Toddler-proofing your home, garden and garage

Keep your baby and child safe indoors, outside and when travelling with our baby-proofing and child-proofing checklist, tips and advice

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  • Baby and child safety in and around your home

    To baby-proof or child-proof your home, as the Child Accident Prevention Trust (CAPT) says, isn’t about wrapping your child up in cotton wool. And it’s also important to remember that once you’ve taken measures to make your home safer, it doesn’t mean accidents can’t happen. It’s just not possible to eliminate every single risk and it’s dangerous to think baby-proofing your home will guarantee your child’s safety (if you’re in doubt about this, you need to read Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents' (RoSPA) Childproofing your house : Impossible!).

    However, knowing where potential dangers may lie can help you take steps to prevent accidents. Some of it is simple stuff – perhaps BC (before child), storing cleaning products, dish liquid and laundry powder under the kitchen sink made sense. Now you have a baby who is bum-shuffling, crawling or mobile in anyway, this is within her reach. The bright label that made that brand of toilet bleach stand out to you in the supermarket is just as eye-catching to your baby. Those laundry powder capsules are shiny chewy toys that fit perfectly in her fist or mouth. Just by putting those products in a cupboard that’s high up and able to be locked, you’ve helped reduce her chances of being poisoned in the kitchen.

    One of the easiest ways to begin baby-proofing your home is to get down on your hands and knees and see the world from your child's view. Our guide here can also help, taking you through:

    • Child-proofing your bathroom
    • Child-proofing your kitchen
    • Child-proofing your lounge or living room
    • Child-proofing your bedroom or nursery
    • Child-proofing your garage
    • Child-proofing your garden
    • Water safety
    • Travelling by car with a baby or child, road safety and bike safety

    Finally, don’t miss our first aid basics for babies - covering burns and scalds, accidental poisoning, choking and spotting meningitis - and the essential emergency first aid kit items to have on stand-by for your toddler.

  • Child-proofing the bathroom

    From the poising risk posed by medicines and bathroom cleaning products, to hot water scalds, the risk of drowning and slips and falls, the bathroom has a lot going on when it comes to child-proofing!

    Always stay with you baby or child when she’s in the bath. She can drown in just few centimetres of water. Also be aware that baby bath seats don’t prevent drowning. If the phone rings or doorbell goes, either ignore it or take your baby with you.

    You should also never leave your child alone in the bath because she may try to play with the taps. This could see her being scalded by hot water. Putting your toddler at the opposite end of the bath from the taps is always a good idea, as is using a hot tap protector.

    Check the bath water temperature before popping your child in. A bath thermometer can be handy.

    When getting out of the bath, there’s a risk of slipping, so always help our child in and out. A large non-slip bath mat may also help.

    Keep medicines, chemicals, toiletries and cosmetics out of sight and out of reach. Don’t leave them lying around - it’s easy enough to do in the morning rush, so make it a habit to put them away. Buying medicines or cleaning chemicals in child-resistant containers is also helpful. If you can lock them up, do it. Keep chemicals stored in their original containers, and when it comes time to throw out old medicines and chemicals, dispose of them safely.  Our detailed article on keeping your toddler safe from medicines can also help.

    The bathroom radiator or hot towel rails (if you have them) can burn so get a towel or radiator cover.

    Window locks will let curious kids see out but not climb out, and if you have window blinds, see our piece on the hazards of hanging cords and what to do about them.

    A toilet lock will stop your toddler or child putting things in (car keys, toys) and getting near any chemical cleaners in the loo. It may possibly stop her trying to climb in if she’s a real adventurer!

  • Child-proofing the kitchen

    The kitchen has lots of possible hazards, including sharp knives, boiling hot saucepans, roasting hot oven doors and power leads for kettle and toasters.

    We have detailed kitchen child-proofing advice in our keeping your child safe in the kitchen guide, covering the oven and hob, kitchen cupboards and drawers, chemicals, hot pans and drinks, electrical items, climbing hazards, fire safety and how to use a stairgate to keep your child clear of the kitchen.

  • Child-proofing the lounge room

    Flat-screen televisions aren’t that stable and your toddler or child can easily pull the TV over on herself – either because she was attracted by the bright moving images or tried to pull herself up for a better view of the world. Our flat-screen TV safety warning and safety tips from Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) explains the child-proofing steps you need to take.

    When it comes to the TV remote, keep these out of your baby or child’s reach. If the buttons get pulled off, they may be swallowed, and the batteries may also be reached. A cable protector will keep cables on your TV, DVD and lamps out of the way. Also make sure electric sockets aren’t accessible – socket covers can help prevent little fingers going where they shouldn't.

    Your baby uses furniture to hoist herself up, so make sure it’s stable. Also make sure glass photo frames, ornaments and hot drinks are kept well out of reach. Cupboard locks are also a good idea.

