Childproofing Your Home: 11 Safety Devices to Protect Your Children

Each year, millions of young children are injured by hazards in the home. The good news is that many of these incidents can be prevented by using simple child-safety devices.

Most child-safety devices are easy to find. You can buy them at hardware stores, baby equipment shops, supermarkets, drugstores, home and linen stores, and on the Web or through mail-order catalogs. You can even hire professionals to select and install the devices you need.

Any safety device you buy should be sturdy enough to prevent injury to your child, yet easy for you to use. Be sure to follow installation instructions carefully, because even the best devices, if not used properly, won’t be effective.

In addition, if you have older children in the house, be sure they routinely re-secure safety devices. Remember, too, that no device is completely childproof; determined youngsters have been known to disable them.

Use these recommendations from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission to prevent the most common household injuries to young children.

1.  Use safety latches and locks for cabinets and drawers in kitchens, bathrooms and other areas to help prevent poisonings and other injuries. These help prevent children from gaining access to medicines and household cleaners, as well as knives and other sharp objects.

Look for latches and locks that adults can easily install and use, but which are sturdy enough to withstand pulls and tugs from children. Safety latches are not a guarantee of protection, but they can make it more difficult for children to reach dangerous substances. Even products with “child-resistant” packaging should be locked away, out of reach; this packaging is not “childproof.”

Cost:$3-$10. Find the best price.

2.  Use safety gates to help prevent falls down stairs and to keep children away from dangerous areas, such as stairs or rooms that have hazards in them. Look for gates that children cannot dislodge easily, but that adults can open and close without difficulty. At the top of stairs, use gates that screw into the wall rather than pressure gates.

New safety gates that meet safety standards display a certification seal from the Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association (JPMA). If you have an older safety gate, be sure that it doesn’t have V-shaped openings along the top edge, or diamond-shaped openings within that could trap a child’s head or neck.

Cost: $35 and up. Find the best price.

3.  Use doorknob covers and locks to help prevent children from entering rooms and other areas with possible dangers, such as swimming pools. Be sure the doorknob cover is sturdy enough not to break, but allows a door to be opened quickly by an adult in case of emergency. Locks should be used in addition to fences and door alarms. Sliding glass doors, with locks that must be re-secured after each use, are often not an effective barrier to pools.

Cost: $5. Find the best price.

4.  Use anti-scald devices for faucets and shower heads to prevent burns and set your water heater temperature to 120 degrees Fahrenheit.

Cost: $6 to $30.

5.  Use smoke detectors on every level of your home and near bedrooms. These are essential home-safety devices. Check your detectors once a month to make sure they’re working. If detectors are battery-operated, change the batteries at least once a year or consider using 10-year batteries.

Cost: $15 amd up.  Find the best price.

6.  Use window guards and safety netting to help prevent falls from windows, balconies, decks and landings. Check these devices frequently to make sure they are secure and properly installed and maintained. There should be no more than 4 inches between the bars of the window guard. If you have window guards, be sure at least one window in each room can be easily used for escape in case of a fire. Remember: Window screens will not prevent children from falling out of windows.

Cost:$40 and up . Find the best price.

7.  Use corner and edge bumpers to prevent children from injuring themselves on sharp edges of furniture and fireplaces. Be sure to look for bumpers that will stay securely in place.

Cost: $10 for corner guards up to about $80 for special custom-fit fireplace hearth guards. Find the best price.

8.  Use electrical outlet covers and plates to help protect children from shock and possible electrocution. Be sure the outlet protectors cannot be easily removed by children and are large enough so that children cannot choke on them.

Cost: $5-$10. Find the best price.

9.  Use a carbon monoxide detector to help prevent potentially fatal carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning. Install CO detectors in or near sleeping areas to protect your family from this toxic odorless gas.

Cost: $30 and up. Find the best price.

10.  Use safety tassels and inner cord stops on window blinds to prevent children from strangling in cord loops. For older miniblinds, cut the cord loop, remove the buckle and put safety tassels on each cord. Be sure that older vertical blinds and drapery cords have tension or tie-down devices to hold the cords tight. When buying new miniblinds, verticals and draperies, ask for safety features to prevent child strangulation.

Cost: You can get window-blind cord safety information and free tassels by calling 800-506-4636 or visiting the Window Coverings Safety Council

11.  Use door stops and door holders to prevent small fingers and hands from being pinched or crushed in doors and door hinges.

Be sure any safety device for doors is easy to use and is not likely to break into small parts, which could become a choking hazard for young children.

Cost: Varies widely. Find the best price.

From the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.

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