Help! My toddler can reach the door handle

Keeping children safe is a top priority for parents. Gates on the stairs, plugs in the outlets, locks on the cabinets, and cleaning products up high are just a few examples of childproofing “to do’s” parents worry about from the minute they bring baby home. From rolling over to crawling and pulling up to walking, parents spend the next several years striving for a balance between letting a toddler explore their environment and keeping them safe from harm.

Why childproofing your home for a toddler is important

Most parents childproof the majority of the home before their baby even begins crawling. Unfortunately, many of the safety measures put in place for a baby are not enough to keep a toddler out of harm’s way.

Toddlers walk, run, and climb — and they don’t always follow instructions that include the word “no.” While there are a few basic lessons you can teach Baby about avoiding hazards and dangerous situations, they are still too young to know (or remember) how to behave safely all the time. Expecting a young child to understand a verbal safety lesson well enough to be solely responsible for it is unrealistic and potentially dangerous. That’s why making your home safe for a toddler is essential.

What should you childproof?

Kneel down on the floor and look around. Ask yourself a few questions when you’re down there. What could a toddler pick up? What’s close by? Then look up towards the ceiling and consider what they could pull down. Assessing the environment on this level will help you determine what needs to be upgraded from your existing childproof plan. If it seems like there’s something they can reach, climb, grab, or put in their mouth, it needs to be addressed.  

As Baby gets older, you will need to continue to assess the dangers around them and make the appropriate adjustments. This is an ongoing process and one you will be tasked with for many years. The good news is, most homes are already thoroughly childproofed by the time toddlers start walking, so only a few changes are usually needed to make the environment safe for a busy toddler.  

The following tips can help guide you on toddler-proofing your home and creating a safe and friendly environment.

  • Continue to keep electrical outlets covered (some parents even skip the plugs and go right to a removable cover).
  • Unplug small appliances and keep them out of reach.
  • Remove sharp items from countertops.
  • Install stove knob covers.
  • Secure cords from lamps, computers, TVs, etc — anything that can be pulled down.
  • Keep sharp furniture corners cushioned or covered.
  • Install latches on drawers and cabinets. Consider having one cabinet that is “toddler-safe” with plastic bowls, cups, and spoons for them to play with.
  • Get rid of tablecloths until they are older and less likely to pull them off the table.
  • Keep any poison and chemicals including household cleaners, detergents, medicines, cosmetics, etc. out of reach or locked up. This also applies to the garage. Spend some time securing chemicals, paints, solvents, cleaners, and other hazardous materials your toddler could get into if they are in the garage.
  • Keep medicine cabinets latched or locked. Consider storing all medicine in a locked cabinet in the kitchen.
  • Store kitchen knives, utility knives, razors, and other dangerous tools and sharp objects out of reach (this also applies to tools in the garage).
  • Store plastic bags and grocery bags out of reach.
  • Keep sliding glass doors closed and locked.
  • Lock windows (consider using window stops or window guards) and make sure screens are secure.
  • Do not put a bed, or any other furniture, under a window. Toddlers love to climb furniture and placing beds, couches, or other items under a window gives her easy access to a dangerous situation.
  • Shorten the cords on draperies and blinds (make sure they are out of reach).
  • Bolt heavy dressers, entertainment centers, and bookcases to the wall if you haven’t already.
  • Depending on the stairs, you can continue to use a gate, or if they are not too steep and carpeted, some parents will let their toddler learn to crawl up and down with supervision.

About the author: 
Sara Lindberg is a freelance writer focusing on parenting, health, and wellness. She is passionate about all things fitness and health and loves spending time with her husband, daughter, and son.  

  • Rupal Christine Gupta. “Childproofing and Preventing Household Accidents.” KidsHealth. The Nemours Foundation, November 2016. Retrieved July 10 2017.
  • “Cognitive Development: Two Year Old.” HealthyChildren. American Academy of Pediatrics, November 21 2015. Retrieved July 10 2017.
  • “Developing Thinking Skills From 24-36 Months.” Zero to Three. ZERO TO THREE, May 19 2016. Retrieved July 10 2017.
  • “How to Toddler-Proof Your Home.” Ask Dr. Sears. Retrieved July 10 2017.
  • “Safety for your Child: 2 to 4 Years.” HealthyChildren. American Academy of Pediatrics, November 21 2015. Retrieved July 10 2017.

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