In the U.S. alone, one child dies every hour from unintentional injury. Don’t let your child be part of that statistic. Making changes to your home now, despite your child’s age, can prevent injury and worse. Typical babyproofing and childproofing involve covering outlets, securing cords, putting locks on drawers and cabinets, and storing all hazardous items out of reach. However, there are other more extensive but vitally important home improvements to make your home child-safe and child-friendly. Most of these won’t take you very long, but they do range in price, so prepare accordingly. You won’t be sorry you took these extra safety measures.
Anchor Heavy Furniture
Heavy furniture in your home, like bookshelves, dressers, and televisions, is a hazard for babies and toddlers who are learning to stand and walk. Pulling themselves up using your furniture can bring it toppling down on them, which can cause severe crush injuries, suffocation, and death.
Slightly older kids are especially susceptible to accidents involving dressers. The center of gravity in a dresser changes when a drawer is fully opened, and it only worsens when a child adds weight to the drawer while trying to look inside. The annual averages for furniture-tipping accidents in children younger than 18 are 10,000 emergency department visits and 472 deaths.
Anchoring your furniture isn’t a terribly difficult process and it can prevent dangerous tipping. Yet, Consumer Reports found that only 40% of U.S. homes with children 6 and under anchored their furniture. You will need an anchoring kit, which you can purchase at most large retailers, a drill, and a stud finder. All of these tools are relatively inexpensive, and you could even borrow a drill and stud finder from a handy friend or family member.
Fence Off Your Pool
Drowning is the leading cause of injury-related death for kids aged 1-4, and it can happen to your child in under a minute. Pools, ponds, and hot tubs are all extreme outdoor hazards for children of any age in your home. The best preventive measure is to never leave children unattended while around any water source – whether indoors or outdoors. However, even the most watchful eyes can’t prevent all accidents.
Be extra cautious and add fencing around the entire perimeter of your pool or pond and install a self-closing, self-latching gate. Choose a tightly woven fence that won’t allow a small child to squeeze through and remove anything close to it your child could use to climb over the fence. Also, make sure your hot tub is always covered when not in use.
Improve Fire Safety
While making child-friendly improvements to your home, spend one day on fire safety. These are quick and easy solutions that can save your child from fire, smoke, and carbon monoxide-related injuries.
First, test your fire and carbon monoxide alarms to ensure they are still fully functional. If needed, install new batteries or replace outdated products altogether with newer alarms. These safety devices only help you escape from a dangerous situation if they work correctly.
If your home has a fireplace, you should also install a gate or cover that won’t get too hot. Most importantly, secure the gate so it won’t topple on a child if they pull on it. You don’t want to protect them from getting burnt in your fireplace only to have a heavy iron gate fall on them. With just a few simple adjustments, you can help prevent fire-related accidents in your home.
Check Your Doors and Windows
Doors and windows are a significant cause of crush and strangulation injuries for children. The dangling cords of blinds are a cause for concern since kids can get them tangled around their necks easily. Even running around the house can result in a slammed door and fingers needing surgery or amputation. Heavy garage doors in disrepair can cause serious crush injuries or death if they fall on your child.
Most of those injuries can be avoided with some simple home improvements. Add guards to your windows and doors to prevent them from slamming shut. Window guards can also stop a window from opening too far and your small child from falling out. To protect against strangulation, consider switching to cordless blinds, which are quickly becoming the industry standard.
While making these adjustments, check the door handles in your child’s room and the bathroom they use. Make sure they can’t lock themselves in. Doors that have locks on the inside should also have a small hole on the other side where you can release the lock with an Allen wrench. Also, check on your garage door. If it hasn’t been maintained in a while, have a professional inspect it for faulty springs or other damage that could cause an accident. These simple solutions are a small price to pay for your child’s safety and easy enough to complete in just a few days.
Remove Toxic Plants
You may not think of your greenery as dangerous, but for children who are willing to put just about anything in their mouths, plants are certainly a concern. If you love to have indoor plants, do your research to see if any of them are toxic when ingested. Give any harmful plants to child-free homes or at least keep them out of reach. Just remember that any leaves that fall are still a hazard if your child grabs them.
If you have yard space, check any outdoor plants too. As drastic as it may seem, it’s easier to dig up unsafe plants and remove them from your property than it would be to keep your child away from them. A fenced-in garden with a self-closing gate would be a possible alternative if you want to keep potentially harmful plants.
Take Extra Precautions in Old Homes
If you live in an older home, you may need to take extra care when making child-safe renovations. Old houses, in general, will require more repairs, like making sure no nails or screws are sticking out, floors are even, and stairs have sturdy railings in place.
However, there may be even more significant dangers lurking in old homes that can lead to brain and nervous system damage from lead poisoning or lung disease or cancer from asbestos exposure.
Homes built before 1986 are most likely to have lead pipes or solder. Call a professional to test your drinking water quality for significant traces of lead and take a look at your pipes. You may need to update some of your plumbing to reduce lead exposure. Unfortunately, lead might also be in the paint on your walls. This is a more straightforward fix and you only need to be concerned if the paint is peeling and could be inhaled or ingested. Paint over the walls if this is a concern for you.
Asbestos is a genuine concern in older homes. It can be found in blown-in insulation, pipe insulation, old vinyl or linoleum floors, window caulking, and many other areas of the house. Luckily, asbestos only becomes a problem when damaged and the fibers come loose. Check everywhere for possible damage and bring in an asbestos abatement contractor if something looks concerning.
You Won’t Regret It
Whether your kids are older or your child isn’t here yet, you will never stop worrying about their safety. These are just a handful of projects to improve the safety of your home and make it more child-friendly. If your child is still a baby or toddler, pair these projects with typical baby-proofing measures.
In case you have any architectural, structural, and MEP design including fire sprinkler design requirements, or need a child-friendly design including structure, and HVAC design, feel free to contact us. We provide you with the full permit set design + T24 for your request.
Rose is the managing editor of Renovated. She’s most interested in sharing home projects and inspiration for the most novice of DIY-ers, values she developed growing up in a family of contractors.