It literally just happened to me.
Or, it almost did.
I had just finished grabbing a bite to eat in the kitchen, and I went to open the bedroom door.
And it wouldn’t open.
No doubt my 3-year-old had (accidentally? Or not…) pushed the lock from the inside.
Thankfully, she wasn’t home, and she wasn’t stuck inside. But it felt eerily like a close call. She could have easily locked herself in there!
So what do you do when your toddler locks him or herself in a room? And how can you prevent your child from locking doors?
If your toddler is locked in a room right now, it’ll all depend on what kind of door you have. In my house it was as easy as turning the lock from the outside with a flathead screwdriver (scroll down to see a photo and for what to do with different kinds of doorknobs).
If it’s prevention you’re here for, there are a ton of hacks and products that can prevent a child from locking doors and getting themselves stuck. A really cool, simple, and cheap solution is these foam finger pinch guards on Amazon that keep doors from slamming and locking shut.
But let’s take a closer look below at some of the quick ways you can fix this and prevent it from happening in the first place.
How to open a locked bedroom or bathroom door without a keyhole
First things first.
Your toddler or child is locked in a room from the inside and you need to get it open ASAP.
There are a couple of different scenarios I’ll do my best to walk you through.
Scenario 1 is obviously that the door actually has a keyhole.
In that case, you should have the key lying around somewhere!
If you don’t, try your exterior house key or other accessory keys (like your backdoor key or garage door key) and see if they fit. You’d be surprised how often this works.
If you don’t have the key and none of your existing keys are working, there are other things to try.
Scenario 2 is to remove the doorknob hardware with a screwdriver
The thing about interior doors (like bedroom doors and bathroom doors) is that they’re typically designed for privacy and noise reduction.
They aren’t usually meant to be uber-fortified security measures.
Most interior doorknobs can simply be unscrewed. If there are visible screws around the trim plate of the knob, simply remove them and you should be able to get the door open.
If there are no visible screws to remove, they are probably just concealed by the actual doorknob. You’ll have to push a small latch near the base of the doorknob in to remove the handle and reveal the screws, which can them be taken out with a screwdriver.
Here’s an excellent video breaking it down (this is especially common in older homes with older hardware).
Scenario 3 is to simply turn the lock from the outside with a flathead screwdriver
In my house, which was built in the 1980s and updated a few decades later, most of the interior doors don’t lock at all.
The few that do, like on our master bedroom and the bathroom, have really simply slits on the outside that can be easily turned with a flathead screwdriver or a coin or whatever you have lying around.
Like I said, it’s not exactly Fort Knox in here!
These doors and locks are mostly just to prevent people from walking in on you while you’re pooping or whatever, they aren’t meant to thwart a SWAT team.
I was really relieved to see this when I got locked out of my bedroom recently.
At first, this slot looked like a keyhole and I had no idea where the key was.
But open further inspection, it was simply a flathead screwdriver slot that could be quickly used to unlock the door in a pinch if it ever were to be locked accidentally (or by a mischevious toddler).
Doorknobs like this are awesome because they’re really safe but they still allow the door to lock and function normally.
If you live in an old house full of doors that are prone to accidentally locking shut, consider buying a pack of these newer knobs on Amazon and switching out all of the old ones in your house.
Other ways to get the door open if a child is locked in a room
If nothing above is working, you might still have a few options.
Get your child to open the door
This might be a no-go for very young toddler or babies, but most kids that can manage to accidentally lock a door can probably figure out how to unlock it with a little instruction.
(And possibly threats or rewards, whatever your style is!)
Use various other tools to pick the lock
This isn’t my favorite option because I know everyone says you can use a screwdriver or credit card to open a locked door, but I’ve always found in practice that it’s very difficult to do.
But if you’re really in a pinch and have no other options, you could try a:
- bobby pin
- butter knife
- or coat hanger
to jimmy the lock free.
Here’s a great post from Lifehack with video instructions for how to open locks with lots of different household tools.
