When my son was a baby, I worried that he seemed to be taking a long time to start crawling. “Don’t worry,” fellow parent friends told me. “Soon enough, he’ll be crawling all over the place, and then you’ll have bigger things to worry about.”
Sure enough, they were right, and before I knew it, my anxiety had shifted from concerns over my son’s mobility to the fact that my house offered him far too many opportunities for injury. I realized I’d have no choice but to start the process of baby-proofing – and boy, was it a process.
Over the next few weeks, my husband and I made it our mission to transform our home into an infant-friendly zone. We locked up our cabinets, installed safety knobs on all of our doors, and put up so many gates we could barely walk around ourselves. In fact, looking back, we like to joke that we wound up inadvertently parent-proofing our house, as some of those protections made it difficult for us to gain access to the things we needed.
If your infant is starting to become mobile, now is the time to baby-proof your home. Whether you choose to do so in stages or as one long project, the key is to be as thorough as possible to ensure your infant’s safety. Each room has its own set of dangers that can be easy to overlook – even your baby’s nursery. Review your home thoroughly for anything your toddler can get into, fall down on or against, get caught in, or turn on.
General Baby-Proofing Items
There are a number of items you need throughout your home to make it as safe as possible for your infant:
- Outlet Covers. Children are curious by nature, but this means that when they see open outlets, they have a tendency to stick their fingers where they don’t belong. Plastic outlet covers are usually the first line of defense in protecting children from injury, and at less than $0.10 apiece, they’re an extremely cost-effective investment.
- Window Locks. Don’t underestimate your infant’s ability to open a closed window. To keep yours safe, invest in enough window locks to cover your entire home. They typically cost $2 to $5 apiece.
- Safety Knobs or Door Knob Covers. Babies tend to love opening doors and exploring what’s behind them – which, in the case of your hall closet, could be cleaning supplies and other such unsafe chemicals. Similarly, they tend to enjoy closing doors and potentially getting their cute little fingers caught in the process. Your best bet is to prevent your infant from opening and closing doors by installing safety knobs on all the doors in your home. Also known as door knob covers, door safety knobs go over regular knobs and tend to require a twist and grip method in order to get a door to open. While they’re fairly easy for parents to use, they do the job of keeping infants from twisting doorknobs and getting into things and places they shouldn’t. Door safety knobs cost $2 to $4 apiece.
- Furniture Guards. One of the greatest hazards for infants comes in the form of furniture with sharp edges or corners. This is where corner guards come in handy. Corner guards are soft, rubbery attachments that fit onto corners and edges of tables, entertainment centers, and freestanding cabinets or shelving. They typically cost between $1 and $2 each.
- Drawer Latches. The drawers in your home pose a hazard not just because of their contents, but because of the potential for them to close or snap shut on your infant’s fingers, thereby causing injury. Plastic drawer latches are a good solution because they’re inexpensive, costing about $0.50 to $1 each, and are easy to install. If you have a vertical line of drawers to secure, you can also try fastening a tight Velcro strip around them to tether them shut and keep your little one out. You can purchase a pack of Velcro strips for as little as $3, but keep in mind that if you go this route, it’s likely to take you longer to access your drawers than it would using individual latches.
- Cord Wraps for Blinds. Traditional corded blinds pose a major safety hazard for little ones, as it’s far too easy for a cord to become entangled around an infant’s neck. To remedy this, you can purchase blind cord wraps, which usually cost around $3 each. Another option is to replace any corded blinds you have with cordless ones. These can cost anywhere from $30 to $200 or more per window depending on the size and materials at hand. Keep in mind that if you opt to replace your blinds, you may have to factor in an installation fee on top of the cost of the blinds themselves. You might pay anywhere from $50 per window or more to have your blinds replaced, though some blinds companies offer installation for free.
- Cord Shorteners. Similar to cord wraps for blinds, cord shorteners are useful for common kitchen appliances that tend to be kept out on counters, such as your coffee maker, toaster, or microwave. Before you know it, your infant will be tall enough to reach for those cords, and when that happens, you run the risk of injury. Cord shorteners can also be used to keep lamp, TV, and bedroom appliance cords less accessible. They cost about $6 each.
- Rail or Banister Guards. These plastic or Plexiglas shields are designed to prevent children and objects from getting caught in between banisters or railings. They typically cost between $20 and $45 and are useful not only for banisters, but for any area where a small child could easily get stuck, such as a deck or porch railing.
