How to Baby Proof Your House
Babies and small children are curious by nature, and once mobile, will start to explore their surroundings and learn about the world around them. Keeping them safe as they learn and grow is one of parenting's chief responsibilities, which means you'll need to know how to baby proof each room and create a safe environment before your baby can crawl or walk. We’ve collated a list of baby proofing ideas so that you can easily work your way through your home and get this important task out of the way.
What Is Baby Proofing?
Baby proofing consists of taking steps to make your home safe for your baby or toddler, usually by adding a mechanism to keep your child out of certain areas, locking dangerous things away, moving hazards out of reach, and doing what you can to prevent accidents.
When baby proofing, it’s helpful to look at things from your little one’s perspective, because what seems like a harmless, everyday object to you can be dangerous to your little one. And it's important to remember that no safety measure can replace parental vigilance and careful supervision.
When Should You Baby Proof Your House?
It makes sense to tackle baby proofing before your baby starts crawling or taking those first steps, but you may like to take on some of the bigger jobs during pregnancy to get them out of the way before your baby’s arrival.
Although it’s never too early to start baby proofing, you'll want to get it done before your baby gets to the point where she’s moving independently—for example, before she starts crawling, pulling herself up on furniture, or walking.
Baby proofing is an ongoing task, though, so you may need to do several rounds of it and keep a watchful eye out for anything that may be unsafe as your little one becomes bigger and more agile.
Tips for All Areas
Although some safety concerns are specific to a particular room—for example, sharp knives in the kitchen—there are a few safety issues that could be present in every part of the house. Here, we’ve collated some of the major baby proofing jobs that affect the whole house:
Electrical Outlets and Cords
To protect your baby from coming into contact with electrical cords and outlets, here are a few ways to baby proof your home:
Cover electrical outlets. Baby proof all unused electrical outlets with an outlet cover or plug. Get on your hands and knees and look around so that you don’t miss any outlets. For example, crawling under your desk may remind you of the rarely used outlet that's beneath it.
Tie up or cover electrical cords. Baby proof all cables and cords, including the ones for your charging devices, computer, Wi-Fi router, home entertainment center, and lamps. Your little one may get a serious burn if she bites the cords, and cords can also be a strangulation hazard. Where possible, tie the cords up or place them high out of reach. Another option is to cover them with a child safe cord cover that can run along the wall or floor.
Block outlets and cords with furniture. In some cases, you may be able to block access completely by using heavy furniture like a book shelf or a TV stand, for example. Just make sure your little one can’t reach behind or under the furniture.
You can make the floor a safer place for your baby to crawl and walk by doing the following:
Remove any small objects that are in reach. Children love putting things in their mouths. Coins, buttons, screws, and other small objects could be a choking risk, so take a good look around to make sure nothing that could be dangerous is in your baby’s reach. While you’re checking the floor, include low cupboards, shelves, baskets, and boxes too. Move anything that’s unsafe out of reach or place it in a locked cupboard.
Remove rugs. When your child is old enough to walk, rugs can become a tripping hazard, so it’s a good idea to roll them up and pack them away until your little one is older.
The outdoors is enticing for your little one, so take care to baby proof your windows so that your child can’t crawl or topple out. Here are a few things you can do:
Install window guards. These can prevent your baby from crawling out. Even if you use a window screen, never leave your child unattended next to an open window.
Add child proof locks. These can help ensure that your little one doesn’t accidentally open the windows herself.
Open windows from the top, if possible. If you have the option, open windows from the top. This helps make it harder for your child to get out via the window.
Remove any furniture from under windows. Children can climb onto furniture to access a high up open window, so move any furniture your child could climb up on.
Use cordless window coverings. Cords can be a strangulation hazard. If you have any loose dangling cords, cut them shorter, tie them up, wrap them around a cord cleat, or use other safety devices like cord wind-ups to keep them out of reach of your child.
To make sure your child doesn't wander out the door when you’re not watching, follow these guidelines for baby proofing your doors and doorways:
Add child proof locks to doors. These can help prevent your little one opening the door herself. Remember to add child proof locks to all doors your child can access, including sliding doors, the backyard door, and the doors to any other rooms in your home that you want to be off-limits.
