You might think of your garage as a messy storage room, but anyone who has ever had a child knows that kids see something very different. To a child, a garage is an enchanting land of forbidden toys, tasty liquids and fun machinery. Keeping kids out of the garage is the best way to protect them from it, but once your child gets to the age that they can open doors, you can’t be expected to watch them 24/7, and telling them not to go into the garage will likely have the opposite effect.
We’ve collected 25 tips to child-proof your garage. Some of these involve the garage door but most of them do not, and ultimately it is every parent’s responsibility to teach their child how to be safe and avoid risks. Spending a couple hours making your garage a safer place for your son or daughter to play is well worth the time when you consider the risk of a child getting hurt, and most of these tips can be done on a small budget or no budget at all.
1. Check garage door auto-reverse
Your garage door should have a auto-reverse functionality that kicks in once it collides with something. A typical door requires thirty pounds of pressure to reverse. You can safely test if your door’s reverse is calibrated properly by putting a 2×4 board on the ground underneath your safety eye sensors and letting the door close on the board. If the door does not reverse, replace your opener immediately! If it isn’t stopping because of a board, it won’t stop because of a child.
2. Check garage door photo-eye sensor
By the ground on both sides of your garage door, there should be small infrared sensors the form a laser beam over the threshold of your door. If this beam is broken, the door should stop closing and reverse open again. You can test this by swiping your foot through the sensor’s path while the door is closing. Any door that doesn’t have these safety eyes was likely installed before 1993, and could probably do with being replaced!
3. Lock shop doors
This is a super simple tip that, although inconvenient, might be your best option. Locking all exterior doors to tool sheds, workshops and garages, will keep young explorers away from dangerous tools and equipment.
4. Mount your door opener as high as possible.
Young children love to push the button for closing a garage door, then enjoying the thrill of rushing underneath the door before it closes. This game is incredibly dangerous and you should encourage your children not to play with the door, but mounting the opener out of reach of tiny hands is another easy solution.
5. Rubber-seal the gaps between garage door panels.
If you have a sectional or roll-up door, make sure that the gaps between the panels aren’t posing a threat to your child’s curious reach. Some doors are shaped specifically to prevent this, and others can be modified with a rubber seal to remove the risk.
6. Store tools out of reach
Tools can be fascinating for children, especially if they’ve watched you use them. unplugging all power tools and putting them out of reach is a small step that can save lives, since even a simple tool like a hammer or screwdriver presents a huge threat to children.
7. Lock and Latch cabinets
If you use storage cabinets to put away liquids, hardware, or tools, install either locks or child-safe latches to keep your adventurous child away. Younger children might be foiled by child-proof latches, but as kids mature and their curiosity grows, they are more liable to solve the latch and get at the chemicals or nails stored in the cabinet. Upgrade your safety as your child ages.
8. Spring-closure cans
If you’re going to be storing dangerous or flammable liquids in the garage, invest in some cans with a spring-closure to prevent your child from getting in to them. Fire is a nightmare for any parent, and this step does more than you might think to keep it out of your garage.
9. Secure bins and cans
Attach any bins (like rolling garbage or recycling cans or yarkwork bins) to the walls with bungee cords or other elastic straps to stop them from falling over on children. Anything that presents a risk of enclosure should be carefully secured, since getting stuck inside something too large for them to escape is a dangerous proposition for a child.
10. Store buckets upside down
On the same note, putting buckets upside down accomplishes two safety goals. Firstly, it makes it much harder for children to get trapped inside, and secondly it makes it impossible for liquid to build up inside the bucket, presenting a drowning risk for a child.
11. Empty coolers after use
Never leave a cooler full of ice sitting upright in the garage! If a small child makes their way into the garage then, out of curiosity, climbs inside the cooler, the cold and the water building up in the bottom of the container are both risks. A child can drown in an inch of water, so a little bit of unattended ice can turn into a dangerous situation.
12. Lock or latch fridges and freezers
These simple appliances can trap a curious child inside their dangerously cold interiors. Find some way of closing a fridge in your garage so that no child can get inside, such as a lock, child-proof latch, or an obstruction. Simply blocking a fridge out of reach is less effective than a lock, but giving up the convenience of a freezer can be hard.
13. Teach your children car safety
This tip helps in and out of the garage. Educate your children about the risk that cars present and tell them to never stand behind a car. There is a huge blind spot immediately behind most cars, and teaching kids to avoid it can save a life.
