Electrical outlets are to babies and young children what boobs are to men: irresistible (snort).
Since the human body is 70% water, it makes for an unfortunately good conductor of electricity. Each year, some 2,400 children are hospitalized due to electric shock, with injuries ranging from minor burns to death.
Keys and coins are the top two favorite items for kiddos to stick into electrical outlets (because, why not?).
Not to worry—there are a variety of easy products on the market that will keep your child safe from electrical shock.
First, a lesson in electrical hardware:
If you have a newer home (built in 2008 or later), you probably already have tamper-resistant receptacles, or “TRRs.” These outlets look like regular outlets, except they appear to have a backing, which are actually spring-loaded shutters that close off openings to the contacts. The shutters only open when they are both compressed simultaneously (i.e. a competent adult plugging something in).
These outlets are also clearly labeled with the letters “TR” (in red (left) for illustration).
One option for homes built prior to 2008 is to upgrade them with these babyproof receptacles. TRRs only cost about 50 cents more than non-TROs (tamper-resistant outlets); it’s really the labor that’s the priciest component of the task. However, if you and/or your partner are competent in the home improvement department, you can probably do it yourself.
You can buy a standard tamper-resistant duplex outlet for about $2 each at your local Home Depot or hardware store.
Alternatively, a simple outlet cover will also do the trick.
Outlet Cover Types
I. Outlet Covers for Empty/Unoccupied or Rarely Used Outlets
To cover empty outlets (and those that are rarely used), the cheapest solution is a simple plastic outlet cover that costs about 8 cents a pop (36 for $3.00).
Our favorite “cheapies” are…
Mommy’s Helper Outlet Plugs ~$5 for 36
No explanation needed, here. Just plug them into the empty sockets. The downside to these is that they can be a little tricky to remove — they do take quite a bit of finagling (otherwise, kids could easily remove them).
Safety 1st Deluxe Press Fit Outlet Plugs ~$7 for 8
Here, you’re paying a little more money for a product that’s a little easier to remove when you do want to plug something in.
Safety 1st OutSmart Outlet Shield ~$5 for 2
This one is perfect for outlets you really don’t use. The prongs behind the plate plug right in, thereby completely obscuring the outlets. You can even paint them the same color as the wall so they blend right in. Way to fool ’em!
Sliding Plate Covers
A better solution that costs a bit more is to use horizontal sliding plate covers, which automatically slide back into place after use. Sliders are probably the next best thing to retrofitting with TRRs.
Our favorite is the…
Mommy’s Helper Safe Plate Slide Covers ~$17/3-count
Keep in mind that some retractable covers prevent plugs from fully engaging, which can lead to sparking and overheating with high-power items like vacuums.
* Remember, these^^ are just for unoccupied outlets; for occupied outlets…
II. Occupied Outlet Covers for Babyproofing
I didn’t know what else to call these, but for outlets that are already “plugged into” by permanent things like lamps, TVs, etc., the easiest thing is to block them with a piece of furniture to make them inaccessible, even if it means throwing off the symmetry of the room a bit.
When it’s not possible to block them with furniture, get a plug cover, such as…
This highly-rated outlet cover is great for outlets that are “plugged into.” The cover is easy to operate and the installation process is simple, taking just a few minutes with the included screws. It fits most of the small to medium-sized power adapters (see pic below) and accommodates thicker power cords.
This one is better for frequent access because it’s easier for parents to open and close. It fits all outlet types, including the traditional style as well as the boxier “decora” style (see below). *Note that it does not work when installed directly above the baseboard.
III. Power Strip Covers for Babyproofing
Ah yes, power strips. We all have them in the increasingly electronic world we live in. They’re usually harder to cover with furniture because they poke out so far. Plus, you kind of want them to be more accessible for convenience, aye?
For this task, our favorite product is the…
Fits over most power strips up to 13.5” long and can sit on the floor or be mounted on the wall.
Note that with enough effort, little hands can still squeeze into the slot where the plugs go, but I think it would be very difficult for them to insert an object into it (unless that object is rather long). A baby or toddler can also yank the plugs out of the strip if they pull hard enough, just to piss you off. Thus… this product is a step in the right direction, but not 100% foolproof. For most, it’s enough of a deterrent. It will also prevent your little one from flipping the power switch on and off. Repeatedly. Over and over…
If you’re looking for something more foolproof, check out the Wappa Baby Power Strip Cover. This one completely encloses the entire strip, thereby eliminating any possible (ahem) intrusion.
It comes in conjunction with the outlet cover box for a complete babyproofed power strip protection package. This product is highly rated and very easy to install.
If you have any long cords in your house that could pose a strangulation hazard, you might want to deal with them. If you can wrap it with a zip tie or a twisty tie and tuck it under/behind something, do that. If not, you can use…
A simple cord shortener that eliminates excess slack in electric wires. This isn’t a perfect product (ahem — it’s pretty cheap in terms of quality), but it works for most, and it’s the right price.
Wiremold Cord Covers ~$24
A separate way to approach excess cordage (is that a word?) is to get a cord cover. Wiremold makes a single, medium (conceals up to 3 cords/cables at once), or high (conceals up to 5 cords/cables at once) capacity version.
SnapPower Guidelights ~$85 for 4-pack
The problem with plug-in night lights is that they can be easily removed and lost, leaving the outlet exposed to little fingers.
SnapPower Guidelight is an outlet cover with a built-in light that’s easy to install, keeps both outlets open for use (or to be properly covered), and are great for helping parents and kiddos get around at night.
Having a nightlight and outlet in one is not only convenient, but a wonderful safety innovation (note: you’ll still want to cover any unused outlet with a plug cover).
Ok, that’s it in the electrical department. One down, ten to go! Teehee.