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How to childproof your home

Most accidents involving children happen in the home. Beyond buying the right baby safety equipment, we look at what you can do to minimise the risk.

In this article

Bringing your baby home for the first time can be nerve-wracking; a combination of wonder, exhaustion and disbelief that the authorities are leaving you, an unqualified new parent, in charge of this brand new human being. And as they grow, the challenges of looking after your children change, as they develop new skills.

Above all else we want to keep our children and grandchildren safe and happy. But the Child Accident Prevention Trust (CAPT) tells us that unintentional injuries in and around the home are a major cause of death and disability among children under five years old in England. Often these can be a result of parents and carers simply not realising what their developing child is capable of.

Some of the most common include burns and scalds, strangulation or falls but there are steps you can take to avoid these accidents happening. Baby safety equipment and gadgets should help minimise risk, and you can read our comprehensive guides to stair gates and baby safety equipment over on Which.co.uk. 

But what about your home itself? Again there are steps you can take to help keep babies and children safe. Some areas to think about include:

Childproofing walls and floors

  • Paintwork: ensure your walls are free from peeling or cracking paint. Paint is harmful, and in older homes paint could even contain lead. It may be worth investing in child-friendly paint that can be easily wiped to remove any stains, food or ‘artwork’.
  • Nails: are there any nails in the walls that should be removed?
  • Mirrors, picture frames and flat screen TVs: these need to be hung securely, particularly if they are likely to be within reach of little fingers.
  • Bookshelves: should be secured with wall brackets, as should other heavy furniture.
  • Rugs: can be a trip hazard. You can secure them to the floors or fit anti-slip pads underneath.

If you need a painter and decorator or a handyman to help childproof your home, Which? Trusted Traders has traders available in your area.

Childproofing doors and windows

  • Door stoppers: can prevent doors from shutting on fingers, or help stop children shutting themselves in a room.
  • Glass doors: check whether your doors are fitted with safety glass. If you have older glass doors that are not made with safety glass, you can cover them with film to contain the shards should they shatter. It’s a good idea to place stickers or decorative markers on glass doors, so that toddlers and small children won’t mistake them for open doors.
  • Sliding doors: these should be fitted with childproof locks.
  • Window locks: if possible keep windows locked. Find out more about checking whether your windows are secure.
  • Check the area around windows: remove any furniture or objects that can be climbed or used as a ‘ladder’ by toddlers or small children to give them access to the window.
  • Upper-story windows: falls are one of the most common childhood accidents and falls from windows can be fatal. CAPT report five deaths from falling from windows or balconies in the last five years. All upper-story windows should either be fitted with safety bars, window guards, window stops or child safety catches to prevent falls. Alternatively, you can install windows that only open at the top.
  • Blind cords: these can be a cause of suffocation. CAPT warn of a growing number of cases of children catching themselves on blind cords or other loops, often when they are climbing, with 28 children dying between 2008 and 2012 in England. Cut looped window-blind cords; use safety tassels and cord stops. Alternatively tie window-blind cords with clothespins or specially designed cord clips.

If you need a locksmith or a glazier to help childproof your home, Which? Trusted Traders has traders available in your area.

Childproofing stairways

  • Safety gates: are probably one of the most essential pieces of baby equipment. Falls on and from stairs and steps are the leading cause of hospital admissions for under-fives. Babies start to crawl from around eight months, so gates need to be installed at the top and bottom of every stairway. We've tested and rated a wide range of stair gates. However, once your child is old enough to open the gate by themselves it is better to remove them, as the base can pose a trip hazard.
  • Tripping hazards: toys may end up at the top of stairways but you can keep them free of loose carpeting or slippery surfaces.
  • Banister guard: if your child can fit through the banisters or rails, you may need to place a guard in front of them – this is a sheet of plastic or netting that is tied to the rail.
  • Carpeting: consider carpeting the stairs if they are not already covered. This can provide some cushioning and children are less likely to slip on carpet.
  • Lighting: ensure that the stairway is well lit, as trips and falls are more likely to occur in dimly lit areas.

If you need a handyman to help childproof your home use Which? Trusted Traders to find a trader in your area.

Bathroom and kitchen

  • Electrical items: unplug electrical items, such as hair dryers, electric razors and hair straighteners when not in use and store them safely. Cords need to be kept out of reach. Hair straighteners can burn a child’s skin even when they have been unplugged for 10 minutes or more. CAPT data shows that hospital admissions for children burned from hair straighteners have doubled in recent years.
  • Residual current device (RCD) on sockets or fuseboard: RCDs can help protect you from electric shock in potentially dangerous areas like bathrooms and gardens. All circuits in new or rewired homes have been required to include an RCD since July 2008. It may be worth contacting a Which? Trusted Trader electrician to help install one if your wiring is older.
  • Hobs and ovens: in the UK, six toddlers are admitted to hospital every day with serious burns. It can be safer to keep small children out of the kitchen altogether by using safety gates. If they are in the kitchen ensure all pot handles on the stove turn inward or are placed on back burners where children can’t reach them. Control knobs on ovens and hobs can be protected with knob guards, which prevent curious fingers accidentally switching on the gas or electricity.
  • Childproof latches: these need to be installed on all drawers, cupboards and cabinets that contain potentially hazardous materials, such as cleaning fluids, dishwasher tabs, medicines, razor blades, scissors, sharp knives, plastic bags, mouthwashes, perfumes and cosmetics. They can also be useful on your bin.

If you need an electrician to help childproof your home, Which? Trusted Traders has traders available in your area.

Heating and smoke alarms

  • Fire screens: working fireplaces should have a barrier in place. Burns are one of the most common childhood accidents.
  • Gas fires: should be secured with a valve cover or a key, so they cannot be turned on accidentally.
  • Electric heaters: should be used at a safe distance from beds, curtains or anything flammable.
  • Smoke alarms: should be installed on each floor, particularly in the hallways between the bedrooms. They should be tested each month and the batteries should be changed at least once every six months. Discover the Best Buy smoke alarms that Which? recommends.
  • Carbon monoxide detectors: if you heat your home using natural gas, or have a garage attached to your property it may be worth installing a carbon monoxide detector.

If you need a handyman or a gas engineer to help childproof your home, Which? Trusted Traders has traders available in your area.

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