14. Keep the car locked and the keys in the house
Leaving your keys in your car doesn’t just make your car easier to steal, it also lets curious explorers turn your car on, putting themselves in several kinds of harm’s way. Obviously a child who attempts to drive the car could break the car, your garage door, your garage’s walls, or anything else around the car, but a child can also simply start a car and begin to flood the garage with exhaust fumes. Carbon monoxide poisoning is a real risk that is hard to detect until it is happening. Also, lock your car’s doors and trunk so that children cannot climb into the vehicle and become trapped.
15. Secure large objects
If you have anything larger in your garage, like a motorcycle, lawn mower, wheelbarrow or even just a hefty toolbox, be wary of that item falling over on a child. Secure anything large enough to pose a threat of pinning or crushing a child and, if possible, child-proof these restraints or keep them out of your child’s reach.
16. Don’t repackage chemicals
Some homeowners have a bad habit of transferring chemicals, paints, and other liquids from around the garage into gallon jugs, soda bottles, or other drink containers. This is dangerous to children because the bottles that they see are connected to drinking in their mind, and so they may try to drink from these bottles, ignoring any labeling on the bottle that makes it clear to adults that the bottles are dangerous. Keep any chemicals, including those used for cleaning and laundry, in their original bottles.
17. Kneel down and examine your garage from their angle
Seeing things from your kid’s height can show you hazards that you never saw standing up straight. A simple example would be vices and clamps mounted to a table at child-head-height, which can pose choking or pinching hazards. Anything that looks interesting should be child-proofed, but keep in mind that your little adventurer has a different perspective on the world than you.
18. Keep toys stored out of reach
While your children are still young, it can be tempting to put their toys in the garage at a place that they can access them. Be very careful when doing this because sports equipment, bikes, and other larger items can present a threat if a child is getting them down off a wall or otherwise standing beneath them. Be especially careful that you do not train your child to take everything down, since that would undo some of the other safety steps you’ve taken for their well-being.
19. Be sure to account for all dangerous liquids
Antifreeze, lighter fluid, windshield wiper fluid, oil, and gasoline are all dangerous to children and can be found in many garages, but homeowners don’t always remember to lock up or secure all of these. In particular, antifreeze with ethylene glycol can smell and taste sweet to children but is poisonous. Immediately clear up any spills, since kids (or pets) can either lick a spill or touch it them lick it off their body or clothes.
20. Stair safety
If you have stairs into your garage, from the home or an exterior door, take the same safety precautions that you would take on any other set of stairs here. Putting child-locked gates at the top and bottom is a good step, as is keeping the stairs free from toys and clutter.
21. Riding toys locked away
Make sure that your child is ready for a riding toy before purchasing them one, and if your yard or driveway are small, do not allow your child to ride into a risky situation. Look for toys that are low to the ground so that they are less likely to flip, but make sure to attach flags to the toy so that they are visible to cars. If you don’t have enough space for a child to ride around, consider only using the toy at parks or away from steep hills, steps, or traffic. Lastly, keep these toys inside the house so that an explorer won’t injure themselves trying to get to the toy in the garage.
22. Water heater and HVAC units
Children are more susceptible to burns than adults and more at-risk for electrical shocks, so keep any of your home’s systems (such as but not limited to water heater, furnace, or HVAC units) behind closed doors or build partitions around them. You can set your hot-water heater to a lower temperature so that a child won’t be as likely to get burned.
23. Storing sports equipment safely
If your child is starting to play sports, they might have dangerous equipment in the garage like hockey sticks and bats. These larger items should be stored either out of reach of children or in such a way as to minimize risk. Hanging these toys on the wall can lead to them falling on children, while storing them close to the ground horizontally presents fewer risks.
24. Keep pets separate from kids
The bags of cat litter and dog food in the garage are probably brightly colored and aromatic. A litter box or kennel crate can look like an interesting play pen. Take a critical eye to anything you have set up in your garage for your pets and make sure that your child either cannot or won’t put themselves in a dangerous situation.
25. Make sure that matches are out of reach
Lastly, reduce your child’s risk of being burned by keeping matches high up on shelves, out of reach of any little hands. Match heads are made of dangerous chemicals but their bright colors can attract young onlookers, especially if your child has seen you make fire with them before.
This is a pretty exhaustive list, but if there are things that we’ve missed, feel free to leave them in a comment below! The most important thing to keep in mind is that your child has a very different perspective on your home, and sometimes you’ll have to crouch down to their level to understand what might look tempting. Here are some other tips about childproofing your home, from The New York Times, and here are some of our other thoughts about safety and security for your home!