As well might be expected, your kitchen is probably one of the most hazardous, yet unfortunately most used rooms in your home. Hot greases and foods can splatter on a child; searching hands can pull a hot or boiling pot off the stove onto an unsuspecting head. All in an instant!
Wouldn’t it be nice to just say the kitchen was off-limits to your child. Good thought, but probably not very practical for the majority of us.
When you are cooking or busy in the kitchen, an infant — crawler or young toddler — can be put in a safe playpen (or high chair at the appropriate age) close to the kitchen entrance within view or in a safe, out-of-the-way corner in the kitchen itself. This serves two purposes. Most importantly, it assures that the child is not under foot along with the added benefit of getting him used to being confined for short periods.
Infant carriers are fantastic items for newborns and infants but where to place them and daily observation of your baby’s capabilities are critical. Leaving an infant in a carrier on a kitchen counter top or table while your attention is elsewhere is probably not a good idea unless you can insure that the carrier can not tip or skid at all. An active baby will cause a carrier to scoot on smooth surfaces quite easily and possibly result in a nasty fall off the edge. One father we spoke with wished his spouse had informed him of how easily carriers slide around on counter tops before he found out the hard way. The infant ended up with a minor bump on her head and a poor Dad who almost required emergency room care himself. Remember, just because it may be an obvious hazard to you does not mean that everyone anticipates danger in the same way. What may have been acceptable a month ago for your baby, might be dangerous today.
Security gates have advantages and disadvantages in limiting access to the kitchen (like where is your toddler if you have effectively locked him out while you are cooking). You can determine if they will fit your particular situation. See security gates under GENERAL TIPS.
Older toddlers will generally have access to the kitchen. They are difficult to lock out and are not easily confined or entertained for any length of time. Start thinking safety now so that when this time comes safe habits will already be in practice for the kitchen.
Almost all common household cleaners and chemicals can be injurious to some degree. A few are deadly, and most can cause extremely serious injury at the least – injuries that neither you nor anyone else can heal – be aware of these chemicals that disable and kill far too many children each year. If you are not sure what it is, CONSIDER IT LETHAL! Pay particular attention to products containing the warning “Do not induce vomiting”. A number of these products are caustic and do much of the injury inflicted going down and will compound the problem coming up if vomiting is induced.
Take a good look at what is under your kitchen sink. Take out each item and read the manufacturer’s label. Does it say “Keep Out of Reach of Children”? It probably does and it really means it, the manufacturers seek to protect themselves with this simple statement. Protecting your child from the chemical is your job. Are there chemicals in unmarked containers or no longer in use? Throw them away NOW before they are stored and forgotten again until there is possibly a serious cause for the awareness of their presence. Put these in a sealed outside garbage container, preferably on garbage day.
Store the products you do keep and use out of reach in a high cabinet that your toddler cannot get to (like over the stove or refrigerator) but still convenient for use and return. Statistics show that you will open the door to your cleaners approximately 1600 times over a three year period. That certainly seems like a conservative number for most of us, these people probably did not have children running around the house. What it would indicate, however, is that you will eventually leave one of these doors open; even if just for a minute. No matter how careful you are, keep it high out of reach.
Why make storage convenient for your use? Other than for the obvious; it will reduce the risk of a poisoning from a cleaner that has been left out to be put away later. Another is that you are more likely to get out only one product at a time, as it is currently being used.
When using cleaners around your home, know exactly what is out and its location in relation to your child; remember, at even 9 months old she can move extremely fast to get at something new in her environment. Many poisonings, caustic burns, and eye injuries are caused by cleaners left open next to a cleaning bucket or on a low table within reach of a child.
Check the cleaning products. Can they be replaced with a less toxic product that will do the same job? This protects his future environment as well. For example, vinegar and baking soda are natural, non-toxic products with many household cleaning uses.
Someone else doing your cleaning? Let that person know what your standards are concerning the handling of cleaners, rags, etc. Make no allowances for deviation from this policy for any reason. Any service person can be replaced, your child cannot be.
Stove oven doors on most stoves swing downward. If your toddler is using the bottom storage drawer handle as a step he is also probably going to use the oven door handle as a climbing aid as well. This will almost always result in a fall straight backwards when the oven door opens from his weight pulling back on it. There are number of oven door latches available on the market (we preferred the types manufactured by Gerber and Safety First) to remedy the door problem. The climbing problem is all yours.
