Children are a welcome addition to any home. However with their arrival comes a whole host of new safety concerns that must be taken seriously. Every year thousands of children are admitted to emergency rooms following accidents in the home ranging from minor burns, to fractured bones to electrocution. Children are curious and this curiosity coupled with a lack of understanding of danger can lead them into numerous accidents. As a parent, guardian or homeowner it is your responsibility to childproof your home making it a safe place for children to play. Accidents can be avoided with a little attention to detail and common sense. Follow these 6 steps to childproofing your home and remember prevention is always better than cure.
Step 1: Take a Child’s Eye View
In order to know exactly what risks your child faces it is necessary to see the world from their viewpoint and this means getting down on your hands and knees – you can therefore see what is in their line of vision and what they are able to reach for.
Step 2 & 3: ‘Know the Dangers’ and ‘Reduce the Risks’
Steps 2 and 3 go hand-in-hand. First you should list all of the hazards within your home and then come up with ways to reduce these hazards.
This can be a stressful part of the day and often a time when parents are easily distracted and accidents can happen to children. The best way to avoid hazards whilst you are cooking is to give your kids a task that they can do either in the kitchen where you can see them or if they are older in the living area. Put on a DVD for older children to keep them occupied and for younger children give them some play dough or crayons to entertain themselves with at the table. For very young children it is important they are not crawling around the floor when the oven is in use. Instead they should be in a playpen within eyesight. Make sure any playpens are not overfilled with toys as this can then create a hazard itself.
Falling down the stairs is a leading cause of accidents involving children. In order to safety-proof your stairs install safety gates at the top and bottom of stairs.
Scalds are the leading cause of accidental deaths for young children in the US and Canada. It is therefore important that children are not able to reach kettles and pots during cooking as they can then pull boiling liquids over themselves. Tap water should also be controlled at a maximum of 120 degrees Fahrenheit. The water in the tank itself has to be over a certain temperature to ensure all harmful bacteria are killed. The best option is therefore the installation of devices which reduce the temperature at the water’s exit point. Anti-scalding devices can be attached to faucets and showerheads. At bath time always test the water yourself with your elbow. If you are unsure of which temperature is suitable buy temperature changing bath products.
All cupboards should have safety latches fitted and bookshelves should be secured against the wall to prevent toddlers from pulling them down on top of them. Flat screen TVs are dangerous as they attract curious children. Whilst it happens rarely it still happens that children are fatally injured each year due to accidents involving flat screen TVs. It is therefore imperative that such TVs are out of reach of children or mounted on the wall. As children learn to walk they also learn to cruise on furniture. To prevent injury sharp corners can be fitted with cushions. Glass-top coffee tables, although decorative, are just not suitable for young children. You do not have to discard them just put them in a safe location until children are older and more aware of potential dangers.
Make sure all cleaning materials are out of reach of young children. Even seemingly harmless products such as toothpaste can prove dangerous if ingested in large quantities.
Always use a fire guard and install smoke detectors on every floor and outside bedroom doors. Any household should have an emergency fire escape route planned out. Ensure that this is updated when children are brought into the house bearing in mind how vulnerable they are to smoke inhalation.
The strings on toys can potentially be dangerous. Maybe you have older children whose toys are perfectly safe for their age range however they may pose a serious threat to younger children. Make sure toys are tidied away to lessen the chance of injury.
Never set furniture close by windows as it can be used as step to reach up and look out the window which can in turn lead to accidental falls.
Use cord tidies to position cords out of reach of children. They can lead to strangulation and also electrocution as children use them as teething aids. Cords are also often attached to heavy appliances such as irons which can cause extreme injury if pulled down upon young children.
Appliances such as ovens can cause severe burns to small children. Make sure any appliances are unplugged and out of reach of children. Also buy safety covers for plug sockets to prevent children from placing their fingers inside sockets.
A child can drown in a very small amount of water. Installing toilet locks are a necessity.
Outside / Pools
The garden offers a whole new range of hazards for children of all ages. Ensure that all fertilizers and toxins are secured out of reach of children. If you have decking or raised patio check that these are secured from children falling over the side. If you are lucky enough to have a swimming pool in your backyard then it is imperative that it is fenced off and the gate locked at all times.
The safety devices mentioned are available at most hardware stores, drugstores and baby stores.
Step 4: Be Prepared
Keep emergency numbers close at hand. Saving even a few minutes in the event of an accident may be critical. These should include your physician’s number, the poison control center number: 1 -800 -222-1222 and also the number of a close neighbour or relative who can easily come and watch any other children. It is also advised to learn basic first aid so that in the event of an accident such as a burn or a scald you know the appropriate response. If in doubt about the best course of action it is always better to wait until you see a trained medical practitioner.
Step 5: Update Your Childproofing Regularly
Children grow and as they grow they are exposed to a whole new level of dangers. Therefore the best childproofing plan grows with your child and is updated regularly. Review your safety measures every six months to make sure your child has not outgrown or outsmarted any of them.
Step 6: Supervision, Supervision, Supervision
Even with every conceivable safety device installed and hazard removed it is still possible that your children can be exposed to unforeseen danger. There is no safety device capable of removing the need for constant supervision of your children.
Childproofing your home can seem like a daunting task at times. When you stop to think about the number of injuries every year you realise how important it is. A home should be a place of safety for your child. Childproofing your home is the best way you can ensure this. If you feel overwhelmed by the thought of childproofing you can always seek the services of a professional childproofer. Whether you decide to do it yourself or call in a professional it is never too soon to start once a child is on the way. Once a child is born it will be even more difficult to find the time.