Whether you like it or not, electrical products form a major part of our everyday lives. You can find them in every room of your home. Power outlets, extension leads, phone chargers, computer cables... The list goes on. Unfortunately, none of these electrical products were designed with your baby's safety in mind.
Okay, let us do some basic kiddie math…
Baby + Electricity = Disaster
When looking at how to baby proof (or "child-proof" if you don't like calling your little one a baby) your home, you must consider everything and anything that is electrical because, as you may have noticed, electrical products and your baby just don't mix.
Fortunately, I have created this awesome guide to assist you in baby proofing these shocking (yes, it’s a pun) objects.
What do you need to baby proof? Select from the contents below
Now let us get on with the guide!
I don’t know what it is about electrical outlets, but baby’s love them. Maybe it’s because they see you plugging in an appliance and want to imitate you. Maybe it’s because outlets look like little faces, just waiting to be fed something.
Those faces are hungry and ready to be fed a meal of coins, keys and anything else your baby can squeeze inside.
Ever heard of the electric chair? Zap! If your baby puts an object in a power outlet then the result will be similar; serious risk of electric shock. You definitely do not want to rush your child to an emergency room because they have been electrocuted.
According to the National Fire Protection Association, approximately 2,400 children suffer from severe shock and burns caused by items being poked into the slots of electrical receptacles. Even more worrying, approximately 12 children will die from these injuries each year.
As you can see, electrical outlets are dangerous… But wait! Before you run out and buy baby proofing products, you need will need to take a closer look at the outlet you have installed and why it matters.
Hiding behind your outlet cover is a receptacle. This is what the electrical wires screw into. Essentially each outlet in your house will be one of the following:
A regular electrical receptacle. If you look at the vertical slots you will notice that they are open, allowing your baby to poke objects inside. If your house was built prior to 2008 and you have not renovated then chances are you will have these installed.
Since your baby can poke things into this outlet; it will need to be baby proofed.
You may notice that the vertical slots on this receptacle appear to have been filled in with plastic. These are actually spring-loaded shutters that close off the openings to the contacts. The only time these shutters will open is if they are pushed simultaneously (as in you plugging something into the outlet). Since your baby won't be able to compress both openings at once he will be unable to poke anything into the outlet.
All new houses built after 2008 will have tamper-resistant receptacles (also known as TRR’s) installed as standard, as required by the National Electrical Code. If you have renovated after this date then the electrician may have also replaced your outlets.
In addition to the plastic filled vertical slots, TRR’s can also be identified by the letters “TR” engraved between the two vertical slots. If you look closely at the above picture you may just be able to make it out.
As you may have guessed, this style of electrical outlet does not require baby proofing.
Okay, nearly there.
Only one last thing to identify.
Whether your outlet is a standard or Decora style. This is important as it determines which baby proofing products will fit your outlet. You don’t want to buy a baby safety product only to discover it doesn’t fit!
Fortunately telling the two styles apart is dead simple.
The key difference is how the outlet cover attaches to the receptacle. The standard style uses a screw (seen between the two outlets) while the Decora simply clips into the cover. If you have a GFCI power outlet, then for the purpose of baby-proofing; consider it a Decora outlet.
So before we continue you should be able to answer the following two questions:
With those two questions answered it’s time to start baby proofing your electrical outlets.
An empty electrical outlet is an outlet that has no appliances plugged in. These outlets are just sitting there, tempting your baby to poke something inside. Fortunately baby proofing these outlets is not only cheap but incredibly easy to do. The most basic solution is the electrical outlet cap.
The first and cheapest way to prevent your child from sticking objects in electrical outlets is to buy a packet (or more if required) of child-proof electrical outlet caps. These covers are entirely made of plastic and plug directly into your electrical outlet. The exposed front is entirely flat, making it difficult for your child to grip. If your baby can't poke anything inside, then he is safe. It’s that simple.
The only downside of electrical safety caps is that you will need to remove them every time you need to use the electrical outlet, such as when you are vacuuming. If it slips your mind to put the plug cover back into the outlet when you are done, the baby proofing effect is lost.
You will need to count out just how many outlet caps you need before you commit to buying a packet (they are generally cheaper when bought in bulk). Don't forget to count unused power strip outlets when figuring out how many you need.
Let us take a look at two of the better outlet caps on the market.
Style: As pictured
Brand: Mommy’s Helper
What can I say about these outlet caps? They are cheap and keep your baby safe. These caps go in and stay in. The flat face makes these caps incredibly difficult to remove (for you as well).
A pack of 36 should not set you back more than a few bucks. Isn’t it great when you can baby proof on a budget?
Unfortunately, the small size does mean that these caps can easily be misplaced. The size coupled with just how difficult they are to remove means that these caps should not be used on an electrical outlet you plan on frequently using.
