Kids Visiting? How to Quickly Childproof Your Home

This kid-friendly checklist can help prevent scary situations.

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If family or friends with young children will be visiting this holiday season, carve out time beforehand to go through this quick list of kid-friendly cautions and precautions. Peace of mind will lower everyone's stress level and make for a merrier time.

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Put yourself in a child's shoes. At the restaurant chain T.G.I. Friday's, managers are required to sit in every seat and survey the room once a week to get the customer's point of view. Make it your policy to get down on all fours and evaluate your home from a young guest's perspective. While you're down there, note and relocate all cleaning products, vitamins, medicines, matches, lighters, and other potentially harmful items; scan for perfume, hair products, shoe polish, nail polish, and polish remover. Discard toxic houseplants like rhododendron, English ivy, lily of the valley, holly, and mistletoe.

Take stock of safety concerns you'll want to point out to parents: drawers and cabinets with no locks, wall and floor heaters, stairways, and doors to the outside.

In the kitchen

  • Tamper-proof your stove knobs with knob protectors that small children can't turn.
  • When cooking, aim pot handles toward the back of the stove.
  • Keep chairs and step stools away from the stove and countertops.
  • Put cookies and treats children may reach for far from the stove area.
  • Move toasters and other small appliances away from countertop edges. Ensure no electrical-appliance cords dangle from countertops.
  • Hide breakable items, plastic bags, plastic wrap, knives, and other dangerous objects.
  • Load silverware into the dishwasher with handles facing up; install a dishwasher safety lock to prevent child access when not in use.
  • Remove any small magnets—a potential choking hazard—from the front of the fridge.
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    In the bathroom

    • Unplug the blow dryer and curling iron and stash them out of reach.
    • Store medications, razors, scissors, and other hazardous items in a safe place.
    • Keep the seat down. Yes, children have drowned in toilets.
    • Toss a small hand towel over the top of the door so it won't close completely when little ones are in the bathroom. They're less likely to lock themselves in.
    • In bedrooms and living areas

      • Position portable cribs and playpens away from windows, draperies, and electrical cords.
      • Scan blinds or draperies for longish cords that can form a loop and cause strangling.
      • Check for furniture that could topple.
      • Put cushioned corner bumpers (available at hardware stores) on fireplace hearths and sharp-edged furniture.
      • Add safety gates at the bottoms and tops of staircases.
      • Keep pocket change and jewelry out of reach.
      • Snap plastic covers into unused electrical outlets.
      • Add jingle bells on exit doors to help keep tabs on highly mobile toddlers.
      • Never leave burning candles unattended.
      • Keep alcoholic beverages out of curious kids' range.
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        If the adults go out and leave the kids with a sitter, download and fill out this Babysitter Information form in advance; it beats jotting down last-minute directions on a paper scrap.

        Also check out these tips from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) to help ensure a safe holiday season.

        Kathy Peel is founder and CEO of Family Manager® Coaching and the author of 21 books, including her latest, The Busy Couple's Guide to Sharing the Work & the Joy. Her website is FamilyManager.com.