When you have young children and are in the market for a new home, you may find yourself looking at each home from a safety perspective. That beautiful staircase leading from the main floor to the bedrooms suddenly seems more ominous as you picture your toddler taking a tumble.
If you feel nervous about childproofing, you have good reason. Around 2.5 million children are injured or killed in home hazards every year, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission. As you are buying a home, take the time to look for one with features designed to keep kids safe. Here's a checklist of safety devices that can protect your children.
Built-In Child Safety Features
Some safety features are built into the home's design. Here are some to look for as you shop:
If you want a truly childproofed home, and don't want to have to fiddle with the outlet plugs every time you wish to use an outlet, consider looking for child-safe outlets in your new home.
The National Electric Code, passed in 2008, recommends the use of tamper-resistant electrical outlets in all new home construction, and over 35 states have added it as part of their building code. These outlets have a cover built into the outlet's design that moves away when you plug something into both holes. If a curious child tries to push a key or paper clip into just one hole, a built-in block prevents electricity from flowing into the item and the child. This is a simple switch that can make a big difference in how safe your home is.
Carbon Monoxide and Smoke Detectors
Another feature to look for in the home is a carbon monoxide and smoke detector. Carbon monoxide poisoning is fatal, and because the gas is odorless and invisible, you may not know you have a problem until it is too late. As you inspect a home for child-safe elements, look for one that has a working smoke alarm and carbon monoxide detector located near sleeping areas. Also, make sure there is a detector on every level of the home. This is particularly important if the home is heated with gas or has an attached garage, as these are two places where this toxic gas is introduced into the home.
Door locks are another built-in safety feature. Some doors, such as those leading to a basement or crawl space, should be equipped with locks to prevent children from accessing these areas of the home. If the home has a swimming pool, the door that accesses the pool needs to lock, and also should be equipped with an alarm alerting the homeowner if it is opened. Keep in mind that you may not want locks on every door. Bedroom doors, for instance, should not be locked.
As you consider the bathroom and kitchen, remember to consider the home’s water temperatures. Children and babies have sensitive skin, and if the water in the home gets too hot, it can easily scald small children. Not only can homeowners protect children by setting the hot water temperature to a safe 120 degrees Fahrenheit, but anti-scald devices can be used on faucets and showerheads to add an additional layer of protection. Because these sometimes require the help of a plumber to install, consider shopping specifically for a home that already has them in place.
Additional Child Safety Features
While not included in the home, some child safety features are a great option to add yourself. Sometimes the previous owner may have added these already. Here are some features to consider:
Cabinet and Drawer Locks
Cabinets and drawers often contain important household items that are safety hazards for kids. Poison
ous medications and cleaners, sharp cooking implements, and even fragile items you want to protect from curious hands are often stored in cabinets. Safety latches and locks on drawers and cabinets in the home can help protect your children from these risks.
If you are shopping for locks, look for products that you can easily access, but that are strong enough to withstand the strength of a curious child. Keep in mind that your home's most dangerous items need to be stored up high, because safety latches alone may not provide enough protection.
If the home's built-in elements, like fireplaces, have hard or sharp corners and edges, check to see if they have bumpers or other protection. A child who falls against a sharp edge can sustain a serious head injury. Add corner bumpers if needed.
If the home you are purchasing includes window coverings, make sure they are safe. If you are buying them after the purchase, choose wisely. The cord on window blinds can get tangled around a child, representing a strangulation hazard. Look for window coverings that have inner-cord stops, safety tassels or are situated well out of the child's reach. Another option is to consider window coverings that are cord-free, such as cellular shades or rolling shades.
Fingers caught in doors as they open and close are easily injured. Look for doorstops or door holders that help prevent smashed fingers. Doorstops block the door from fully opening, while door holders prevent door hinges from smashing fingers.
Like cabinet latches and locks, doorstops or holders are easy to add after you purchase a home, and only cost a few dollars.
Child Safety Gates
Finally, make sure the home is properly protected with child safety gates. Place these at the top and bottom of stairs and restricted areas that are not protected with a door. Sometimes, homes will have built-in gates that work with the overall design of the home. Built-in safety gates are a great choice because they are not easy for the child to dislodge, do not tip over, and blend in with the home's architectural style.
If your home does not have built-in gates, make sure that the stairs and other restricted areas have a frame or doorway that can use a safety gate. Then, invest in one that meets the safety standards of the Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association, as this ensures your children are properly protected. Install them securely, so that they will not tip if the child leans against them.
Remember, your new home is going to be the place your children will live, play and thrive. Make sure it is as safe as possible, so it can be a haven for your little ones as they grow. Use this checklist to ensure that your children are happy, healthy and safe.