That first winter with your little one will always be one to remember – cold evenings spent snuggling in front of the fireplace, drinking warm milk and dozing to bedtime stories.
But before you get too comfortable, don’t forget that where there’s fire, there’s danger. So you’re going to need to do some babyproofing first.
Don’t worry, we’ve been there, done that. Check out all our tips below for babyproofing fireplaces and keeping your little snuggle-pots safe all winter long.
Dangers And What To Watch Out For
It doesn’t matter whether it’s a crackling wood-burning fireplace or a modern gas unit – there’s a myriad of things to watch out for.
Any time a flame is involved, there’s always potential for an accident – and kids love to get themselves into trouble whenever the opportunity presents itself!
But you’re going to babyproof the heck out of that fireplace, so fingers crossed you don’t ever have to experience any of that dangerous stuff.
Either way, it’s handy to know about the dangers so you understand what exactly it is that you’re protecting your little one against, so let’s have a quick look.
This is fairly obvious, but it’s always worth reiterating the potential seriousness of these injuries.
Children of any age can experience first, second or third degree burns if they reach into an open fireplace or fall.
But it’s not just open fireplaces that are the problem. As the University of Utah Health Radio points out, glass-front fireplaces can also cause severe burns.
Reaching temperatures up to 1,500 degrees Fahrenheit, you can imagine the trauma that could occur if a child simply reached out and touched the glass.
The treatment and rehabilitation of burns can be extremely painful and depending on the severity, can last into adulthood. In serious cases, disfigurement and scarring can occur.
If you’d prefer to be prepared for the worst, here’s a great article by The Nemours Foundation that explores the different types of burns and when to seek medical attention.
The subject of burns and babies is certainly nothing to be taken lightly – after all, something as small as a warm mist humidifier can do big-time damage.
2) Smoke Inhalation
According to the Better Health Channel, clogged chimneys can lead to an increase in air pollutants in the home.
This obviously isn’t ideal for a baby or child’s lungs, as they may be more susceptible to wood smoke. Plus, if your little one has asthma (diagnosed or just showing signs) then smoke inhalation can become a really big problem.
Watch your little ones and make sure they’re not having trouble breathing. Other symptoms of smoke inhalation include a runny nose, coughing and itchy eyes.
3) Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
Without adequate ventilation, the carbon monoxide produced by your fireplace has nowhere to escape to and poisoning can occur.
It can cause physical discomfort, unconsciousness and in the most serious cases, death.
Although you can’t see it or taste it, you might experience headaches, fatigue, or chest pain. This article by the University of Rochester Medical Center offers a more detailed look at the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning in children.
4) Over-Heating Rooms
Babies and young children may not be able to tell you when they’re feeling too hot. It’s up to you as parents to monitor their physical signs and watch out for over-heating.
5) Injuries From A Raised Hearth
If you’ve got a raised hearth that’s made of bricks or something hard and sharp, this can be very dangerous – especially for babies that are crawling, pulling themselves up or just learning to walk.
The risk is that your little one could bump their head, get a cut or a nasty bruise.
If you’ve got young kids that play rough, there’s also the threat that they’ll push one another and fall onto the hearth.
Our Baby Proofing Fireplace Safety Checklist
We’ll be talking more in-depth about all of this in our article, but here’s a quick summary of our baby proofing tips:
- Enclose the fireplace with a safety gate.
- Protect any sharp corners or edges of a raised hearth with padding.
- Keep all lighting implements and kindling away and out of reach.
- Ensure the room is equipped with fire extinguishers and safety gear.
- Smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors are a must.
- Buy only sleepwear that is low fire danger.
- Get your fireplace and chimney checked annually to make sure it’s in working order.
- Never leave your fire burning overnight.
- From a very young age and as soon as they can begin understanding, teach your children all about fire safety.
Alright, time to get into the juicy details of everything you need to know to whip your safety checklist into shape.
What Type of Safety Gate Do I Need?
A safety gate is an essential accessory for any house with children and a fireplace.
