A Child Proof House Part 3: The Living Rooms

Keeping our children and grandchildren safe

toddler toys living room

In two previous articles I warned about hazards in kitchens and bathrooms. This is the third of the series, in which I will address hazards in the many other rooms of the home – living room, family room, den, game room, bedrooms. Hopefully you are already aware of these and have taken steps to eliminate or at least minimize the risk of danger to your children.

“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. Children have been known to bypass safety features.

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. In this the third article in the series, let’s continue with other rooms in the home.

The following safety topics are in no particular order. One is just as important as the other. I intentionally avoid using statistics because my intent is to keep you from becoming a statistic, not simply teaching you numbers.

Electrical receptacles

Plug protectors, outlet plug covers, outlet covers – regardless of what you call them, they are needed. The challenge is finding a brand that children can’t remove but adults can. I am in the process of reviewing so-called child proof plugs, as I will be replacing all of mine in the very near future. It’s definitely better to have some than none.

And while we keep a close eye on our grandkids, we’re retired grandparents and, as our grown children say, “What else have you got to do?”. It’s a bit different for busy parents. I remember when our kids were little and I worked the night shift. I often fell asleep on the floor while they played around me. They could have gotten in to all kinds of things.

Fireplaces and hearths

When our daughter had just started learning to walk, she fell forward. Her head missed the raised brick fireplace hearth by only a few inches. We quickly remedied that by spreading a quilt across the brick.

Some fireplaces have a floor tile in front and some have a raised or slightly raised hearth. For the raised hearth you can cover it with a thick blanket, cloth or quilt to protect little ones who are just learning to walk. There are also covers and pads made specifically for this purpose.

For gas fireplaces that require a key to turn the gas on, be sure to keep the gas key out of reach of children. It would be a mistake to think a child could not possibly figure out how to insert the gas key and turn the gas on. Don’t take any chances. Put the key up out of reach. For gas fireplaces requiring a remote, keep the remote out of the reach of children.

Every effort should be made to ensure small children are kept away from fireplaces, wood burning stoves and electric heaters, whether they are hot or cold. Flammable and combustible materials should also be kept away.

Window blind cords

little boy and choking hazard

Window blind cords that are long enough for small children to reach can be a choking hazard. There is also the risk injury from the entire blind being pulled out of its brackets and onto the child’s head if the cords are not pulled down correctly.

Be sure when you raise a blind you put the cords out of reach. New blinds usually come with a device that is to be installed on the side of a window so the cords can be safely wrapped on it. The problem is I don’t think most people install them, or, if installed, they are not used.

Windows – keep children away

toddler at open window

OK, I said I would avoid using statistics, but here are two that might interest you. Each year about eight children under the age of five die from falling out a window. Over 3,300 children require a trip to the emergency room for treatment of injuries sustained by falling out windows. How can you keep your child from becoming a statistic?

  • Keep windows closed and locked when children are present.
  • Don’t allow children to play near windows.
  • Only windows out of reach of children should be open.
  • Keep furniture away from windows to prevent children from climbing on them.
  • Remember, window screens will not hold children in.
  • Keep at least one window in each room available for emergency egress (exit).
  • Hardware is available that allows a window to be opened only a few inches for ventilation.

Exterior Doors

Our grandson will be two in just a few days. He loves to go outside. So far he only tried to unlock the back door when he knew we were going out. For his safety and my peace of mind, I affixed an interior lock on the back door about five feet up. The front has a secure storm door, so an upper lock is not needed there.

Stand-alone furnishings

Bookshelves, dressers, armoires, corner shelves, entertainment centers – anything that can be tipped over by being climbed on, pulled on, bumped, overloaded, etc., is a hazard. Any and all such items should be properly fastened to the wall.

Even small television sets in bedrooms can be tipped over onto a child and cause injury. Security straps come in a variety of shapes, sizes and lengths. Be sure to secure the safety strap to a durable piece of the item being secured. Some shelves have nothing more than a thin piece of wood or panel on the back, held in place with small nails or tacks. This backing is not reliable and should not be used to attempt to secure any item to the wall.