Fasten glass doors open. Glass doors can be dangerous as your little one may run into them. If possible, fasten any glass doors open. In some cases, you may be able to add safety film to prevent the glass shattering in case your little one runs into it.
Remove swinging or folding doors. Swinging doors can knock your little one over or bump her on the nose, and folding doors can be risky as little fingers can get trapped in the hinges. Consider removing them until your little one is older and understands how they work.
Use baby gates to close off doorways. You may like to have the door open between rooms but still prevent your little one from accessing certain areas. In this case, add baby gates. You can use baby gates to cordon off doorways, hallways, and the top and bottom of stairs.
From baby proofing the coffee table and cabinets to securing the TV stand, take steps to make sure your furniture is safe and secure. Here are a few baby proofing tips to consider when it comes to your furniture:
Secure large, heavy items. As your baby learns to stand, she's going to try to pull herself up by holding onto objects. Make sure that any free-standing furniture like bookcases, dressers, chests of drawers, shelving units, and the TV are all mounted to the wall or floor so that they cannot tip over onto your little one.
Baby proof sharp corners. All sharp edges on furniture should be cushioned to prevent injuries if your little one bumps into them. Put corner guards on table edges, especially lower-level tables like coffee tables, side tables, and bedside tables as well as any low furniture like sideboards and TV stands.
Add cupboard door latches or child locks. Keep your little one out of cupboards that hold small, dangerous, or breakable items such as medications, cleaning products, glassware, and electrical appliances. Add child proof locks to all cupboards and drawers that are within your little one’s reach.
Remove dangerous items from lower storage spaces. If there aren’t doors to lock on the piece of furniture, then any dangerous items should be placed high up and out of reach.
Until your little one can confidently walk up and down stairs on her own, it’s important to block access to the stairs. This way, you can control when your little one gets to practice using the stairs and you’ll always be there to catch any falls. Here are a few tips:
Block off the stairs with baby gates. If you have stairs in the house, you'll need to baby proof the stairs by placing baby gates both at the top and the bottom of the stairs. Wall-mounted gates are a safest choice as pressure-mounted gates could dislodge with the force of your child trying to get through.
Consider carpeting your stairs. Carpet might help stop some slips down the stairs.
Other Baby Proofing Tips for the Whole House
Before you launch into baby proofing specific rooms of the house, check that you’ve done the following in all areas of your home:
Install smoke detectors
Move indoor plants so that they are out of reach and remove any poisonous houseplants altogether
Get rid of any plastic bags you have lying around or place them in a spot that out your little one can't reach
Baby proof the trash cans you have in your home by keeping the garbage behind a locked door or inside a baby proofed cabinet
Add a screen or baby gate around any heat sources like fireplaces, radiators, floor heaters, furnace vents, etc.
Keep floor fans in spots that are out of reach
Keep alcoholic beverages locked away and out of reach
Store portable cords, such as those for your laptop and phone charger, someplace that is completely out of reach
Place breakables like glass or ceramic vases out of reach
Lock away any potential hazards, like cleaning supplies, paint, tools, chemicals, batteries, matches, pins, and medications, or store them way up high so that they’re completely out of reach of your baby
Keep the vacuum cleaner cord retracted when it’s not in use, and place the appliance away between uses
Check to make sure there is nothing dangerous in baskets, boxes, or tubs you have lying around on the floor or low shelves. In some cases, it may be easier and safer to just move the storage container completely out of reach.
Have important emergency numbers stored on your phone and placed on the fridge or in a spot that's easily accessible for you and your family as well as for babysitters and other caregivers. These are some of the numbers you might include: o your child’s healthcare provider o pharmacy o hospital o dentist o your phone number o alternative emergency phone numbers (like the grandparents) o in case of emergency (911) o Poison Control Center (1-800-222-1222)
Beyond what we’ve described above, here are a few additional things to bear in mind when baby proofing your baby’s nursery:
Follow these tips on how to baby proof the crib:
Check that the crib meets safety standards. Older crib models (like those manufactured before 2011) may not meet current safety standards, so it’s probably wise to buy a new crib that you can be sure meets the latest standards and doesn’t have drop-side rails. When buying a crib, make sure that the slats are no more than 2 3/8 inches apart, to ensure that a baby's head cannot become trapped. Also, check that the corner posts are either very high or flush with the end panels. Clothing can catch on some corner posts, and this may pose a strangulation risk.
