Certainly making it a practice to keep this room off limits would be ideal. Sounds good, but in most homes this is far from practical. In fact, quite the opposite prevails. If a toddler is up most of the day, he will be where you are. For a while the playpen will contain him while you are putting on make up, dressing, taking a shower, making the bed, or whatever. Eventually, and probably sooner than you would like, he will be loose in here. Of course, you will be there with him, but will he have your full attention if you are doing something else, which more than likely is the main reason you are in this room during the day anyway?
Night stands with lamps, radios, an electric clock, a remote phone base, answering machine maybe, extension cords running here and there for all this electrical equipment. Throw in a waterbed with its controls, maybe a computer and entertainment center, now there are more extension cords; multiple outlet adapters barely hanging in the outlet behind your bed or night stand because of the weight from the six cords plugged into it? A firefighter’s nightmare.
If this describes your bedroom, call yourself and spouse very normal American adults (before children).
We’ll get into some solutions; but let’s first see what else might be there that could possibly lead to problems for a toddler; couple of bi-fold doors to smash little fingers – closets with plastic dry cleaning bags hanging to the floor – vertical draw cords that reach to the floor – unprotected outlets – in use (with something plugged in) – tall floor lamps with heavy or glass tops that can be pulled over – maybe a wobbly bookcase or TV stand with a cable box and hanging cords for swinging on – sliding glass doors leading to a pool area – heavy dresser drawers that pull all the way out – potted plants on unsteady stands.
All of these items are reasonably safe; for adults!
Since your bedroom and bathroom have both been very personal areas in your home, you would think nothing of where you put jewelry, medications, make-up, etc. If your child is advancing rapidly, it seems that in a matter of days he has gone from just creeping and rocking to crawling, pulling up, toddling around, and reaching places that used to be out-of-reach. You have started into the “put up” game and your personal effects start moving up higher and higher to keep them away from little grabbing hands. After all, jewelry and make-up are made for eating, not wearing; at least, that’s what the view is from down there.
The night stand: organize your electrical devices so that all the cords go to the back of your night stand. If you have more items to plug in than outlet space available (as in two), use a properly grounded electrical strip (most models come with a circuit breaker in case you overload the system and will accommodate either four or six plugs) – part of the problem solved. You may need to push your night stand flush back against the wall or fabricate or devise a simple spacer that will keep all these cords from being pulled on if your night stand will not go back far enough against the wall.
Bi-fold doors – brass bar catches you can install where the door splits make attractive barriers to him banging these doors open and inevitably smashing a few fingers in the process as well. Non-permanent sliding plastic bars are also made to keep the doors from opening at the break. Unfortunately, this type of sliding bar mounts at the top of the door and can be inconvenient to use. Using a hook and eye to latch two double bi-fold doors together will keep him out but will not effectively keep each individual door from opening at the break and smashing a little finger.
Vertical blind draw cords – look out here; these pose a strangulation threat, especially if he is just starting to crawl or beginning to pull up and toddle. The cords make natural nooses should he become entangled and fall. Draw strings for mini-blinds should be looped up and fastened far above your toddlers reach or split in half at the bottom and attached with a break a way device.
In-use or dormant electrical outlets – as with other areas of your home cover the dormant outlets (those which do not have anything plugged in) with covers that are self-closing; many of the popular plugs that we’ve seen inserted in dormant electrical outlets pose choke hazards, he can get them out if interested (even if you cannot), five minutes today – a few minutes next week – whatever, your child does not have the need to pull the plug out in a few seconds so he can plug something in as you are trying to do. There are a number of good dormant outlet covers on the market which close automatically. One of our favorites is manufactured by Fisher-Price, an effective slide that is automatic and decorative. This childproofing device actually improves the looks of an outlet.
The most common item a child will stick into an electrical outlet is a key. Why? They are imitating you. Who’s on your hip when you unlock the front door or looking over when you start the car? Ah, gotta key, what looks like a good place to put it like mom does?
More important is that you protect your in-use electrical outlets, those where something always remains plugged in and is within your child’s reach. This represents a much more serious hazard than an dormant outlet socket because you have already provided a path for electricity by plugging in an appliance; a plug pulled half way out is still conducting electricity and leaves sufficient room for your child to stick her finger on the bare part of the plug prong. Use protective cover boxes that your toddler cannot open; if you’re plugging in large adapters like a nursery monitor, use a cover box large enough to accommodate this; if you move the monitor around from room to room, be sure there is a box where you will be taking it as well. Almost all the brands we have tested and used provided an acceptable level of effectiveness. With the number of choices available, look for practicality as well as safety here.
Lamps, bookcases, tall stands, wobbly TV stands – secure them, rearrange items to provide barriers, store them for a few years (if you are planning on having more children; quite a few years), or just replace the item with something more practical for your new lifestyle.
Extension cords are dangerous – a child mouthing the end of a plugged in extension cord (even with the little covers in place) is headed for a severe, scaring burn. If you have to use them, try tucking the cord out of sight or at least wrapping the connecting point with electrical tape.