A Child Proof House Part 2: The Bathrooms

A haven for moms, maybe, but what about kids?

girl with talcum powder

I’ve heard that moms sometimes lock themselves in the bathroom just so they can have a respite, brief though it may be, from their children. Is this still true today?

This might be good for adults to keep or regain their sanity, but it’s no place for little ones to hang out. There are far too many hazards in this room. OK, so there might be fewer dangers than in your kitchen, but it only takes one mishap. I remember when I was little I took a big whiff of a small container of some sort of powder – probably talcum powder – and I thought I was going to die. I could have. A four-year-old boy in Kentucky died of asphyxiation after choking on ground cinnamon. I can’t even imagine what it would be like to lose a child because, thankfully, I’ve never experienced  it.


Teaching safety

The best thing you can do for your children is to teach them early on to stay out of the bathrooms. But children are curious (what else have they got to do, right?), and sometimes they disobey. Although as parents or grandparents we should never condone disobedience, we still love our little ones and must do everything we can to ensure their safety.

“Childproof”, as defined by Merriam-Webster, means:

  1. something “designed to prevent tampering or opening by children”, such as pill bottles with childproof caps
  2. something “made safe for children (as by safe storage of dangerous materials)”, such as “a childproof home”

When it comes to “child proofing”, we need to make sure we’re not lulled into a false sense of security. The safety latches I affixed to my cabinet doors were effective for a while, but our granddaughter is now five years old and she knows how to open them. Her little brother will probably learn more quickly. He’ll only need to see her open a door one time before being able to do it himself.

From time to time we all need coaching – reminders, if you will. I trust you will find these tips helpful as we make every effort to make our homes as safe as possible. This is the second of three of a series of three safety articles.


So as we go through this list of things in bathrooms that could be potentially injurious or even deadly to your children, please take each one seriously. If you’re already employing these, great! If not, start today. And please share this with your family and friends.

Electrical Receptacles – the shocking truth

As I noted in the article on kitchen safety, this topic deals with safety for everyone. Current standards require all bathroom receptacles to be ground fault protected. GFCI stands for Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter. It is a safety device that can be a life saver. Failure to have ground fault protection can be deadly. Older homes lacking ground fault protection should be upgraded for reasons of safety.

The following is simply for your information: In most homes having GFCI receptacles in the bathrooms, the receptacle with the Test and Reset buttons is in the bathroom closest to the service panel (the panel with the circuit breakers in it, usually the garage). I personally think it should be in the master bathroom, but the master bathroom is not always closer to the service panel than the other bathrooms. And, of course, no one ever asked my opinion. Some homes require you to reset a breaker in the service panel, which is usually in the garage.

Electrical Cords – choke/drop/burn hazards

Hair styling tools should never be left plugged in or unattended, and no part of their cords should be near the edge of the counter top or hanging over it. A child can grab the cord and pull the tool off the counter and onto his head. He could also get the cord wrapped around his neck. Curling irons and other such tools remain hot for a while after being turned off or unplugged. This could result in serious burns. Never leave cords hanging over the counter top or near the edge of it.

Remember, it only takes a few seconds of inattention on your part for your child to “get into something”. Notice two hazards in the image below. I need to ask my wife to read this article. These are her hair styling tools. No doubt, she’ll put them up before our grandkids come over.

danger - hanging cords

Cabinets, Drawers and Linen Closets

The image below is from a home I inspected. There were no cabinet locks installed. Notice the many bottles and cans with easy access. Notice, also, the curling iron on the left. It’s plugged in and the cord is hanging down onto the floor.

unlocked bathroom cabinets

As with any cabinet, drawer, closet, etc., if it contains objects that could cause harm to little ones, it should be secured. And just a reminder here, “child proof” does not necessarily mean that a child will not be able to defeat locking device or that no one will ever be injured. As I noted in a separate article, my five-year-old granddaughter can open locked cabinet doors. If her younger brother sees her, I’m certain he will be determined to conquer them as well. That reminds me, I need to buy better locks, especially since we have a third grandchild due soon.

Closets – forgotten hazards

In many homes there is at least one closet connected to the master bathroom. Go now and look in your closet. Are there any belts, necklaces, or other items that could strangulate a crawler or toddler? Be sure to also look for items within reach of toddlers on shelves that could be a choking hazard – coins, batteries, loose bullets. If you’re in doubt about anything, move it out of the reach of little ones. Don’t forget older children who have disabilities. It is far better to be safe than to later say, “If only…”.

Step Stools – access to a whole new world

A stool of any kind left in a bathroom invites your child to a number of hazards. He can fall off the stool, drown in a sink or tub with standing water in it, drown in a toilet, or require medical attention if he gets a hold of things such as a razor, creams, powders, or medicines. Any of these could mean a trip to the emergency room, or worse.

There are step stools with guard rails designed specifically for children. They offer added safety as well as peace of mind for adults. One caution, though, regardless of what type of step stool you have, be sure that all unsafe items on the counter or in the sinks are out of your child’s reach. And don’t think for a minute that he won’t try to climb up onto the counter. Keep everything out of reach, and, again, never allow a small child to be alone in the bathroom.