Straps are available for securing a large flat screen to the stand or shelf on which it resides. If your flat screen is on an entertainment center, the entertainment center might need to be secured to the wall in addition to the flat screen being secured. If in doubt, secure it.

The stairway – no place for toys

hazardous stairway

A stairway is for a person to go from one level of a house to another. It is not a play area, it is no place for toys or clutter, and little ones should not have access to it. Safety gates are a wise investment to keep little ones from accessing stairs.

While on the subject of stairs, remember to keep all steps clear. If you’re holding your baby while going up or down the stairs, your line of sight will be obstructed. Be sure to keep one hand on the rail at all times.

Let the crawling begin

safe in-home play area

When your baby begins to crawl and you need a little extra help keeping him or her corralled, a play space is nice to have. As grandparents, we found ours to be helpful, so I can imagine you being a busy mom or dad would find one even more helpful. You wouldn’t have to worry about your child finding a small object under the sofa or a bug in the corner or bumping his or her head on furniture.

Bringing it home – safety, one step at a time

These are a few of the more common hazards in homes – hazards that are easy, inexpensive fixes. We cannot anticipate the end result of every action our children might take, but we can pay closer attention and minimize our chances of having to make a trip to the emergency room. As I’ve said before, most injuries are preventable.

If you have a story you’d like to share that might help the rest of us, I invite you to do so. Or maybe you’ve been through a hardship and simply need some encouragement. One thing I know about moms – y’all are great encouragers! Dads, you can chime in, too!

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. Hi Rick,

    Great post with some very sound advice. This is a topic that is over looked by a lot of people but it is very important. Thanks for spreading this good message.

    James

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  2. Wow! This is a very good article that every parents or future parents must read. It is for everybody actually. I find it important to child proof the house as I have a small daughter who is curious with everything.

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      Gillian,

      Thank you for the kind, encouraging words. They help keep me motivated.

      I’m sure you’ll do your best in helping to keep your daughter safe.

      Kind Regards,

      Rick

  3. Great read! I love how you named some of the most reoccuring accidents in the living room. Kids are very playful and they will try to touch everything they come in contact with.

    One time My little brother and my cousin were playing upstairs while I was outside fixing my bike, all of a sudden i heard a scream and then loud noises after, so I ran to the backside and found my cousin hanging by the window and my little brother laughing, no he’s not insane, he’s still a child, so he thought it was fun…almost traumatized me to be honest. 

    Loved the post, very informative on kid’s safety.

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      Isaac,

      I can imagine what a scare that was seeing your cousin hanging from the window. I’m guessing they were old enough to be left alone. I make this assumption based on the fact that your cousin was hanging from the window. A very young child probably would not have managed that and would have fallen to the ground,, possibly his death.

      Thanks for sharing and for taking time to give encouraging feedback.

  4. Hello Rick,

    Great article. You know what I find interesting – we take so much for granted as parents or even one step further, as people who care for little ones. I know from my own experience the importance of ‘child-proofing’ just about EVERY space in the home…as well as outside to boot!

    You are on the money when it comes to staircase safety…it is an accident waiting to happen and we need to be very aware. And the window…just 1 year ago, a 6-yr old child fell through a window and died – it was the sibling from my daughter’s school. Such a sad case, however, we really need to remember that windows are not only for viewing but should also be guarded when you have little ones too.

    Keep up the great job.

    Michelle

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      Michelle,

      How sad to hear about the 6-year-old child. I can’t even imagine what the family and friends went through and are, no doubt, still going through.

      Thank you for the encouraging words. Yes, we take many things for granted. And we can easily become complacent. Now that our first two grandkids are trained here at our house, we now have a 10-day-old granddaughter we’ll be babysitting when our daughter-in-law goes back to work. No time to let our guard down.

      Best Regards.

  5. Great article!  I like how you recommend under the Electrical receptacles section to buy brands that children can’t remove and adults can.  We have two kids ourselves, our oldest is now almost a teenager, so we don’t have all the childproofing we used to have, but I can remember buying a brand of outlet plug covers that not only our children couldn’t remove, my wife and I couldn’t remove them either.  We had to pry them off with a flat head screw driver or needle nose pliers.  I wish we had researched the brands more carefully before buying “adult-proof” outlet covers.  At least our kids stayed safe.  