Keep an eye on the crib. Regularly check your baby’s crib for any damage like loose slats, chipped paint or wood, and loose screws.
Use only the original parts, screws, bolts, and components of the crib. Do not substitute any missing parts with something you have at home or have bought from the hardware store. Contact the manufacturer if you notice any broken or missing parts.
Use a mattress that fits snugly. Make sure there are no gaps between the mattress and the crib, as any extra space could trap legs or arms. If you get a new mattress, throw away all plastic wrapping and material that comes with it.
Keep the crib empty. Keep stuffed animals, toys, quilts, blankets, bumpers, and pillows out of the crib. This is crucial for safe sleep and helping to prevent SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome). Later on, removing big items also helps prevents your toddler from using the object as a booster to crawl out of the crib.
Lower the mattress. As your baby gets bigger, be sure to move the crib base/mattress down so your little one can't crawl over the top rail.
Remove any cords. Make sure the crib is not placed near any cords such as blind cords, night light cords, and baby monitor cords. The mobile hanging over the crib should also be completely out of reach.
Using a changing table can make it easier to change your baby’s diaper and dress your little one. To prevent your baby from rolling off and falling, always keep an eye and a hand on your baby whenever he is up high on the changing table or any other high surface. Here are additional changing table safety tips:
Use a sturdy changing table with guardrails. Make sure the changing table you choose is stable and has two-inch guardrails around the sides to help prevent your baby falling or rolling over the side.
Pick a changing mat that is concave in the center. This design will also keep your baby more secure as he won’t be able to roll to the sides so easily.
Keep all supplies within your reach, but not your little one’s. Make sure it’s easy for you to reach diapers, wipes, and other supplies, but make sure your baby can’t grab a hold of them. The same goes for plastic packaging and the liners you might use for your diaper pail as these can all pose a choking or strangulation risk.
The kitchen is the heart of your home, and with a baby or a toddler around, you will most likely need to make some changes to make sure everyone is safe. Check out these key baby proofing tips for the kitchen:
Add baby proof locks or latches to floor level cabinets or reachable drawers. This helps prevent your baby from reaching dangerous items like knives or blades. To satisfy your little one’s curiosity and allow her to safely explore, you might like to leave one cupboard unlatched and fill it with safe items like empty containers, plastic mixing bowls, cake molds, and non-breakable pots and pans. You should also add a child safe lock to the oven and fridge/freezer doors.
Put cutlery and sharp objects out of reach. Keep knives, forks, scissors, appliances with blades, and any other sharp instruments out of your child's reach or locked in a child proof drawer.
Unplug appliances when you’re not using them. This helps prevent your child accidentally turning them on. Tuck away the electrical cords and place appliances out of reach when they are not in use.
Never leave the oven door open. If possible, have your oven door insulated to protect your child from the heat and add a child proof lock. Turn all dials firmly to the off position and cover them with child-resistant knob covers. Restrict access to the stove and tell your older child that the areas near the oven and stove are not for play.
Avoid tablecloths, runners, or place mats that hang over the side of the table. One pull on the cloth and the hot dinner and plates can come crashing to the floor around (and on) your baby or toddler.
Turn the handles of pots and pans inwards. Even though it’s better not to cook with your baby or toddler near the oven or stove, an extra safety measure is to keep the handles of hot pots and pans turned toward the inside of the stovetop at all times—even when you think your child is not around. This can help prevent your child accidentally knocking the hot pot or pan onto himself.
Remove small refrigerator magnets. These can be a choking risk.
Keep a fire extinguisher in the kitchen. Learn how to properly use the fire extinguisher to put out small fires.
