9 Important Ways to Babyproof Your Kitchen

One of the biggest shocks for a new parent is just how ​quickly​ your little one becomes mobile. In just a few months they begin exploring everything under their own power, and you'll rapidly discover just how perilous your kitchen is for a tiny tot. Your first instinct will be to move everything dangerous out of reach, but that's not always practical — where were you planning to hide the fridge? — and it's also not necessary. With a few small purchases and simple suggestions, your kitchen can be much, much safer while still remaining the heart of your home.

1. Secure Your Cupboards and Drawers

Securing your cupboards and drawers is a no-brainer, and often the first place a new parent starts. There are several types of locks available, using a magnets, catches or a variety of over-the-knob locks. Catches are relatively easy for tots to figure out, and leave enough wiggle room for little fingers to still get stuck, but the magnetic type and many locks are very functional. A few even have a dummy button on the front, to distract your youngster from the ​real​ catch mechanism. Any cleaning supplies or hazardous chemicals should be moved to an upper cupboard, rather than relying on the locks. Oh, and be sure to leave a couple of doors open so your little one can explore and play with some innocuous, non-breakable items.

2. Minimize Risks at the Stove

Baby reaching for hot frying pan on stove

Safe Way to Get a Baby's Hand Print

Learn More

As one of the most dangerous things in the kitchen, your stove requires a bit of extra attention. Locking the oven is a start, but you'll also want to limit your toddler's ability to make bad things happen. If your stove has knobs at the front, you can simply remove them and keep them in a basket on the counter. Alternatively, you can buy knob covers to prevent kids from turning them. Some manufacturers make child barriers you can place on the stovetop to keep little fingers away when it's not in use. When it ​is​ in use, cook on the back burners whenever possible and turn your pot handles so they're inaccessible from the front.

3. Don't Forget the Fridge

The fridge isn't as obvious a hazard as the stove, but it also poses some definite risks. Toddlers love to climb, and what goes up — proverbially — must also come down. Then there are the fridge's contents and shelves, both of which are often made of breakable glass. Food safety calls for raw meat, fish and poultry to go at bottom, where they can't drip on anything, but that's where they're most accessible. You won't want to find your tot gumming a piece of raw chicken, so place those foods in tight-sealing containers and move them up high. Get a lock on that door as well, and don't forget to look and clean under the fridge frequently to remove any choking hazards or random bits of food that might have fallen there and spoiled.

4. Lock Those Appliances

Baby reaching for hot frying pan on stove

How Are Batteries Harmful to Toddlers?

Learn More

Every appliance represents some degree of potential danger for small, inquisitive hands, even if it's only the risk of a door shutting on little fingers. A quick internet search will turn up locking devices for almost any appliance you have in the kitchen, from oven to fridge to microwave. Check the reviews, and look for locks that rate highly for both parental ease of use and child security. With smaller appliances such as microwaves, electric pressure cookers or toaster ovens, moving them to the rear of your counter and unplugging them when they're not in use can make them less hazardous.

5. Keep Them Away From the Trash

Another potential problem area is your kitchen trash. Aside from its obvious potential for mess-making, the trash can may at any time contain sharp-edged can lids, breakable items, spoiled food and the inevitable load of germs. If you don't already keep your kitchen trash under the counter inside a lockable cupboard, consider moving it there. If you need a full-sized can to cope with your busy kitchen, place a smaller receptacle in a lockable cupboard for hazardous items. If there's an alternative location for the trash close enough to the kitchen, such as a mudroom or a little-used closet, moving your main trash can out of temptation's way might be a solution.

6. Kid-Proof the Dishwasher

A good lock is your first line of defense but kids are both smart and surprisingly deft, so don't count on them entirely. Many appliances pose special dangers, and it's prudent to follow some "best practices" even after installing a lock. Your dishwasher is a classic example, because it often contains both sharp and breakable items. Glassware is already a top-shelf item, which makes it harder to reach, but the cutlery basket is usually on the bottom. It's safest not to load knives and other sharp items into the dishwasher until you're ready to run it, and the same goes for the detergent (especially if you use colorful, candy-esque pods or tablets).

7. Cover Electrical Outlets

This is an obvious whole-house option, and it applies in the kitchen as well. Some of your kitchen outlets will be above the counters and out of reach, but there will still be plenty that sit low enough for a child to access. Some are easy to overlook; concealed along an island's skirting or in a cupboard's kick plate, or hidden behind an appliance. Inexpensive plug covers will remove the risk for unused outlets. For those that need to remain in use, you can purchase hard acrylic covers that mount to your wall plate and lock down over the plugs of your in-use appliances or other kitchen items.

8. Anchor Anything That Might Tip

Tipping hazards are another less-obvious risk. Kids love to climb, but any appliance or other item that's not securely anchored to the wall can fall on them and cause a potentially significant injury. That's not just a theoretical risk: According to the federal Anchorit.gov website, a child is injured this way every 43 minutes in the U.S. Kitchen shelving is an obvious hazard, but so are freestanding pantries, pie racks, microwave stands and your refrigerator. Even your dining chairs are a hazard, so use bungee cords, velcro straps or commercial chair-locks to keep them from tipping over if your child should climb the back.

9. Limit Your Child's Access

A final, big-picture technique is to limit your child's access in practical ways. Chair locks won't just keep a chair from tipping, they keep your tot from dragging one into the kitchen as a climbing aid. Similarly, step stools (and pots large enough to serve as one) should be hidden away. A stack of drawers can make a handy "kid ladder," but locks can prevent that. If your drawers have open handles, a slender tension rod running through the handles from floor to countertop will effectively immobilize them. While you're cooking, you can also explore ways to limit your youngsters' physical access to the area: Keep them in a high chair or playpen, or use gates or portable fencing to create a designated play area. You can still see and interact with each other, but the risk of accidents will be greatly reduced.