Baby-Safe Zone

by Bethany Kandel

Baby-Safe Zone


Have a fire extinguisher handy and a smoke detector installed (check batteries twice a year).

Put latches on dishwasher and refrigerator doors.

Affix a stove shield or stove-knob covers or locks (or remove knobs until you’re ready to cook). Use back burners when possible, and always turn handles toward the back or center.

Secure with latches all cabinets and drawers containing cleansers, glassware, knives, electrical appliances, foil, and plastic wrap. Avoid using cleaning products with spicy and fruity scents, which may attract a child. And be sure to put away all cleaning products or other potentially harmful items immediately after you use them.

Don’t Forget that infants ages 1 and younger are at the greatest risk for choking because of their tiny airway, inexperience chewing, and tendency to put anything in their mouth. In 1997, more than 66 percent of the 150 children who died from choking were ages 4 and under, according to the National Safe Kids Campaign.

To prevent choking, it’s crucial that you keep small items away from your infant. One way to know whether an item is too small and therefore dangerous to leave lying around is to check whether it fits into a cardboard toilet-paper tube. If so, the item is a choking hazard for your child.

Among foods, peanuts are the biggest choking hazard for young children; among objects, pennies; among toys, balloons. Other common choking threats are buttons, snaps, and other fasteners loosely attached to toys and clothing and any food that does not dissolve quickly in the mouth. Foods other than peanuts that can cause choking include all nuts; raw carrots; grapes; olives; radishes; string cheese; hard candies, such as sour balls; chewy candies, such as jellybeans, gumdrops, gummy sweets, licorice, caramels, and candy corn; nonpareils; marshmallows; chocolate-covered raisins; chocolate kisses; candy with nuts; and cinnamon red hots.

Living Room

Bolt bookshelves and cabinets to the wall using childproofing straps.

Store knick-knacks on a high shelf.

Use a fireplace screen, store fire utensils and matches away from Baby, and cushion the fireplace’s edges with bumpers.

Place covers or special outlet plates on electrical outlets everywhere.

Cushion the edges of tables, desks, and benches with corner guards or soft bumpers.

Install window guards and latches on windows.

Move furniture away from windows unprotected by guards.


Keep all cords from blinds or draperies, electrical wires, framed wall pictures, and shelves away from the crib and changing table.

Remove bumper pads, toys, and other objects that Baby can use for climbing out of the crib as soon as he’s able to pull himself up or stand on his own.

Equip, or buy, a changing table with a safety belt and keep supplies handy (but out of Baby’s reach), so that you never have to leave him alone during a diaper change.

Plug In a cool night-light that does not heat up.


Set water thermostat to 120 degrees Fahrenheit. Test bath water with your elbow or use a bath mat that changes colors when the water is hot.

Unplug electrical appliances and put them away.

Fasten a latch to the toilet seat and plastic guards to the faucet and drain switch.

Store aspirin, medicines, nail-polish remover, baby oil, mouthwash, rubbing alcohol, drain and toilet-bowl cleaner, and deodorizers with childproof caps in their original containers in a latched cabinet. Flush outdated vitamins and medicine down the toilet. Be aware that plastic pest traps are toxic. Keep Ipecac syrup and a first-aid kit handy.

Dining Room

Choose placemats instead of tablecloths, because Baby could get hurt if he tugs at the cloth on a set table.

Add sharp knives to place settings only after adults are seated.

Lock Up china and silverware. As an added precaution, opt for plastic plates and drinking glasses.


Put Away coins, keys, matches, and paper clips.

Close closet doors securely, as Baby can get trapped inside, and place guards on doorknobs you don’t want Baby to open.

Make Sure that cosmetics, perfume, aftershave, and other toiletries are out of reach.

Post your local Poison Control Center number next to telephones, along with a list of other emergency numbers  — those of the E.R., pediatrician, grandparents and other close relatives, and neighbors.

Position pet food and the litter box out of Baby’s way.

Attach shorteners to drapery and venetian-blinds cords and nonslip pads under rugs.

Secure gates at top and bottom of stairways.

Stash power tools unplugged.

Stow paint, antifreeze, and pesticides safely.

Place exercise equipment out of Baby’s reach.

Nix poisonous plants. Many plants, including some flowers, can be harmful when chewed, swallowed, or rubbed on skin. If chewed, philodendron and diffenbachia can cause swelling of the mouth or tongue, making it hard to breathe. Poinsettias and rubber plants may release a sap that irritates the skin; poinsettias and holly can cause gastrointestinal distress if ingested.

And Check Out . . .

The American Association of Poison Control Centers website,, for poison-prevention tips and the location of the center closest to you.

The Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association (JPMA) for the free brochure “Safe & Sound for Baby.” To order it, send a self-addressed, stamped business-size envelope to: JPMA Public Information, 236 Route 38 West, Suite 100, Moorestown, New Jersey 08057, or visit

The National SAFE KIDS Campaign ( for the “Safe Kids Gear-Up Guide” and video, $15, which give tips for home and on the road. To order, call 800-289-0117.

The International Association for Child Safety at 888-677-4227 or the Yellow Pages, under “safety consultants,” to locate a child-safety consultant who will childproof your entire home.