You’re proud of your home. It’s cozy and it holds many memories. You’ve spent years decorating it with the cutest knick-knacks, the most comfortable furniture and the classiest window treatments you could find. Until recently, you thought you’d done a perfect job.
Then your first grandchild was born. Before you knew it, she was taking her first wobbly steps ... in the direction of your favorite crystal vase! Suddenly, your perfect house didn’t seem so perfect anymore.
It didn’t take long to realize that your knick-knacks weren’t going to last long with your grandchildren around. You cried when your first collectable broke — along with the grandson, who got that sliver of pottery stuck in his foot. You soon discovered that your innocent-looking coffee table had sharp edges that could hurt a tumbling toddler. Your cabinets were filled with cleaners that could poison your little one — and were at just the right level to attract her attention. And those window treatments you love so much? You were shocked to learn that they could easily strangle your bundle of joy.
Every new grandparent faces the same surprises when the first grandchild arrives. Our homes aren’t usually as safe as we thought they were. Fortunately, most common home hazards can be fixed. Take a good look around. Make some simple changes. And the home you love will soon be a safe place for the people you love.
Locking Out Danger
Sometimes the best way to keep children safe is to keep them out of your home’s most dangerous places. Locks, latches, and doorknob covers can help. You can easily find these items at most baby superstores and large discount retailers.
First, protect your grandchildren from poisons. Move all your medicines to a place that children can’t reach. Make sure you store these medicines in child-resistant packaging. Don’t forget to install safety latches and locks on the cabinets where you store dangerous cleaners. Make sure the locks and latches are strong. Your grandchildren are sure to pull and tug at locked cabinets to see what’s inside.
Next, keep children away from sharp objects. Move all breakable objects out of a child’s reach. Close and lock your dishwasher to keep little ones from grabbing knives. Make sure your trash can has a secure lid. Your grandkids will want to see what’s in that big container where you throw so many interesting things! Problem is, little explorers can cut themselves on sharp can lids or broken drinking glasses you throw away. Some trash cans come with locks for this very reason.
Finally, lock rooms where you don’t want a child to go. No locks on those doors? Buy a few doorknob covers. These covers fit over the doorknob. You can squeeze the cover to open the door, but a small child can’t.
Preventing Serious Falls
Once your grandchildren begin to walk, they will begin to fall. You can’t prevent every tumble. But you can prevent serious falls that could cause injury or death.
Safety gates are just the thing to keep your grandchildren from falling down the stairs. These gates stretch across the top and bottom of the stairs so children can’t explore this unsafe area. Look for gates that you can open easily — but ones that your grandchildren can’t budge. Some gates are mounted using pressure and don’t attach permanently to the wall. These can be a good choice for blocking off the bottom of the stairs. Using a gate at the top of the stairs? Choose one that screws into the wall. It will be more secure.
Install guards to keep children from falling out of windows. Window guards attach to your window frame. They have metal bars that are spaced close together to keep your child safe when the window is open. Guards belong on all windows that are higher than 12 feet from the ground. You can also buy window stops. These devices won’t let anyone open the bottom section of a window more than four inches.
Be sure to keep one window in each room unguarded so you can use it as a fire escape. Keep that window locked when children are in the house.
Burns and Shocks
Hot water burns thousands of children each year. Prevent injury by turning your water heater down to 120 degrees, and installing anti-scald devices on all your faucets. Some anti-scald devices lock your tap so kids can't move the handle too far toward "hot." Other devices turn off the water when it gets too hot.
Electrical outlets and plugs can cause injury or death if toddlers get too curious. Use special covers and plates to keep grandchildren away from outlets. Covers fit over your outlet and plug so a child can’t reach them. Plates cover an unused outlet.
Have you ever bumped your leg on the sharp corner of your coffee table? You know that hurts. Now imagine a small child falling against that corner and hitting his head or eye. Prevent these injuries by putting corner and edge bumpers on furniture and other sharp corners.
Do you have window blinds that open and close with looped pull cords? These cords could strangle a child. Blinds made since 2001 are safer. If you have older window treatments, get a kit to fix your cords. Better yet, replace the blinds with cordless window coverings.
Did you drag your antique crib out of the attic when your grandchild was born? Make sure it’s safe. Crib bars should be no more than 2 3/8 inches apart. The crib should not have corner posts that stick up. And you should not be able to fit more than two fingers between the mattress and the side of the crib.
Safety for All
Finally, every home should be equipped with basic safety devices, no matter who lives there. These devices are: smoke detectors, a carbon monoxide detector, and fire extinguishers. Don’t have them? Install them today.
"Childproof" Doesn’t Always Mean "Safe"
Childproofing your home doesn’t mean that your grandchildren can’t get into trouble. After all, kids are smart. Given some time, they may figure out how to disable your safety devices, and they will try.
So what’s a grandparent to do? First, install as many childproofing devices as you can and test them out yourself to see how strong or sturdy they are. If they don’t hold, take them back and try a different brand. Second, keep a watchful eye on your grandchildren at all times. Working together, you and your home’s safety devices can protect your grandchildren from harm.
This article originally appeared on aarp.com
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