Dear MrDad: What should we do to childproof
A: Once your baby realizes that he's able
to move around by himself, his mission in life will
be to locate--and race you to--the most dangerous,
life-threatening things in your home. So if you
haven't already begun the never-ending process of
child-proofing your house, better start now.
The first thing to do is get down on your hands
and knees and check things out from your baby's
Taking care of those pesky wires and covering up
your outlets is only the beginning, so start with
Anywhere and Everywhere:
Move anything valuable out of the baby's
Bolt to the wall bookshelves and other
free-standing cabinets (this goes double if you
live in earthquake country); pulling things down on
top of themselves is a favorite baby suicide
Don't hang heavy things on the stroller--it can
Get special guards for your radiators and move
your space heaters and electric fans off the
Install a safety gate at the bottom and top of
Adjust your water heater temperature to 120
degrees. This will reduce the likelihood that your
baby will scald himself.
Get a fire extinguisher and put smoke alarms in
Especially in the Kitchen:
- Install safety locks on all but one of your
low cabinets and drawers. Most of these locks
allow the door to be opened slightly--just
enough to accommodate a baby's fingers--so make
sure the kind you get also keep the door from
closing completely as well.
- Stock the one unlocked cabinet with
unbreakable pots and pans and encourage your
baby to jump right in.
- Keep baby's high chairs away from the walls.
His strong little legs can push off and knock
the chair over.
- Watch out for irons and ironing boards. The
cords are a hazard and the boards themselves are
easy to knock over.
- Get an oven lock and covers for your oven
and stove knobs.
- Use the back burners on the stove whenever
possible and keep the handles turned toward the
back of the stove.
- Never hold your baby while you're cooking.
Teaching him what steam is or how water boils
may seem like a good idea, but bubbling
spaghetti sauce or hot oil hurts when it
- Put mouse- and insect traps in places where
your baby can't get to them.
- Use plastic dishes and serving bowls
whenever you can--glass breaks and, at least in
my house, the shards seem to show up for weeks,
no matter how well I sweep.
- Post the phone numbers of the nearest poison
control agency and your pediatrician near your
Especially in the Living Room:
- Put decals--at baby height--on any sliding
- Get your plants off the floor: over 700
species can cause illness or death if eaten,
including such common ones as lily of the
valley, iris, and poinsettia.
- Pad the corners of low tables, chairs,
- Make sure your fireplace screen and tools
can't be pulled over.
- Keep furniture away from windows. Babies
will climb up whatever they can and may fall
through the glass.
Especially in the Bedroom/Nursery:
- No homemade or antique cribs. They probably
don't conform to today's safety standards.
- Remove from the crib all mobiles and hanging
toys. By 5 months, most kids can push themselves
up on their hands and knees and can get tangled
up (and even choke on) strings.
- Keep the crib at least two feet away from
blinds, drapes, hanging cords, or wall
decorations with ribbons
- Check toys for missing parts.
- Toy chest lids should stay up when opened
(so they doesn't slam down on tiny
- Don't leave dresser drawers open. From the
baby's perspective, they look an awful lot like
- Keep crib items to a minimum: a sheet, a
blanket, bumpers, and a few soft toys. Babies
don't need pillows at this age and large toys or
stuffed animals can be climbed on and used to
escape the crib.
- Don't leave your baby unattended on the
changing table even for a second.
Especially in the Bathroom:
- If possible, use a gate to keep access
restricted to the adults in the house.
- Install a toilet guard.
- Keep bath and shower doors close
- Never leave water standing in the bath, a
sink, or even a bucket. Drowning is the third
most common cause of accidental deaths of young
children, and babies can drown in practically no
water at all.
- Keep medication and cosmetics high up.
- Make sure there's nothing your baby can
climb up on to raid the medicine cabinet.
- Keep shavers and hair dryers unplugged and
out of reach.
- No electrical appliances near bathtub.
- Use a bath mat or stick-on safety strips to
reduce the risk of slipping in the bathtub.
©2010, Armin Brott
* * *
It's clear that most American children suffer
too much mother and too little father. - Gloria
nationally recognized parenting expert, Armin Brott
is the author of Blueprint
for Men's Health: A guide to a health
Expectant Father: Facts, Tips, and Advice for
New Father: A Dad's Guide to the First
Dad's Guide to the Toddler
Single Father: A Dad's Guide to Parenting without a
Partner and Father for
Life. He has written on parenting and fatherhood
for the New York Times Magazine, The
Washington Post, Newsweek and dozens of
other periodicals. He also hosts Positive
Parenting, a nationally distributed, weekly
talk show, and lives with his family in Oakland,
California. Visit Armin at www.mrdad.com
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