About to bring home your newborn? Make sure the air is free from excess dust and pollutants than can cause serious damage to an infant’s lungs. Your baby’s starting to walk? Make certain the stairs are safely gated, and there are no shaky pieces of furniture that might topple over. Have a curious preschooler living under your roof? You better secure all things sharp, hot and toxic.
As your children go through the various stages of their development, the risk that they might encounter a household hazard gets higher. And yet, your home should be the safest place in the world for your children. To make it so, you will need to exert some effort to make it child proof.
The following are some of the common causes of accidents in the home, and ways parents can help protect their kids from them:
Children are curious by nature. They grab anything that catches their eye, opening boxes and bottles just to discover what’s inside. In addition, little ones learn by “mouthing” everything – they don’t think twice about putting whatever they touch right into their mouth. Therefore, in order to protect your children from poisonous chemicals in the house, make sure these chemicals are out of reach, preferably in locked cupboards. Although you may not think you have chemicals in your home, chances are that you have plenty – including those in your everyday cleaning supplies such as bleaches, detergents, soaps, alcohol, medicines and insecticides. Many households also have cans of paints, home-repair supplies (paints, oils, varnishes, abrasives, adhesives (glues) and other extremely toxic substances.
When babies are already crawling and toddlers are already walking, low outlets can be a cause of an electrocution accident. If moving the outlet is inadvisable, install outlet covers and plates to prevent electrocution. Make sure too that you set your child’s play areas way away from outlets.
Outlets are not the only electrocution risk in the house. Studies show that electrical cords of appliances can be an accident risk if they are kept uncoiled and within reach of children. Many people leave cords plugged into the wall but not plugged into the appliance or electronic device they are meant to charge. Curious little hands can grab a dangling cord and stick it into the mouth “to see what happens.” Make sure your cords are neatly tied and kept safely away from kids. If you can put protective covers on electrical cords as well, better. When cords are not in use, remove them from the outlet.
Suffocation and Strangulation Risks
Many new parents don’t realize, that even simple materials can pose suffocation and/or strangulation risk for their children. Stuffed toys, beddings and blankets, for example, can suffocate a baby in a crib if they’re not set neatly and properly. Plastic bags that accidentally make their way to a baby’s mattress can also suffocate an infant. Remember, newborns are not yet capable of removing hazardous materials that come near them; it’s up to parents to make sure they’re safe.
Phone cords, strings from toys, and bed sheets are all also strangulation risks. Now is the time to invest in cordless phones! Similarly, always make sure that bed sheet fits snugly around the mattress, with no extra cloth hanging about. Once your child is mobile, keep plastic bags stored in high cupboards rather than the lower, more accessible locations of your kitchen cabinets and storage areas.
Falls and Tumbles Risks
Once your baby starts crawling or walking, he or she can go anywhere! You’ll want to make sure your home is safe for an exploring child. Put gates at the top and bottom of stairways until your child can safely negotiate stairs. If a room has fragile or dangerous items in it (i.e. a computer desk with lots of wires dangling beneath), keep that door shut (or better yet, locked). Get down on your hands and knees and look at each room from that perspective – what can get knocked over? What can the child trip on or smash his head into? You might want to store sharp-edged end tables for a year or two – bring them back when the child has better control over his or her movements.
Check your floors; are they slipping risks? Don’t use slippery wax for cleaning your floors when you know you have a child around. For places that tend to get wet, such as bath areas, or areas near the faucets, set rubber guards on the floor.
Keep sharp objects out of the reach of children. Scissors, knives and other sharp items can accidentally poke an eye or do other serious harm when in the hands of an over exuberant toddler or reckless child. Preschoolers are notorious for doing “hairdressing” experiments – cutting their own or another child’s hair when parents aren’t looking. The resultant bad hairdo is the least of the potential dangers of this activity, as the eye-hand coordination of small children often provides inadequate control over unwieldy scissors – accidents can happen. Therefore, keep scissors in locked cabinets if possible.
Err on the Side of Caution
Many parents are inclined to believe that their child is too smart to get into trouble with household items. The truth is that accidents can happen regardless of how smart someone is! Keeping safety considerations in mind can only help.