All of these items can be purchased at your local hardware or baby supply store. Online retailers like Amazon also carry baby safety items, and because prices can vary by supplier, it pays to shop around.
When you have a baby crawling or cruising around, gates become more important than ever. If your family room or bedroom contains a fireplace, you’re going to want to gate it off so that your baby can’t access it. Keep in mind that gas fireplaces with glass covers can get quite hot even when they’re not in use, so it’s important to put up some sort of barrier between your unit and your infant. You can purchase a three-sided baby gate kit or play yard to surround your fireplace and keep your infant away. A three-sided baby gate costs anywhere from $40 to more than $100, as does a quality play yard.
Similarly, when you’ve got a mobile infant on your hands, your staircase suddenly becomes not just a huge inconvenience, but a major source of stress. There’s perhaps nothing more frightening than the idea of your baby taking a tumble down the stairs. For this reason, it’s imperative that you install baby gates at both the top and bottom of your stairway.
You have two choices when it comes to stairway gates:
- Removable or Pressure-Mounted Gates. These tend to be fairly inexpensive, costing $20 to $40 apiece. They’re the type of gates you typically see adults climbing over in doorways, as they don’t often open and close – the only way to avoid climbing over them may be to collapse and remove them. If you choose to go this route, you can purchase two wooden freestanding gates and use them to barricade your staircase entrances – but keep in mind that this method may not be nearly as safe or effective as installing hardware-mounted gates.
- Hardware-Mounted Gates. These are sturdier and safer than removable gates because they are actually installed directly into your stairway openings. These gates typically come with a swing-out mechanism that allows them to open and close so that you, the adult, can access your stairway with ease. Hardware-mounted gates typically cost between $40 and $100 depending on the size and style, and you’re going to need two for each staircase – one for the top, and one for the bottom.
You can find all types of baby gates at a hardware or baby supply store. Buying gates online is also an option, but since you want to make sure these items work with your setup, purchasing them from a store, where you can look at them and compare models, is likely a better bet. If you’re using a hardware-mounted gate, which is essentially a permanent fixture until you’re ready to take it down, you want to find one that blends in seamlessly with its surroundings – another reason to visit a store rather than rely on a picture from a website.
Kitchen and Bathrooms
Of all the rooms in your home, the kitchen and bathrooms perhaps offer the most opportunity for infant and toddler injury. Between your stove, oven, and sharp, pointy tools and appliances, a baby can all too easily get hurt if left to roam around a kitchen unsupervised. Similarly, bathtubs and toilets can also be dangerous for infants.
Fortunately, you can utilize a number of low-cost devices to baby-proof your kitchen and bathrooms:
- Oven Knob Covers and Lock. The last thing you want is for your infant to accidentally turn on your oven or stove and get burned. An easy way to prevent this is to install knob covers. These are usually sold in packs of four or more and cost $5 to $10 per pack. To prevent your infant from opening your oven, you can also purchase an oven lock for $5 to $10, which mounts to the front of your oven and keeps it closed.
- Fridge Locks or Latches. Press-and-pull fridge locks that keeps refrigerator doors shut can be purchased for $2 to $5.
- Cabinet Locks. You can keep your toddler from getting into your cabinets by installing cabinet locks, which cost $2 to $5 apiece. Another option is to buy a magnetic lock kit for $20 to $30, which usually includes 8 to 10 locks and a key. Magnetic locks are often easier for parents to open than plastic ones, and they’re similar in cost to buying individual plastic locks. The only catch is that you need to keep your key in a safe place – otherwise you may wind up locked out of your own cabinets.
- Toilet Locks. These specialty toilet locks, which prevent infants from getting or falling into the toilet, range from $6 to $15 for standard-sized toilets. They simply snap over your toilet’s lid so that it can’t be lifted without undoing the mechanism.
- Spout Covers. These soft spout covers, which cost between $5 and $15, fit over your bathtub’s spout to prevent injury in the event that your infant starts wriggling around or getting wild during bath time. Keep in mind that babies should never be allowed to sit in a tub unsupervised, whether it’s empty or filled with water.
