non-slip mat in the bath.

16.    Stair gates are invaluable – not only for stairs but for blocking child access to kitchens or confining children to a particular area when necessary.

17.    Keep plastic packaging that can cause suffocation in an inaccessible place.

18.    Even downstairs windows may need securing to prevent children falling out. Special add-on clips and locks are available. To prevent children falling through windows, transparent sticky covers can be applied to the glass.

19.    Cords and ties associated with blinds and curtains can be hazardous. You can buy special winders, so that loose lengths of cord are kept out of the way.

20.    Make absolutely sure that children cannot get out of front or garden gates to wander off or put themselves at risk from traffic.

Not all of these measures will be vital, and will depend on the age and maturity level of the children you wish to protect. Reorganising the furniture or investing in gadgets may seem to be a lot of trouble and expense to prevent accidents that might never happen. However, when it comes to children’s safety, prevention is infinitely better than cure.