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Childproofing Windows

The first step in childproofing windows is to remove or rearrange furniture and other objects that a child might climb to gain access to a window. Of course, if a child has the will to get up to a window, there’s probably a way he or she will figure it out. So, you will have to limit the window’s opening size or create a barrier to prevent your child from falling out.

childproofing sliding windows

A Charley bar (left), when down, locks a sliding window shut. A shaped metal clip (right) inserted into the lower track, stops a sliding window from opening completely.

Don’t rely on window screens as a barrier when childproofing windows—a child can lean against a screen and tumble right through. You can block the openings with standard window grilles. Just be sure an adult or older child can release the barrier from the inside in an emergency.

Windows and doors that reach within 18 inches of the floor should be glazed with safety glass. Because even dealers and contractors are not always fully familiar with safety glass particulars, let your local building inspector guide you.

To keep people and pets (as well as birds) from walking through or slamming into tall windows and sliding glass doors, stick a few colorful decals on them or place furniture in front of them.

Several different kinds of locks are available for both childproofing windows and doors.

Sliding Windows & Doors

Sliders can be protected in several ways. You can buy a keyed lock that fastens onto the track or a shaped metal strip that clips onto the track. Bolt-action slider locks allow a door to be opened for ventilation. Again, if you use a keyed lock, hang the key nearby where an adult can reach it in case of emergency.

A “Charley bar” (shown above) is easy to mount and, when in its down position, wedges a slider shut. It can be raised and clipped to the wall or frame when you want to use the window or door.

childproofing casement window

Removing the crank of a casement window makes it inoperable. Store the crank nearby but out of a small child’s reach.

Casement Windows

Any window with a crank is easy to childproof just by removing the crank and storing it out of a child’s reach. Alternatively, you can install a door-type safety chain.

Last but not least, don’t forget the potential dangers associated with window coverings. To guard against the possibility of strangulation, cut off shade, blind, and curtain cords to their shortest possible lengths and eliminate any loops at the ends. If the window covering requires a long cord, screw a tie-down fixture to the wall near the top of the window and wrap the cord around it.

Double-hung Windows

These types of windows can be locked shut with an ordinary sash lock, which is usually too difficult for a child to turn. For more security, install keyed sash locks and hang the key on a screw next to the window, well above a small child’s reach but where adults and older children can easily access it in an emergency.

For a double-hung window not needed as a fire escape, you can cut a thin block of scrap wood and nail it inside the upper track as a stop for the lower window section. Another method is to screw the lower section to the frame and use the upper section for ventilation.

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Childproofing Doors

Expert illustrated tips on childproofing doors, using plastic door sleeves, door alarms, special locks and latches, and more.

When using doors, be careful, because children often “shadow” their parents around the house. It’s easy for them to get caught or for their little fingers to get pinched in closing doors, particularly bi-fold doors or those with multiple sets of hinges.

childproofing doors

Simple locks such as these can keep small kids out of unsafe areas. Always place locks within reach of older kids in case of emergency.

To close a door automatically (an important consideration for doors that lead to potentially dangerous areas), you can mount a pneumatic or hydraulic automatic door-closer to ensure gentle closing.

Or, you can replace one or more of the hinges with spring-loaded, self-closing ones. Mount one, then test the door. If necessary, add another—but be sure the door doesn’t slam shut, which can create its own dangerous situation.

Replace any doorstops that might bounce a quickly opened door with flexible doorstops mounted high on the door.

If your home has any swinging doors, such as between the dining room and kitchen, consider replacing them with a standard or pocket door.

Using Door Locks

To keep a door locked, install a safety chain, barrel bolt, pivot lock, or hook-and-eye that can’t be reached by small kids. See typical types of locking hardware at right.

childproofing doors

Plastic door sleeve requires a sturdy grip to turn the knob.

Doorknob Sleeves

To keep children from turning doorknobs, fit with special plastic sleeves, as shown at left. These are very inexpensive. To operate a doorknob, you need to squeeze the sleeve strongly enough to grip and turn the knob. If you have a weak grip, don’t fit your doors with these.

Alarms for Doors & Windows

To alert you that an important door or window has been opened (a door that goes to the pool, for example), you can hang a small bell with a loud gong on the door or, better still, buy an electronic alarm that sounds when the door is opened or closed. Beware of too loud an alarm that could hurt your child’s hearing and cause a scare. Several types of door alarms are available:[GARD align=”right”]

• A doorknob alarm that activates when the doorknob is touched

• A magnetic-contact alarm that sounds a pleasant bong when the door it’s protecting is opened

• A plunger alarm that fits at the base of a sliding door’s track and sounds when the door is opened

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Childproofing Stairs

A secure baby gate can prevent little ones from trying to navigate up or down a staircase.Daria Filimonova / Shutterstock.com

A secure baby gate can prevent little ones from trying to navigate up or down a staircase.

