One of the main considerations when you have a baby or toddler, is how safe your little one is in your home. Baby proofing the property means you have to assess every potential hazard and make sure every step has been taken to provide a soft landing.
This can be a big job, and if you’re in a rental property there are even more things to consider before you begin. To help keep your baby out of harm’s way, here’s a guide to baby proofing your rental.
Speak to your landlord
A key point to consider is that many baby proofing tactics involve drilling and hammering holes into walls. This means that you’ll need permission from your landlord or letting agent before you make any big changes.
The process involved here will depend on whether you’re already a tenant or you’re currently looking for a new rental for your family:
You are looking for a new rental
If you’re currently looking for a new home and are either due to have a baby, already have children, or if you’re planning on having a baby during your tenancy, it’s worth taking the time to assess how baby proof the rentals already are. Use each viewing as an opportunity to explore where potential hazards are.
How steep are the stairs? Are there large gaps between the blusters on the bannister? How many sharp edges are there? Thinking of these points before you commit to the property is one way to start to ensure your rental is baby proofed.
During the viewing process, you can also find out if your prospective landlord would allow you to drill holes into any walls in order to fit gates or other baby proofing tools. Some may be happy for you to move in and add in this type safety equipment you need to protect your little one, while others may be more concerned about any potential damage from amendments you make to the property, so it’s important to get a clear idea of what’s allowed before you move in. There are a multitude of different safety solutions, some requiring permanent fixing, others not so – so it’s worth investigating what’s on offer.
You are a current tenant
Should you be expecting a baby, it’s important to speak to your landlord about the steps you want to take to make the property safe. By letting them know as early as possible that you need to baby proof their property, you can make plans for how you can go about it. Plus, your landlord might already have ideas about how they’d like to remove hazards.
Check your tenancy agreement thoroughly, too. Make sure you know exactly what’s expected of you if you make any adjustments. For example, does the agreement state you need to make good any damaged paintwork / fill in any holes made in the walls from safety gates before you move out?
Knowing this information before you speak to your landlord can be a good starting point for a conversation, as you can acknowledge what you need to do if you do make any holes in the walls and see what their thoughts are about how to baby proof the property if they want you to find alternative ways of doing this.
Whichever of these categories you fall into, it’s essential that you have the conversation with your landlord first. This is because there are plenty of areas that could need adapting around the property and if you add screws or drill any fixtures into place, and you don’t return the wall to the condition it was when you moved in, it could affect how much deposit is returned when you move on.
Assess the property
Once you know what safety measures your landlord is likely to allow in their rental, you can make a start on focusing on the areas that need attention. Often, it’s only when your little one starts to move around that you see where the danger spots are, but here’s a breakdown of the most common hazards and how to introduce preventative measures.
Step one: Look around
Take a look at each room and make a list of the potential hazards. It might sound weird, but the best way to see where the problem areas are is to get down on all fours and see things from your baby’s viewpoint. It’s only by assessing every corner and surface that you can get an idea of where you need to introduce safety tools and equipment.
Step two: Find solutions
Now you have your list, you can decide on the solutions you’ll need. Many of these will be temporary additions that aren’t likely to leave a mark, but there are some that might need a rethink in order to avoid causing any damage to the property.
Step three: Speak to your landlord again
We’ve already covered having the initial conversation about baby proofing with your landlord, however it’s worth running your ideas by them once you’ve come up with your list. For example, if you’re thinking of adding just one stair gate instead of the two you originally thought you needed, they might be happy for you to fix it to the wall after all.
Keeping your landlord informed and following what they ask for means you’re more likely to get your deposit back in full when you leave.
Block off dangerous areas
Now you can get to work on baby proofing. Using your list, address each hazard in order. Here’s a rundown of the essentials when tackling baby proofing your rental.
Crawling babies tend to make a beeline for exposed sockets. Provided the sockets are installed to modern standards, even if your child does stick their finger into plug sockets, they won’t be touching live wires. If however you aren’t convinced the sockets are up to modern standards, it’s time to speak to your landlord and voice your concerns. They have a responsibility to ensure the electrical equipment in your property is safe. ‘Child safety plugs’ intended to cover sockets have actually been proven to not be particularly effective, as children even of a very young age have no issue removing them. To find out more, take a look at the advice set out by Electrical Safety First.
Stair gates at the top and bottom of stairs are a natural choice for preventing accidents. If your landlord isn’t going to allow you to drill or screw your gate to the wall, a pressure mounted gate could be a good solution.
However, these are only suitable for the bottom of the staircase as if they’re used at the top there’s a risk that your baby could apply the right amount of pressure and fall through. If you explain this to your landlord, you might find that they’re more likely to allow you to drill some small holes. As long as you confirm in writing that you’ll repair any damage before you leave, or you agree to allow a professional tradesperson install the device, there’s a higher chance that they’ll let you go ahead and fit the stair gate to the wall.
Baby gates can also be useful when blocking off the kitchen or other rooms that could potentially be dangerous.
There are few things to think about when it comes to windows. Firstly, how secure are the window locks? Having the right tools in place can prevent fingers from being trapped and your little one falling out. Window restrictors and safety catches can be bought relatively cheaply and there are plenty of options that don’t require any drilling.
Another risk when it comes to windows is blind and curtain cords. Investing in a cord tidy or pinning them up out of reach is essential. There are also blinds available that use a wand in place of a cord, so if your landlord is happy for you to add your own window dressings, this is a good opportunity to choose ones with a wand.
If your rental has a freestanding bookcase or other furniture that’s not secured, there’s a risk that they could topple, particularly with children of toddling age, who use furniture as a means to transport themselves by pulling themselves up onto it. To avoid this, speak to your landlord about fixing everything to the wall. It might be that they decide to swap the furniture for an alternative shelving solution or they’re happy for you to screw things to the wall.
Foam corner protectors are another readily available option. Slot these on the edge of TV stands, cupboard doors and coffee tables to offer a soft material for small heads to collide with as your baby starts to toddle around.
Doors and cupboards
Again, foam stoppers placed around the edge of doors and cupboards are perfect for preventing hands getting trapped. Easily removable catches placed inside cupboard doors and drawers are also ideal for providing protection. Magnetic locks and adhesive strips usually work well in a rented property as you can remove them without leaving a mark.
Making sure your baby is safe is essential, whether you’re renting a flat or a house. You’ll find that as they grow, they’ll be able to reach things they couldn’t before, so baby proofing tends to continue long after they first start crawling. So, it’s worth reassessing how baby proofed the property is as they get older and adapt the measures you take to fit.