Home Safe Home: Childproof Your Home Room by Room

Kitchen

WHAT'S RIGHT

Kitchen

Kitchen is gated. Because the room is full of risks, it's a good idea to make it off-limits when you're not around.

Lower cabinets are protected. Cleaning products like drain openers, automatic dishwasher detergents, and furniture polish are toxic. Either secure the cabinet with a magnetic lock, use a traditional latch along with a childproof locked box, or place chemicals high up, well out of reach, recommends Jim Schmidt, M.D., a pediatric emergency-room physician and cofounder of Child Safety Housecalls, a childproofing and safety company in Virginia Beach, Virginia.

Dishwasher is locked. The biggest hazard is ingesting the detergent, says Dr. Schmidt. Make a point of running the dishwasher as soon as you add the detergent. Store knives with blades down and leave dishes in the machine for as short a time as possible. Many dishwashers have a lock setting, so check yours. Otherwise, consider an appliance lock -- you may have to try a few to find one that works well with your machine.

Microwave is out of reach. Mounting it up high is best, but if yours must sit on the counter and your child's present, don't turn it on and walk away, never leave hot food in it, and make sure your child's not around when you take hot food or liquids out.

Stove knobs are removed. Pull them off when you're not cooking. Even better, use a stove guard -- a plastic or metal shield that attaches to the front -- which makes it harder for curious hands to reach burners. Dr. Schmidt prefers a guard to knob covers, which don't fit all stoves and can be inconvenient to use. Be sure to cook on the back burners whenever possible, and never let pan handles face forward.

WHAT'S WRONG

Oven is easy to open. The biggest risk here is burns, but your child could also hit her head with the oven door if you leave a dish towel hanging from the handle and she pulls on it. If your oven has settings, check to see whether one lets you lock the door. Otherwise, the safest thing to do is install an oven latch or put a baby gate across the entrance to the kitchen.

Small appliances are accessible. Most toddlers can reach onto a kitchen countertop, according to research from Children's Hospital of Michigan, which means they can easily turn over appliances, and other heavy and dangerous items sitting there. Even if your coffeemaker is set toward the rear of the counter, make sure the cords aren't sticking out. And don't leave a stool out, since toddlers can use it to get to off-limits areas.

Cutlery is reachable. As convenient as it is to keep a butcher block of knives sitting on the counter, that's a mistake. Store it in an above-the-counter cabinet. This is crucial if you have a child with special needs, notes Rhodes: "They can be more likely to be impulsive and grab items that can pose a danger."

Refrigerator isn't secured. If your child is able to pull your fridge open on his own, consider installing a latch. And at the very least, make sure you're aware of what's in there, says Dr. Schmidt: Always keep choking hazards like grapes, breakables like wine bottles, and poisons such as medications out of reach on high shelves.

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