Outward Bound: Childproofing the basement, driveway, and garage

Consumer Reports News: May 05, 2008 09:08 AM

Childproofing is an inside and an outside job, especially when your child becomes mobile. Here are some quick tips to keep the basement, driveway, and garage safe for a curious toddler.


--Reduce the setting of your hot-water heater to 120° F. An infant's skin burns much more easily than an adult's.

--Install a lock as high as you can reach on both the front and back of the basement door to prevent falls down the stairs. Make sure stairs are well lit and keep all clutter and toys off steps.


--Don't ever let children play in the driveway unattended.

--Don't purchase a riding toy until you're certain your child is mature enough to use it safely. Models with a removable push bar and a three point safety harness are a good idea if your child is under age 2. Attach a tall flag on the back of a tricycle so it's visible to motorists. The lower it is to the ground, the safer a wheeled toy is. Always supervise a child when riding. Be sure your child has a safe riding area, where she can navigate without the risk of going into traffic, down steep hills, on steps, or into driveways. If there's no safe place to ride, use a riding toy only for visits to the park. To keep children away from the garage, store tricycles and ride-on toys in the house instead. And if a riding toy has a battery that is rechargeable, plug it directly into a wall socket and don't allow your child to sit on it while the battery is recharging.


--Make your workbench off-limits, whether you're working there or not. Lock up power tools and all small or sharp objects.

--Install a lock on the door leading outside or to the garage.

--Test an electric garage-door opener's sensitivity by placing a 2-inch-high block of wood or foam on the floor in the door's path. If the door doesn't reverse direction and go up, don't use the garage door opener. Instead, open and close the door manually, or replace the garage door opener. In addition to reversing when they come in contact with something, most openers are equipped with optical sensors that prevent the garage door from closing if a child or anything else gets in the way.

--Store matches, antifreeze, charcoal lighter fluid, windshield wiper fluid, gasoline, and oil as you would medicine--in their original containers out of your child's sight and reach in a locked cabinet. Dilute any antifreeze spills by hosing them off. Antifreeze can contain ethylene glycol, a toxic chemical that smells and tastes sweet. It's particularly hazardous to children or pets that may lick it off driveways and garage floors. (It happens.)

For more ideas on keeping your children safe throughout your home, see our complete report on childproofing.

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