Your toddler is starting to walk and won’t stay in a place; it is time to start baby-proofing the house. The fireplace is a special attraction for all babies with its flickering flame inviting them to explore. While the task of baby proofing seems straight forward, there are plenty of hidden dangers and details that are easy to overlook. So, how do you baby proof your fireplace perfectly without ruining the aesthetics of your living room? Continue reading to find out!
How to Baby Proof Fireplace
Baby proofing your fireplace doesn’t only involve keeping your little one away from the flames. Protecting your baby from the adjacent hazards is also equally important. Although you might think that getting a baby proof fireplace screen is all you need to keep your little one away from danger, there are a few more precautions that must be taken to make it entirely baby proof.
To begin with, you have to test it at your child’s level. Despite all the caution you’ve put to cover all your bases, kids can find a way through your defences and get hurt. You would be surprised at how many injuries have occurred even at baby-proofed houses where parents might have overlooked one little detail. Therefore, think like a baby and get on your hands and knee to explore and baby proof all possible unsafe areas in the house. You could end up finding sharp edges, nails sticking out, or rough edges on the gates that are a potential abrasion or pinch hazard. Test your baby-proofing method in all possible ways it can fail, and correct it. While this won’t safeguard your child completely, it does minimise danger.
Make a list of all things that are potentially dangerous for your baby at the fireplace. It’s easy to forget small but significant details when you are busy as a mom, so it’s best to write down everything in a diary. Address each issue and label them as safe, pending, or unsafe, depending on how much you have worked on it. Everything counts, right from the rigidity of the gate to how easily your child can open it by watching you. Watch out for raised surfaces that are tripping or a pinch hazard and fix them with sponge and tape. When you are out shopping, have this list with you to help you buy the appropriate hardware.
Restrict access to the fireplace or space around it as much as possible. Prevention is your best defence against a fireplace injury. It’s straightforward – if your baby can’t get to it, there’s no risk of injury. While some parents would want to completely cut off access to the living room by closing off the door, it’s a luxury all parents don’t have. In such instances, a fireplace gate for baby proofing is a wonderful idea to keep them away. You can use the gates to block the space around the fireplace to have your child confined to one end of the living room.
Identify remaining risks and work on fixing them. Think of every possible thing that can go wrong with your set up. Can your baby push through the gates or are the gates secured enough to do their job or is the gate adequate? These are some of the things that should go on your checklist to be fixed straight away.
1. Baby-Proofing the Hearth
The hearth is where even the older kids get hurt often by tripping or smashing their toes into while running around. While the hearth is essential to keep the embers from flying into your floor carpet, it needs to be baby-proofed when the fireplace is not in use.
1. Things You Need to baby-proof the Hearth
Foam tubing guards are your child’s best friend to keep them safe from sharp edges everywhere around the house. You will also need tape to stick them to the edges of the hearth. Foam protectors that go specifically on corners are also a great option. The idea is to keep all exposed surfaces covered in something soft to minimise risks.
2. Baby-Proofing Flat Hearth
Baby proofing a flat hearth is probably the easiest as it almost levels with your floor and won’t need much cushioning. The simplest solution can be to cover it up with a soft mat so the rough edges aren’t exposed, and your kids can walk over it without difficulty. You will have to remove it when you use the fireplace, however, as it can become a fire hazard. Fireplace screens are also a fantastic option if you wish to cover up the whole section, including the hearth. When using a screen, you won’t need to use a mat as the hearth falls within the screen.
3. Baby Proofing Stepped Hearth
A stepped hearth is a bigger challenge as there are a number of exposed edges, and your child can easily trip and fall over them. The foam protectors that are available for coffee tables and walls can be used as hearth pads to cushion the edges. Hearth pads, in particular, are also made of fire retardant material and are safe to use at all times. The pads come with a double-sided tape that lets it adhere firmly to the edges of the hearth. A downside to these sticky pads is that they can be pulled away by kids with some effort and the ash can degrade the glue. To baby proof the top of the hearth, you can use a fireplace cushion that is soft and fire retardant. These give adequate protection in case they trip on it and can take embers without catching fire.