For small kids, stairs and landings look like a lot of fun, but can be very hazardous unless you take certain childproofing precautions.

Safety gates. At both the top and bottom of open stairs, install safety gates. For more information, see Buying Child Safety Gates & Playpens.

Lighting. Be sure all foot-traffic areas are well lighted without glare or shadows. Three-way light switches (to turn lights off or on from either end of a hall or stairs) are helpful. If your house isn’t wired for these, plug a nightlight into a nearby outlet (include an outlet cover).

Sure footing. For clear, easy passage, regularly remove obstacles, eliminate throw rugs, and install non-slippery surfaces underfoot. Clean up spills immediately, and prevent a child from walking on wet floors.

Climbing skills. To a toddler, climbing stairs is an exciting accomplishment, as well as an exercise that develops coordination and muscle. Small children need to learn how to go up and down stairs properly (crawling down backwards is safest for toddlers). Accompany them while they’re learning.

Treads & risers. Make sure that stairs are in good structural condition and have slip-resistant tread surfaces. Wall-to-wall, low-pile carpeting is soft underfoot for both stairs and hallways and provides some cushioning in case of a fall.[GARD align=”right”]

Stairs with open risers are dangerous for young kids, who can crawl right through them. Be especially watchful if your home has such a staircase. Also be vigilant if you have a spiral staircase because its turns can be difficult to negotiate; metal spiral staircases can have hard, sharp edges. Block all such staircases at top and bottom with safety gates.

Keep stairs free of clutter. You’ll invite stumbling if you use them for collecting items that need to go to the upper or lower floor.

Railings. An ideal child-safe stairway would have two parallel handrails on each side: one placed at a comfortable level for adults (30 to 34 inches above the tread’s nosing) and a lower one placed where it can be easily grasped by children. You can buy railings and brackets at a building supply store. Screw the railing securely into wall studs.

Open railings of sturdy and smooth balusters can also give children a good grip as they climb stairs. These open railings on stairs, landings, and upper levels should be at least 36 inches high. If balusters are spaced wide enough that a small body could squirm between them, provide a barrier by temporarily clamping sheets of 1/16-inch clear acrylic or styrene plastic to the railing or balusters using electronic cable ties.

Featured Resource: Get a Pre-Screened Local Home Childproofing Pro

Plants That Are Dangerous to Kids

Tidbits from the plant kingdom—flowers, seeds, fruits, leaves, twigs, and bark—can look tempting enough to taste. But some can make a young body quite sick (though usually only if ingested in quantity), and a few can even prove fatal. Other plants can cause irritation—often intense—to the mouth, throat and tongue, or skin.

Teach your children early never to taste or pick plants growing indoors, in the garden, or in the wilds, without your permission. If your youngster does ingest a plant, contact your pediatrician or poison control center immediately for advice. It will help if you have a cutting of the plant or know its name.

Listed below are common garden plants and houseplants that are potentially toxic or injurious. It would be impossible to list every plant culprit, especially the many that grow in the wild. Be extremely careful of mushrooms, which do cause fatalities.

Be sure to identify whatever you’re growing at home, indoors or out. Consult a good local nursery, as well as the AMA Handbook of Poisonous and Injurious Plants, published by the American Medical Association.

