As adults, we’re so used to seeing electrical outlets that we hardly notice them in our daily lives. For babies, on the other hand, outlets are something new and interesting to explore, which can pose some serious safety risks.
The biggest danger comes from babies reaching into or poking objects inside outlet holes. For this reason, before welcoming a baby into your home, baby-proofing electrical outlets is a must.
First, check to see what types of outlets you have.
In the U.S., we have A outlets (with two holes) and B outlets (with three holes). Unless you’re living in a much older home, you probably have B outlets, which are safer because they’re grounded.
Also, check to see if your home has tamper-proof or tamper-resistant outlets. The vertical slots in ordinary outlets are both open, allowing a child to easily stick an object inside one of them and be electrocuted. Tamper-resistant outlets have shutters on the inside that stay closed unless something presses into both vertical slots simultaneously (like a plug). We highly recommend installing tamper-resistant outlets to protect any children in your home, whether they are your own or simply visiting.
Note: To reduce everyone’s risk of electrocution, you should also have GFCI outlets close to any areas where appliances and electronics may get wet, such as near sinks, showers, and bathtubs.
Next, select a compatible outlet cover.
You have some options when it comes to blocking a baby’s access to an electrical outlet:
- Plastic covers that you plug into the outlet. This is a budget-friendly option that’s easy for you to simply plug in and use. The covers fit snugly into the outlet, so infants will have a hard time dislodging them. The downside is that it won’t take long for your child to learn to pull these covers out as they get older, and once they’re pulled out, the plugs can create a choking hazard.
- Self-closing outlet covers. To install these, you simply unscrew the screw in the center of the outlet so that you can remove the existing cover, and then you put the new cover in its place. The cover’s default position is closed over the outlet holes, so you need to slide the cover to the side to plug something in. When you unplug a device, the cover slides closed again. This childproofing solution is more effective than the plastic covers and won’t pose a choking hazard, but it is slightly more labor-intensive to install.
- Outlet boxes. These devices cover both the outlet and whatever you plug into it. To open the box and access the outlet, you’ll need to press two buttons simultaneously. This makes outlet boxes a smart way to keep children safe from outlets and the prongs of an appliance cord. However, the boxes can be bulky, which makes them a bit of an eyesore. You’ll also need to be sure to find the type with the two-button release mechanism for effective childproofing.