Years ago when my son was three and my daughter was one, I had one of my biggest scares. My wife was working and I was watching the kids for the morning. We had breakfast and I told the kids to get dressed while I took a shower. Five minutes into my shower I noticed the house was unusually quiet. I quickly got dressed and discovered the house was EMPTY. My heart dropped as I searched the house, yard, and street. Within minutes I called the police. My heart was racing as I explained to police officer that my kids were missing. Then in the background I heard someone say “two children were found near the elementary school.” Within minutes I had my kids-still in their pajamas-back home. My daughter had seen a flock of birds in the front yard and went out to investigate. Someone found them and brought them to the school to keep them safe. Looking back I realized that it is impossible to watch your children every moment of the day. We all need to use the restroom or get distracted on the phone sometimes, and it only takes a moment for a curious child to escape. So how do we secure our homes, not from thieves, but to keep our children from wandering? Let’s start with…
Most children can open a standard deadbolt by age three. Consider one of the following products to help childproof your exterior doors:
1. Door Guardian: The door guardian only works on inward swinging doors, but it is easy to install and very effective for keeping kids in and intruders out. I wrote a full review of the product here .
2. Turn bolt: Also called a single sided deadbolt this is a deadbolt that does not have a key on the outside. Make sure you install the turnbolt high enough off the floor to keep out of your child’s reach.
3. Double Sided Deadbolt: I strongly discourage this option because it opens up the possibility of locking yourself in the house. While this may not sound all bad, imagine an emergency (like a fire) and you cannot get out of the home because you cannot find your keys.
4. Schlage Alarm Lock: Schlage recently developed a lock that sounds an alarm when a child attempts to leave. The door will still open, but the alarm will alert everyone inside.
5. What Not to Use: Do not use a door chain. They are poorly made and can easily be broken. Even by a three year old!
There are several ways to secure a sliding glass door. Securing your sliders is especially important if there is a pool or lake behind the home. I wrote an article on securing your sliders , but here are three easy to install devices:
1. Acrylic Lock: These “locks” are sold at most hardware stores and attach directly to the glass on the door. They are easy to install and very effective for child safety.
2. Door Alarm: There are small, battery powered devices that use a magnet to detect if the door opens. When turned on it broadcasts a loud alarm.
3. CAL Double Bolt Lock: Simply the best lock for a sliding door I have found. CAL recently revised it’s design to offer a child safety feature.
There is only one product that works well for sliding windows. The good news is that it is inexpensive and easy to install. You can even set the locks to allow the windows to be partially opened to allow the breeze in but not open enough to allow a child out.
We all have things in our cabinets that we need to keep away from our kids. Even though there are several childproofing locks on the market, none of them seem to be effective. Either the locks do not work well, are easy to break, or are simply not used. The best scenario is to put dangerous items out of reach of youngsters. If you truly need to lock a cabinet, purchase a keyed, cam style lock and remember to use it.
Whatever you decide, make sure you consider your child’s safety. It only takes a moment for a child to wander off and most of the above options are something you can do yourself inexpensively.