Childproofing a room begins with some common-sense approaches. “So much of it doesn’t cost a cent,” says Peter Kerin, owner of Foresight Childproofing Inc., in Minnesota’s Twin Cities area. “It just costs a little bit of effort, a little bit of awareness.”
Since the bathroom is a high-traffic area, your childproofing approach has to be functional. It needs to keep children safe but let other family members use the bathroom with ease.
The best way to protect small children is to make sure they can’t get in unattended. “Until children are starting to be potty trained, they should not have free access to the bathroom,” Kerin says. To limit access, put a hook and eye or sliding bolt on the outside of the door, high above your child’s reach. You can also use a doorknob cover, which is available for both round knobs and lever-style handles and prevents the child from opening the latch. Make sure your child can’t get trapped in the bathroom by installing locks that can be opened from the outside.
Tubs, Toilets, and Sinks
“Water is definitely the main concern in the bathroom,” says Kelly Smith, owner of Totsafe in Macomb, MI, and author of Mommy Can Do It: A Do-It-Herself Guide to Baby-Proofing. Children can be scalded by it, slip on it, or drown in it. The easiest way to prevent scald burns is to set the thermostat on your water heater between 110 to 120 degrees Fahrenheit. Test baby’s bathwater on your wrist or use a water thermometer.
To minimize injuries, use a soft spout cover over the faucets. If you have decorative shower curtains, make sure the tiebacks are shorter than 12 inches to prevent strangulation. Watch children closely if you have a walk-in shower with doors that can shatter. “Glass shower doors are an extreme hazard for little kids,” Smith says.
Thce toilet can pose an especially attractive danger to young children. Not only is it unhygienic, but kids can fall in headfirst, get stuck, and drown. Various types of toilet latches can keep baby from lifting the lid. You don’t want kids climbing onto the toilet to access the sink, so have a little stool they can stand on to wash hands and brush teeth. A stool is also important for a child who is potty training. Look for a lightweight stool with a slip-resistant bottom and a wide, stable base. Those plastic caps on the bolts that connect the toilet to the floor are a potential choking hazard. They can come off, so you may want to remove them.
Keep all cleaning supplies and hazardous materials as well as toilet brushes and plungers out or reach or locked up. Several types of safety latches are sold for cabinets and drawers, but Kerin feels many are ineffective. “An 18-month-old will circumvent most of them,” he says. He prefers the magnetic type that only opens with a magnetic key.
Make sure all razors, nail clippers, and scissors are inaccessible. Alcohol-laden mouthwashes and perfume should be put away. Toothpaste, which contains fluoride, can be a hazard. Medications and vitamins should be out of reach, be properly labeled, and have child-resistant caps. The garbage can is also filled with potential threats; keep it locked in a cabinet or use one with a cover secured with an adhesive strap.
Keep all appliances like hairdryers, curling irons, and electric razors locked away or out of reach; when they’re out, leave them unplugged and away from water. Cover electrical outlets with safety plugs or install a safety plate that slides over the receptacles when they’re not in use. Make sure all bathroom outlets have ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs). It’s good to have nightlights, but avoid ones with glass bulbs that can get hot or be broken.
When selecting flooring, pick something with a textured surface to prevent slipping. And if you have a metal door stop the rubber tip can be a choking hazard, so it’s best to get a solid-rubber stop. Children can fall out of windows, so make sure they don’t open more than four inches. If the window has blinds, eliminate any cords that could strangle a child. To prevent falls in the tub, use a non-slip mat in the bottom, non-slip decals, or a slip-resistant coating. Handholds can minimize the chance of falls as kids get in and out of the bath.