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How to Toddler-Proof Your Home

The baby’s crawling!

What now?

First of all, don’t bolt your entire living room set to the floor beneath. Don’t keep yourself up at night imagining nightmare scenarios.

In other words, don’t panic. You can baby-proof your home and live to tell the story. Just start with the basics, and build from there. We promise. It’s that easy.

1. Start crawling. Really. “Get down on your hands and knees and crawl around the room,” says safety expert Debra Holtzman, author of The Safe Baby: A Do-It-Yourself Guide to Home Safety and Healthy Living. “You will be surprised by what you see!” What can you pull up on? Is it stable, or will it crash to the floor? What can you knock over? Will it break when it hits the ground? What can you grab and chew (assuming that was a goal)? What can you open down there? And what can you close?

2. Now stand up, and head to your kitchen. Stash all poisonous and hazardous products out of your child’s reach and sight. Get locks and safety latches for your cabinets and drawers. You can also buy appliance locks for the oven, the microwave, the refrigerator and the trash compactor. Remember to cook on the stove’s back burners whenever possible and always keep your pot handles turned to the back of the stove.

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3. Next, consider your television set. “TVs have gotten huge,” says Dr. Garry Gardner, a pediatrician in private practice in Darien, Ill., and chairman of the Council on Injury, Violence and Poison Prevention for the American Academy of Pediatrics. “They are huge, and then they are put on small TV stands and they are not stable.” Anchor that screen to the wall to ensure it does not smash down on an adventurous little one. While you’re at it, anchor the bookshelves. Anchor chests of drawers. Anchor paintings, and anything else capable of teetering. Toddlers climb up furniture. That’s just what they do. Make sure your furniture is ready before your baby is.

4. Lock up anything that could be trouble -- the medicine cabinet, the toilets, drawers (so they are not used by your toddler as a makeshift step-ladder), etc. Put a deadbolt on exterior doors so your child cannot let herself in and out at will.

5. Cover up danger. Cushion sharp furniture edges with furniture guards. Put outlet covers on electrical outlets, but make sure those covers cannot be easily removed by the child and are not choking hazards. Put a gate or a guard around the fireplace. Glass doors may prevent little ones from falling into the flames, but they can still burn their hands if they press them against the hot glass.

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6. Gate off the top and bottom of staircases with hardware-mounted safety gates. If you just want to separate, say, the kitchen from the playroom, a pressure-mounted gate that can be easily installed and removed is fine, Holtzman says.

7. Install window guards on all windows from the ground floor up. If that gets too expensive, try a window-stopping device. Screens, Holtzman says, do NOT offer enough protection.

8. Watch out for button batteries, otherwise known as lithium batteries. They are about the size of a nickel and power common household objects such as TV remotes, cameras, watches, singing/talking greeting cards, and hearing aids, to name a few. They are also deadly if swallowed. “If a child swallows one and it gets stuck in the esophagus, the moisture in the esophagus sets up a current, the battery gets activated, and it can burn a hole in the esophagus in four hours,” Gardner says. “If a child swallows a battery, it’s an emergency.”

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Looking for more information? Check out these sites American Academy of Pediatrics, The Safety Expert, SafeKids

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