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How to childproof your kitchen

March 25, 2015

Childproofing is a very real concern in my home right now. I have a 5-year-old daughter and a very active 18-month-old son, and although I’ve experienced the challenges of life with a toddler before, I have to admit that it is very different the second time around. I used to secretly wonder why some parents attached every kind of childproofing gadget they could think of to every item in their house; now I know. My daughter got into some things (as every kid does), but mostly she was more interested in being with me than exploring the off-limits things around our house. My son, though, is a completely different kid. We’ve nicknamed him “Curious George” because like the fictional character, his adventurous spirit has the potential to get him into a lot of trouble.

Consider this advice to be the product of many trials and errors. I haven’t done each of these things perfectly. In fact, several of these tips come from things that have gone awry in our home. I hope you’ll be able to take some of my experiences and put them to good use.

Here are a few things to think about when childproofing your home:

Consider when others supervise your kids.

When thinking about how to child-proof your home, think not only about what is a danger when you are home with your kids but also when someone else is caring for them. For instance you may think, “I don’t need to child-proof the bathroom because we keep the doors closed all the time.” What about when a babysitter comes or the grandparents watch your children for you? Other people will use things in your house differently than you do, and you must be sure your children are safe in each of those different scenarios.

Childproofing must change with your kid.

Know that childproofing isn’t a one-time occurrence. The specific dangers will evolve as your child grows and their abilities and interests mature. Be prepared to continuously monitor and change your childproofing strategies along with them.

Nothing can replace adult supervision.

It doesn’t matter how much time or money you’ve spent on childproofing your home or how sophisticated your gadgets are, no device can take the place of adequate adult supervision. Childproofing your home is a necessary and helpful aid in keeping your child safe, but it’s just that- an aid. It cannot take the place of adult supervision.

Here are some specific ways to help make your kitchen as safe as possible:

  • Be sure there are no chairs or stepstools in the kitchen that the child can use to climb.
  •  Don’t hang dishtowels on the oven door. Kids can pull them the towel and bring the oven door crashing down on them.
  • Place locks on appliances. Consider locks on stoves, dishwashers and the refrigerator. The dangers of a dishwasher are sometimes a surprise to us, but consider the knives and breakable objects a child can get out of the dishwasher.
  • Be sure counter-top appliances and their cords are pushed all the way back to the wall and out of reach.
  • Be sure telephone cords or wires are out of reach.
  • Don’t decorate the refrigerator with magnets. Toddlers love to put magnets in their mouths, and these are a very real choking hazard.
  • Be sure chemical cleaning products are secured behind a locked cabinet.
  • Be sure matches or lighters are secured in a locked cabinet or drawer.
  • Be sure plastic garbage bags and used grocery bags are stored out of reach. Even a simple bag can be a danger. Kids love to place plastic bags over their heads, and this is a serious suffocation hazard.
  • Pay special attention during meal preparation. Cooking the evening meal can be one of the most trying times of the day with a toddler, not to mention the most unsafe. Instead of trying to wrangle your child away from every dangerous thing in the kitchen (I’ve tried it; the kid always wins) keep your toddler out of the kitchen during meal preparation.
    • Place your baby in a high chair or secure the kitchen with gates. You’ll have to see what works in your home. If you can block your child’s access to the kitchen while still being able to supervise her, baby gates may be helpful. If not, put your toddler in the highchair and offer him a few snacks while you’re busy cooking. He can be safely restrained out of harm’s way while still being close to you. Just be sure the highchair isn’t so close to the counter that he can reach off-limits items.
    • Cook on the back burners. Turn pot handles inward. You’d be surprised how quickly a toddler can grab onto the oven handle and hoist himself up to reach the stove. To prevent burns and scalds, be sure you’re cooking on the back burner and pot handles can’t be reached if baby is near the stove.
    • Leave your work area safe when you’re interrupted. Every parent knows that we can’t finish anything without an interruption. If you’re chopping vegetables and get called away, be sure you always place the knife back on the counter away from the edge in case little hands reach up to see what they can find up there.
These are just a few ideas that you might find helpful. But remember, every child is different and has different areas of interest. It’s important to observe your child and see what he is interested in and what he is capable of then adjust accordingly. Know the areas where they’re most likely to get into trouble and focus on securing them ahead of time instead of waiting until tragedy is looming on the horizon.

We’ll be continuing this conversation over the next few weeks with a series of posts about childproofing your home.

Next up: childproofing your bathroom.