I’m a pediatrician and I like to think I know a lot about caring for kids and keeping them safe. After all, I did train for seven years to become a pediatrician. But when I had my first child, I learned that being a doctor and a daddy are two different things.
When my daughter Aubrey was six months old, it was time to safety proof our home. I’m not what you would call a handyman. That being said, I wanted to try to put up Aubrey’s safety gate. I have watched my share of HGTV home improvement shows, so how hard could it be? My wife politely reminded me of my lack of home improvement skills, but I was determined. After purchasing a safety gate at the local hardware store, I laid out all the parts on Aubrey’s bedroom floor. I sat down next to Aubrey (my helper) and started to assemble the gate. My wife walked by, smirked and said sarcastically, “Good luck,” and walked downstairs.
As I was sweating, trying to figure out the installation, I heard my wife say, calmly, “You are a wonderful dad.” I thought to myself, Uh-oh, what did I do wrong? Before I could respond to my wife, she said, “Look at your daughter.” I turned and saw Aubrey lying happily on her stomach, kicking her feet and smiling. She was holding three long screws in one hand and the screwdriver in the other. She was also lying on about ten screws I had dumped out of the package. I had been so preoccupied reading the instructions that I stopped paying attention.
I quickly learned my first rule in safety proofing. Don’t forget to safety proof—even when you are safety proofing. Here are some safety proofing tips to make your home safe for your child.
Lock up all poisons and dangerous items.
Put safety lids on all trash cans, including the small ones in the bathroom where such items as disposable razors are discarded. Or place them high enough that your child can’t reach them.
Put safety locks on toilet seats.
Affix window blind cords to the wall or tie them up (to prevent strangulation).
Block off stairways and space heaters.
Put locks on all windows.
Put plastic covers on all electrical outlets.
Cover sharp edges of furniture with padding.
Place your pet’s water bowl somewhere where your infant can’t reach it (to prevent drowning).
Place all visitor’s bags and purses up high out of reach from your child (to prevent accidental ingestions of medication and other poisonous materials).
Place locks on drawers, especially those in the kitchen that contain sharp objects like knives or other dangerous items. Consider leaving a couple of drawers unlocked to encourage your child to play in them. For example, if they can open and play with a drawer full of their plastic plates, bowls, or Tupperware they are less likely to try to get into the dangerous ones.
Fix all heavy cabinets, bookshelves, dressers, and TV stands to the wall (to prevent your child from pulling them over onto themselves).
Scott W. Cohen, M.D., FAAP, is the co-founder of Beverly Hills Pediatrics and an attending and active member of the teaching staff of Cedars Sinai Medical Center, where he was awarded Pediatrician of the Year and the Physician Recognition Award in Pediatrics. He completed his pediatric training at the Childrens Hospital Los Angeles, where he was the recipient of the Victor E. Stork Award for continued excellence and future promise in the care of children. He was selected as one of the Best Doctors in America for 2007-2008 and 2009-2010. He lives in Los Angeles with his wife and two daughters. Like his page on Facebook for more information.