Never underestimate your toddler's ability to get into things she shouldn't.

Should You Childproof an Environment for Toddlers?

by Sharon Perkins

It probably doesn't surprise you to learn this, but toddlers have little to no understanding of potential household dangers. That's why parents have to take charge and create a childproof environment for their toddlers. Expecting a toddler to understand the inherent danger in a hot stove, poisonous cleaning products or prescription medications can have devastating consequences. Childproofing your house is part of being a responsible parent. Once you look at things from a toddler's view, you may be shocked to find out how many areas need childproofing.

Getting Down to His Level

Toddlers don't just toddle; they run -- faster than you might think. They also climb and slither into tiny spaces and get their heads stuck in places. The best way to see all the possible hazards in your home is to get down on the floor and move around on your hands and knees to see what dangers lurk on the lower level. Then, look for any objects your toddler could use as a climbing tool. Of course, you can't remove his bedroom dresser or take the toilet out so he can't use it as a stepping stone to the medicine cabinet. But being aware of potential risks in every room can inspire you to use gates, door locks and other methods to keep toddlers out of unsafe places unless you're there too.

Preventing Poisoning

Of the approximately two million poisonings reported each year in the United States, 57 percent occur in kids under age 6, the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia quotes from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Cleaning products, medications -- both over-the-counter and prescription -- lawn care products, paints and alcohol can all poison a toddler. Don't think the taste will deter him, either; toddlers will sample anything. Put childproof locks on all cabinets containing potential poisons, even in the garage. Never pour substances such as gasoline or paint thinner into a cup that a toddler might mistake for a drink, even if you think it's out of reach. Call the universal poison control number -- 1-800-222-1222 -- any time you suspect your child has ingested a poison.

Fall Hazards

Toddlers can fall from a variety of places -- out a window with a flimsy screen, out of their crib, out of a shopping cart or off the countertop they just climbed up on. Keep his bed and other furniture away from windows and keep windows locked; you might think he couldn't possibly open one, but you don't want to be surprised by a thud. Put childproof locks on doors that lead to basements or use safety gates to keep him off the stairs. Strap your toddler into his high chair if he still uses one.

Choking and Strangulation Risks

Toddlers often put things in their mouths; it's one of the ways they learn about objects. But some objects can choke a small child. Check toys for any parts that could easily break off and become lodged in his airway. Don't allow him to play with toys listed as unsafe for children under 3. Look for potential strangulation hazards, such as hanging cords from drapes or window shades and tie them up out of reach. Put away balloons, coins and anything else small enough to block a little airway.

Burns and Cuts

Burns can be life-threatening and they're usually preventable. To prevent burns from scalding water, set your hot water heater thermostat no higher than 120 degrees, recommends. Check that your child can't reach stove knobs and keep matches and lighters out of reach. Use plugs for all electrical outlets; toddlers will stick a variety of potentially lethal items such as keys or metal forks into available openings right at their level. Don't keep knives or scissors on the counter; put them in locked cabinets.

About the Author

A registered nurse with more than 25 years of experience in oncology, labor/delivery, neonatal intensive care, infertility and ophthalmology, Sharon Perkins has also coauthored and edited numerous health books for the Wiley "Dummies" series. Perkins also has extensive experience working in home health with medically fragile pediatric patients.

Photo Credits

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