Watching a child learn to crawl and walk is one of the most exciting parts of parenthood. 

But it’s also a bit frightening, as you begin to see your home as a collection of pitfalls and dangers for your new explorer.

“You are your child’s best defense,” says John Drengenberg, Consumer Safety Director at UL, who spends a lot of time discussing home safety. He says it’s critical that parents (and grandparents) get on hands and knees to inspect their homes from a toddler’s point of view. Watch for:

  1. Sharp edges – Coffee tables and other hard- or sharp-edged pieces of furniture may need to be relocated for a year or so. Another option is to make or purchase foam pads that can cover dangerous edges until your toddler is steady on his or her feet.
  2. Outlets – A $2 box of outlet covers can provide invaluable peace of mind. The important thing is remembering to replace plugs after vacuuming or using outlets for other short periods of time.
  3. Cabinets and drawers – Toddlers love to open cabinets and drawers. Take a close look at what’s in yours to determine which need to be secured with childproof locks and which may be OK for your child to rummage around in.
  4. Drapery chords – The pull cords for curtains and blinds are dangerous attractions for toddlers who can become entangled and even strangled in worst case scenarios. Install and use cleats or hooks to keep cords above the reach of little ones.
  5. Furniture – Every year children are hurt or killed by pulling furniture or TVs over onto themselves. When learning to stand or walk, it’s natural for toddlers to pull up on whatever is available. Make sure shelves and dressers are anchored to the wall and check that power cords and other items are well out of reach.
  6. Stairs – Baby gates are a tried-and-true solution for protecting toddlers from stairs. Follow instructions closely to ensure a sturdy installation, and train yourself to close the gates every time you pass through. Also, begin teaching your toddler early on to go down step-by-step on his or her bottom.
  7. Kitchens – Kitchens are the center of household activity and a potentially dangerous environment for toddlers. In addition to securing cabinets and drawers, test how hot the surface of your oven door becomes when baking. Develop the habit of turning pan handles away from the front of the stove where toddlers could grab them, and be certain that power cords for countertop appliances remain out of reach. 
  8. Candles – The truth is candles aren’t worth the risk. Even without toddlers, pets or the burning process alone can cause candles to tip over. They also harm indoor air quality. You can achieve the same warm flicker and glow with a fake candle powered by a small, safe LED bulb. 
  9. Plastic bags – Plastic bags are noisy, tactile fun for toddlers, but they are also a huge threat for suffocation. Don’t leave dry cleaning bags, shopping bags or any other type of large plastic bag where your toddler may find them.
  10. Choking hazards – When you have a toddler who wants to put everything into his or her mouth, you suddenly realize how many small dangerous items you have in drawers and on counters—especially if an older sibling plays with small plastic toys. Use a cardboard toilet paper roll to test for safety. If an item fits through the tube, there’s a good chance it could be swallowed by your child.
  11. Hot water –Scalding bath water is a cause of injury to many toddlers. The recommended setting for hot water heaters is 120 degrees. To test bath water, you should be able to hold your arm beneath it for 30 seconds without discomfort.
  12. Pools – Like stairs, pools are an obvious danger that few people are likely to overlook. But double-check that you have a self-closing and self-latching gate, and don’t leave floats or toys in or around the pool that could attract toddlers. If you have a pool directly attached to your house, you’ll need to install baby gates in order to leave patio doors open in nice weather.