Child Proofing is a Must for Baby’s Safety
Over 12,000 children under the age of 19 die each year in the United States alone from unintentional injury.
As parents, we try so hard to protect our kids by child proofing our homes. Everyone knows how to put safety gates on the stairs, cover power outlets, and place hazardous items like dishwasher pods and stain removers out of reach of curious toddlers.
But even the most safety conscious parents may miss something. Here are some of the most common child proofing mistakes.
Common Child Proofing Mistakes (and What to Do About Them)
1. Setting down hot drinks within reach of your baby
When parents are occupied by something as simple as a cup of coffee, babies will take the opportunity to explore.
From as young as 3 months of age, your baby will start to reach for things. And in the process, they could easily scald themselves on a hot drink.
Make sure you place cups of hot coffee and tea out of reach of children, on high sturdy tabletops away and from the edge.
No matter how tired you are, don’t nurse your baby while drinking a hot beverage.
And of course, keep your baby away from other hot things, by baby proofing your fireplace and other areas of your house, and using low heat lights on your Christmas tree.
When your little one is in the stroller, use a high quality stroller organizer with recessed cup holder to keep your hot drink away safely away from your child. And be sure it’s not filled all the way to the top, so it doesn’t accidentally splash out.
2. Leaving pot and pan handles facing outwards while cooking
If a pot or pan handle is facing out, your toddler could easily grab at it, potentially knocking it over and spilling boiling contents onto their unsuspecting face or body.
Make it a habit to always turn pot and pan handles inward while on the stove. Even better, only use the back burners wherever possible.
3. Not practicing safe food preparation standards
Food safety is paramount when cooking for young kids. Bacteria like E.coli and salmonella are awful for healthy adults, but can be even more harmful to little children, sometimes resulting in organ failure.
Using a meat thermometer to ensure meats are properly cooked, avoiding runny eggs, and using a separate chopping board for raw meats are all ways to protect kids. A safe internal temperature for roast beef, lamb or pork is 145 °F (62.78 °C). For chicken, it’s 165 °F (73.88 °C).
And be sure to use proper cleaning products to disinfect surfaces in your kitchen before and after food preparation.
4. Giving your baby choking hazard foods
As kids grow and become more competent, it’s easy to get a bit lax on the types of food you give them – more specifically, the sizes and shapes of food that you give them.
But the fact is, children under 3 are at greater risk of choking on certain foods because their airways are so small.
Avoid giving your little ones hard, round and chewy foods that are difficult to eat and could easily block an airway. These include whole grapes, uncut hot dogs, whole nuts, hard candies and thick nut butter.
Cut food into smaller pieces and ensure kids eat while seated.
And never put ice into your child’s bottle or sippy cup. Some baby spoons have choke guards, which will teach your little one not to shove food too deep into their mouth.
5. Emptying your pockets – and leaving the contents lying around
Leaving small items within reach of little people is a safety hazard. And it’s a common baby proofing mistake.
Get in the habit of emptying your pockets into an out-of-reach bowl or child proof drawer. Place keys on a high hook, and coins in a closed wallet or coin purse that’s stored out of reach. If your little one loves keys, invest in a good lock and key toy for safe exploration.
When it comes to young kids, out of sight equals out of mind.
6. Leaving your purse on the floor
A purse or handbag can be a source of all kinds of hazards for kids: medication, hard candies, coins, and make-up are just some of the things that come to mind.
Place your handbag in a cupboard, leave it in the car, or store it on a high shelf where it’s out of reach of curious hands.
If you have visitors to the house, ensure their handbags are also stored safely.
7. Letting your baby play with toys for an older child
Toys are designed for specific age groups – with the age group often marked somewhere on the toy. This is because small parts are choking hazards for young kids.
If you have older siblings in the house, it’s admittedly difficult to keep all the toys separate. However, you really do need to keep the toys meant for older children away from your little ones.
Store older kids’ toys in a separate room to baby toys, and don’t allow your baby to play with them.
Educate older siblings on this, too, so they can help keep their little brother or sister safe.
If you need to ban certain toys, it’s okay to do so. My older ones, for example, have never been allowed to have marbles in the house, because we’ve always had another baby to consider.
Likewise, don’t let your little one play with things that aren’t meant as toys, especially electrical items like a stroller fan or something with cords.
8. Not checking toys for mold
Mold is a potential health risk that often goes unchecked.
Inhaling mold spores can cause a runny nose, sneezing, itchy eyes, skin irritation and even neurological symptoms. Mold exposure can be especially dangerous to kids who suffer from asthma. Pay particular attention to bath toys and accessories, like floating bath thermometers or faucet guards, which are always moist. And don’t be surprised if you come across a moldy surprise when giving your baby a bath.
Keep toys mold free by regularly inspecting and cleaning.
To clean, use a mixture of 2 cups of apple cider vinegar, 500ml warm water, and 2 foam denture cleaning tablets, and soak toys overnight.
