Helping with easy things like folding or moving clothes from the washer to the dryer is a good way to introduce kids to the concept of family chores and teaches them valuable lessons about pitching in. But there are hazards in the laundry room, and it's a spot that's often overlooked when it comes to kid-proofing and safety. Here are four ways to keep kids safe when you're separating lights from darks.
1. Keep laundry detergent out of reach and out of sight Squishy, brightly coloured and small enough for little hands to grasp, laundry packets are really appealing to young kids. While the rates of accidental poisoning from laundry packets remains quite high (with one- and two-year-olds especially at risk), there are simple preventative steps you can take. Always keep laundry packs in the container they were sold in, as they're labelled with important safety information and feature kid-proof locks. Be sure to store the container out of reach and out of sight (on top of your washer or dryer is far too tempting for curious climbers). When it's time to put a load in the wash, never set the laundry packet on top of a basket of laundry or any other place where your child could grab it if you turn your back for a moment. Similarly, always keep liquid and powder detergents and stain removers well out of reach and in their original containers. If you use a DIY detergent, never store it in a container typically used for foods, and always make sure it's well labelled. Lastly, always be sure to clean up spills right away.
2. Lock the washer and dryer doors That big empty space inside a washing machine or dryer looks like a fun hiding spot and it's way too easy for kids to get stuck in there. Many new front-loading washers and dryers have a built-in locking feature to keep kids out when the machine's not in use, but if yours doesn't, or if you have a top-loader, it's a good idea to get a child safety lock.
3. Pay attention to machine placement Once your baby's a pro crawler, she can quickly hustle into tight spaces, like behind a washing machine or between the washer and dryer. Not only could she get stuck behind the machine, she could tamper with the power plug or pull out the drainage or water hose, which could cause burns if you're running a hot cycle in the wash. Check your manual to find out how much clearance your machine needs on the sides and at the back, and stick as close to that as possible.
4. Be cautious when pre-treating laundry A basin of socks soaking in a dilute bleach solution could be easily yanked off a counter by a curious kid, splashing into his eyes, getting in his mouth or irritating his skin. Also, make sure your kid's lovey—whether it's a favourite stuffed animal or a security blanket—is out of sight when it's being treated so he can't swipe it from the laundry pile and curl up with it or, worse, suck on it.
5. Use a child lock on the laundry room door Keeping kids out of the laundry room is the best way to keep kids safe when you're not doing laundry. An inexpensive child safety lock or doorknob cover can prevent them from wandering into the room and getting into trouble. It's also a good idea to make a house rule that the laundry room is off limits for anything other than doing laundry—and especially playing hide-and-seek.