Again, I noted the most common hazards based on my experience. I trust you found these tips to be helpful, if only to serve as a reminder. Please share these with your family and friends.

As always, I welcome questions and comments, and I will reply to yours promptly. If you have additional safety concerns, please share them with us.

Kind Regards,

Rick

SaferHomeNow.com

 

Comments 14

  1. I am really thankful that I read this article. My son is 18 months old and gets into EVERYTHING. I thought that I had dutifully childproofed everything but I see here that I have not. I also have a bad habit of going into my bathroom to “hide” for a few moments – leaving my son by himself in his playroom to watch TV, but there is so many things he can get into while I am in the bathroom!

    You know those electrical socket covers that they sell so babies can’t stick their fingers into sockets? Well my son has fingered out how to take them off!!! I seen him watching around with two in his hands. I wondered, “Who the heck took them out and left them on the floor for him to pick up?” and I put them back into the socket, only to watch in disbelief, my son take them right back out again in front of my very eyes! Now what do I do? I know he isn’t curious to stick things into the holes but more so into the mechanics of how things go into what – its so hard to keep a little kid busy , occupied and out of trouble! You can only put the TV on for so long. Toys can lose their momentum within minutes. Sigh… Momlife ya know?

    Any advice on how to solve my socket problem?

    1. Post
      Author

      Sophia,

      First, thank you for your comments. Second, consider getting a camera that will connect to your WiFi and you can monitor your son’s activities on you smart phone, or get a camera that has its own monitor so you can keep an eye on your son while you hide in the bathroom without having to feel guilty. Of course, I’m not a mom so I can’t know how you feel or what you’re going through, other than what my 31-year-old daughter shares about her guilt feelings (she has a 5-year-old daughter and 2-year-old son).

      Do a Google search for these plug protectors (Safety 1st Plug Protectors, 36 Count HS229) and look at an image of the package so you can look for the same kind at your local home improvement store. Or search Amazon or whoever sells these plug protectors online and have them delivered to your home. I think these are the kind that are rather difficult to get off. I’ve seen them at many home inspections I’ve conducted, and I had to use the prong of an electrical tester to pry these plug protectors out.

      Yes, hours of watching TV isn’t good for anyone, let alone for your little ones. I’d be interested in knowing if these plug protectors do the trick for you. I hope everything works out well for you. Enjoy the early years because your son will grow up all too quickly.

      Best Regards,

      Rick

  2. I have to admit I put my hair dyer on the table with power plug on. After reading your post, I was imagining what would happened to my 10 months old daughter. I always thought she is not able to reach to the table yet, but I have forgotten the cord that hanging there. I also have a step up go into my bath tub. That is really dangerous. I wonder what I can do to protect her from climbing to the marble step? What do you suggest for the slippery tiled bathroom floor? Sometimes I lost balance holding baby after taking bath for her (wet floor)

    1. Post
      Author

      Oh, my, that is scary that you lose your balance holding your baby! It’s scary enough when not holding a baby.

      First things first. Yes, it’s a good idea to be in the habit of keeping cords on top of the counter and away from the edge. My wife and I use the juicer every morning (in the kitchen, of course) and the cord hangs over the island. With both of us moving around, we’ve had a few close calls snagging the cord and jerking the juicer. As long as we continue to use the island, this will be an issue. Your reply reminds me that I should start juicing on the counter so the cord will not hang over. I should practice what I preach, right?

      My wife and I are empty-nesters, but I still want her to keep cords up and out of the way in the bathroom because we never know when the grandkids might come over. Plus, our daughter is concerned that we might trip or step on a cord and injure ourselves. She saw it far too often when she was a firefighter/paramedic, that elderly people tripped or stepped on things. And by elderly, she means 50 and up, not just 80-year-olds.

      Second, the marble step. Depending on the layout of your home, one option would be to put some sort of lock or latch (non-key type, less than $10 from Lowe’s or Home Depot)) on the door, if there is a door. Otherwise an approved baby gate across the doorway should work. I know, one more thing to mess with. When a baby gate is not in place, it’s leaning against a wall and can become a trip/fall hazard, so be careful if you go this route.

      Third, water on the tile floor. That’s a tough one. When my mother-in-law stayed with us every so often, we had to remove the rugs so she wouldn’t trip on them, but that left the floor exposed to water splashing – and she was good at splashing water. Thankfully she never fell. Anyway, my wife puts a large bath towel on the floor when she gives our grandkids a bath. It not only acts as a temporary rug, but it give a little cushion for her knees. Or you could use a large slip-proof rug in the bathroom. Just make sure it stay flat so it doesn’t become a trip/fall hazard.

      Thanks for taking time to reply. Enjoy your 10-month-old and keep on being safety conscious. Most, perhaps all, injuries are preventable, though things will happen.

  3. What a great read and an enlightening one.

    Myself as a parent when my kids were younger, was worried about too much water in the tub and blinking and my kids face down. Worried about if they could reach razors and shampoos, even lotions or medicines. I myself, as many others probably have also, never really thought about a blow dryer or curling iron. I had always made sure to push the cord back but never thought about unplugging it and putting it away.

