BRENT CONLEY

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Creating a Safe Home for Your Children

The first step of your toddler's life is a momentous occasion. But it also marks the start of one of the most hazardous periods in his or her life.

By childproofing your home, you can minimize the risk of accident. And the only place to start is to literally put yourself in your child's place - on your hands and knees - and wander through your home to determine potential trouble areas.

Windows are especially dangerous if they are located high above the ground. Install window guards according to manufacturer's directions or adjust them so they can't open more than six inches.

Keep cords to blinds and draperies out of reach. Never place a playpen, crib, chair, or bed your child can climb on near a window.

Avoid electrical shock by hiding electrical cords and covering electrical outlets. Inexpensively priced outlet covers can be purchased from any hardware store.

Remove any furnishings that are unsteady and may fall over if a child climbs on them. Loose knobs on dressers can also present problems, especially if they are smaller than a baby's fist. Cover glass-topped tables with a heavy table pad or put away altogether. Tablecloths that are not secured should be removed. Safely store toys on open shelves or in toy chests with lightweight lids, safety closing mechanisms, and ventilation holes.

Keep poisonous items, such as houseplants and paint, out of a child's reach. If you suspect your paint or window blinds contains lead, invest in new paint, wallpaper and blinds.

Protect staircases with gates at both the bottom and . Be sure the gap between the upright posts on banisters, staircases, or balconies is less than five inches and that none are loose.

Fireplaces, heaters, stoves, radiators and floor furnaces all pose risks. Ensure that barriers/covers are put up to prevent small fingers from hot surfaces.

Cushion strips or corner guards protect your child from sharp edges on corners and tables. Children slip easily so be sure to have non-skid backing on all your rugs.

Among the more obvious precautions you can take in childproofing your home are latching kitchen and laundry room cupboards, drawers and medicine cabinets. In the bathroom, a lock on the toilet will prevent your child from falling in headfirst. By the same token, never leave an unattended pail full of water within range of a child. Locking the garage, basement, and hobby areas will keep your children out of mischief and danger.

A visit to the safety section of your local hardware store can provide you with the tools necessary to create the best possible environment in which to raise your child. By taking these precautions, you can ensure your child's first steps into the future are safe steps.