Tiny babies don’t do much apart from eating and sleeping. But as soon as they start to wriggle around and move on their own, it’s time to begin baby proofing your home.
As your baby grows, so will their curiosity. And it becomes even more important to make sure your home is as safe as possible for them.
It doesn’t stop with babies either - there are lots of hazards around the home for toddlers and children.
Here we list everything you need to know about baby and childproofing your home.
What is baby proofing?
Babies usually start crawling, or shuffling around on their bottoms, between seven and 10 months although it can begin earlier.
As soon as they start moving, their main priority is exploring the space around them. That means touching, grabbing, and pulling everything they can get their hands on.
It’s important to create a safe space for your baby that lets them have some independence to move around on their own without getting into danger themselves, or causing damage to valuables which could result in a home insurance claim.
A baby-proof house is one that lets babies move around without them getting into trouble and you can do this with a little preparation. It doesn’t have to cost a lot of money either.
Tips for baby-proofing your home
Your baby changes all the time and the more mobile they are, the more you might need to keep an eye on where they are.
There are hundreds of baby-proofing products and baby proofing kits available to buy. While some are useful, you don’t need to spend lots of money to create a safe space.
It’s important to check anything you buy meets current British safety standards and it should say this on the product’s packaging.
How to baby-proof your home
Baby-proofing the cot
Babies spend a lot of time in their cot, whether that’s in their own room, in your room, or in a co-sleeping crib attached to your bed. The Lullaby Trust says the safest place for a baby to sleep is a separate cot, crib, or moses basket with a firm, flat, waterproof mattress.
It also advises against any of the following for sleeping:
- Pods or nests
- Duvets or thick heavy bedding
- Cot bumpers
- Sleep positioners
- Stuffed animals, toys, quilts, blankets and pillows need to be kept out of the crib during the first 12 months.
Tiny babies can’t move much, or usually even roll over, and this means there’s a risk of suffocation if any bedding covers their face.
This is because they don’t have the strength to remove covers or blankets.
To stop this happening, first lie your baby on their back. Then securely tuck your baby’s blanket across their chest and under their arms when they sleep. You could also use a specially designed baby sleeping bag.
Babies can’t regulate their temperature, either. So, it’s important to make sure they don’t overheat while sleeping in a cot by using too much bedding.
A room thermometer could quickly show you how warm the room is. The ideal room temperature for a baby is between 16°C and 20°C. You can even get thermometers that light up certain colours if the room is too cold or too hot.
If your baby’s room is hotter than 20°C, it’s too warm. If it’s safe to do so you could open a window or dress your baby in fewer clothes.
If you have pets, you might want to consider a safety net to place over a cot. This should help avoid any overly-friendly cats jumping into your baby’s cot.
When babies start moving
No baby is the same and they all develop at different rates. However, most should start wriggling and kicking at around five months.
From this point it’s not safe to leave a baby on its own on a changing table or sofa as there’s a risk it could wriggle off on its own.
Say they’re in a car seat or a bouncing cradle on top of a table. There’s a risk their movement could cause the whole thing to fall off.
As well as shuffling around, they might also start grabbing objects at this point.
Make sure anything small is out of reach and tidy away any objects your baby could grab as this could be a choking hazard.
Be extra vigilant with hazardous items like batteries. Button batteries are especially dangerous and if swallowed could be fatal.
If you think your baby, toddler, or child has swallowed one, seek medical attention immediately.
Baby-proofing the bath
Never leave your baby alone in water, whether that’s in the bath, or in something like a sink or small tub.
If you have a bath seat this doesn’t mean you can leave your baby either, as it‘s not a safety device.
Before you put your baby in the water, always check the temperature, either with your elbow or with a thermometer.
How to toddler proof your home
Toddlers are a lot more active than babies. And while they’re able to communicate better, they still often don’t understand what they can and can’t do.
They also might not understand that everyday objects around the house can be hazardous to them.
The six- to 18-month period is when your baby becomes more coordinated and starts sitting up, crawling, and eventually walking.
When they do begin to crawl, they might want to explore your home and tend to move quickly when they want to.
If you have rugs, they could be a tripping hazard. So, rolling them away, or using a rug-grip, might help.
Safety or stair gates at the top and the bottom of flights of stairs could stop toddlers from climbing them, and protect them from falling down them.
