Create a Safe Space for Your Child

Learn what safety risks to consider when choosing furniture and setting up your child's bedroom.

HGRM-House-Counselor-BPF-dads-nursery-sleeptime_s4x3 Photography by Daniel Collopy

If you're like most new parents, you'll occasionally find yourself wishing you could bubble-wrap your baby to protect him or her from life’s bumps and bruises. Of course you can’t, but you can take steps to create an environment that’s as safe as possible.

Choose the right crib. Since June 2011 all cribs manufactured and sold must comply with new, more-stringent safety rules, which prohibit traditional drop-side rail cribs, strengthen crib slats and mattress supports, improve the quality of hardware, and require more rigorous testing.

Limit crib bedding. "Before the age of two, there should be no bumpers, pillows, toys, or heavy blankets in the crib with your baby," says Dr. Ben Hoffman, pediatrician at Oregon Health and Science University in Portland, Ore.

Protect against falls. “The crib mattress should be set low enough in the crib that your older baby can’t stand up and topple over the side,” says Dr. Hoffman. Install window guards on second-story windows, or fit sashes with mechanisms that prevent them from opening more than 4”. And never leave your child alone on the changing table. “Even babies as young as two weeks old have been known to roll off,” he says.

Anchor large furniture. Many toddlers love to climb. "A bookshelf or dresser can be very tempting and very dangerous if it falls on your child," says Dr. Hoffman. Most furniture outlets and home centers sell easy-to-install anchoring systems with webbing straps you fasten to the back of the furniture piece and to the wall.

Consider fire safety. Take these tips from the National Fire Prevention Association:

  • Install a smoke detector inside the child’s room, and in the hallway right outside it.
  • If the room is on the second floor, keep a fire escape ladder near a window and make sure older children know how to use it.
  • Go over a fire escape evacuation plan with older children, and establish a meeting place outside the home.

Control the cords. Window cords can pose a potential strangulation hazard to young children. “Your best bet is to choose window treatments with no cords,” says designer Nancy Barrett, ASID, of Decorating Den Interiors in Chesterfield, MO. Otherwise, you can retrofit existing shades or blinds with cord-safety devices, or upgrade to new products that conform with today’s more stringent safety regulations.

Keep outlets covered. "I’ve had kids come into the emergency room after sticking a key or something metal into an electrical outlet," says Dr. Hoffman. "It’s always a good idea to keep them plugged with safety covers." While you’re at it, be sure to secure cords for table lamps, clocks, and speakers to furnishings or the wall so your toddler can’t pull on them.

Remove choking hazards. "Anything small enough to fit inside a toilet-paper tube is a choking hazard for your baby," says Dr. Hoffman.

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