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      Josh,

      Thank you for the encouraging words. I know what you’re talking about with the adult-proof covers. I came across them all too often when I did home inspections. The concern I had was the screwdriver slipping and going into the receptacle. Thankfully that never happened to me.

      As you said, your kids are safe. Won’t be long, though, and you’ll have to go through it again with grandchildren.

      Best Regards

  6. You are right when you said, children have been known to bypass safety features. My son is also able to pull the plastic socket protectors right out of the socket! I have sat there and witness him pry it out just as easily as me! And then, of course, he attempts to stick things inside!!! That is when I have to end it right there. I am always vigilant on him. I make it perfectly clear that he is NOT to touch the electrical sockets. He sometimes forgets and that is when Mommy is there to make sure he doesn’t get hurt. So stressful! Please let me know when you do find that particular brand of outlet plugs that a child CAN’T take out. 

    We don’t have a fireplace but we do have curtains with long blind cords. We have tied / arranged them so that they are way out of my sons reach but well enough for us to keep adjusting things. My son is 22 months old and totally at that stage where he is climbing on everything and I have to keep my eyeballs glued on him. It’s very nerve wracking. I have done my best to childproof my home but he still manages to find some clever way to do something dangerous that I never imagined before hand. Like randomly eating a page out of a book? I caught him chewing on it! he could have swallowed it! I don’t know, its just stressful being a mom! #momlife. 

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      Sophia,

      Please don’t take this wrong, but I had to chuckle a few times reading your reply.

      I congratulate you on your vigilance! You could be writing safety articles.

      As far as safety plugs for receptacles/plugs/sockets, the best ones I’ve found are also adult proof. I’ll do some more research on this – thanks for the reminder. Meanwhile, keep doing what you’re doing. I won’t invade your privacy by asking about discipline, but I’d rather inflict a little pain by swatting the hand if that’s what it would take to keep from a possible electrocution. I’ve seen my daughter try to redirect her child’s attention, but it has yet to work. In other words, he’s still in control of her, not her in control of him.

      Yes, child rearing can be nerve racking, as you put it. When our grandson started crawling and then walking, we had to guard against him pulling the curtains down. We rearranged the furniture to put up a barrier, so to speak. I mentioned discipline, but didn’t think it appropriate for a crawler. Now’s he’s outgrown it, thankfully. It helps that I have a firm voice and he obeys me (except when his mamma comes to pick them up).

      A word about child proofing. I use that term loosely. I really don’t even like the term because, as you know from experience, it’s almost impossible to truly childproof something. Our challenge as grandparents is to train them to pick up toys as soon as they’re done playing with them. Your challenge is basically a 24-hour challenge, especially if you’re at home with them all day long. If I may say, cheer up and enjoy each day. One day you’ll look back and miss these days.

      Keep up the good work! I salute you!

  7. Great tips on how to childproof the living room. 

    My youngest is 3.5 now so knows what he can and cannot touch. But when he just started crawling I had to re-organize my entire living room, had to move furniture so he wouldn’t get to lamp cords, move picture frames and decor off the fireplace shelving. Those little ones get into EVERYTHING! 

    I’m glad you pointed out blind cords. Not everyone thinks of that. I saw a video a while back about a boy who got caught in blind cords and strangled himself, became unconscious. Luckily the mom was close by and was able to save him but it all happened so quickly. 

    Thanks for the great tips. 

    Christine 

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      Christine,

      I’m glad to hear that your youngest already knows what he can and cannot tough at his young age. That tells me you’re doing a great job of training him in the way he should go! My hat’s off to you!

      We, too, had to rearrange furniture so our grandson wouldn’t pull the curtains down. He’s two now and obeys very well, but now we have a new granddaughter, so it won’t be long and we’ll be training her and keeping things safe for her.

      I suspect there are other things in our homes we don’t even think about. We always have to stay on our toes, don’t we? I’m glad the little boy you mentioned in the video was OK.

      Thanks for taking time to write, and to be an encouragement to me.

      Best Regards

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