Toxic plants

  • Aconitum (Monkshood, Wolfsbane). All parts are toxic.
  • Adenium (Desert Rose, Mock Azalea). All parts are toxic.
  • Aesculus (Horsechestnut, Buckeye). Nuts and twigs are toxic.
  • Aloe Thick sap is toxic.
  • Amaryllis (Belladonna Lily, Naked Lady). Bulb is toxic.
  • Avocado Leaves are toxic.
  • Baptisia (False Indigo, Wild Indigo). All parts are toxic.
  • Brugmansia (Jimson Weed, Mad Apple). All parts are toxic.
  • Caesalpinia (Poinciana). Seeds of most species are toxic.
  • Caltha (Marshmarigold, Cowslip). All parts are toxic and irritating.
  • Colchicum (Autumn Crocus—not a true crocus). All parts are extremely toxic.
  • Convallaria majalis (Lily-of-the-Valley). All parts—and the water the plant is in—are extremely toxic.
  • Corynocarpus (New Zealand Laurel). Fruit is extremely toxic.
  • Crinum All parts are toxic, including the bulb.
  • Daphne mezereum (February Daphne). All parts are toxic.
  • Digitalis purpurea (Foxglove). Leaves are extremely toxic.
  • Duranta (Golden Dewdrop). Berries are toxic.
  • Eriobotrya (Loquat, Japanese Plum). Pit kernel inside fruit is toxic.
  • Euonymus europaeus (European Spindle Tree, Burning Bush). Fruit is toxic.
  • Euphorbia (Candelabra Cactus, Crown of Thorns, Poinsettia). Sap of some is toxic; also may cause skin irritation.
  • Gelsemium (Carolina Jessamine, Wood Vine). All parts are toxic.
  • Gloriosa (Glory Lily). All parts are toxic, especially the tuberous root.
  • Hedera (English Ivy). Berry and leaf are toxic.
  • Helleborus (Christmas Rose). All parts are toxic.
  • Hydrangea (Hills-of-Snow, Hortensia). Flower buds are toxic.
  • Hymenocallis (Peruvian Daffodil). Bulbs are toxic.
  • Ilex (Holly). Berries are toxic.
  • Iris (Fleur-de-Lis). Roots are toxic.
  • Kalmia (Mountain Laurel). Leaves and nectar are toxic.
  • Laburum (Goldenchain Tree, Bean Tree). All parts are toxic, especially seeds.
  • Lantana camara Immature berries are toxic.
  • Leucothoe (Dog Hobble). All parts are toxic.
  • Ligustrum (Privet, Lovage). All parts are toxic.
  • Lycoris (Spider Lily, Hurricane Lily). Bulbs are toxic.
  • Melia (Chinaberry, Hog Bush). Fruit and bark are toxic.
  • Myoporum Leaves and fruit are toxic.
  • Narcissus (Daffodil, Jonquil). Bulbs are toxic.
  • Nerium (Oleander). All parts are extremely toxic, as is the smoke from burning branches, the water a plant is in, and branches used as barbecue skewers.
  • Ornithogalum (Wonder Flower). All parts are toxic, especially the bulb.
  • Pachyrhizus (Jicama). Root is edible but seeds and pods are toxic.
  • Pernettya Leaves and nectar are toxic.
  • Physalis (Lantern Plant, Ground Cherry). Unripe berries are toxic.
  • Pieris (Fetterbush). Leaves and nectar are toxic.
  • Potato Green tuber skin and uncooked shoots are toxic.
  • Prunus (Apricot, Cherry, Nectarine, Peach, Plum, Prune). Pit kernels are toxic.
  • Rhamnus (Black Dogwood, Coffeeberry). Bark and fruit are toxic.
  • Rhododendron (also Azalea). Leaves and honey from nectar are toxic.
  • Rhubarb Stalks are wholesome but leaves are toxic.
  • Ricinus (Castor Bean). Plump seeds, usually white with black or brown mottling, are extremely toxic.
  • Robiniapseudoacacia (False Acacia). Bark, leaves, and seeds are toxic.
  • Scilla (Sea Onion, Bluebell). All parts are toxic.
  • Sesbania (Scarlet Wisteria Tree). All parts are toxic.
  • Solanum (Deadly Nightshade). All parts of some species are fatal.
  • Sophora (Texas Mountain Laurel). Seeds are toxic.
  • Symphoricarpos (Snowberry). Berries are toxic if ingested in quantity.
  • Symphytum (Comfrey). Leaves are toxic.
  • Taxus (Yew, Ground Hemlock). Most of plant, including seeds, is toxic.
  • Thevetia peruviana (Yellow Oleander). All parts are toxic, especially seeds.
  • Wisteria All parts are toxic.
  • Zephyranthes (Rain Lily). Bulb is toxic.

 

Injurious plants

  • Alocasia (Elephant’s Ear). Leaves and stems burn mouth.
  • Anthurium Leaves and stems burn mouth.
  • Arum (Black Calla, Solomon’s Lily). All parts hurt mouth and throat.
  • Buxus (Boxwood). Irritates skin and, if eaten, causes nausea.
  • Caladium All parts burn mouth.
  • Caryota (Fishtail Palm). Fruit burns mouth, irritates skin.
  • Colocasia (Elephant’s Ear, Taro). Leaves burn mouth.
  • Dieffenbachia (Dumb Cane). Leaves burn mouth (and have even caused temporary speech impairment), also irritate skin.
  • Epipremnum (Pothos). All parts irritate skin and, if eaten, cause diarrhea.
  • Ficus benjamina Sap is injurious.
  • Monstera (Breadfruit Vine, Split-Leaf Philodendron). Leaves burn mouth.
  • Philodendron Leaves burn mouth and throat, also irritate skin.
  • Pyracantha Berries and thorns are injurious.
  • Spathiphyllum All parts burn mouth and throat.
  • Xanthosoma (Blue Taro). Leaves burn mouth.
  • Zantedeschia (Calla Lily). Leaves burn mouth and lips.