You might be able to get funding to pay for safety products. See what’s available on the gov.uk website or by asking your local council.
You don’t need to spend a fortune on a safety gate.
But it’s important to buy one that meets British safety standards. Over time they could become loose so check reuglarly to make sure they don’t fall and injure your child.
If you have gaps between your bannisters this could also be a risk, as a small child could climb or fall through.
If the gap is more than 6.5cm wide, or 2.5 inches, you could cover the gaps with safety netting or boards.
If you have fireplaces, you might want to consider safety gates to keep toddlers away from them.
Playing with doors and door handles is also a fun game for toddlers. But there’s a risk their little hands could get trapped when a door shuts.
There are guards available that you place around door frames. These stop them from fully closing, and protect tiny fingers.
Remember to remove these at night-time. If there’s a fire in your home, keeping doors closed should reduce the risk of it spreading.
Most items of furniture are the perfect height for toddler heads and can look like excellent climbing frames too.
Corner protectors on sharp edges such as coffee table corners could prevent serious head bumps.
Securing furniture like mirrors and TVs to the floor or a wall, should also reduce the risk of it falling over and injuring your toddler.
Before you anchor any furniture, check its position. If a piece of furniture is near a window your child could climb it and open the window.
Make sure all windows have locks, and store keys safely out of reach. You can also fit safety catches to windows to stop them opening more than 6.5 cm (2.5 inches) to prevent toddlers climbing out of them.
Your toddler is probably going to make it their full-time job to open any cupboards or drawers they can get their hands on. You can get baby and toddler-proof locks to keep these shut.
Keep hazardous items out of reach from small hands. This includes:
- Hot drinks
- Sharp knives
- Frying pans
- Electrical cables, blind cords, and even dressing gown ties should all be tucked away out of reach too.
It’s around this age that toddlers start noticing electricity sockets. By law plug sockets must have safety shutters to stop children getting shocked.
And electrical products should be kept away from toddlers and children until they’re old enough to safely use them.
How to child-proof your home
As your child grows, the security hazards around them change.
When they were tiny it was blankets being kicked over their heads you were worried about.
Now, it’s getting too close to a garden pond.
Child-proofing your home and garden is just as important when your child gets older. They’re now taller, quicker, and more confident and curious than ever before.
Most of the measures you put in when they were babies and toddlers still apply. But there are a few more things to add to your never-ending child and baby-proofing your home checklist.
When children are in the garden, you don’t want to be worrying about them injuring themselves.
Keep tools securely out of reach and make sure fences are secure and gates are locked.
The last thing you want is an over-confident child letting themselves out of the garden.
If you have a pond, fence it off or cover it, and always watch children if they’re playing in a paddling pool.
When it’s not in use, drain the water and securely store it.
Some plants are poisonous to children, and even though they may look like colourful snacks, they could cause serious harm.
Keep an eye on your child and teach them which plants are poisonous. The Royal Horticultural Society has some great advice.
House plants should also be placed out of reach of children, especially younger ones, as they can be tempting to taste test or knock over.
Some medicines could also look like colourful sweets to children. They’re the cause of more than 70% of hospital admissions for poisoning in under-fives, according to the NHS.
Painkillers like paracetamol and ibuprofen are the main culprits. Keep anything that could poison a child well out of reach or in a locked container.
This includes cleaning, laundry and bath products.
Smoke and carbon monoxide detectors are also a must for your home. Not only could these prevent accidents they could also lower the risk of you claiming on your home insurance for fire damage.
A first aid kit, kept somewhere you can easily find, should be helpful whatever age your children are. There are also several free first aid apps, such as one from the Red Cross.
Compare home insurance quotes
When should you start baby-proofing your home?
There’s no hard and fast rule on when to begin baby-proofing your home. You should start thinking about bedding, sleep and bathing before your baby arrives. But further measures might not be needed until your baby starts rolling over and moving around.
However, the most important thing is that they’re safe and secure, whatever their age. So while you’re mulling over baby names and nursery colours, it might not be a bad idea thinking about baby-proofing your home while you’re pregnant too.
Preparing in advance could prevent accidents and make the entire process more straightforward and less stressful.
It also gives you more time to look at child safety checklists and research baby-proofing products. This lets you find the right one for you and your baby at the best price.