What are the three most common childproofing mistakes?
Expert: David Cooperberg, President of Childproof-America – Interview by James Brady Ryan
Choosing pretty over practical
Most things, anyone who’s handy can do. The issue is, do they know what to do? Take the example of gates. There are basically two different types of gates: one is called the pressure gate and one is called the safety gate. A pressure gate, as the name implies, works just by having it in a pressure situation against two walls. So there are screws at either end with discs on them and you just screw it until it’s tight. That will work in some situations, but the one place that you do not want to install a pressure gate is at the top of the stairs. Your kid goes running down the hallway, trips right before the stairs, goes flying into that gate, and I don’t care how secure you think it is, it’s going to go flying down the stairs with the kid. And it’s desirable but not critical to have a gate at the bottom of the stairs. At the bottom of the stairs, what’s going to happen? A kid may walk up one or two stairs and fall back and bump their head, but it’s not like falling down a flight of stairs.
So you really need to use the safety gate, and the safety gate is one that is hardware installed. You have to, at least on one side, screw it into the wall. Some people say, “Gee, I don’t want holes in my wall.” What we typically say is, “Well, you hang paintings and if you ever want to move them there are going to be holes in the wall. You just patch them, touch it up and when you repaint the wall you’ll never see it again.” It’s the same thing here. There’s a trade-off between aesthetics and safety, and you’ve got to make those decisions.
Stocking up on cheap plastic outlet plugs
Probably the product that people are most familiar with is the little plastic plug that goes into electrical outlets. We don’t recommend those. We will use them in certain circumstances, but the reason that we don’t recommend them is that we differentiate between what we refer to as ‘active’ and ‘passive’ devices. Passive devices are basically devices that are childproof unless you do something to it. An active one is something that you have to do something to in order to make it childproof. So let’s say you’re vacuuming the living room and you unplug that plastic thing and you put it on the shelf. You finish vacuuming, the phone rings, you answer it. You never remember to put the plastic plug back in and it’s no longer childproofed. Not to mention that if the child can remove it, it’s small enough that they can actually put it in their mouth and swallow it.
What we recommend, wherever it can be installed, is something called a retractable plate. We take the existing plate off and we replace it with one that has a spring loaded guard behind it. So in all circumstances the plug is covered, and you can’t put anything into the outlet. And when you want to plug something in, you can actually just use the prongs of the plug, push the guard into the sides, and it’s plugged in. As soon as you unplug it, it’s childproofed again. Those types of products are not made for all configurations of outlets – typically they’re double outlets. So for a single outlet, or a double outlet with a cable outlet on the other side, that doesn’t work. Then we can use those plastic types, but the ones we use always have a loop on them. You take the screw out of the plate and you screw this loop in. So even there, when you unplug it, at least the guard is still attached to the outlet.
Mistaking your childproof gate for a full-time nanny
What we always say, every time, is that childproofing is not a substitute for adult supervision. In fact, we have turned down jobs where we really got the sense that that’s what the parents were aiming for, and we said, “We don’t want to get involved with that.”‘ The parents or the adult in charge still have to exercise care for the kids.
Interview by James Brady Ryan