TIP: Change your garden-care products to those that are least toxic. Use fertilizers that dissolve in water and spread immediately into the soil; pellets and other residue can too easily be tasted.

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How to Hire a Babysitter

Sometimes it’s the parents’ turn to go out—once they’ve found a loving and reliable babysitter. Whether a teenager or a senior citizen, the sitter you choose must be able to respond to any emergency calmly and effectively.

Before hiring sitters, check their references and consider past experience and any present health problems. Do you feel comfortable with the sitter? If not, your children probably won’t.

Write out rules, routines, and the child’s favorite foods, toys, and clothing. Explain any problems and medications (but try to give these yourself).

Leave the address, and phone number where you can be reached by the phone, along with emergency numbers and those of a few neighbors. Give your sitter the checklist.

Babysitter’s Checklist

Whether you’re an experienced nanny or a high school student, babysitting is a big responsibility. The following safety checklist can help you.

* Make sure you understand all instructions from parents. Ask questions as you need to.

* Before parents leave, be sure that you can correctly spell and pronounce their full names and address. Write these down, as well as the family phone number (if not posted on the telephone).

* Make sure you have the phone number, as well as name and address, of where the parents will be. Also make sure you have several neighbors’ phone numbers and that emergency numbers are taped to the telephone or kept beside it.

* Ask for a tour of the house. Watch for and ask about any hazards. Discuss any special fire escape routes.

* While alone with small children, watch them. Don’t leave a baby, even for a minute, where he or she could fall (such as on a changing table or sofa).

* Unless a parent asks you to, do not give babies and small children a bath. (If you do, stay with them every minute.) Don’t let the kids swim in a swimming pool.

* If the phone rings, ask to take a message without saying that the parents are out. Keep exterior doors locked. If the doorbell rings, do not open the door to a stranger.

* In the event of fire, take the children out of the house immediately and then call the fire department from a cell phone, neighbor’s house, or call box.

* If you suspect accidental poisoning of one of the kids, call the poison control center, hospital emergency room, or pediatrician immediately.

* Call the emergency room or pediatrician in case of a medical emergency, such as choking or a bad cut. Call the parents as soon as possible.

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Bicycle Safety for Children

Whether riding on the back of a parent’s bike or pedaling one of their own, most children love the experience of bicycle riding. And for some families, a bicycle may be the most practical mode of transportation.

Be aware that in some states bike seats for children are not considered safe and have been banned.

Kids as Passengers

If you do take your young child along on a bike, ride only on quiet streets, on bike paths, and in parks. Ride at slow speeds, allowing extra time to brake. Go only in good weather and full daylight.

Before their first birthday, babies are too young to ride as bike passengers. Carry tots from 1 to 4 years (no more than 40 pounds) in a bike seat that protects feet and hands from the bike’s spokes.

Make sure the seat is correctly installed and also install a spoke guard. Try out your child in the seat to be sure there is no chance of falling. Be sure to belt your child into the seat, and both you and your child should wear helmets.

Kids On Their Own

As the first safety checkpoint, look over your child’s bike. Is it in good working condition? Is it the right size? If it is the right size, your child will be able to hold onto the handlebars while sitting on the seat and touch the balls of both feet on the ground at the same time. While standing on the ground over the bike, your child should clear the bike’s cross bar with at least 1 inch between crotch and crossbar.

Next, check out how well your child can ride. For safety’s sake, be sure your young cyclist can do the following:

* Squeeze both hand brakes at once to stop the bike.

* Ride in a relatively straight line.

* Stop quickly and get off without falling.

Once you are confident of your child’s ability on the bike, it is important to teach basic biking safety:

* Stop at all intersections with or without a stoplight or stop sign.

* Follow all traffic rules and ride to the right side.

* Ride only in daylight, not during or after dusk.

* Wear a helmet and bright clothes that are easy for drivers to see.

TIP: Do not ride double or on a borrowed bike.