Once your child’s on the move (crawling or cruising or walking), it’s important to remove from your house and garden anything potentially harmful that they could now reach, grab, fall over or fall into. This is called baby-proofing – or child-proofing or toddler-proofing.
As experts at the Child Accident Prevention Trust (CAPT) say, this isn’t about wrapping your child up in cotton wool; it’s just about reducing obvious safety risks.
And, of course, you can’t eliminate every single risk in your house and garden – as the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) say in their excellent Let’s Chat About Baby-Proofing advice, “no matter how hard we try, it is impossible to make every environment 100% safe and children will always suffer a few bumps and scrapes along the way.
But, they continue, “sadly, some accidents are so serious that they ruin lives forever. Thankfully, there’s plenty of practical things we can do to stop these accidents from happening.”
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. Look at what’s grabbable from here – and how colourful and tempting it might be to your child.
Our guide here can also help, taking you through childproofing your:
- lounge or living room
- bedroom or nursery
We’ll also look at water safety and travelling by car with a baby or child, road safety and bike safety.
Child-proofing the bathroom
From the poisoning 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.
Some tips for safety in the bathroom are:
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 (see our bath seat warning). If the phone rings or doorbell goes, either ignore it or take your baby with you.
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. Read more on keeping your child safe from medicines
Cover the radiator. The bathroom radiator or hot towel rails (if you have them) can burn so get a towel or radiator cover.
Watch the windows. Window locks will let curious kids see out but not climb out: if you have window blinds, see our piece on the hazards of hanging cords and what to do about them.
Put a lock on the loo. 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.
Then there’s other hazard of food poisoning – so making sure you prepare food correctly is another side to kitchen safety.
We have detailed kitchen child-proofing advice on both topics – take a look:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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, cover 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 MadeForMums has compiled a list with the and Gardeners’ World Magazine on dangerous garden plants.
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) needs to be in very good order.
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.
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.