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How do you baby proof a rental home?

By Addy Whitburn

Anyone who’s renting knows that there isn’t a lot of personalisation you can do to a rental property without express permission from the landlord.

So how do you ensure your rental is safe for the arrival of your newborn? We chatted to three parenting experts to get their tips and advice on baby proofing your rental property without losing your bond.

Step-by-step guide to baby proofing your rental property

Making your home safe for a newborn or toddler can feel daunting. But it doesn’t have to be. After speaking with our parenting experts, we’ve broken down baby proofing a rental property into seven simple steps.

Step 1: Assess the property

Whether you’re moving into a new rental property or staying in an existing rental property, when it comes to baby proofing the first step is assessing the risks.

Parenting expert Dympna Kennedy from Creating Balance advises, “correct planning and preparation is best done before baby arrives as the opportunities to have a spare minute diminishes as soon as baby arrives.”

Prior to taking any action, you should also review your tenancy agreement to determine how much you’re allowed to alter the home to ensure you get your bond back.

And, if there are changes you want to make but you’re not sure if you’ll be violating the agreement, Andrea Christie-David from Leor in home early learning says that “it’s as simple as asking your landlord for permission.

“It is always worth asking your landlord if you can in fact screw in safety latches or secure a cabinet to a wall. Landlords cannot unreasonably withhold consent to a fixture or minor alteration and, in most cases, it is reasonable to request that fixtures be included where tenants include children,” says Andrea.

Step 2: Get on all fours

Whether it’s newborns having some tummy time or one-year-olds zipping around the house on all fours, or toddlers waddling around, kids spend a lot of time at floor level. So, when you’re assessing the property, you have to think the way a child thinks and the easiest way to do that is to get on the floor.

Child safety expert Carolyn Ziegler from Dreambaby says, “the first thing I advise parents and carers to do is to get down on all fours and look up at the world from the point of view of a crawling child. It’s amazing the hidden dangers you will discover.”

Carolyn suggests parents remove any small objects that could be a choking hazard, including coins, pills, and anything small or poisonous that might have been dropped on the ground.

And Dympna says that you should not only look at what’s on the floor, but also what is within reach that could be brought down to floor level.

Step 3: Secure sockets and electrical hazards

Now you’ve assessed the potential hazards, it’s time to start baby proofing. Starting with one of the most common dangers: electrical sockets. Securing electrical sockets and other electrical hazards such as loose cords is a crucial step in making your home safe for the little one.

Carolyn says, “children love to ‘post’ things and have been known to insert all sorts of items into outlets including forks and their fingers, which can have tragic consequences”.

The solution? Ensuring that all unused electrical sockets are covered with outlet plugs “the moment you arrive”

Dympna also suggests, “electrical leads that cannot be removed can be secured to the ground with duct tape”. This ensures that children aren’t tempted to play with electrical cords, or unplug them.

Step 4: Windows, fly screens, blinds and curtains

Windows, fly screens, blinds and curtains can be hazardous for young children, so next on our list is checking these things.

A stuffy room with no airflow can be dangerous in the hot summer months, but what do you do if the room has no fly screens to keep mosquitos and bugs out? Andrea says: “we decided to use magnetic tape to secure fly screens to the exterior walls as a makeshift option for keeping the bugs out at night. It might not be the most pleasant looking solution, but it works”.

While air circulation in the room is important, open windows pose a risk. Carolyn says “always install window locks that prevent them from opening more than 10cm (you want to have some air circulation though especially in the summer when small children can overheat in hot rooms)”. She also says it’s important to remember that fly screens don’t secure windows.

Hanging cords used to adjust blinds or curtains can be a strangulation risk for children, too. And while it’s not always feasible to have your landlord change the blinds or curtains, you can add a removable adhesive hook higher up out of reach and secure the cable around the hook.

Step 5: Secure furniture

Tall, free-standing furniture might be great for getting things off the floor but poses a risk of toppling.

Andrea says: “to avoid using cabinets that are at risk of toppling, we opted for DIY wardrobes from Ikea that created huge amounts of space and are quite sturdy on both carpet and wooden floors. Plus we were able to dismantle them and take them with us from house to house”.

Another option is to request permission to secure bookshelves and tall cabinets to the wall to remove the risk of toppling.

Step 6: Go for gates

While making each room in the house safe is crucial, realistically it’s not possible to remove every risk — especially from areas like the kitchen and bathroom. In this instance it’s often easier to prevent access.

Carolyn says “close the bathroom door when not in use and ideally block off the entrance with a child safety gate — you can buy pressure-mounted gates that don’t require any drilling into walls”.

Worried about damage to walls? “You can further protect against damage to walls by using a Protect-A-Wall® on each side of the gate – these distribute the weight of the gate over a larger surface area leading to less possible damage”, says Carolyn.

Andrea says “baby gates are extremely versatile and come in varying sizes. This means that you can use them inside and out, and create play areas for different purposes. For example, we use a baby gate outside to keep the dogs in a particular part of the garden”.

And while you’re securing furniture, Carolyn suggests it’s also a good idea to install corner protectors (to guard against nasty corners in the kitchen and through the home).

Step 7: Lock those cupboards

Storing things in cupboards — particularly unsafe objects such as heavy or sharp things — is a great way to keep them out of little hands, but only if the doors are locked.

Carolyn says: “install adhesive locks and latches throughout the kitchen and around the home. At a minimum I suggest you secure kitchen drawers used to store your knives and sharps with adhesive safety latches and install adhesive angle locks on your corner appliances”.

Another danger zone for little ones? The fridge. Carolyn says “always use a refrigerator latch! Remember your wine and beer is toxic to small children. People often keep medicines in their fridges as well – another reason to lock your fridge!”

Carolyn also suggests securing your dishwasher as the cleaning tablets can make a child very unwell and there are often traces left after a wash.

Checklist: baby proofing your rental

Working your way through the danger zones in your home is crucial for baby proofing your home. Here’s our checklist from the experts:

  • Assess the property
  • Identify the risk areas and document what you can change without affecting the property
  • Contact your real estate agent or landlord to discuss required changes that will affect the property — such as fixing ‘topple risk’ furniture to the walls
  • Get on the ground and check for loose objects that have fallen to the floor or under furniture — anything that little hands could reach
  • Secure sockets and electrical hazards
  • Assess airflow in the rooms
  • Secure windows and fly screens
  • Put long curtain and blind cords that pose a choking hazard out of reach
  • Secure furniture that poses a ‘topple risk’
  • Install removable baby gates to prevent access to certain areas
  • Install drawer and cupboard locks to prevent access

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