Preparing your home for a toddler

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Your child taking its first steps is a magical moment… But it also means you’ve now got a toddler on your hands! Get ready for excitement and exhaustion in equal measure.

toddler rummaging in drawers

Before the exploring begins in earnest, it’s probably not a terrible idea to make sure your home is safe for inquisitive tots. Here are a few things you can do to prepare for the onslaught.

A note on safety, before we go on

You’re never going to be able to eliminate risk entirely. At some point, your child might trip and nut the floor. But laying foam from wall to wall is neither practical nor - more importantly - ultimately desirable.

Learning about danger for ourselves is a necessary life lesson, for children and adults alike. How else would we judge risky situations, and measure our responses accordingly?

Just how much mild risk you expose your toddler to is a choice. Being too free and easy could lead to distressing trips to A&E, and yet wrapping them in cotton wool may hamper their development.

For instance, banning them from certain rooms may prove counterproductive, as some things they’ll need to learn to stay away from for themselves. It’s up to you to find the right level for you and your child.

As such, some of the suggestions we’re about to make are optional. But we’ll start with high-risk areas that need specific attention.

Home danger zones for toddlers

As it’s impossible to always watch a child, these are the things with which to take the utmost of care:

  • The oven: There should be no compromises made over the oven, for obvious reasons. Even if the oven’s off, make sure that it’s a very clear no-go area
  • Resting water: Never leave a toddler unattended in the bath, and don’t leave water in the bath if you can’t supervise it entirely. Likewise, if you have a pond in the garden, consider stopping access to it somehow, or even draining it entirely until your child or children are old enough to know better
  • High windows: Make sure that all high windows that a child could fall out of have locks, and that the key is removed. You could install a child safety catch to windows that you may have to open in an emergency
  • Hanging wires: Make safe anything that can loop around a child’s neck - for example, the drawstring on curtains or blinds
  • Knives, other sharp objects and tools: Keep out of range. You might want to consider getting child safety locks for cupboards or drawers containing dangerous objects. With most catch-based locks, the cupboards or drawers will need to open slightly so you can unhook them. This might mean the odd catching of fingers, but that’s preferable to the alternative
  • Open fires: If you have a working fireplace, make sure you have a fireguard all the way around the hearth
  • Busy roads: If you live by a busy road, this is clearly dangerous. Make sure your toddler doesn’t leave the house unsupervised, and consider getting a gate if you’re worried they might stray.

Tips for alleviating mild peril

toddler helping with dinner

And here are some non-essential precautions you might take:

  • Stairs: Stair gates are a common precaution, especially if stairs are particularly steep or hard. Be careful with ones that have bars at the bottom though - these can be a trip hazard for adults
  • Sharp corners: You can get guards to round off sharp corners and edges, like on tables for example
  • Tablecloths: If there’s hot food on the table, the last thing you want is for a tablecloth to be yanked off. Make sure yours doesn’t have loose grabbable corners, or consider an alternative
  • TVs, bookshelves: Secure larger objects that a toddler could potentially pull over onto themselves. Bookshelves seem like an ideal opportunity for a clamber, so make sure they’re fastened to walls. Most modern TVs are easier to topple than old CRTs, so make sure they’re secured too
  • Christmas trees, similar plants or decorations: Again, these might be climbed and pulled over. You could put baby gates or playpens around these.

‘Safety’ products that may pose risk to toddlers

Some of us like to get plug socket covers, for fear children will endanger themselves by sticking an object, or their finger, in the socket. However, standard plug sockets are designed to be safe, and are only activated when an object of the right size is inserted into the top earth socket.

This is precisely what a socket cover provides - a means of activating the plug, hence overriding its safety features. If a child takes out a cover and puts it back in upside down, then the two open sockets are active.

The Department of Health issued a warning to this effect in June 2016, and recommended all such covers be removed from health or social care premises. In addition, such covers aren’t regulated, and use of those of a non-standard size can potentially damage the socket.

See your home through a toddler’s eyes

toddler in kitchen

One good way to see the type of mischief your tot might get into is to crawl around your home on your hands and knees.

That way you’ll see everything at their eye level, and you may get a better impression of everything they may want to grab or climb.

For instance, it may give you an idea of how much higher to place any breakables you have. Also consider what they may want to put in their mouths, and make sure there are no choking hazards within reach.

In all this, please don’t let worry get on top of you. There’s only so much you can do, and we’re sure you’ll be awesome. Good luck, and enjoy!

For extra peace of mind, consider taking out a home insurance policy with accidental damage cover.

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