DEAR JAMES: My baby boy is at the crawling stage, and I want to make my house more child-safe with gates at the stairs and room doors. What is the best type to get, and do you have any other tips for safety? — Yvonne L.
DEAR YVONNE: People naturally think first of a child falling down the stairs or getting from a safe room to a more dangerous one, such as a utility room or workshop. Installing special child-safe gates is an excellent method to keep your child safe from the typical dangers inside a home.
It might sound silly, but before you make any safety changes, literally do a "crawl" through your home. Until you are actually down on the same level as your child, it will be difficult to locate all the potential hazards. Reach out and touch everything you can. Also, consider tight spots that might be too small for your hand, but not for a child's little fingers.
The two basic types of gates are pressure gates and hardware-mounted gates. Pressure gates use an expansion spring force to hold them in a hallway, stairway or door opening. These are easy to move from area to area and to store away.
The drawback to a pressure gate is your child may be able to knock one down as he grows older. For this reason, it is not recommended to use a pressure gate at the top of stairs. Also, if you have a large pet, it may run into the gate and knock it down.
A hardware-mounted gate is more secure and can be used longer as your son grows. It is more difficult to install than a pressure gate, but is certainly within the skill limits of most homeowners. When selecting one, consider the type of latch mechanism. Working it must be tricky enough that your son cannot figure it out, but it should not be too difficult to operate. A one-hand operation feature is definitely a plus.
Other safety concerns are drawers and cabinet doors. It is surprising how many commonly used items kept in drawers can be hazardous in the hands of a child. There are many types of child-safe drawer and door locks available, from inexpensive plastic ones to metal and magnetic ones.
Inspect how difficult it is for you to get the lock unlatched to open the drawer. It does not take a sophisticated design to keep a child out. If the lock is too complicated to operate, you may become frustrated when you are in a hurry and not always take the time to lock it. As with gates, look for one-hand operation.
Kitchen cabinets and drawers are an obvious location for these locks because of knives and cleaning chemicals. Spend the extra money to install the locks on the upper cabinets, too. Small children, especially inquisitive little boys, can climb like monkeys. They may be able to get to an upper cabinet at an earlier age than you would expect.
In the kitchen, remove small magnets from the refrigerator door. These are easy for a child to remove, pop it in their mouth and choke. Install corner guards on the corners and edges of cabinets and the kitchen table. Bumping one with your shin is painful enough, but imagine if the edges are head-height for a child.
Send your questions to Here's How, 6906 Royalgreen Dr., Cincinnati, OH 45244 or visit www.dulley.com. To find out more about James Dulley and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.