By: Karen Sullen

Our home is our castle, our sanctuary from the cares of the world.  It's a place where we can relax after a hard day's work, and a place where we feel safe and secure.  But what we view as a beautiful, comfortable and hazard-free habitat can be filled with a host of items and situations that are dangerous for baby.  From sharp corners to small items that can be easily swallowed, parents must make the effort to protect their little ones at home.  Once they're crawling, they're very active.  You never know where those curious crawls will take them next, and you'll find yourself wondering "How in the world did he get back here?" or "What in the world made her think she could fit in there?"  More than 49% of parents agree that before they begin crawling is the best time to baby proof the home.  Here are some tips to keep your child from unknowingly crawling towards danger.

See the world through their eyes
It may sound silly, but a good sweep of the home on all fours is a great way to see the world through your baby's eyes.  Look for possible hazards by thinking like an inquisitive child.  Would you touch that, or go there, or wonder what's behind that?  Regarding baby toys, be sure that the parts cannot easily be removed or pop off during play.  Any toy that is smaller than your baby's fist is too small and can present a choking hazard.  

Make sweet dreams a reality
Be sure that baby's sweet dreams don't turn into a nightmare by choosing a safe crib and bedding.  Crib slats should be no further than 2 3/8" apart (that's about the size of a soda can) to prevent baby's head from becoming entrapped.  Avoid soft or loose bedding which can cause suffocation.  Consider using a baby sleeping bag as an alternative to blankets for younger children.

Safe and secure
Be sure that baby high chairs, carriers and swings are secure and keep baby in place with either straps or stoppers that go between the legs to prevent baby from slipping out.  Ergonomic child seats are recommended by pediatricians to securely hold baby without the cumbersome straps.

Out of sight, out of danger
Remove or lock away any items that may present a danger.  Some common areas to cover include removing or using wrap-up disks for hanging cords on the window binds, plugging all outlets (The push in covers are easy to install but also may be easy for baby to pull out.  Consider a more complex cover.), storing electrical items, poisons and medications out of reach, and installing locks on toilet lids, drawers, doors, closets and even refrigerators.

Tepid is terrific
An often overlooked area for baby proofing is the water heater.  Water that heats up too quickly may burn baby's sensitive skin.  Be sure that your water heater is set at no more than 120 degree Fahrenheit.  

Install fire extinguishers
Enough said.

Cut corners for safety
This goes for the corners of tables, not on your safety mechanisms.  Soften all the hard and sharp corners and edges of tables, appliances, furniture, and especially the base of the fireplace if it is on a raised platform or hearth with cushions, bumper guards, pillows and pads.  

Spot the spaghetti

In our techno-charged society, everything and everybody seems to be plugged in, which causes for a lot of loose cords around the house.  Check around computers, appliances and wherever an extension cord is being used.  If you spot a long or pile of "spaghetti" cords, wind them up and tuck them away so that your child does not trip over them or pull items down on his head.

Baby proofing is a process
Remember, the elements of your home can change daily.  Just because you've baby proofed it once doesn't mean you're done.  Set up an easy way to perform a "mini check" each day to remove potential hazards.

Applying these baby-proofing tips will help keep your wandering toddler safe and sound on their many excursions around the wonderful world you call home.