childproofing decks©Don Vandervort, HomeTips

For a more elegant—though more expensive—solution, you can attach clear panels of acrylic or styrene plastic. These materials are sold by home improvement stores, which will sometimes cut them to size for you.

• Check the floor of your deck or porch. Though it will mean hard work, it will also mean a much safer play area if you strip away any chipped or peeling paint, which may be toxic. Also beware of preservative-treated wood, which could put a child in direct contact with toxic chemicals. Some can be painted over, but some don’t take paint well. Check with your lumber supplier for advice. Throw any scrap or sawdust from treated lumber in the trash or bury it, but do not burn it.

Patch holes, repair loose boards, pound home loose or protruding nails, and sand away slivers. Check that floors are not unduly slippery when wet. Nonslip fiberglass surfacing or outdoor carpeting are great surfaces for decks and porches.

• Block stairs from small adventurers. It’s simplest to use a safety gate securely fastened to sturdy posts, not simply pressure-mounted to them. If the entry opening is too wide, fence off part of the porch or deck area to keep your child away from the stairs.

• Safeguard electrical receptacles in the area by replacing them with ground fault circuit interrupters with locking outdoor receptacle covers. Also block them with bulky furniture. Block off or remove light fixtures that a child could reach. Keep electrical cords out of reach.

• Remove any potted plants, fertilizers, insecticides, or electrical bug-killing devices.

Child-Safe Outdoor Furniture

Buy patio furniture that won’t pinch fingers, tip easily, or fold up suddenly. Make sure that edges are reasonably smooth and rounded, not sharp or splintered. Be sure that painted furniture and deck components are nontoxic. Place the furniture so that your child can’t use it to climb up and over the railing.[GARD align=”left”]

Choose a ceiling-mounted porch swing rather than a freestanding one that could pinch fingers or arms against its stand.

Many decks and porches are favorite sites for family barbecues, but while your child is small, it’s best to move the barbecue grill elsewhere, or provide a barrier to it.

And keep starter fluid, propane, briquettes, barbecue tools, and other supplies locked safely away.