Style: As pictured
Brand: Safety 1st
These outlet plugs are a little easier to remove than the previous ones making them more suitable for baby proofing outlets that you find yourself frequently using.
Another advantage is that these plugs will easily fit any GFCI outlets. The downside is that these plugs are a little more expensive. That’s the cost of convenience.
Don’t like outlet caps? Let us take a look at some other options you have for baby proofing open outlets.
Electrical outlet covers, also known as safe plates, are an additional cover that sits on top of your existing outlet. Simply remove your old outlet cover and replace it with a baby safe one. The outlet itself has a spring loaded plastic cover that prevents your child from poking anything inside of the outlet.
To plug in an appliance; simply place the prongs of your plug into the cover and slide it across. The covers snap back into position once you remove the plug, meaning you do not have to remember to make the outlet safe for your baby (unlike with caps). Many parents choose to use caps in unused electrical outlets and outlet covers on frequently used ones.
The advantage of electrical outlet covers is that you simply install them and forget about them. You don’t even have to touch the wires behind the outlet plate during the installation process.
Style: As pictured
Brand: Mommy’s Helper
Spring-loaded shutters are amazing. Once installed you simply forget about them and your baby is safe. Unlike other outlet baby-proofing options, these are quite pleasing to the eye.
I have a few of these installed around my home (standard style) and have to say that my little one could not figure them out. Now that she is past the “needs to be baby proofed” stage they just look like regular electrical outlets, I have not even needed to remove them.
If you have many power outlets that you need to protect, you can also buy them in a bulk . (Standard outlets only)
You are watching your favorite drama or sports event, all of a sudden, just as Rick is about to break up with Amber or your team is about to score, the television screen goes black. No, the house has not lost power. Chances are, your baby has pulled the power cord out.
There will be many power outlets scattered around your house with power cords permanently plugged into them (things like lamps, televisions, etc.)
The easiest way to stop your baby from unplugging power cords is to move furniture in front of the outlet. While it may make your room look a little less symmetrical, it will stop your baby from giving that cord a tug and best of all, it’s a free solution.
But what about those of you who have power outlets out in the open or simply don’t want to move furniture around? What can you do to prevent your baby from pulling out cords?
I am glad you asked because it allows me to show you these fancy outlet covers that sit on top of outlets with cords plugged in. While they are not the cheapest solution, you shouldn’t need too many since not every outlet in your home will have a cord permanently plugged in.
Style: Different colors available
This cover sits on top of your existing outlet. The clear plastic cover not only allows prevents your baby from pulling out the cords but also allows you to see what is plugged in at a glance. Unlike other baby proofing products, the cover is quite simple to remove for an adult yet difficult for a child to remove.
Made in America, Lectra Lock offers a lifetime guarantee on this product. Let us hear it for products that are manufactured locally!
But what if you want something cheaper but still does the job?
Style: As pictured
Brand: Safety 1st
Yes, it’s ugly. No one is going to deny that. But for the cost, you get a whole lot of baby protection. The large plastic cover easily slides over regular plugs, thick extension cords, and most adapters (excluding long or horizontally orientated ones).
Unfortunately, this cover does not work with Decora style outlets. If you have a Decora outlet then the cover form LectraLock (the one before this) is your best bet.
So that covers just about everything you need to know about baby proofing power outlets. But we are not done yet. Onward to power strips!
Power strips are commonly used in areas of the house which hold many electrical products in one area, such as your television (which you can read about baby proofing here) or computer area. Power strips are a common solution to the "Too many plugs, not enough outlets" problem that plagues the majority of houses.
The downside of power strips is that they sit on the ground. And every baby knows, if it's on the ground, it is a play toy.
There are two issues here. The first being that unused outlets present a shock hazard to your little child. The second being that your little one can easily unplug anything that is plugged into the power strip.
The first issue is easy to solve by using the childproof that I mentioned earlier in the article. Quick cheap and simple.
The second issue, stopping your child from unplugging electrical devices, is a bit more difficult. Chances are you will need to purchase a purpose-made solution.
A childproof power strip cover may be just the solution you need. The cover slides over your existing power strip and has a cutout for the cords to hang out.
As the cutout is designed to let the largest size cords possible hang out, you may be left with gaps that your child can still fit its hand or other objects in. Simple place duct tape over these gaps to deter your child. A loop of duct tape bundling all the cords together will make it extra difficult for your child to unplug any cords by tugging on them.
Colors: As pictured
I don't recommend using extension cords inside your house when small children are around for the following reasons:
There are times where you may temporarily need an extension cord, such as when you are vacuuming. This is how extension cords were meant to be used. The problem occurs when you are constantly relying on an extension cord each and every day because there are no nearby electrical outlets.
In this instance, your best bet is to hire an electrical contractor and install extra electrical outlets where needed. Individual electrical outlets not only look neater but are also much easier to baby proof.
If installing electrical outlets is not an option for you then fear not, there are other ways you can baby proof extension cords and other long cord runs.
