Kidproofing Your Home

The urge to protect your child develops long before they are born. While that instinct is natural, the tricky part is figuring out how to create a safe and secure environment at home. As babies grow and become more mobile, the need for babyproofing becomes more important. And, while you may have mastered the art of babyproofing in the early years, the safety needs of older children require a fresh perspective. Joelle McConlogue, MD, shares her expert advice for ways to protect your children from accidents at home.

Kidproofing Your Home
Featured Speaker:
Joelle McConlogue, MD

Joelle McConlogue, MD, received her bachelor of science from Brigham Young University and then attended medical school at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons. She completed her residency in pediatrics at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and spent an extra year as chief resident. Dr. McConlogue spent many years practicing on the East Coast, worked in an inner-city clinic, was involved in academic medicine teaching medical students and residents, and later joined a large suburban private practice. She joined Bayside Medical Group in 2016 after moving to California with her family. Having spent much of her childhood living overseas, she enjoys traveling, reading and spending time with her husband and four children. 

Learn more about Joelle McConlogue, MD 

Kidproofing Your Home

 Scott Webb (Host): Whether you're about to bring a newborn home or have a house full of teenagers, kid proofing our homes is essential to keeping our kids and families safe. And joining me today to tell us more is Dr. Joelle McConlogue. She's a Pediatrician with Stanford Medicine Children's Health.

 This is Health Talks from Stanford Medicine Children's Health. I'm Scott Webb. Doctor, thanks so much for your time today. We're going to talk about and get your advice for creating a safe and secure home environment for babies, children, families, always a great topic, and always one that I'm sure is on the minds of parents, for sure. My kids are a little bit older, but I do remember baby proofing.

 And it's great to just have you here and talk through some of this stuff. So what are the biggest risks at home for young kids?

Joelle McConlogue, MD: Well, thank you for having me and thank you for highlighting this really important topic. I know it's a topic that's on the minds of a lot of parents as they are trying to keep their children safe and one that I think is important to, to continue to talk about. Children are inherently curious and they love to explore their surroundings, and that's what we love about them.

They're constantly developing and learning new skills, and we definitely want to encourage that, but we also want to make sure that they're in a safe space where they won't be at risk for harm. And so I think with a little pre-planning and thinking ahead and some preparation, it can really greatly reduce the risks.

And homes can be some tricky places sometimes. There's lots of things that kids can get into, and so thinking ahead about your home environment and the age and stage of your baby, is important, and planning a little bit ahead is also very important.

Host: Yeah, it definitely is. And maybe we can talk about some of the greatest hits, if you will, like the things that pretty much everyone's going to need to do, want to do, you know, if you've got an infant coming home and of course we'll talk later about as infants transition to toddlers, or if you happen to have both at home, but what are some of the really like the broad strokes, the basic ones we all probably need to do?

Joelle McConlogue, MD: Well, you're absolutely right that it starts from the time that the parents bring home that first newborn baby. So even from when the baby's just a very young infant, they want to make sure that they're not leaving the baby alone on a high surface, which means not putting the baby alone on the middle of the bed or making sure that they're not turning their back when the baby's on the changing table, that they're always right there where the baby is.

And then as they start to get a little bit older, parents will want to think ahead about the developmental milestones that will be coming up. For example, as a baby starts to crawl or starts to scooch, parents should put gates on the top of the stairs so that the baby isn't at risk for falling down the stairs.

As they get a little bit older and are able to start to pull up or try to start to stand, often, babies will use a low coffee table or an end table to do that. So if families have tables that have sharp edges, they'll either want to remove them or put bumpers around those tables so that babies aren't hitting themselves or getting at risk for those sharp corners.

Host: You know, I think about, Doctor, in my case and probably the case for many people, more and more folks are working from home lately, you know, it seems like it started during COVID and maybe it's just become a thing now, but what are some things that we need to think about if folks are working from home, things that they might not have thought about before because they didn't have to?

Joelle McConlogue, MD: Well, I certainly think that parents, if they are working at home, to look around and check their work environment spaces. A lot of families will have more equipment if they're working from home, more computers or more monitors. And so that means more cords and more electrical connections. So just being careful that those cords and connections are kept out of the area where children are and that babies can't be crawling into that area or getting into the cords.

Also, I think as parents are in meetings, online, they'll want to make sure that they set up a safe space for their baby or their toddler. Often I'll recommend a playpen if that's age appropriate, so that if they get distracted in the middle of a meeting or their attention is turned elsewhere, at least they know that the child is in a safe space where they're not going to get into anything while they're temporarily distracted.

And then, working from home also often means more cups of coffee or more cups of tea around the house; which, rather than in the workplace, it might be on a desk or on a table. So, I caution parents to just, if they are drinking coffee or tea, to notice where they're placing those cups of hot liquid and make sure that it's in an area where a baby or a toddler can't pull up and reach up and grab that cup and cause a scald burn.

Host: Yeah, let's talk about some of the considerations for families who have children at multiple stages. You know, I had kids that were about four and a half years apart, and so there was different concerns, and maybe you can take us through those.

Joelle McConlogue, MD: Well, that could be tricky for families, but again, I think with a little bit of preparation, they can navigate it quite well. As kids get older, often they are playing with toys that have small parts or other parts that aren't appropriate for younger children. So if families have an older child who's doing that, I just recommend that they have a separate space where their child doing that.

