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If you have a baby or toddler in your household, you’ll want to make sure your little one is safe. But a house is full of hidden dangers. Here’s how to spot these hazards when baby-proofing your home.
Get down on all fours and inspect your home from the vantage point of your crawling, scooting, and cruising baby.
“A baby is incurably inquisitive,” says Mike Hayward, author of Baby-Proofing Your Home. “Get down on your hands and knees and crawl through your house and see it from the toddler’s point of view.”
Look deeper than the obvious dangers, like electrical outlets that virtually call out to little fingers. Try to find the things that a baby’s eye can detect, such as sharp ends of exposed screws under cocktail tables and gaps between furniture pieces where little fingers can lodge. Don’t overlook houseplants that can make a baby sick.
Kitchens pose the greatest health hazards to crawlers and toddlers. Anything with a handle, like a pan on a stove or a pot on a counter, is alluring and dangerous.
“Babies can’t see what they’re reaching into; they’ll just pull things down,” Hayward says. “As long as a pot is on the edge of the stove and viewable by the child, you’re inviting a major disaster.”
Baby-proofing the kitchen includes:
Pushing pots to back burners and turning handles toward the walls.
Removing range knobs so little hands aren’t tempted to turn them; replace when needed.
Keeping dishwasher doors closed so baby doesn’t eat leftover soap or grab sharp cutlery.
Removing poisonous cleaners from base cabinets; place out of reach in wall cabinets.
Water should be your biggest concern when baby-proofing the bathroom.
To avoid scalding baby during bath time, set your water heater thermostat to 120 degrees, which also will save energy and money. If you’re remodeling, install an anti-scald valve on new pipes.
Keep toilet seats down and install a safety latch (under $20) to prevent baby from splashing around and falling in.
Make sure all bath products, cleaning supplies, and medicines are in upper cabinets that baby can’t reach.
Never leave baby alone in a bathroom, especially a tub.
Prevent doors from smashing tiny fingers by draping a bath towel over the top, which prevents doors from closing completely on a baby’s hand.
Protect stairs with child gates ($45-$60). Don’t use pressure gates, which are easy to install but aren’t completely secure. Instead, mount baby gates onto walls or wood railings with sturdy hardware. Years down the line, when baby grows up, you can patch holes with joint compound or wood putty, and then touch up with paint or stain.
Anchor tall furniture to walls with furniture straps. To stabilize cabinets and bookcases, place the heaviest objects on the bottom.
Lisa Kaplan Gordon is an avid gardener, a member of the Fairfax County Master Gardeners Association, and a builder of luxury homes in McLean, Va. She's been a Homes editor for Gannett News Service and has reviewed home improvement products for AOL.
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