Kick the door in
I wouldn’t resort to this unless you feel your child is in imminent danger if you don’t get in immediately, like if your toddler is locked in the bathroom with a full tub or a hot straightening iron or something similar.
This will destroy your door and possibly doorframe, necessitating an expensive repair.
It can also be dangerous if your child is standing near the door when you kick it in.
Keep in mind, you can only effectively kick a door in if it opens away from you.
Kick forward using the heel of your foot and driving it right near the locking mechanism or keyhole, as close as you can get. The door should splinter away.
Call a locksmith
This is another less-than-ideal option because it will take a really long time and probably cost a fortune.
(I once locked us out of our house and it took about 2 hours and $300 later to get us back inside after I called a locksmith.)
But if you don’t think your child is in imminent danger, can’t get the door open on your own, and don’t want to damage your home, this is an option.
Try to get in through a window
If the room in question has any windows, see if you can get in from outside.
This is especially a good option for first floor rooms.
It’s a good idea to keep your windows locked shut, but sometimes it pays to forget!
How to prevent the doors in your house from locking (for child safety)
If you made it this far, I’m glad everything worked out alright.
Now let’s talk about how to make sure your child never gets accidentally locked in a room in your house again.
There are a few really great options here for how to prevent a child from locking doors.
Option 1: Replace your doorknobs with safer alternatives
I mentioned this above, but most of the doors in my house don’t lock.
The ones that do use very safe, modern knobs that lock but can be easily turned from the outside with a flathead screwdriver in case of an emergency.
You can get a 10-pack of these bad boys on Amazon and go around replacing every knob in your house.
This way, if your child ever does lock a door, you can easily get in in about 5-seconds flat if you have a screwdriver, coin, or other flat wedge handy.
Option 2: Prevent existing doors from locking or closing fully
You can also use lots of homemade solutions or commercial products to baby or toddler proof the existing doors in your house.
A lot of people will place some kind of strong tape, like duct tape, over the latching mechanism of the door so that it can’t fully close.
This should be a pretty effective, although ugly solution.
Another common piece of advice is to remove and reverse the knobs on all locking doors in your home.
The reasoning being that now the locking mechanism is OUTSIDE the bedroom or bathroom, and your child now can’t be locked inside.
This isn’t my favorite solution because there’s always a possibility now that he or she locks YOU in the bathroom, which is way worse of a situation to be in on almost every level, as you won’t have many tools or other ways to get out.
For me, I would probably get something like these foam finger pinch guards on Amazon.
They hook on the side of the door and prevent it from slamming shut. The idea is to prevent your toddler from crushing his fingers in the door, but it has a bonus side effect of preventing the door from latching and locking shut.
They’re also really easy to remove whenever you want and won’t look as ugly as duct tape.
Option 3: Have a safety discussion (and a back up plan)
When your baby becomes a toddler and becomes capable of locking doors on his or her own, it’s probably a good time to have a talk about why they can NEVER, EVER DO THAT.
Set the expectations and explain the dangers of them locking themselves in a room.
If you’re bold, you can even teach them how to lock and unlock the door properly, so that if it ever does happen, they’ll know how to get out.
Even still, I’d have a backup plan.
Practice the above methods on your doors ahead of time so you know how to get them open during an emergency.
Make sure you always have the tools available that you might need, like a flathead screwdriver.
You could even buy a lockpick set to keep handy, especially if you’re in an older house with really tricky doors all over the place.
If your child or toddler is locked in a room by his or herself, don’t panic!
Most interior doors aren’t all that difficult to get open, especially in more modern houses.
The easiest and most common ways are:
- Turning the lock from the outside with a screwdriver
- Removing the knob and locking mechanism (this should almost always be possible on interior doors)
- Or simply instructing your child on how to unlock it from inside
If there’s any question of danger and nothing else is working, you can always kick the door in.
The repair will suck and be expensive, but it’s a small price to pay in the end.
Your best bet will be to prepare for this scenario early and switch out your doorknobs with some safer alternatives, or at least practice opening them so you’re ready in an emergency.
Hope this helps, parents, and good luck!