Toddler Danger Zones

Once your baby starts walking, he's got the world -- and all its potential hazards -- at his fingertips. But while her new motor skills allow her to maneuver about the house, your toddler still lacks the common sense to know what's harmful and dangerous. Follow our room-by-room checklist to reduce your child's risk of injury.


Your child's early attempts at walking and climbing are inherently dangerous. But factor in your home's sharp table corners, electrical cords, and toxic cleaners, and the potential for disaster is everywhere. In fact, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission estimates that 2.5 million kids are injured or killed in their homes each year. "One-year olds are naturally curious and explore by mouthing, touching, looking, hearing, and smelling," says Michal S. Nissenbaum, Ph.D., a postdoctoral psychology fellow at the University of Kansas Medical Center, in Kansas City. "Though their new motor skills allow them to maneuver about the house, toddlers still lack the common sense to know what's harmful and dangerous." Follow our room-by-room checklist to reduce your child's risk of injury.

  • Keep cosmetics, razors, grooming scissors, and medicines (even vitamins) in a locked cabinet or drawer.
  • Put a latch on the toilet seat and keep it closed. Small children can drown in just a few inches of water.
  • Make sure the floors and lower shelves of your linen closet are free of small items that your toddler might choke on, such as cotton balls or swabs, suggests Kate Kelly, author of Living Safe in an Unsafe World (New American Library, 2000).

Next: Living Room

Living Room

  • Use a VCR lock to prevent your child's prying fingers from getting trapped in the video slot.
  • Check under recliners and sofa cushions for loose change and other choking hazards, especially after guests leave.
  • Don't put artificial or decorative fruit on your coffee table. "To your toddler, they can seem like a delicious buffet," says Lauri Berkenkamp, author of "Mom, the Toilet's Clogged!": Kid Disasters and How to Fix Them (Nomad Press, 2002). Also, keep potpourri and arrangements with rocks or marbles out of reach.
  • Secure bookcases to the wall with brackets. Your tiny tot could topple a bookcase simply by reaching for a book or climbing on a shelf.
  • Cut window-blind cords, or tie them out of kids' reach, to prevent strangulation. Remove small plastic pulls or metal slides from the window cords to prevent choking.
  • Hide electrical wires behind furniture. Never run them under carpeting. And cover up any exposed outlets with screw-on covers or cap plugs.

Next: Kitchen


  • Place refrigerator magnets high enough so that your toddler can't grab them and pop them in her mouth.
  • Lock the door of your dishwasher, oven, front-loading dryer, or any other appliance your child might get into.
  • Keep knives away from countertop edges.
  • While cooking, turn pot handles away from the front of the stove to prevent dangerous spills.
  • Keep all cleaners and plastic bags locked up.
  • Stash boxes of plastic wrap and foil in a locked drawer; their sharp, serrated edges could cut little fingers.
  • Unplug small appliances when not in use.

Next: Home Office

Home Office

  • Keep office supplies where your child can't grab them. But don't store sharp objects like scissors or letter openers so high that you might drop them when you reach for them, advises Monica Clanin, president of Childproofing Services Diversified, in Virginia Beach.
  • Cover up power strips -- not only to prevent electrocution but also to keep your tot from unplugging the computer while you're working.
  • Buy furniture with rounded edges and corners, or cover any sharp areas with adhesive cushions.
  • Avoid using a desk with a gliding keyboard tray, which might pinch your child's fingers. If you do use one, find a tray that locks in place.
  • Because your toddler might slip and hit his head while holding onto a swivel chair, Clanin suggests cushioning the legs and base with a foam swimming noodle cut to fit.
  • Hang a mirror on the wall above your computer monitor so you can see your child playing in the area behind you.

Around the House

  • Remove the rubber ends from door stoppers on baseboards; they pose a choking risk. Or remove the stopper entirely and install a V-shaped hinge pin at the top end of the door.
  • Hide wastebaskets under the sink or in a locked cabinet. Or buy a container with a secure lid.
  • Keep your guests' purses or bags out of your toddler's reach; visitors may carry risky medications or toiletries.
  • Get rid of poisonous or dangerous household plants.
  • Install hook-and-eye latches or childproof knob covers on doors to your basement, garage, laundry room, exercise room, attic, and bathrooms.

Away from Home

Visiting friends and family or staying in a hotel room poses new challenges for the parents of any active and curious 1-year-old. Here's how to ensure your child's safety without turning your hosts' home upside down.

  • Scan the room as soon as you arrive, and immediately move breakables out of your toddler's reach.
  • If you're staying for a while or going to a hotel room, bring your own outlet cap plugs, cabinet locks or latches, and tub mats.
  • Travel with a portable crib so you have a place to put your toddler for a few minutes if you need to leave the room.
  • Move tempting items, like small toiletries and drinking glasses, out of kids' reach.
  • Beware of bathroom doors that lock at the push of a button. Hang a towel over the door so your child can't lock herself in.

Copyright© 2002 Winifred Yu. Reprinted with permission from the March 2002 issue of Parents Magazine. Reviewed 2008.


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