Discard toys that are too far gone.
9. Not inspecting toys for damage and wear
Regular toy inspection and cleaning are important not only for mold protection, but also to prevent injury from broken toys.
If toys show signs of wear and tear, repair them before you give them back to your child, or discard them.
Regular inspections can protect kids from sharp edges and small parts.
10. Not replacing pacifiers often enough
Approximately 75% to 85% of kids in the Western world use a pacifier, and pacifier use during sleep has been shown to reduce the risk of SIDS.
However, pacifiers need to be kept clean and in good condition to stay safe.
Pacifiers should be replaced every 2 months, before any damage occurs and for optimal hygiene. You should also replace pacifiers after a baby has been sick.
Regularly inspect pacifiers for damage, and immediately discard them if anything looks odd or at risk of breaking off.
11. Letting babies play with balloons
Balloons are colourful and fun, and babies love them!
But, latex balloons are a potential choking hazard once they burst. Broken pieces can easily be sucked into their throat and lungs, and ribbons tying balloons can also be a strangulation risk.
Don’t ever let your children play with balloons unsupervised. During birthday parties and other events with balloons, be vigilant about spotting pieces of broken balloons on the ground.
Tie balloons up high to decorate, and consider using mylar balloons – which do not break into pieces when they burst – instead of latex.
12. Using unsafe baby gear
Every year, more than 9,000 children are injured in the US from using baby walkers.
Stricter safety standards and greater awareness has helped bring this number down, but injuries still persist. The American Association of Pediatrics has called for a ban on baby walkers with wheels, and countries such as Canada have already prohibited their sale and manufacture.
Other products which were once considered safe, such as baby bouncers, rockers and inclined sleepers, are also being reviewed. Stick to safe baby gear, such as a non toxic bassinet for newborns or non toxic crib for older babies for naps and nighttime sleep, and baby play gyms or tummy time gear.
Be sure you have the most up-to-date information when you purchase a baby product, and when in doubt, talk to your pediatrician.
13. Not checking recall lists when you accept hand-me-downs or buy second hand
If someone wants to pass you their much loved family heirloom crib, used crib mattress, old pram, or other used baby gear, check first that the safety standards are up to scratch. And then check there haven’t been any product recalls on the particular model.
Safety standards have evolved a lot over the years, and while we’re all for reusing and upcycling in general, it can’t be at the risk of creating an unsafe situation for your baby. Generally speaking, you’re better off with a new crib and crib mattress, rather than used.
You can find up to date product recalls here: https://www.safekids.org/product-recalls
14. Not taking lead poisoning seriously enough
Older homes can often have lead paint on the walls. If the paint is in good condition, it does not pose a threat. However, if it’s chipped, cracked, peeling, crushed or sanded into dust, lead poisoning is a real threat, especially to children and pregnant women.
Houses painted prior to 1978 probably contain lead. If this applies to your home, have your paint tested by a professional.
Likewise, old bathtubs made from cast iron and coated with porcelain can also be a source of lead poisoning – especially if children drink the bathwater.For very young children, bathe them in a specifically designed baby bathtub for the safest situation. However, if you have an old bathtub, you should also get it tested for lead.
15. Not emptying the bath water immediately
In the rush to get my baby out of the bath and into bed, I’ve definitely forgotten to empty the bath water at the end of the night.
It’s an easy mistake to make, but it’s also a huge risk to have standing water in a house with young children.
Make it a habit to pull the bath plug as you remove your child from the water to prevent a tragedy from occurring.
16. Not regulating your home’s hot water temperature
Adjusting the thermostat on your hot water heater to around 120 °F (48.88 °C) is a simple, effective way to prevent scalds in your home.
Likely, you’ll need to employ a professional to change the temperature. However, anti-scald faucets are also available. These faucets automatically turn off the water if it gets too hot.
17. Not installing toilet seat locks
Infants can drown in as little as an inch of water. And for many toddlers, a toilet is a dangerous source of fascination. Top heavy babies can quickly and quietly topple into the toilet and drown. Please place a lock on your toilet seat. The bathroom is dangerous for kids, so keep the door to the toilet closed and child proofed.
18. Letting the house get dusty
Household dust is a common mechanism of exposure to fire retardant chemicals. Young children, especially, are vulnerable because they put so many items from the floor into their mouths, thus ingesting these chemicals.
Regularly clean and dust with a damp cloth to reduce dust and minimize your family’s exposure. Where possible use baby safer fragrance free cleaning products.
19. Not alarming the doors
Placing a simple alarm chime on the door brings a lot of peace of mind when you’re in your home.
This practical tool will sound an alarm if the door is opened or closed – alerting you to an overly ambitious toddler heading out to explore the world.
Keeping your doors locked are another obvious solution, but the door alarm adds a fail safe.
20. Not locking your pet door
Once you have kids, they become your priority. And unfortunately for Fido, that means getting used to having to ask to be let in and out of the house, rather than using a pet door.