2. Baby-Proofing Fireplace Doors
Fireplace doors are a potential pinch or cut hazard with or without an active fire. The doors can have sharp edges or crevices at the railings where it’s easy to get the skin pinched. Here is how you baby-proof your fireplace doors:
1. Test Them Before Purchase
Fireplace doors need not be manufactured to be safe for young kids as their primary function is to keep the fireplace closed. If you put in a little extra effort, you can find door models that are extra safe and child-friendly. If you already have an unsafe fireplace door, consider getting it replaced, especially if it cannot be padded to secure its sharp edges.
2. Restrict Access
The ideal way to safeguard your child from the fireplace door is to keep him away from it. Metal fireplace screens and baby gates are excellent fireplace protectors for babies as they keep the door completely out of reach. Although fireplace locks are a safety feature, they won’t stop your child from touching the scorching door after use. Therefore, it’s best to use screens or gates when it is on. The door should also be closed and locked when the fireplace is not in use so it can stop your child from crawling inside. However, it is not advisable to close the door with a burning fire as there’s a risk that you and your family will be exposed to carbon monoxide.
3. Monitor Door Temperature
Pay attention to how long it takes for the doors to cool once you are done using the fireplace. If the doors are safe by themselves, you would still need to wait for them to cool down before removing the baby gates. Knowing the time will give you a good estimate of when to remove the safety barriers.
3. Baby Proofing 3-Sided Fireplace
Three-sided fireplaces throw up a unique safety challenge from the baby proofing standpoint as they occupy a bigger place. Since there are so many designs around, there aren’t any standard safety devices available. However, it is a good opportunity for DIY baby-proof fireplace ideas.
1. Baby Proofing With Gates
The easiest way to baby proof a 3-sided fireplace is to link together a few panels of baby gates to surround the peninsular. This would require some extra length of gates so you can try buying a super long baby gate. The challenge would be to secure the gate to the wall so your child will not figure out their way inside.
2. Fireplace Screens
If the design of the fireplace is simpler with fewer edges and protrusions, you can always repurpose an existing fireplace screen to cover the fireplace glass. This will ensure your child will not be able to put their hands on the glass and burn their fingers. The edges can then be covered with hearth pads for extra safety from bumps and trips.
4. Keeping Baby Safe From Carbon Monoxide
All fireplaces produce some amount of carbon monoxide. It is a toxic gas that can cause suffocation for the baby and the whole family. Here is how you can safeguard your baby from this threat:
1. Ensure Adequate Ventilation
Carbon monoxide forms rapidly in the absence of proper ventilation in the room. Therefore ensure there is a free flow of air through the room and the smoke gets completely carried out through the chimney. Maintain the chute and chimney clear to facilitate the free flow of the burnt gasses. Always clear blockages in your chimney before you start the fire. To set up a clear airflow through the living room, you need to ensure there’s fresh air coming through the ventilation ducts or there’s a window open in the room.
2. Buy a Carbon Monoxide Detector
Carbon monoxide is a colourless and odourless gas that is hard to detect, and the symptoms of its ingestion are nausea and dizziness. Therefore it is impossible to detect this gas unless the symptoms begin to set in. In high quantities, carbon monoxide can be lethal, so it’s essential to have a detector that can warn you when the gas is in high quantities. Carbon monoxide detectors come with some detection feature as well, so they are great safety devices to ensure complete safety when your child is in the living room. If your alarm goes off, take your child outside and call 911.
A childproof fireplace should ideally stop your child from getting too close to the fireplace where he is exposed to the rough edges, corners, and raised surfaces. Baby gates and screens are excellent choices for childproofing most fireplaces along with hearth pads to increase safety.