Make Your Home a Danger-Free Zone
By Lisa Lombardi
One-year-old Ella Dundas is on the move -- to the delight and dismay of her parents. "My husband and I worry that we haven't baby-proofed enough," admits Ella's mom, Amanda. "We don't know where to start! I think we need to move so we can just start from scratch!"
Sound familiar? Even if you've purchased half the baby-proofing aisle at Babies "R" Us, you may still panic that you're not doing everything you need to protect your little one. Rest assured -- you're already in better shape than you think. By keeping a keen eye on your child, you're doing "the single most important thing you can do rather than attempting to detect every possible danger," says Kerrie Laguna, Ph.D., an expert in child development at Lebanon Valley College in Annville, Pa. But it's still essential to make your home as danger-free as possible. Here's how:
Get down on her level It may feel weird, but crawling around on the floor will help you spot potential hazards. "You will see all types of temptations, especially hanging cords that babies pull on, bringing down heavy objects like lamps and irons," warns Laguna.
Plug up all outlets Small bodies can wriggle into tiny spaces, so cover all outlets -- even those blocked by furniture. While the best outlet covers are the ones that screw on over your old plate rather than stop up the holes, you can get crafty and make your own. Daisy Chan, whose son Ethan is now 14 months old, covers hers with packing tape. She also tapes the cable and phone wires to the wall along the edge of the floor, since loose wires pose strangulation and electrocution threats.
Lock up your vitamins All medicines, supplements, toiletries, household cleaning products and other potentially poisonous substances should be locked up in cabinets well out of your child's reach, says Denise Dowd, M.D., section chief of injury prevention at Children's Mercy Hospitals and Clinics.
End bath time worries To prevent scalding, make sure the bath water is approximately 90 F to 95 F, says Dowd. Check the temperature with a candy thermometer. Also crucial: a nonskid rubber safety mat that extends the length of your tub, to prevent falls.
Use gates to block stairs and other dangers "Avoid the gates that pinch when folded," recommends Laguna. Make sure gates used on the top of stairs are designed specifically for that purpose. Also consider keeping a playpen handy for emergency containment. "Most experts don't advocate too much restriction of movement, as in playpens," notes Laguna. "But there are times when a Pack 'n Play is appropriate -- like when you're taking hot food out of the oven."
Guard windows Window guards can prevent your child from falling out a window. But the guards must have a release mechanism so that they can be opened for escape in the event of a fire emergency, according to the National Safety Council. Before purchasing and installing these devices, consult your local fire department for guidelines. And in general, never place a crib, dresser or chair near a window: It can be used as a stepladder.
Don't be blinded Make sure drapery and blind cords are out of the baby's reach from the crib and changing table. Your best bet? Play it safe by using cord-containing safety devices for all blinds.
Cook with caution Use the back burners and make sure pot handles are pointing inward so your child cannot reach up and grab them. "On counters, keep sharp utensils a foot back from the edge," says Laguna. "Around age 2 to 3, toddlers love to reach up on counters."
Ditch dangerous plants Toxic plants include hyacinth, oleander and elephant's ear. If in doubt about your houseplants, check in with your pediatrician.
Beware of pet food Dry dog and cat food can look surprisingly tasty to a toddler. Since they can be choking hazards, it's essential to keep pet chow locked away. Feed your pooch after baby's asleep so there are no tempting morsels within her reach. You won't hear the dog complaining!
Quick tip Watch for choke-ables. Anything that can fit into a toilet paper roll is a choking hazard.