Once you have a crawling baby, lock or uninstall pet doors.
21. Keeping dog and cat food and water bowls on the floor
Children are naturally curious about their environment – and about food. Pet food can be especially attractive to curious kids, and present a number of dangers to kids.
While the food itself should not have unsafe ingredients, per se, they could pose a choking hazard, or spread bacteria and parasites. Further, water bowls can be a drowning danger to a small child. Finally, some normally good-natured dogs may get overzealous in protecting their meal, and could accidentally hurt a young child.
Try to only set out your pet’s food during their meal time, and supervise while your pet eats.
22. Not taking batteries seriously enough as a hazard
If you think your child may have swallowed a button battery, call 911 or go straight to your nearest emergency department.
All batteries are potentially dangerous to children if ingested, but the acids found within a small battery cell can burn through the oesophagus in as little as 2 hours, and can cause death.
Keep small batteries out of sight and reach of small children, and dispose of used batteries straight away by wrapping them securely, and placing them outside in the trash.
Ensure all battery compartments are securely closed when in use.
23. Trying to make the crib cozy
Babies’ sleep environments should be minimalist – no exceptions – to reduce the risk of suffocation, strangulation, and other harms.
New babies have very little head and neck control and are unable to turn away to breathe. Avoid adding soft toys, comforters, pillows and anything else that could block baby’s nose and mouth. This includes crib bumpers.
Once you have a toddler, swap them to a toddler bed. Don’t keep toddlers in the crib, as they can use toys and pillows as a “step” to climb up and out of their crib. Be especially careful of cribs with changing tables, as these can also be used to escape the crib.
The American Association of Pediatrics recommends laying babies on their back to sleep, while also keeping the crib clear of soft objects. A firm crib mattress, fitted sheet and a well-fitting sleep sack or PJs are all a baby needs.
While you’re at it, we recommend choosing an organic crib mattress if it’s in your budget – this will ensure it’s free from VOCs, phthalates, and other harmful chemicals.
24. Introducing pillows and blankets too soon
Babies don’t need pillows or blankets – and both can be dangerous.
In cooler weather, dress baby in warmer clothing rather than layering blankets on top of her. Using a safe sleeping bag is a great alternative to a blanket, which could easily smother your baby’s face.
Likewise, toddler pillows are neither recommended nor necessary until your child is aged 18 months to 2 years old.
25. Leaving electrical cords within reach of baby’s crib
Using night lights, lamps, baby monitors or fans in your nursery can create another overlooked hazard.
Loose or looped cords sitting near your baby’s crib are a strangulation risk. Move all electrical cords at least 3 feet away from the crib to prevent your baby reaching through the crib slats to grab the cables.
26. Not attaching furniture to the wall
Children between the ages of 2 and 5 are the most frequent victims of fatal furniture tip-over accidents.
The best way to prevent heavy furniture tipping over and landing on a small child is to secure it to the wall. This includes cupboards, chests of drawers, TV sets and more.
Purchase furniture anchors from a reputable source, and attach them to studs in the wall.
27. Using table cloths
If your curious toddler child pulls on a table cloth, it won’t magically come off the table, leaving everything else nicely in place.
Instead, she’ll end up with a dangerous mess of hot food, broken glass and crockery, and sharp knives falling down on top of her.
If you have small children in the house, skip the table cloth. Placemats work just as well, and are easier to clean too!
28. Leaving pull cords hanging from your window blinds
Window blinds can be deadly for children. Unsecured pull cords haven been known to cause strangulation, and are a risk all parents should take seriously.
Secure cords using clips or tension devices, or cut them off or tie them up, and ensure they’re out of reach of children. While you’re at it, move other furniture away from window blinds, so kids can’t climb up and reach the blind cords.
This also applies to your bursary – make sure cribs are placed nowhere near dangerous cords of any sort.
29. Not testing your safety equipment regularly
Fire alarms should be tested every month and the batteries replaced every year. Mark the date on your calendar or set a reminder on your phone.
Ensure alarms are installed near sleeping areas, and on every level of your house. Consider installing hard wired alarms into new build houses.
Fire extinguishers also need monthly checks and annual inspections by a fire protection professional.
30. Thinking a child proofed home is safe – and lessening supervision!
No matter how safe you think your home is, you still have to supervise your child.
Toddlers are rapidly developing new skills and taking new risks, so expect this phase to present a new challenge every day.
Don’t get complacent with your children. Always have half an eye on them, and keep items that distract your attention – like a smart phone – out of reach.
I hope you enjoyed this list of 30 Common Child Proofing Mistakes.
Babies and toddlers cannot keep themselves safe, which is why it’s up to us as parents and caregivers.
Applying the advice above will help to protect your baby from harm – and help keep you on your toes when you’re around a curious child.
Please comment below if you have any tips to add. If you know someone who needs this article in their life, please share!