We’ve all heard the joke, “I child-proofed my house, but they keep getting in!” (Not my words, but I don’t know the source. If you do, let me know so I can provide attribution.)
That’s not the kind of child-proofing I want to talk about. I want to talk about the kind that keeps our children from injuring themselves, our belongings, and our homes when they are small.
First of all, what kind of child do you have (or are expecting)? All children need a bare minimum of child-proofing (outlet plugs, I’m thinking of you) but the more curious and exploration-minded your child, the more you will have to child-proof. And children gradually outgrow the need for most child-proofing (like latches on every single cupboard).
Disclaimer: The advice provided here is meant strictly for informational purposes. Please read all product information carefully and use it as designed. I am not affiliated with any companies making or selling child-proofing devices. Consult an expert if you are uncertain.
Continue below the fold for details on each major area of child-proofing.
- Outlet plugs: These are non-negotiable. Every single outlet in every single room your child will be in needs an outlet plug. Some of these can be used with appliances plugged in and close automatically when the appliance is unplugged. However, I don’t believe these are very reliable and I prefer outlet covers.
- Outlet covers: These are nifty devices that replace the outlet plate and allow you to use an outlet and still child-proof it. Basically, a cover latches over the matching plate, over the plugged-in cords, and has a little opening at the bottom to let the cords out. Also has little vents to let the heat out. These are not required, but are very helpful to allow use of outlets that Baby can reach.
- Cord covers: Sold as things to allow you to walk over cords and not trip on them. Very nice for covering a cord that must be exposed in its journey from appliance to wall outlet. Small nails are helpful to secure the cover to the floor. Almost invisible next to the wall.
- Child-proof nightlights: not worth the money. They are easily defeated by a child who really wants to. You can put an LED nightlight behind a cord cover, or there are cord covers sold that integrate a nightlight. Glow in the dark stars and planets for the ceiling will provide some light for a child who doesn’t really need a nightlight.
There are many, many devices sold to help you secure your furniture to the wall. I like the ones that come with plastic ties, they are a little more flexible than some other options. You can also buy plain angle braces from the hardware store. Always anchor to a stud in your wall. Stud finders are very helpful for this.
Cupboards and Cabinets
For single-doored cabinets, I like the kind of latch you push down on to release. For double-doored cabinets, with knobs, the best thing is a latch that goes over both knobs. The kind that slides the stopper up and down a U-shaped piece of plastic is nice, but doesn’t fit all knobs, and can be defeated once the children are old enough and strong enough. If your children have defeated that kind, there’s a kind that has buttons and plastic ties going through a diamond — as long as it’s tight, the kids can’t defeat it — heck, I can’t use it sometimes!
Try to keep all the truly dangerous stuff up high and in a room the kids can’t go in (see doors, below). If this is not possible, like the dishwasher detergent under the kitchen sink, then the only fool-proof solution is a padlock. Not pretty, I know, but that’s the price we pay sometimes for keeping children safe.
There are all kinds of gates. Many have been recalled over the years, so make sure the one you want to buy or use is not on the recall list. If you can push a soda can through the bars, they’re too far apart and the gate is unsafe. Make sure that you choose a gate that can be securely attached in the location you need it in. Expandable and pressure gates are really nice for irregularly sized openings. Don’t forget a gate at the bottom of the stairs so Baby can’t go up and then fall down.
If your knobs are at the back of the stove (above the cooktop) you probably don’t need knob covers. These will also keep cats from turning on your stove burners, too, though. Oven latches are probably a waste of money — they are easily broken with enough force from an adult if you forget it is on the oven. Burner covers seem like a great idea until you accidentally turn on the wrong burner and roast the burner cover.
If you have a door you really don’t want the kids opening, like the furnace room door, then eye hooks up high are a great idea. This even works on bifold doors. Just screw the eye into the other door or the door jamb (for single doors) and the hook into the door (or other door). If you put it really high, almost at the top of the door, the kids won’t even notice the hook.
Door knob covers are great for temporary solutions, or doors that it’s not essential to keep the children out of (nothing dangerous, you just don’t want them to have free access). There are two problems with door knob covers. First, all the models are really difficult to use if you have arthritis in your hands. So if you have arthritis or grandparents will be doing a lot of visiting or babysitting, you may want to reconsider using them. Second, they are easy for children to defeat after about age 2. The kind that has buttons to push (instead of just reaching through and turning the door knob directly) are more secure. These may stop working if your door knob is really hard to turn. And of course door knob covers don’t work on lever door knobs.
If you are cat-proofing your house (as opposed to child-proofing), you can use bungee cords to hold two doors together, if they are close enough and hooks aren’t an option. However, bungee cords aren’t a good idea for child-proofing since children could strangle themselves with them.
The last resort to securing a door is to change the door knob for one with a lock. Make sure you get one that doesn’t need the key to open the inside so no one can be trapped inside. This is best for a bedroom door that you want to close while on the inside. Changing a door knob is really easy, especially in a modern home that uses standard-size doorknobs.
And then there are the doors you don’t want the children to lock at all — perhaps their bedroom or bathroom door. In that case you might want to consider changing the standard knob for one with no lock at all. This way your small children cannot get trapped in their bedrooms (since a small child can often lock a door, perhaps accidentally, and be unable to open it). If your children like locking doors, at least make sure you can open all the locks easily in case they can’t get out.
Toilet latches, refrigerator latches, the list goes on. There are many, many latches to lock almost anything you can think of. Only you can decide if you need them. Children who love water need toilet latches more than children who don’t. I think refrigerator latches discourage children from feeding themselves. If you’re worried about the kids resetting the temperature, buy a refrigerator alarm that will beep when the temperature rises above a certain point.
Again, I want to emphasize that this blog post is to give you an idea of the usefulness of the myriad of child-proofing products out there, and discuss the major areas in the average house that need child-proofing, not a how-to guide or instructions.
Finding Child-Proofing Gadgets
You can find child-proofing gadgets at any hardware, home improvement, or big-box store. Walmart and Target both have excellent selections. If you can’t find what you’re looking for at one store, try another, as they each sell slightly different items. Finally, onestepahead.com has a huge selection of hard to find items that you can’t find anywhere else. (I am not paid to endorse any of these stores in any way)
Share in the comments your stories of child-proofing and tell me if I left anything out.