Baby's first steps mean it's time for a home safety check

Tips for making your home safe for a child who can walk.

When your child learns to walk, he or she will have a different view of the world. With this new skill, your toddler is ready to explore your home. This is natural. But it can pose challenges when it comes to safety.

Even though you've checked before, you need to look again for hazards. Some items, such as cleaning products, should be locked up or put where your child can't get them. Other objects—such as poisonous plants—may need to be removed from the house.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends taking a child's-eye view of every room. This allows you to spot things that could cause harm to your curious toddler.

Start your checkup with these tips from the AAP, the American College of Emergency Physicians and the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. Make note of things you need to do and safety devices you might need to buy.

Prevent poisoning

  • Place items that could poison your child well out of reach. This would include medicines, cleaning products and makeup. You might put the items in a cabinet or drawer that's secured with safety latches and locks. Latches should be sturdy enough to withstand pulls and tugs from children.
  • Buy medicines with childproof caps.
  • Don't store harmful products in food containers. That could confuse a small child.

Protect against falls

  • Use window guards—not ordinary window screens—and safety netting to help prevent falls from windows, balconies and landings. But make sure that one window in each room can easily be used in case of a fire.
  • Install no-slip strips on the bottom of the bathtub. And put a cushioned cover over the faucet to prevent head injuries in a fall.
  • Install safety gates in places you don't want your toddler to go. That might include at the top and bottom of stairs, or at the kitchen door while you're cooking. Gates that meet safety standards display a seal from the Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association.
  • Attach bumpers to cushion corners and edges of coffee tables, the fireplace hearth and other low furniture.

Keep kids safe around water

  • Close the lid of the toilet and get a toilet lid lock. Never leave a young child alone in the bath, even just to answer the phone. A toddler can drown in only a few inches of water.
  • Install door locks, barriers and alarms to prevent your child from reaching pools, driveways and streets without your knowledge.

Eliminate choking or suffocation hazards

  • Keep lightweight plastic bags, such as dry-cleaning bags and grocery bags, out of reach or in a secure cabinet or drawer.
  • Remove nightlights with small plastic bulbs. Check other objects, including toys, for small parts that could be swallowed.
  • Make sure window blind cords are safe. Learn more here.

Avoid accidents

  • Cover or plug unused electrical outlets.
  • Place sharp objects such as knives out of reach or in a secured cabinet or drawer.
  • Unplug appliances when they are not in use. Don't allow cords to dangle. Your toddler could pull the appliance off the counter.
  • Limit access to the stove. And always turn pot handles to the back of the stove.
  • Install emergency releases on the outside of your bathroom and bedroom doors, or cover or remove locks. This will keep your toddler from locking the door from the inside.
  • Use doorstops or door holders to help prevent pinching of little hands and fingers by the door or door hinges.

Finally, remember to always watch your child closely.

Reviewed 2/24/2022

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