Teach him the meaning of hot. This is a word most children seem to retain the meaning of at a very early age. Hot is very consistent, it always hurts! Do not use “hot” in place of “do not touch” for things other than hot items just because it works. He will eventually touch whatever it was; find out you were less than truthful and the importance of the warning HOT will be lost.
Good sense will tell you to cook to the rear of the stove whenever possible; pot handles also turned to the rear of the stove as a standard practice. Make others in your household aware of this little precautionary practice.
If you have a gas stove, the knobs are located within easy reach of a toddler (a safety precaution taken into account a number of years ago to prevent adults from setting themselves on fire while using the controls). Install stove knob covers that spin on the knob. As these can be somewhat of a pain to use, we prefer recommending that you remove the knobs altogether (most slip readily off) and store them out of reach convenient for use. The same applies to an outdoor grill if your toddler has access to an area where it is stored.
Dishwashers on the market today, for the most part, can be opened very easily by a toddler. She watches you open it several times a day. Some models are super heated and could cause a scald or burn injury. Once she is up and standing on an open dishwasher door she is exposed to knives and other sharp utensils.
Some dishwashing detergents are caustic; even the residue left in an open cup can be hazardous if ingested or rubbed into an eye.
An open dishwasher door will also make a great climbing platform; for a really ingenious toddler, the washer racks can serve as an excellent ladder to your kitchen counter. At best maybe she will just break the door altogether by jumping up and down on it, kind of springy and fun. Two toddlers involved and you can prepare yourself to hear about a few smashed fingers to add to the fun.
The same latch that works on the stove will work here as well with a little modification. Just be careful you do not forget it is there and rip off the hinges. Childproof it can be; adult proof??
Trash compactors take a little more to keep closed and will usually require a custom fabrication, depending on your unit, to be effective and useful. Because trash compactors can be difficult for a toddler to use, we recommend that you wait until this does become a problem for you.
Appliance latches, like other devices, only work if you close them. These latches are very easily broken if left in the open position.
Refrigerators can be more of a mess with toddlers than a safety hazard; still, broken glass containers do take their toll and thrown eggs do add color to your walls. Refrigerator door straps might prove to be very useful in deterring this problem. Velcro is usually the best defense here. Mount it up high and out of reach or it will not be effective.
There are numerous brands of self-closing latches for refrigerators. Those that we have tested break after a few weeks use; besides reintroducing an old threat of trapping a child inside should he manage to negotiate the latch. We do not recommend this type of automatic latch on a refrigerator door.
Crushed ice and water dispensers on refrigerators: what a great convenience for us not to mention energy savings as well by not having to open the refrigerator door. Most newer models have been introduced with a higher mounting location and are out of a toddler’s reach. If fortune did not shine on you and an early model sits in your kitchen, good luck when your toddler takes an interest in this option and you still wish to keep it in use.
Tablecloths have a tendency to be pulled on by 9 month olds through to even two year olds and should as a rule, be removed for a while. Judge for yourself when the time is right to put these back into use. We suggest you start out with nothing on the table (do not use a center piece you may wish to keep) when you do reintroduce tablecloths back into your home.
Plastic wraps used on grocery store vegetable and meat products are very dangerous; dispose of them promptly, out of reach.
Plastic wraps and foil boxes have extremely jagged, sharp cutting edges. Dispose of these boxes carefully and store them with this in mind. A toddler with a wrap box is not only a danger to himself but to others around him as well!
Broken glass accidents require immediate and thorough attention; a wet paper towel (do not use a cloth towel if you wish to keep it) will ensure that you get all the small pieces up; dispose of it promptly like any other hazardous substance.
Garbage is a very interesting subject for a young mind. If the trash container is not secure, what is put in your trash can be as dangerous to him as if you just threw it on the floor . A child just beginning to pull up and learning to toddle around will use this container to pull up on and over. Use common sense when disposing of sharp items, toxic substances, their containers, etc.
Wall telephone cords can be secured up with a cup hook or simply looped over the top of the telephone. Besides being a strangulation hazard of which we are all aware; a wall telephone can easily go clunk on a head if the cord is being wildly oscillated by a gleeful toddler.