- Anti-Scald Devices. Anti-scald devices can be instrumental in helping your infant avoid injury. These devices attach to sink and shower faucets and work by preventing hot water from leaving the tap, thus significantly reducing the chance of skin burns. Anti-scald devices usually cost $40 to $80 or more depending on the type of faucet you have. If you’re handy, you can install these yourself, though you may need to use a plumber if you lack the tools or confidence to do the work on your own. Using a plumber could add $100 to $300 or more to your bill depending on the number of fixtures you need outfitted with anti-scald devices. Keep in mind that if your home was built fairly recently, you may not need to worry about adding anti-scald devices, as many modern-day faucets are equipped with anti-scald technology already built-in. If you’re unsure how your faucets fare, you can look up the model types and numbers and contact the manufacturer. Note that while your local hardware store likely carries anti-scald devices, you may need to visit a plumbing supply or specialty store to find the right ones for your particular faucets.
Wood flooring can constitute a major safety hazard when you have an infant crawling around. Wooden surfaces are slicker than carpet, which means your baby is more likely to slip and fall on wood. Of course, infants tend to fall a lot when they’re first learning to walk in general, so the softer the surface, the better. To this end, floor padding can go a long way.
You can purchase interlocking foam floor panels that provide a nice cushion for your baby to walk or crawl around on. Depending on their size and style, these typically cost $2 to $10 each. You could also purchase a foam floor play mat that doubles as a source of infant entertainment. Some mats – those large enough to cover an eight-by-eight-foot space – come in colors and feature letters, numbers, or popular kids’ characters. These typically cost $50 to $100 or more. You can find these at your local hardware or baby supply store.
An often unintended cost of baby-proofing is having to pay to put some of your less baby-friendly furnishings or belongings into storage until your child gets older. For example, if you have low tables with sharp edges, it may be best to remove them from your household completely, rather than run the risk of your infant getting injured.
The cost of storage depends on the size of your unit and duration of your contract. A smaller unit could cost as little as $20 per month, but you could also pay double or triple that amount if you have many large items to store. Some storage companies offer discounted rates if you sign a long-term contract. If you expect to keep your belongings in storage for an extended period of time, it might pay to sign a one-, two-, or three-year contract and snag whatever discount you can get.
Hiring a Professional vs. DIY
While some baby-proofing items (such as standalone gates and outlet covers) are easy to install, others, such as cabinet locks and hardware-mounted gates, can be more complicated and time-consuming. For this reason, some parents might choose to hire a handyman or baby-proofing service to handle the work for them.
Hiring a Handyman
The cost of a professional baby-proofing can vary. A handyman might charge anywhere from $50 to $100 or more per hour, and depending on the size of your home, it could take a good two to three hours or more to get the job done. Typically, when you hire a handyman, you provide the baby-proofing materials of your choice to be installed, and the handyman is responsible solely for the labor. Most handymen are familiar with the baby-proofing process, but if you’re going to pay a professional, your best bet is to use someone who has done it before. If you have a handyman you already trust, ask whether he or she feels qualified to tackle the job. Otherwise, ask a local parent for a recommendation, or search online for someone who specializes in baby-proofing.
Using a Baby-Proofing Service
There are baby-proofing services that can provide you not just with labor, but the materials you need to make your home baby-friendly. Many of these services charge $200 to $1,500 or more for the labor component, and then bill the cost of the materials separately. With a baby-proofing service, you don’t have to worry about buying all of those safety devices – but be aware that if you choose to have them provided, you’re likely to be charged a premium. For example, a baby-proofing service might charge you $5 for a drawer latch that you’d find at the store for $3. If you’re going to use a service, you can limit your costs by doing your own shopping, as many services allow you to provide your own devices as long as they’re on an approved list.
One major benefit of using a handyman or baby-proofing service is that you save yourself time and effort. Hiring a professional may also be the right move if you’re not particularly handy yourself, or if you’re concerned that you might wind up installing your devices incorrectly. If you have limited time to do the work on your own, the baby-proofing process could end up taking weeks, whereas a professional can get it done in a single afternoon.
Of course, the downside is that hiring a professional is costly – it’s already expensive to have a baby in the first place. When my husband and I set out to baby-proof our house, we were quoted $80 per hour. Realizing the work would take us just three to four hours if we were to do it ourselves, we opted to baby-proof without professional help and saved more than $300 in the process.
Though baby-proofing your home can be a long process, the good news is that once you get it done, you can have the peace of mind that comes with knowing you’ve taken steps to reduce your baby’s risk of injury. And while some of those safety latches might make life a little less convenient, it’s a small price to pay for your child’s safety.
Can you suggest any additional baby-proofing tips?