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Many people consider the kitchen to be the heart of the home, and families often spend a lot of time there. It's also one of the more challenging rooms in the house to childproof because a number of dangers lurk in the average kitchen. But with careful planning, you can make the kitchen safe for your baby. Here's how:
- Supervising your baby is the best way to keep him safe in the kitchen. If you can't keep an eye on your child while you're busy cooking dinner, then it's a good idea to find him another spot. Put him in a play yard nearby, so he can still be a part of the action from a safe distance.
- Keep detergents, pesticides, cleaning products, and any other toxic household chemicals locked up, preferably in a high cabinet. "Child-safety locks are most useful when a baby's between 6 and 25 months old," says Anne Altman, a childproofing consultant in Santa Rosa, California. "But leave latches on after that age. The latches define consistent limits that a child recognizes."
Unfortunately, some wily babies figure out how to unhook safety latches. If your baby can open latched cabinets, you'll need to store all dangerous items out-of-reach or use a safety gate to keep him out of the kitchen.
- Consider switching from hazardous chemicals, such as chlorine bleach and ammonia glass cleaner, to safer products, such as nonchlorine bleach, vinegar, borax, beeswax, mineral oil, and compressed-air drain openers.
- Store plastic bags and boxes of cling wrap and aluminum foil out of reach. Plastic bags and cling wrap can suffocate a child, and the sharp cutting edges on boxes of aluminum foil and similar products are a danger to curious hands.
- Buy products (including vitamins and other medications as well as kitchen chemicals) with child-resistant caps, and keep everything in its original container. Never transfer a hazardous product into a generic container or, worse yet, into a food container because that could lead to a dangerous mix-up.
- Remember that child-resistant doesn't mean childproof. If you store medication in the kitchen, keep prescription and nonprescription drugs locked up and out of sight.
- Store knives and other sharp tools, such as food-processor blades, in latched drawers or high cabinets. Peelers, graters, and other kitchen utensils can be sharp and should be treated just like knives.
- Glassware and china should be stored up high.
- Move the toaster, coffeemaker, and all other electrical appliances out of your child's reach. Unplug them and hide the cords when they're not in use.
- Don't put grapes, balloons, coins, or other choking hazards on low surfaces.
- Never leave glassware, knives, or hot food and beverages unattended on counters or tables, not even for a few moments. Don't use placemats or tablecloths because a child can pull them – and what's on top of them – down on himself.
- Set aside at least one cabinet for your baby to open and explore. Pick a cabinet that's not too close to the stove and oven, and fill it with safe but interesting objects. Think plastic storage containers, wooden spoons, foil pie plates, and empty yogurt containers.
Change the contents occasionally to give him a surprise. That should keep your baby happily distracted, and he probably won't try to empty the other cabinets any longer (unless you leave the doors open).
- Use the back burners on the stove whenever possible. If you must use the front ones, turn the pot handles toward the back.
- Put latches on the doors to the oven, microwave, and refrigerator, and install knob covers on all stove knobs so your child can't turn on the burners.
- If you have a gas stove, you may be able to easily remove the dials when you're not cooking.
- Close your dishwasher when not in use. Dishwasher detergent can be toxic if your child eats it, so don't put any into the dishwasher until you're ready to run it.
- Install a fire extinguisher in the kitchen (and while you're at it, on each floor of the house).
- Purchase an all-purpose fire extinguisher that can be used on electrical and grease fires. Make sure you know how to use it, but only attempt to extinguish a fire if it's small and contained. Otherwise, get your children out of the house and call the fire department from a neighbor's home.
- Put a lid on your trash can. Keep recyclable cans and bottles in bins or bags stored out of your child's reach. Dispose of anything else that's dangerous – such as a sharp metal can lid or broken glass – by immediately taking it out to the trash.
- Use the straps when your baby's in his highchair, and never leave him unattended.
- When carrying a hot beverage in one hand, don't attempt to hold your baby with the other. (And make sure you know where your baby is when you're carrying something hot so that you don't trip on him.)
- Consider equipping your kitchen faucet with an anti-scalding device or setting your water heater to 120 degrees or lower.