This post will help you identify what types of windows you have in your home and the best ways to childproof them to keep EVERYONE in your home safe.
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Window safety is especially important to me because before I started Proofed, my little guy broke our door window pane and gave us all a huge fright (skip to bottom for full story), he's OK but talk about heart attack worthy stuff.
We'll focus on 3 areas of window safety:
Access to broken glass
Sadly, it turns out that injuries from window falls are far too common for our littlest folks. According to The Nationwide Children’s Hospital and their article in the journal, Pediatrics, around 3,300 children 0 - 4 years old have fallen from a window each year.
Holy moly! I was shocked by that figure because these are big-time scary falls – not just your garden variety 18” flop bonks.
The good news is 1) the annual injury rate of kiddos 0 – 4 has been decreasing (yeah!) and 2) this decline may be attributable to new building code regulations, safety education programs in cities like Boston, and parents taking safety steps with baby proofing products.
Cities like Boston and NYC saw up to a 96% drop in injury rates over a 10 year period after implementing building code requirements, educational programs like "Kids can't Fly" and providing access to free or reduced cost window guards.
Safety prevention works folks!
So before suggesting the best baby proofing products for your windows, it’s important to know what style windows you have in your home.
Here are the 4 most common styles of opening windows:
Hung Windows – The sashes (movable panels) slide vertically up and down and can be either single-hung or double-hung.
Casement Windows – Also known as “crank” or French “push-out” windows depending on their hardware. The sash swings outward or inwards to harness a breeze. The “push-out” variety usually doesn’t have a screen (we have these and they are beautiful but a pain).
Slider Windows – The sash moves horizontally on a track and one pane may be fixed.
Awning Windows – This is like a casement window but turned on its side so the hinge is horizontally at the top allowing the window to kick out. Some awning windows are built at floor level giving your kiddo direct access to the glass.
Figured out your window style? Not let’s get ready to baby proof these bad boys.
The first step is thinking about how your kid gets access to your windows and what I like to call, Toddler Parkour.
If you haven’t read my previous post about climbing babies, the gist is that your little one will use anything available to get where they need to go. And let me tell you, they NEED to get to that window, because it’s the front row tix to the COOLEST show in town, the World beyond.
Make sure you don’t have any furniture giving “stepping stone” access to any windows. The best thing to do is just move that furniture item if possible. Another option is to cordon off the entire space via an extra wide safety gate. This tactic can be particularly useful with floor-to-ceiling picture windows. Le sigh, one day I will have these.
We actually block our permanently locked window door with furniture and that works well. Again, not for everyone because now the door isn’t functional but can be useful.
OK, now let’s get down to the nitty-gritty of childproofing windows.
Scratch the idea of relying on your screens to prevent a tumbling tot - they just aren't secure enough to support your child's weight. Sorry.
What's the safest option in window safety? Ding, ding. Not opening them at all. If you could lock every window, the world would be so simple. Ha!
Mama's gotta breathe - amiright?!
But there is some truth here, any windows you aren’t using for cooling needs, lock those suckers up.
If you are lucky, your windows will have locking hardware pre-installed but if you live on planet Murphy’s Law like I do, your windows may not have secure locking hardware.
Have windows that use keys to lock them and just maaaaaybe you lost said key? No worries, your local hardware shop should be able to help with replacing the lock barrels.
Also, Amazon. Just saying – it has everything.
But retrofitting all your windows can take up a lot of time – which I’m sure you have LOADS of as a new parent and that’s where window baby proofing products may make more economic sense (cents).
Here are the 4 best window proofing items for your window style:
1. Window Guards:
Think of these like bars for your window. Yes, some parents initially think of the style like baby jail, but the peace of mind they provide is incredible if you live on the 5th floor of some high-rise complex!
These products use a telescoping bar to slide out to fit your unique window width. Then you can lock them in place with hardware (permanently fixing with screws). Make sure you check if the guard will work with a vinyl, metal or wood window frame.
Folks in some urban areas, like New York City, New Jersey and Boston, should note that there are specific styles of window guards that are approved for use for building codes and home builder’s regulations.
This may seem trivial but it’s really important – first responders want to know they can gain entry through these guards in an emergency (like a house fire) and easily get into your kiddo’s room from the outside. Most product descriptions outline their compliance areas.
Baby Proofing Tip: Make sure the guard has an emergency release and check if the window guard is approved for use in a bedroom – some aren’t!
Window Styles Supported:
- Casement (double check product description)
- Single & Double Hung
- Awning (double check product description)
2. Window Stops
These are wedge like products that prevent a window from opening past a certain point (it’s like a door wedge up on your window). The pro to these items it that they are visually discrete but the con is your window will have very limited opening range.
The best rule of thumb is to allow no more than 4 inches of opening because that’s about the size of a 5 month old’s torso.
Baby Proofing Tip: If you have vinyl windows, double check to make sure you purchase a compatible window stop.
Window Styles Supported:
- Single & Double Hung
3. Shard-proof Window Films
When tempered glass is broken it fractures into a bazillion shards that can get everywhere and obviously, you don’t want those near your kiddo. A transparent window film is applied to the pane of glass and it prevents the shards from getting everywhere. Note, it doesn’t prevent a crack or break of the glass, it just contains the shards. Bonus, many window films are UV treated – sweet! Here's a full how-to on installing window safety film that is super easy.
These are purchased as a large sheet and you cut to spec. I wish I would have known about this product with my dude and our window door.
Window Styles Supported:
- Single & Double Hung
- Non-opening windows too (picture style, bay style etc).
4. Window Cord Retrofit Kits
Window cords fit into the broader window safety bucket - but they are a silent threat in the home. If you have window treatments that have cords that hang down those can become a strangulation hazard to your little. The best option is to replace the window treatment with a cordless window covering. Don't have the $ to replace? The Window Covering Safety Council has amazing online resources and offers free window cord retrofit kits - cool beans!
Time for my personal story and proofing fail:
I’ll be honest, I didn’t know about the different product options when we moved into our older home with door style windows (that’s a picture of our window door). I knew we needed to do something but didn’t have the slightest clue as to how to baby proof the glass at floor level.
Then it happened.
It was our 5th wedding anniversary. My fabulous parents offered to babysit. My dude was 14 months old. It was our first official fancy date night after my dude was born.
What could go wrong?
The dinner was impeccable and I didn’t get a single text from my parents.
When we got home, it was serenely quiet and then we heard those dreaded words…
“So, he’s totally fine... BUT…”
We learned that our bruiser, with his new-found love for mobility, had jetted away from my dad and hit the floor level window pane with a wooden puzzle piece. My dad was literally standing over him watching him and it all went down in 2 seconds.
Luckily, the shards of glass fell away from the window outside the house and because the pane was super old (no tempered glass), it did not shatter into a million pieces staying relatively intact inside the frame.
My son was almost unscathed and only had the slightest suggestion of a scratch on his forehead. My parents almost had a heart attack and you can only imagine the “what-if” scenarios running through all our heads.
That teaches us for having a date night.
But seriously, to say we were lucky is an understatement. If I can help just one household create a safer window set-up I will feel like my proofing karma has been restored.
OK, this was a monster post but you should now have some good info to go tackle those windows.
As always, with the endless flavors of home set-ups if your unique windows aren’t able to be baby proofed with the above suggestions or you don’t feel comfortable doing any of these installations yourself it’s best to contact a local baby proofing servicer.
Please let me know how you make your windows safer in the comments below (you can also email me offline at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will read and personally answer every question! Swearsies).