Childproofing your NYC apartment from top to bottom

By Lambeth Hochwald  | October 28, 2013 - 10:43AM

Whether you're new to your apartment or new to parenthood, chances are that if you have a little one, you're going to have to do at least a little bit of childproofing at home.

In New York, of course, you can hire someone to help you through it, like Howard Appelbaum of Baby Proofers Plus, who spends his days childproofing apartments all over town. He’s usually called in when tykes are beginning to be on the move (around 6 months-1 year old).

Here's Appelbaum's rundown on the hotspots in your average NYC apartment:

1. Kitchen

In this room, it’s all about locking cabinets and keeping hazardous materials, like cleaning products, out of reach. Look inside as well for potential troublespots, including gas lines, electrical boxes, pointy screws, even door inserts and rubber pieces that are chokable hazards.

Oven knobs are dangerous and Viking Ovens have bottom edges that are sharp. Don't forget to look underneath your appliances too.

“I’ve found pieces of concrete, mousetraps and roach motels under fridges and ovens,”  says Appelbaum. “I’ve seen nails underneath wood frames that kids can easily touch. These are all very dangerous to a little one.”

2. Bathroom 

Keep the door to this room (and all others) closed since hinges can close right on a child’s finger In addition, lock the lids of every toilet, keep garbage cans empty at all times, cover pointy soap dishes and faucets and keep all medications, cleaning products and cosmetics out of reach.

3. Living room 

Lamps, wires, stereo equipment (with knobs that can be small and a chokable hazard), electrical outlets (these should be covered —not just filled with plugs) and flat screen TVs  are big troublespots. Consider buying a surge protector/power-strip cover.

Flat screen TVs in particular can easily be tipped over on an unsuspecting tot if they’re placed on a wobbly table or shelving unit, or they can fall off of the wall if they're not mounted correctly.

“Reposition wiring and strap flat screens to the wall or unit so they can’t be pulled over,” Appelbaum says. 

As for bookshelves, "A child can shake a bookcase and that has a domino effect, so we always secure shelving to the wall," says Appelbaum.

For standing lamps, use cable ties to attach them to the wall so your kids doesn't pull and tip it over.

4. Master bedroom

Aim to keep this door closed (because of the hinges issue, and because you can assume that there are lots of not-safe-for-kids items in here) but just in case your child ends up in your room, make sure there is no jewelry, loose change or medication left out on your nightstand (a chokable hazard). Also,  dressers should be anchored to the wall so drawers can’t be pulled out, tipping over the furniture.

Don’t forget window treatments, too.

“Blind cords must be kept out of a tot’s reach and don’t forget to remove the pins [used to keep curtains looking crisp] on the bottom of curtains as well,” Applebaum says.  Those can be a choking hazard if pulled out.

5. Kid's room

Secure changing tables and shelving to the wall (again to make sure it doesn’t tip over onto your child if there are drawers that can be pulled out below) and avoid keeping hard-cover books in a place that can harm your child if they fall onto him or her.

Besides this, the biggest mistake Appelbaum sees is leaving the baby monitor wire too close to the crib.

“A tot shouldn’t be able to put his hand through the slots of the crib and grab that wire,  because they could choke on it,"  he says. “I always hang monitors on the wall.”

If you have two kids and bunk beds, you'll want to consider retracting the ladder so a toddler can't climb up to the top.

Second-time parents may need to completely revamp the older child's toy area to eliminate small pieces.

7. Outdoor spaces

This danger zone has to be prepped carefully, such as putting Plexiglass or a similar-looking product called Lexan  (which is often preferred by boards and landlords) around a terrace or deck.  It's a custom solution that can cost a few thousand dollars.

“I create a hockey rink effect on a terrace,” says Appelbaum. “This increases the height of the railing and it’s aesthetically pleasing, too.”

Other things to keep in mind:  never leave chairs, tables or planters (anything  that a kid can climb up on) near the ledge; never allow young children outside unaccompanied by an adult; and make sure that when an adult isn't present, you keep the door leading out to the terrace locked. 

8. Closets

Keep dry cleaning packaging out of reach and place handbags or shoes with embellishments like jewels, stones or buckles on a high shelf—in a place where a tot can’t put them in their mouth and potentially choke on them.

Miscellaneous: In instances where the elevator opens right into the apartment, Appelbaum says he puts pressurized gates in front of the opening so a child can’t go through when pushing the button. 

9. Pets

If you hang your leash by the door, put it away (it presents the same hazard as cords for blinds if it hands long). Also keep plastic bags for doggie poop out of reach. If you have a cat, make sure the baby can't get into the litter box--for example, using baby gates or a top-entry litter box.

10. Heaters & radiators

Many New  Yorkers have steam heater grates. Babies/toddlers can open the gates where the knob is, which is hot. A good piece of advice in this case is to use a string and tie the little gate closed.  You also might want to put some objects in front of the hotter areas of a heater so kids can't touch the heater. 

If you have exposed radiators, considering buying radiator covers to protect your child's hands.

Related posts:

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The Great NYC outdoors: FAQs for those lucky enough to have terraces, roofdecks and gardens

The buyer's and renter's guide to the NYC elementary school game

To raise a family in NYC, you need a master's in real estate

The parent's guide to buying and renting in NYC

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