    A fireguard is useful for keeping your baby or child’s hands and face away from heat and gas switches.

    If you have window blinds in your lounge room, see our child safety tips to minimise the danger of window blind cords. Also, move objects your toddler could climb up away from hazardous places, such as windows.

    If there’s a hallway leading to other rooms or stairs, a stair gate (also called a safety gate) can help ensure your baby or toddler doesn’t access other areas without you.

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  • Child-proofing the bedroom or nursery

    In the bedroom or nursery, keep furniture away from dangerous spots, such as windows – this is in case your child climbs the furniture.

    Make sure you’ve followed all the safety advice for window blind cords. Also check that your baby monitor and its cables aren’t within reach of your baby or toddler, whether she’s in or out of her cot or bed. Cords need to be more than 3 feet away from any part of your baby’s crib, cot, places she sleeps and plays. You can find out more about corded baby monitor safety in our report.

    Cupboard locks and drawer latches will keep bedroom cupboard contents out of your child’s hands, though do remember things such as toiletries should be well out of reach, too.

    Make sure doors have finger protectors, so a slamming door doesn’t catch your child’s fingers.

    Your baby may never have rolled before, but there’s always a first time for her to show you this skill! When you’re changing her nappy or dressing her, have all you need close at hand.

    When it comes to her cot, never put a cot near windows. Make sure the drop from cot to floor isn’t too high. Our buyer’s guide to cots and cotbeds also outlines the cot safety advice you should know, such as the right spacing between cot bars, mattress and top cot rail. Our buyer’s guide to mattresses outlines how to ensure the mattress is the safe size for your baby’s cot. We also explain why never to buy a secondhand mattress for your baby.

    Don’t let young kids play on a top bunk. If you have bunk beds, here are the key safety points to be aware of.

    You should also think about your own bedroom. Don’t leave your medicines, cosmetics or toiletries lying around, or anything with batteries in it. Tossing your handbag onto the floor or end of the bed also puts it and all its contents within reach.

    More safe sleeping advice…

  • Child-proofing the garage

    The garage – along with the kitchen and bathroom – is a top site for poisonings. The advice here echoes our child-proofing advice for the bathroom: keep cleaning products, chemicals, glues, oil and petrol out of sight and out of reach. Preferably lock them up, so if your child does climb up something, they still can’t get to them. Buy them in child-resistant containers if you can and keep them stored in their original containers – don’t put them in containers that look like drink bottles. When you throw them out, make sure you do so safely and that they’re still out of your child’s reach.

    Keep all tools out of reach, locking away any sharp implements in a toolbox.

    Always keep the garage door closed. Don’t allow your child unsupervised access to the driveway and when anyone is driving in or out make sure you know exactly where your child is, to avoid her being run over.

  • Child-proofing the garden

    Most drownings of 2 and 3 year olds happen in the home and garden, according to the Child Accident Prevention Trust (CAPT). And near-drownings cause major injuries. It’s not just garden ponds that pose a problem – a bucket of water is a hazard, too. If you have a water feature in your garden, either fence it off, covering it securely or fill it in.

    Don’t leave garden tools lying around or garden chemicals. Also be mindful that some plants are poisonous. The Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) has advice on this, and a list of plants that are potentially harmful to humans.

    Check your garden is secure, so your child can’t get to your neighbour’s garden – they could have a water feature, tools lying around or be reversing out of their garage not expecting a small child to be near.

    Play equipment (slides, swings and trampoline) need to be in very good order. If you have a trampoline, read RoSPA’s detailed trampoline safety advice.

    If you have a pet, our dog safety advice for pregnancy and families is a must-read.

  • Water safety

    Your toddler can drown in as little as 3cm of water – it could be in the bath tub, a garden water feature, paddling pool, swimming pool, a bucket collecting rainwater in the backyard or on the beach. Watch your baby or child at all times and never leave her alone near water, even for a few seconds, and even if she has an older brother or sister with her.

    If you’re going out in a boat, you need a life jacket that’s the correct size for your toddler. An adult life jacket could be more of a problem that a help in an accident.

    Swimming is part of the National Curriculum, though many schools don’t offer swimming lessons until children are 7 or 8, so it’s wise to make your own arrangements if you want her swimming earlier. Check out our guide to baby swimming classes to get your baby started early.

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  • Travelling in the car, by bike and walking

    If you travel by car with your baby, toddler or child under the age of 12 years, there are things you are required to do by law for their safety, such as use a baby or child car seat. Our guide to the latest car seat laws has all the info. We also explain the rules of rear facing car seats and why you should never buy a car seat secondhand.

    If you walk with your child anywhere, road safety is important. We explain how to teach road safety to your child, in 10 steps.

    Like to ride your bicycle? Cycling is fun for your toddler or child – here’s how to make bike riding safe for children.

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