And we’re not just talking about fireplaces with a traditional open hearth – even fireplaces with built in doors need some kind of barrier to keep children well away from the high temperatures. Never rely on your little one’s intuition, it almost always never ends well.
The most effective type of safety gate is one that is wall-mounted.
Some people might recommend just using a free-standing fireplace screen, but these are best avoided around children. Anything that isn’t screwed firmly into the wall is an accident waiting to happen.
- Make sure you have the safety gate set up by the time baby can crawl.
- Always install the gate according to manufacturer instructions.
- Give it a good shake and shove when it’s installed to make sure it’s durable.
- Ensure there is nothing nearby that your child can use to climb over the safety gate.
- If you have an extra-large fireplace, you might need extensions for your gate.
To better understand what we’re talking about, check out the video below. It shows what a safety gate around a fireplace should look like.
How To Babyproof A Raised Hearth
You can install safety products that cushion the edges and corners of a sharp raised hearth.
They’re basically like padded guards meant to stop your little one from getting cuts and bruises if they fall.
They usually have an adhesive that allows you to stick on the padding, so they should be easy enough to apply. They’re also usually pretty versatile, so if you buy a pack, you might also be able to use them on tables, desks, TV units, benches, etc.
A Neat Alternative: The DIY Route
Some parents get creative and make their own hearth padding. For example, in the video below you’ll see how one mum uses a foam mattress, fabric, thread and a glue gun to create her own hearth protector.
If you decide to take the DIY route, don’t forget that you’ll probably need to remove your home-made hearth padding before you light the fire. Otherwise it might catch alight.
Important Tips To Keep In Mind At All Time
1) Arming Your Home With Fire Safety Equipment
Fire extinguishers are a must for any home, especially one with a fireplace and a munchkin roaming around searching for trouble.
According to Danny Lipford at Today’s Homeowner, you should avoid placing them directly over or behind the fireplace.
But it’s not just about equipping your home with the right products.
It’s also important that you have some basic fire training and understanding. For example, would you know the best way to extinguish flames on a person – child or adult?
If not, it might be worth taking a class or speaking with a local fire safety professional.
2) Keep Lighters, Matches And Kindling Out Of Reach
Kids love to copy their parents. You might see them playing pretend with your phone, pots and pans, or moving an invisible steering wheel in the back seat of the car.
Unfortunately, there’s also the risk they’ll try to copy you doing something that isn’t safe – like lighting a fire, extinguishing it or stoking it.
To prevent them from getting any crazy ideas, keep dangerous things like lighters, matches and kindling away and out of reach of little hands. Always remember to put them away when you’re done, and to shut the safety gate safely behind you.
3) Smoke And Carbon Monoxide Detectors
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends testing your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors every month.
They also say to change the batteries at least once a year.
While this might seem like a lot of work, it could literally save your family’s life. Definitely a must in a house where a fireplace is in regular use.
4) Choosing Low Fire Danger Sleepwear
This one’s a great tip from the Children’s Hospital at Westmead. They suggest looking for sleepwear for your baby or child that has the ‘Low Fire Danger’ label.
When clothes have this label, it means they’re approved as slow burning. Basically, the material they’re made from is more difficult to catch on fire and will slow down flames.
No, they can’t completely protect your child from fire, but they’re better than nothing, especially if your child will be spending time around the fireplace.
5) Keep Up Your Chimney Maintenance
Your chimney should be checked and cleaned annually by a professional.
As discussed earlier, a clogged chimney can smoke up a room and this isn’t something you want your children to breathe in.
A simple routine inspection will ensure the fireplace is well ventilated and ready for winter.
6) Never Leave A Fire Burning Overnight
This one’s a tip to protect the whole family, not just your little bundle of joy.
According to the Accident Advice Helpline, it’s recommended that you always extinguish the fire before you go to sleep.
Look at it this way – would you feel comfortable letting your toddler roam completely unsupervised around a fireplace? Probably not.
If you fall asleep and your little rascal hops out of bed (for the tenth time) and wanders out to the fireplace, they could find themselves in trouble – without any adults to help.
