Children are curious. They like to explore. They like to put things in their mouth and stick their fingers in unusual places, play with hanging cords, and push or pull over furniture. No wonder even the most harmless room can be a minefield of dangers for them!
There are many measures you must take to protect your child from injury or accident in the house. Here, we give you some safety tips that will help keep your child out of harm’s way. Please remember that this is a very basic list. We can give you a comprehensive list of safety measures that you should implement in your home only after a detailed home safety evaluation.
- Install quality safety latches on drawers and cabinets that are within a child’s reach.
- Keep all sharp utensils, wastebaskets, and household cleaning products in a latched drawer or cabinet.
- Appliance cords should not dangle from the counter-top. A curious child could pull on that cord and bring a heavy appliance onto his head or body.
- Cook using the back burners of your stove and turn pot handles toward the rear of the stove so your child can’t pull hot food on himself. Remove stove knobs to prevent curious little fingers from turning on the knobs. If you remove the knobs, keep one handy to use while cooking, and store in a drawer when not in use.
- Dishwashing detergent should only be poured immediately before you wash dishes. A swallow full of detergent is a hazardous and deadly snack.
- If your kitchen has a trash compactor, keep it latched. If it is key operated, keep the key out of reach from your child.
- Keep a fire extinguisher readily accessible in the kitchen and know how to use it.
- Post emergency phone numbers by the phone or on your refrigerator. Include police, fire, poison control, hospital, family doctor, and ambulance service. When in doubt, call 911.
- Don’t use tablecloths or placemats – your baby will pull them and what’s on them down.
- Prevent access to pet bowls of food and water. A child could drown in the water or choke on the food.
- Never leave standing water in the tub or sink. It takes very little water to create a drowning hazard.
- NEVER leave your child unattended in the bath. A good rule of thumb is to keep one hand on your child at all times while bathing. If you must leave the room, wrap your child in a towel and take her with you.
- Reduce your hot water heater temperature to 120 degrees. A baby’s skin is more sensitive than an adult’s. What is warm to us can scald a small infant.
- Install a spout cover to protect from falls.
- Use a non-slip mat or use non-slip stickers in the tub to prevent falls.
- Remove items from around the tub ring (shampoo, conditioner, razors). When bar soap becomes small enough to fit into a toddler’s mouth, it becomes a choking hazard.
- Install a lid lock on all toilets. Toddlers can drown in just a few inches of water. In addition, lid locks will prevent children from flushing valuables down the toilet.
- Install safety latches on bathroom cabinets and drawers.
- Put wastebaskets under the sink and latch the cabinet door.
- Ensure that the bathroom door doesn’t lock. If privacy is required, install a flip lock at eye level to prevent people from entering.
- While using your bathtub, keep all electrical appliances such as electrical razors, toothbrushes, hair blowers, curling irons, radios and especially electrical heaters unplugged and locked in a cabinet, away from the reach of children. Water and electricity are a fatal mix.
- When selecting a crib:
- Don’t buy an older, used crib. It could be missing parts.
- Corner posts should not extend more than 1/16th of an inch above the end panel.
- Posts should not be more than 2 & 3/8ths inches apart to prevent the child from getting stuck.
- All hardware should be tight fitting and secure.
- The mattress should fit snugly in the crib frame to prevent the child from getting stuck and suffocating.
- Avoid placing a crib near windows. If a crib is near a window, make sure that drapery and mini-blind cords are OUT OF REACH to prevent strangulation.
- Keep the crib away from lamps or other electrical appliances. Lamp cords should be wrapped so as not to leave excess length available for a baby to chew or pose a strangulation hazard.
- Drapery and mini-blind cords present a hazard in every home. Unfortunately, cords left in their reach have strangled many young children. Blind and shade cords should be wrapped around wall cleats, out of reach of toddlers.
- Do not place furniture under windows. Children love to climb and furniture can serve as a ladder. When a window is open, a screen is not enough to prevent a child from falling out and sustaining a serious injury.
- Install window locks. These allow you to open the window to a safe distance (4 inches), but prevent children from opening the windows any further. Install window guards if you plan to open the window any wider.
- Keep mobiles out of the reach of the baby. Babies love to watch them, but when your baby is old enough to reach the mobile and pull it down, it could become a strangulation hazard.
- A changing table should have guardrails and a protective strap that should be used each time a baby’s diaper is changed.
- Never leave a baby unattended on a changing table. Children learn quickly how to roll over and can fall off the moment you turn away looking for a diaper.
- Electrical outlets should be covered. These spring-loaded devices close automatically when the appliance plug is removed, alleviating the need to reinstall plastic safety plugs after each use.
- A child’s closet should be free of wire hangers, mothballs, dry cleaning bags, and any object with small parts that could pose a choking hazard.
- Don’t leave toys in the crib, or anything else that would help child climb out. Remove bumper pads when your child begins pulling up to stand.
- Secure furniture that can topple, such as bookcases and dressers, to the walls with brackets.
- Do not hang mirrors or picture frames above the crib; a child may reach them and knock them off.
4. Master and Other Bedrooms
- The master bedroom and all siblings’ bedrooms should have the same safety features as the rest of the house.
- Check the floor for dangerous items.
- Empty nightstands of medication, sewing materials, cosmetics, jewelry, buttons, manicure tools, and other typically dangerous items.