If your baby has gotten to the stage where he or she is learning to walk you will know that they cannot lift their feet very high. An extension cord running through the room or across a doorway is a surefire way to send your little one sprawling to the ground.
Duct cord covers are a practical solution to tidying up cords in high traffic areas such as doorways and halls. They are essentially a rubber speed hump that can fit one or more cables inside and sits flush on the floor.
Duct cord covers come in numerous sizes and has multiple channels for both internet cables and power cords.
Colors: Three choices
It happens time and time again, your bedside lamp (or any other electrical device) sits 1 foot away from the electrical outlet but has a 10-foot cord attached. This excess cord can easily loop around a baby and either causes a tumble or pull the entire lamp down on top of them. Needless to say, there will be tears.
While looking for objects to baby proof, take note of any cords that could be shortened. Simply roll the cord into a palm-sized coil and use a zip tie, or twist tie to hold it in place.
If you are using a zip tie, be sure to cut the tie flush so that no jagged edge is left. You don't want to puncture your baby's soft skin while trying to play protective parent now, do you?
If you want something that looks a little neater than a bunched up coil of cable then when not buy a cord shortener?
Style: As pictured
Simply wrap your power cord around the inside of the cord shortener and presto! Shorter cords. This cord shortener is suitable for appliances that draw less than 600 watts.
Once you have shortened your cord you can either hide the plastic cover out of sight or use Velcro style command strips (sold separately) to attach it to the wall or underneath furniture.
Preventing extension cord falls with nothing more than tape
A quick and cheap DIY way to baby proof cords is to use to stick the cords to the floor. Use wide duct tape and make sure your cord is in the center of the tape. You want both sides of the tape to easily stick flat to the floor. You will need to cut the tape into lengths as the cord bends around corners.
If you have more than one cord you will need to tape them to the floor individually using the method above. There is a duct tape color to match even the most unusual of floors.
If your house is carpeted you can tape the cords to your baseboards. Be sure to use masking tape instead of duct tape on baseboards. If you use duct tape you risk peeling off paint when the time comes to remove it.
The easiest way to prevent your baby from getting electrocuted by its own curiosity is by is to keep appliances plugged into extension cords at all times.
If you have an extension cord that sits there waiting to be used you can simply use the same plastic outlet plugs that are used on electrical sockets.
If your baby has decided that it is great fun to unplug cords then you risk exposing your child to the open end of the extension cord.
If the appliance you plug into your extension cord is never swapped out, you can use an outdoor to prevent your little one from disconnecting them. A ring of duct tape around the outside and you will deter all but the most stubborn of children.
Okay, so we have covered all the different scenarios to stop your little one from unplugging cords but what if you want to stop a cord from being plugged in?
There are numerous scenarios when you might not want your child to plug an electrical device in. It could be that plugging in the object could cause immediate harm like an electric saw or it could be as simple as you not wanting them to use their television because they are grounded.
Plug locks stick on the end of an electrical plug and, with the turn of a key, lock in place. The plug lock renders the plug useless until it is unlocked. Many parents swear that this is the enemy of naughty kids everywhere.
Colors: Three choices
Baby proofing outlets while you are traveling
Now its all well and good to have your electrical products baby proofed at home but what about when you go on holiday? It is unlikely that with all the space taken up by diapers, snacks and games that you will have much room to squeeze in childproofing products.
Sometimes the best solutions really are the simplest. A roll of masking tape is all you will need to pack with you on road trips and extended vacations. It takes up no room at all in the luggage and, in the worst-case scenario that you can't squeeze it in, can even be worn on the wrist.
Loose cords on the ground that could trip up your child?
Tape them down.
Exposed electrical outlets?
Tape over them.
Does your baby keep playing with light switches?
Tape them on or off.
Some applications may require more than one layer of masking tape. Also be sure to use masking tape, not duct tape, as it peels off easily without leaving a residue.
Our dependence on electricity is amazing. Unless you live in a cave, you will find it in every room of your house.
Unfortunately, the sheer amount of electrical hazards you need to look for makes it incredibly easy to miss points that will need to be childproofed.
The easiest way to focus on one room at a time.
Get down on your hands and knees so you can see each room from your child's perspective. This new (or old, you were once a child too) view will allow you to see electrical products that are within easy reach of your child and will need to be childproofed. While on the ground, look for the following:
Right, you have identified everything that is electrical and dangerous? Good, now get baby proofing.
Here I will quickly summarize everything you need to look for when baby proofing the electrical part of your house. This list is not exhaustive if you see something that isn't on this list but is still dangerous to your child then, by all means, baby proof it.
That concludes my guide on baby proofing anything and everything electrical. Do you have any tips you could add?
Featured Image Source: Pexels
What to do if your child gets an electric shock.
Home electrical safety checklist by CPSC.
Tamper Resistant Receptacles.