So, never leave that fire burning (no matter how deliciously warm it makes the house).
7) Don’t Forget To Teach Your Kids
One last tip – when your kids get old enough and they start understanding the world around them, teach them about fire safety and best practices.
For example, one great catchphrase is the ‘Stop, Drop and Roll’ which clearly outlines what to do if clothes catch on fire.
Check out the video below, which is sponsored by the Burn Prevention Network. If your kids are old enough, they might find some benefit in watching along with you.
Our Product Recommendations For Baby Proofing Your Fireplace
As good old Ned Stark says: “Winter is Coming”. Exciting? Oh yes. Time to bust out the kindling and the hot cocoa!
But if you’ve now got little ones to protect, you might be running around wondering what babyproofing products you’ll need and where to get them.
If you’re feeling strapped for time, check out some of our favorites below.
We’ve gone over the pros and cons of each in the sections below, and if you like what you see, have a further squiz on Amazon to see what other customers who’ve tried these products themselves have to say.
*Note: Upon clicking on any of the links in the section below, you will be redirected to the respective product listings on Amazon where you can learn about the product’s price, customer rating & customer reviews.
Category #1: Fireplace Safety Gates
Our Favorite Recommendation: Super Wide Adjustable Baby Gate and Play Yard by Regalo
We love this safety gate because it’s so versatile – you can use it to protect your kids from the fireplace in winter, and set it up as a play yard for the rest of the year!
Plus, it really is extra wide. Reaching 192 inches across, it should quite easily surround your fireplace, with enough distance to keep your little ones safe.
The gate stands at 28 inches tall.
- Has a walk-through gate with a babyproof lock.
- Made up of 8 removable and configurable panels, so you can customize it to the shape and size of your fireplace.
- Folds down compactly so you can easily store it when winter’s over.
- Can also be used as a play yard during warmer seasons – useful all year round!
- When used to shield the fireplace, it must be wall-mounted, so you’ll need to be brave enough to use a screwdriver.
- Only available in the color white.
Category #2: Hearth Padding (Edges Only)
Our Favorite Recommendation: Edge and Corner Guards by Bébé Earth
This pack of high-density foam offers over 20 feet of coverage.
You just apply it to your hearth, and rest easy knowing your little ones can play and tumble about without getting any nasty cuts from the sharp edges.
The best part is that it uses advanced 3M technology, so it’s all installed quite easily via adhesives.
The eight corner guards are conveniently pre-taped, so you just stick them on as needed. The long edging piece can be cut to fit your exact hearth measurements.
- Easy to install.
- Adhesives can be removed without damaging the hearth.
- If you’ve got padding left over, it’s versatile and can also be used on sharp-edged tables, benches, and other furniture.
- The pack also comes with a doorstopper to babyproof your door!
- Only protects against cuts from the edges of the hearth. If your toddler is prone to falls, you might prefer a hearth cushion that covers the whole area.
- Only available in the colors brown, white, or black.
Category #3: Hearth Padding (Full Cushion)
Our Favorite Recommendation: Soft Seat Hearth Pad by KidKusion
If you want to go all out and ensure minimal injuries around your hearth, this padding is great and definitely does the job.
It covers the entire top of the hearth, not just the edges, and can even be used as an extra seat! In fact, it’s kind of the perfect little seating area for your babies and toddlers.
The padding is made up of three pieces, and spans 90 inches.
- Easy application using double-sided tape.
- The foam is naturally flame resistant, so you can leave it in place even when the fireplace is being used.
- If your hearth is smaller than the padding, it can be cut to fit.
- Only available in the colors taupe or brown.
- If you decide to cut the padding smaller, it may be a bit fiddly, so you’ll need to set aside enough time to do it right.
Wrapping It Up
Okay, that’s all the tips we have for babyproofing your fireplace. Stay safe and keep warm this beautiful season!
Know any other fire safety tips we’ve forgotten to mention? Share them in the comments below. We’d love to hear them.