    Life can be crazy hectic in the mornings. Trying to get ready for work while getting kids up and dressed and fed. This article is a great reminder that even though we take so many precautions to keep our babies safe, that we may miss something that seems trivial as a cord could have a life or death consequence for our children.

    1. Post
      Author

      Anne,

      When I was little, something caught my interest in my grandfather’s bathroom. It was a shiny single razor blade. I learned by experience that its edge was sharp. I survived, but my grandfather felt terrible that it happened.

      Your sharing about life being hectic in the mornings is a good reminder to ME that as I write, I need to remember that you moms DO have hectic mornings and I need to go easy on y’all while still making you aware of the potential hazards.

      Thanks for the helpful insight. I know us dads would have a tough time without having our wives to run things.

      And a special blessing to those moms and dads who are, for whatever reason, single parents.

  4. Rick,

    What a very nice website.  The content is outstanding and any family can find this information useful.  I found myself reviewing the parts of the website related to safety of your young children.  These are pieces of information every new mom and dad should be trained in.  The many dangers from electrical outlet covers to lock gates to keep babies out of danger areas is very important information all parents should read.

    My two children are approaching pre-teen age years, but I remember like it was yesterday trying to child proof the house in fear that your baby would find danger somewhere.  I get outraged when parents are not concerned with the safety of their child at their own home.  People, especially young parents do not understand the dangers a typical home that supplies cleaning chemicals, heavy TV’s that are not secured on the tv stand, and cabinets without locks that may store adult medicine that kids could get into and think is candy.

    You site is awesome as it is evident that you not only have a background with inspections, but you have a true passion to providing a safe environment for families all of the the world.  Cuddos to you for providing this content!

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      Author

      Garry,

      Thank you so much for the encouragement. I’m glad you took time to peruse my site, and then took the time to encourage me about it.

      I’m the same as you. When I see parents with seemingly indifferent attitudes, it saddens me. As my daughter said, the children of those parents no doubt have “extra” guardian angels watching over them.

      I hope that people who read these articles will pass them on to family and friends. If it helps even one parent, one child, that would be good.

      Best Regards

  5. Rick your post is a timely reminder for all folks that care for young children, as well as people that have young children over to visit.

    Whilst many parents with children are aware of the potential hazards in their own bathrooms, many parents feel too embarrassed to ask the grandparents, relatives and friends that their children regularly visit, to make their homes safe.

    This is a shame as there are many potential hazards in the bathroom, including electrical cords, medication and household cleaners. Our children’s safety should always come first, even if this means that we need to ask others to make their homes safe by installing safety locks and putting things up out of reach of little hands. Another option would be to lock the bathroom door.

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      Author

      Suzie,

      This is a great point you brought up. It never occurred to me that parents would be embarrassed to ask their parents (the grandparents) to make safety improvements for the sake of the grandchildren. Even before our first grandchild was born, our daughter expressed her concerns about a few things in my home. Of course, I was already prepared to make certain changes, but there were a few things that concerned her that did not concern me. But, I honored her wishes and made some changes. My wife and I even honor her wishes when it comes to eating properly.

      I’ll have to remember to address this in a future article. Though it might be implied in the article, it needs to be specifically spelled out. Sometimes people, myself included, need to realize the advice is meant for them and not “the other guy”.

      Thank you, Suzie, for your insight!

  6. Raising a child takes enormous effort. Safety comes first. It is better to be safe than sorry. As pointed out-it just needs a second for a mishap to happens. I am not comfortable to say the rest.

    This is great blog about child safety and quite authoritative in its own way. The author has inspected, analyzed and evaluated every possibility and addressed the safety concerns. 

    Even the author considered siblings or disabled kids in regards to safety. The little is curious what the elder is doing. The blog covers that very well.

    Electrical safety. We have breaker in the service panel because it is kinda newer home. But spelling it out putting it up in this blog is an important safety aspect one should and must take care of.

    It is an important blog for households having the little wonders how they can be enjoy a safe living. 

    Thank you for sharing this important piece of write up.

    1. Post
      Author

      Anusuya,

      Thank you for taking time to comment. Your comments are an encouragement to me.

      I understand what you’re saying about not being comfortable to say what happens to children when a mishap occurs. I, too, hate to think of children being injured, just as I hated having to attend child abuse training when I was a police officer. It made me sick.

      And, yes, electrical safety is so important but often given little thought to – until something happens.

      I take it by your reply that you keep up with safety matter in your home. Keep up the good work!

  7. Great post and good info!

    The first thing we do when it comes to childproof bathrooms is to lock everything hazardous inside a closet. We put them high above the ground so they can’t reach it and like I said, it is locked.

    The last thing we want is a kid trying to eat something and get sick.

    Anyway, great tips you have, we will check them out to make it even more secure.

    Thanks for sharing it with us!

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      Author

      Emmanuel,

      It’s encouraging to hear you’ve taken the necessary steps to keep your children safe Keep up the good work.

      Please consider sharing these safety tips with family and friends, and thanks for taking time to reply. It helps to know I’m on the right track.

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