Specifically, what I'm thinking of is like Legos or bead sets or little craft sets that, that older children might like to do. And so often this is a win-win because the older child wants their time alone and doesn't want the younger one to be getting into their things. And at the same time, the, you can kind of separate them and keep the baby safe as well.

Host: Yeah, that was the case with our son, absolutely. He loved having his own private space where his sister couldn't mess up his things, his Lego sets and things like that. Let's talk about the, I think it's probably best to refer to it kind of as a continuum, but when we have those infants that become toddlers and then you maybe still have an infant and a toddler. You know, what are some of the concerns we need to think about?

Joelle McConlogue, MD: It definitely is a continuum. I think you start baby proofing your home early, and as those developmental stages occur, the initial baby proofing steps, you keep on and then you just keep adding. For example, we've talked about putting a gate at the top of the stairs as a baby starts to crawl, but you're going to leave that gate there, as the child starts to walk.

And then as they start to climb, you're going to start to baby proof other things where they can't climb up onto ledges or climb up on bookshelves. You'll want to make sure that, that you're looking at those things, but at the same time, you keep in place the baby proofing stuff that you've done earlier as well.

So you kind of add on as the child gets a little bit older and moves into the toddler years.

Host: So, Doctor, I'm wondering, you know, when we think about trying to childproof and babyproof, and one of the things I did is I had my son who was four and a half, five years older, so I had him get down at his sister's level to kind of look for things, but I'm sure you might recommend that parents do that as well to kind of see the world from their perspective and see some of the things we might have missed, right?

Joelle McConlogue, MD: I think that's a great idea, that you did with your son, and I'd encourage parents to do that. I think if they can get down at the level where their child is, so if the baby's crawling, have the parent get down on their hands and knees and look around. It gives you a new perspective in terms of what your baby may be getting into.

It also gives you idea where you really need to watch and baby proof, so that's a good idea. A couple of other things I recommend for parents is if they have family members or friends with children who are a little bit ahead of their baby's age, watch that child a little bit. Just observe and see what they're getting into because that will give you a good idea of where you're going to be in the next few months when your baby's that age.

And then always, if parents have questions, pediatricians can be a good resource. So, you know, use those well care visits to ask questions or to ask your pediatrician about what your baby will be doing in a few months, and we can always help to give some good recommendations of what to do as well.

Host: Yeah, always a great resource. I think, about all the questions I had before our first baby, right? Let's talk about magnets and batteries. And, you know, kids, especially little kids, toddlers, they love little things and they love to put them in their mouth and other places. What risks do magnets and batteries pose?

Joelle McConlogue, MD: Well, these are both items which can potentially be very dangerous if they're ingested. Magnets are extremely risky because of their strong magnetic pull. And if they're ingested, they can cause some significant abdominal problems. And also batteries, especially those small button batteries that tend to be appealing to little hands, can also cause significant abdominal problems and can be a medical emergency.

So I recommend to parents that they keep magnets and batteries outside the reach of children, either high up or locked away.

Host: Yeah, definitely. Well, as I said when we, uh, prefaced here, got going, it's great to have your expertise, always great to have you on. Let's finish up today and talk about the older children, right? The ones who are, maybe as curious as the toddlers, but they can walk, and they can reach, and they can open things, and maybe some of the daredevil stunts, prescription meds.

How do we sort of childproof our homes and our lives for these kids?

Joelle McConlogue, MD: That's a great question. And kids are always going to be pushing the boundaries, that's what we love about them. But we do want to make sure that they're safe. So the first thing I would say is that as older children are involved in a lot of different activities and sports, to make sure that they're always wearing the correct protective equipment for whatever the sport is that they're involved in.

Make sure that it's well fitting, make sure that it's appropriate. When they're out bike riding, make sure they always have a helmet on and that they're using that because I think that's a really important thing. I would also have parents just talk to children about what, appropriate expectations are for whatever sport or whatever activity they're doing.

For example, if there's a pool in the home, have family rules about what and when you can use the pool and what's appropriate for jumping or diving. And talk about that and set that ahead of time with their kids. Same thing with bike riding or any other activities that they enjoy doing.

I also always recommend that parents, if they do have prescription medications for themselves, for their children, that they do keep those locked away in a cabinet. Just so that they're not accessible to children who may just be curious and exploring. That, those are safe.

Host: Yeah, that's the nice thing about older children, I mean it's sort of a double edged sword, I guess, Doctor. You know, you can't really talk to infants. I mean, we talk to them, sure, we baby talk to them, but we're not really having conversations. And then the older kids, you can have these conversations about the importance of wearing helmets and things like that.

And unfortunately they can talk back. And that again would probably be a separate podcast about those sort of conversations with our older children and the debates over wearing a helmet. And you're not taking that bicycle if you don't wear your helmet, different podcast, different time. But for today, Doctor, thank you so much for your time and you stay well.

Joelle McConlogue, MD: Thank you. Thank you for having me.

Host: And for more information, go to And we hope you found this podcast to be helpful and informative. If you did, please share it on your social channels and be sure to check out the full podcast library for additional topics of interest. This is Health Talks from Stanford Medicine Children's Health. I'm Scott Webb. Stay well, and we'll talk again next time.