- NEVER KEEP FIREARMS IN A HOME WITH SMALL CHILDREN. IF YOU MUST, KEEP THE FIREARM EITHER DISMANTLED, ALWAYS UNLOADED, SECURED WITH A TRIGGER LOCK, OR KEEP IT LOCKED IN A GUN SAFE.
5. Family Room
- If any piece of furniture seems unstable, it should be anchored to the wall. Not only can a toddler climb on large pieces, but an earthquake can send unstable furniture crashing down.
- Coffee tables should have rounded corners to avoid split temples and lips. If glass tabletops are used, the glass should be 3/4″ thick and should be made of tempered glass or replace the glass with Plexiglass. Never use pedestal type tables. A child who climbs on the edge of an unsecured table could suffer a serious injury.
- Install padded toddler shields on your tables to protect your children when they fall.
- Use a VCR lock to prevent children from placing little fingers or unwanted items in the VCR.
- If you have a bar in the family room, lock away all alcohol.
- Remove small objects from lower shelves. These may pose a choking hazard.
- Fireplace Hearths should be padded or completely blocked off with a gate to protect your child from the hazards of falling, as well as the danger of the fire itself. Remove gas fireplace keys and put them out of reach of toddlers.
- Stow logs, matches, and fireplace tools out of reach.
6. Stairways and Banisters
- Staircases have provided both adults and children with bumps, bruises, broken bones and other injuries. Keep stairs clear of clutter that may pose a tripping hazard while carrying your baby.
- Safety gates at the top and bottom of the stairs should be securely mounted to the wall and have a locking handle that can be operated with one hand. Never use a pressure gate on stairs.
- Banister posts should be no more than four inches apart. Larger openings permit children to slip through or become lodged.
- Do not place furniture near a balcony. A child could climb on the furniture and fall over the balcony.
7. Laundry room and garage
- Keep all cleaning products and hazardous materials up high or securely latched in a cabinet.
- The garage should be off limits, at all times, to toddlers.
- Water heaters should be anchored to the wall to avoid a burn hazard. Never store flammable liquids or materials near the water heater since the pilot light could accidentally ignite the fumes.
- Use only garage door openers with automatic stopping devices. These doors will automatically reopen if they sense an obstruction.
8. Pool Safety
- Drowning has become the # 1 cause of death among children under the age of 14, and near drowning can result in brain damage to a child.
- Install a fence around the pool. The fence should completely surround the pool, be at least four feet tall, and have self-latching, self-closing gates.
- Never leave a child unobserved in a pool. Adult supervision is essential and a caregiver’s eyes must be on the child at all times.
- If a child is missing, always look in the pool or hot tub first. Seconds count in preventing death or disability.
- If you choose to enroll a child under age 4 in a water safety course or learn-to-swim program, know that this is primarily a way for you and your child to have fun together in the water. The American Academy of Pediatrics does NOT recommend swimming lessons for kids under age 4 because they are developmentally not ready yet. It will not make your child “drown-proof”, but will teach important behaviors about water safety such as not pushing, running, diving in shallow water, or swimming alone.
- If you’re using a chain link fence, ensure the openings are 1 x 1-inch so children cannot use the openings to climb up and get access to the pool.
- Consider using a gated alarm and/or closed circuit camera to monitor entry into the pool area.
9. General Safety
- Child Safety Seats:
- Choose the correct child safety seat for your child’s age and weight.
- Register your child safety seat by filling out the manufacturer’s registration card and mailing it in. This is the only way to be notified if there is a recall or problem.
- Install your child safety seat correctly. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions EXACTLY or better yet, have your child safety seat installed by a National Highway Traffic & Safety Administration (NHTSA) certified installer. A seat that is not installed correctly will not offer your child the best protection in the event of a crash.
- Always buckle your child into a child safety seat EVERY TIME your child rides in the car-no exceptions. The harness should be snug and the chest clip should be at the level of the child’s armpits.
- Infants should ride in a rear-facing seat until they are AT LEAST 20 pounds and one year-longer if possible.
- If your child safety seat is in use and a crash occurs, retire it gratefully and purchase a new one. Damage to the seat may not be visible and can render the seat unsafe.
- NTSHA estimates that proper use of car seats could prevent up to 71% of deaths and 67% of injuries sustained in accidents.
- Everyone who buys toys should remember that playthings are safe only when they are chosen according to a child’s age, interest and skill level.
- Discard the plastic wrappings from the toys immediately before they become deadly playthings.
- Teach older children to keep toys designed for them away from younger children.
- Keep toys and play equipment in good repair. Discard toys that can’t be made safe.
- Teach children to put toys away. Leaving playthings on sidewalks and stairs can cause falls.
- Decorating With Plants:
- Plants can be toxic. Know the names, both common and scientific, of all plants in your home and garden. In some cases, ingestion of poisonous plants may include symptoms such as nausea, burns in the mouth and on the hands, a burning throat, convulsions, gastric upset, dizziness, unconsciousness, cold, clammy sweats, difficulty in breathing and other symptoms.
- Fire Safety:
- Install smoke/fire detectors in each room, at a minimum, on each floor. These detectors should be tested on a monthly basis. Batteries should be changed twice per year with new batteries.
- Have a fire extinguisher on each floor of your home, and know how to use it.
- Devise at least two fire escape plans and practice them.
- Place all lighters and matches in a locked drawer or metal box. Don’t play games with fire. Teach your children the dangers of lighters and matches and to notify you anytime they find a lighter or matches.