The bathroom is a hub of activity for families with small children, especially as your baby starts to enjoy splash time in the bath more and more. Here’s how to keep your little one safe in the bathroom:
Bathroom Safety Tips
Keep an eye on your child. Never leave your child unattended in the bathroom—not even for a moment. When the bath is over, empty the tub and any play buckets right away. Keep a basket with all the bath essentials near the tub so you won't need to leave the bathroom for supplies.
Apply anti-skid strips to the bottom of the tub. This can help prevent slips.
Cover the faucet. Place a cushioned cover (a washcloth will work) over the faucet to avoid injuries if your child bumps it, especially with his head.
Set your water heater to 120 degrees Fahrenheit or lower. Check the water temperature on your wrist before placing your baby in the water to make sure it's not too hot or cold.
Install a toilet lid lock. Get your family into the habit of keeping the toilet seat lid down and locked.
Keep dangerous items out of reach. Place things like medicines, cosmetics, liquids, razors, baby first aid kit, and electrical appliances like the hair dryer and hot iron in a cabinet sealed by a child proof lock or high up out of reach.
Whether you have a separate laundry room in the house, or keep your washing machine in the kitchen or bathroom, follow these tips for baby proofing your laundry area:
Add a baby proof lock to the washing machine door. Keep the washing machine door closed and locked at all times. The same goes for the dryer.
Store laundry detergents out of your child's reach and sight. It’s safest to keep products in their original container, with the label intact, in a baby proofed, locked cabinet. Don’t move detergents from the original container into containers usually used to store food. Put detergents away when they are not in use, and wipe up any spills right away.
Don’t let your child play in the laundry area. Consider adding a baby gate to the laundry room door or adding a child proof lock on the door. Consider doing your laundry and other cleaning chores during your child's downtime (such as naptime), if possible. This can help ensure that your attention is not diverted while you're using laundry and cleaning products and help avoid unintended exposure to detergents and other cleaning supplies.
Garage, Basement, and Outdoor Areas
Take a look at other areas of your home or yard, and consider these baby proofing tips:
Lock away dangerous items. This can include tools, paints, varnishes, thinners, or any other toxic chemicals you might keep in your garage or basement.
Don’t let your little one play near the driveway or the garage, and keep him away from the garage door, especially if it’s automatic. Keep the doors to the garage, basement, and outdoor areas locked with a child proof lock so that your toddler can’t go outside without you knowing, or install a baby gate.
If you have any unused refrigerators or freezers in the garage or basement, take the doors off so your child can’t climb inside. If these appliances are in use, add a child proof lock to the doors.
Secure the swimming pool. Surround the pool on all sides with a fence that is at least 4 feet high and that meets any additional safety standards in your area. The gate should open away from the pool and it should have a latch that is baby proof and locks automatically. Remove pool covers completely if you are going swimming with your little one. Never leave your child unattended near the water, and keep a watchful eye on him at all times whenever he is in or near the pool.
Add sand or wood chips under play areas. This can help soften the fall in case your little one falls off the swing, or has a rough landing from the slide.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
The Bottom Line
Getting your house in shape for your little one is big project, but fortunately it's one that can be done in smaller batches. As long as the nursery is done before your baby arrives, you can baby proof the rest of house bit by bit over the next few months, so it's ready when your little one baby starts moving independently. Then you can just keep your eye out for any extra baby proofing tasks that need doing as they crop up.
Remember, baby proofing isn’t just about your baby’s safety. You'll want to store important documents and valuables out of reach so that they don’t accidently get chewed up, lost, or broken. And don't forget to move things like lipstick and markers out of reach too so that your toddler doesn’t end up scribbling on your cream sofa or white walls.
It’s also important that Grandma and Grandpa’s home is safe if your little one spends time there. So consider talking to those who care for your child in their own homes about baby proofing they can do before your baby or toddler stays over.
Once you’re satisfied with your baby proofing efforts, you’ll love the peace of mind that comes with knowing that your baby or toddler can safely explore your home.
How We Wrote This Article
The information in this article is based on the expert advice found in trusted medical and government sources, such as the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. You can find a full list of sources used for this article below. The content on this page should not replace professional medical advice. Always consult medical professionals for full diagnosis and treatment.