Safe and Sound

How to child-proof your home

If you have young children, they’re probably underfoot a lot right now. Winter drives all activities indoors.

Is your home child-proofed?

A few minutes spent installing some inexpensive safety features can keep children from hurting themselves. Mike Frentz remembers when his children were little – everything, like house plants, came up off the floor, and all the little knickknacks on his coffee table were removed to a higher elevation.

Mike marvels at the array of safety features available today. When he was growing up, the safety feature was Mom saying, “don’t do that.”

“However, when they get to a certain age all kids override this stuff,” Mike says. “But until then, these things are great preventive measures that give you a little peace of mind.”

Outlet safety caps are pretty much a must.
They come in a package of 12, white or clear. Those of you seasoned enough will remember these originally were made of Bakelite, a non-conducting material. Today they’re made of a non-conducting lighter plastic.

Cabinet and drawer latches.
“These are for when your kids decide they want to use the fine china as flying saucers,” Mike says. These latches allow a cabinet door or kitchen drawer to be opened only an inch or two. At that point, an adult can release the inside lock with one finger. Just the thing for china cabinets or drawers with cutlery.

Plastic loops lock doors.
“Where you have doors that open like French doors, these really work,” Mike says of a plastic lock that loops over both handles. “They’re also handy for grandparents when the grandchildren come to visit, because no permanent installation is involved – they can take the lock off when the kids go home with you.”

Stove cover knobs.
Almost as important as fire detectors in your home, “particularly if you have a gas stove, with the knobs mounted on the front. Most electric stoves have knobs mounted on the top, making them more difficult for youngsters to reach,” Mike says. These covers fit over the stove knobs. If you want to use the stove, just squeeze the cover and the knob beneath will turn, but if a child tries to use it, the knob will just spin harmlessly, unless their grip is as strong as yours.

Refrigerator latches.
There’s a reason local law requires you to remove refrigerator doors before you put them out for refuse collection – no one wants kids to accidentally become locked inside.

The same principle holds true here. This latch is mounted on the side or top of the refrigerator. Just pulling on the door won’t release the latch – you have to press on a particular spot so the plastic bolt will release. It’s mounted with strong but removable double-sided tape, so that you can take it off when it’s no longer needed.

Doorknob covers.
They slip over a doorknob and spin when a child grabs them. If you grab one and squeeze, you’ll be able to turn the knob. Important for keeping kids away from rooms with computers, avoiding the fall down the basement steps, and keeping out of your room during private time.

Finger pinch guard.
Picture a squat hard-rubber horseshoe. The open end fits over the edge of a door without damaging it, and that keeps the door from slamming shut.

Corner cushions.
These are the thick plastic caps that fit over the edges of coffee tables so that if your child falls against one, he or she won’t go through life with a third nostril.

Door holders.
“If you live in one of Royal Oak’s older homes, you might be fortunate enough to have a swinging door, say between the kitchen and dining room,” Mike says. “This holds the door open, so no one gets bumped in the nose when it swings back.” Also great for holding open an outside door for fresh air, if the temperature every gets above freezing again.

Plug lock.
These are different from the socket locks mentioned first in this column. A plug lock fits over the plug itself, say a hair dryer, for example. It snaps on and won’t allow a child to plug the dryer into a socket.

Cord wind-ups.
They may not sound essential, but many accidents are reported every year regarding children who managed to get the cord to a Venetian blind wrapped around his or her neck. “With these, the cord winds up and takes up all the excess, and then you snap a cover on to keep the cord coiled inside,” Mike says.

Finally, gates to keep children from wandering from room to room, or stumbling down the steps. “Now we don’t sell them, but you know who has the best selection – Pet Supplies Plus. Get the one that fits by pressure – that way you don’t have to drill any holes and bolt things to walls and cause damage to your woodwork. Make sure the one you get is at least 26 inches high. You’d be surprised how kids can climb over the lower ones.”