Your home is supposed to be a sanctuary - your family's protection from the hazards and harms of the outside world. Unfortunately, what should be a haven can often be full of hazards, especially for children, whose curiosity can be their own worst enemy. According to the National Center for Health Statistics, 42 percent of pediatric deaths happen right in the child's own home, including drowning, burning and scalding, choking, poisoning, and falling. Prevention is the key to reducing the risks of injury to any family member.
To minimize the risk of injury or death to young people in your home, childproofing experts recommend scanning each room for potential danger zones immediately - not necessarily after the arrival of a child. "If you want to have a nurturing positive environment for your own children - or children who may visit - childproof your home now," says Richard Shandelman, CEO of Safe and Sound, a childproofing service company based in Norristown, Pa. "Don't wait until your infant becomes mobile."
If you are expecting, you still have time to implement these protective changes, but start soon. "Children develop at different rates; some will crawl late, some will walk early - so create a safe room as soon as possible," says Shandelman. "As soon as your baby rolls over on his stomach, he will become more mobile, and it's a whole new ballgame once he is standing."
If you are doing the job of childproofing your home, this is one you should take lying down - literally. Get on the floor and look at your home from a toddler's viewpoint. Ask yourself, what can they touch? What can they pull on? What can they open? "You can't say "˜my child won't do that'," says Shandelman. "You can be the greatest parent in the world, but you can't anticipate what the next level of your child's capabilities is going to be. If you take the conservative approach, there will be a much less likelihood of injury."
One of the primary things you will notice at your child's eye level is electrical outlets and wires. Loose wires and unprotected outlets are a natural curiosity to a toddler who can bite wires and stick foreign objects - like forks and fingers - into outlets. An electrical shock can be startling, or it can be fatal. Don't take the chance on which one it might be. Use cover plates on outlets and do not leave loose wiring accessible to anyone. Avoid extension cords; they are often the wrong size and can overload the socket, possibly causing a fire. To prevent overloading, look at the cord recommendations on your appliances and buy extension cords accordingly.