From the September 2016 issue

Tips for Toddler-Proofing Your Home

Here's what matters most and how to do it right.

When it comes to a toddler wobbling around the house, it seems there’s a fine line between being precautious and paranoid. What types of “baby proofing” are essential, based on what tots naturally do once they get mobile?

During National Baby Safety Month, we set out to set a few things straight when it comes to the top hazards – and best methods.

All over the place

Tykes get into everything. And that’s totally normal. “Their job is to test the world,” explains Dr. Marcus DeGraw, medical director of ambulatory pediatrics at St. John Providence centers in Detroit and Macomb Township.

Children not only explore with their hands and eyes, DeGraw says, but also with their mouths. They use all five senses to “test,” and their immediate reaction is to put things in their mouths.

“Obviously, babies are accident prone because of lack of knowledge,” says DeGraw. “Parents have to help them until they are old enough to know for themselves.”

Water and poison

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“Under the age of 2, the top cause of death is drowning,” DeGraw says. That’s why any standing body of water should be secured, he notes; toddlers can easily drown within moments. Got a pool? While summer is winding down, it’s never too late to address safety. Put up a pool fence around all four sides, DeGraw says, adding that pool alarms shouldn’t be a sole solution (many detect movement and require a child to be in the water or too close to it already).

More universally, never leave babies or toddlers alone in a bathtub. A common myth is that they’ll make noise and flail if drowning. That’s not always the case. “Supervision is the most important thing,” says DeGraw.

Another common incident is ingesting cleaning products or medication – and choking. Any kind of poisonous chemical should be locked up out of reach.

Safety musts

Here’s DeGraw’s list of the top tot-proofing measures to keep tykes safe.

  • Lock kids out of standing water. A pool fence’s gate should self-close/latch. Consider a lock for your toilet, too.
  • Keep cleaners, chemicals and medications in cabinets out of the tot’s reach – again, locked. Be especially mindful of low cabinets under sinks.
  • Use safe baby gates on stairs – always hardware-mounted vs. pressure-mounted – and locks/stops on windows and doors to prevent tragic falls. Also, visit cpsc.gov/recalls to check for/avoid recalled baby gates.
  • Secure dressers to a wall with anti-tip brackets to prevent them from falling on climbing children.

That said, remember: A little “dirt” is OK for kids. “You can’t Purell and Clorox wipe the world,” says DeGraw – and bumps happen sometimes, but that’s how kids learn. But the house can remain a safe zone for exploration with a little effort.

Art by Mary Kinsora

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