Home is where families spend time together and create memories. Your family home should be safe and secure to ensure these memories are positive and happy. As parents, we need to prioritize safety and security for our loved ones.
Safety revolves around ages and developmental levels of children within your household. Each child could be at risk for accidents if basic safety precautions aren’t taken. You should have a good understanding of age-related risks and inspect your home for potential dangers.
For example, infants who have just started to crawl are at risk for putting small items they find on the carpet/floor into their mouths, as well as inserting things into electrical outlets. If you have a crawling baby, get down and “crawl” from room to room to look for potential dangers at your child’s eye level.
Baby and Toddler Safety
Make sure nothing is in the crib — pillows, fluffy blankets, etc. — besides your infant. Place infants on their backs to sleep to decrease the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). To prevent falls, never leave infants on changing tables, couches or beds. Once babies can roll/crawl, make sure there are no small parts from older siblings’ toys on the floor that can cause choking. Cut foods into age-appropriate sizes as older infants learn to chew; avoid hot dogs and popcorn.
When children start walking, more dangers exist. Consider eliminating access to bathrooms and laundry rooms with door handle protectors. Walking toddlers have no concept of safety and are at highest risk of accidental ingestion and injuries.
Once toilet training begins, teach your children bathroom safety. They should understand not to touch things that are potentially hazardous.
Bathroom cleaning products are poisonous if swallowed and should be placed high out of reach or in locked cabinets. Toilets are very dangerous for top-heavy toddlers. Toilet lids should be kept closed and locked. Hot water heaters should be turned below 120 degrees so young children turning on faucets don’t get burned. Additionally, hair care and other personal products can be dangerous if ingested, so keep them out of reach of curious toddlers and preschoolers.
Make sure utensils and cleaning agents are not easily accessible, and don’t store kitchen cleaners and dishwasher soaps under the sink without child safety locks. Place locks on all cabinets. Toddlers love to play in the kitchen while you’re preparing meals, so leave one drawer unlocked, with plastic storage containers in the drawer for fun play. Toddlers and preschoolers can reach stoves, so position pot handles toward the back of the stove. Make sure toasters or coffee pots have no dangling cords. Place medications stored in the kitchen in a locked cabinet, away from easy access to children of all ages.
Garage doors should have safety reversing capabilities, where the closing garage door opens back up if it lands on a child, a pet, a car, etc. Many people store cleaners and car products, which can be very dangerous if swallowed, in the garage and/or basement. One important safety reminder is not to put liquid products in other containers. There are reports of parents placing cleaning products in old soda containers for ease of use, leading toddlers and preschoolers to drink them. The outcomes are often tragic.
Laundry soaps and fabric softeners are very dangerous to children. There have been reports of children ingesting brightly colored laundry soap pods. Lock them away from curious children at a high level. Many people store household cleaners, such as furniture polishes and bleach, in laundry rooms; such products should also be locked in high cabinets.
Potential hazards are found in other indoor living areas. Be mindful of coffee tables, older children’s toys and electrical outlets. Covering outlets and using table corner safety pads will help prevent significant accidents. Throw rugs should have padding to prevent slipping. Fireplaces and woodstoves, as well as room heaters, pose a significant risk for burns. Make sure you have working smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. Change batteries twice a year when you change your clocks. Be aware that cords from blinds can easily become wrapped around the neck of a young child, so keep cords away from cribs and sleeping/play areas. Toy batteries (especially button batteries) are very dangerous if ingested. Secure bookcases and televisions to the wall to prevent them from tipping onto children. Guns and ammunition should be locked in separate locations.
Outdoor and Yard
Many dangers exist outdoors, with pools, hot tubs, hoses, pet supplies, and cleaning agents that you should lock away from children. Store snail/rat/ant killers, which are extremely toxic, out of kids’ reach. Surround your pool with a fence that has a locked gate.
Stairs — whether an entire flight or just a few into a sunken family room — can be quite risky for younger children. Install hardware- or pressure-mounted safety gates certified by the Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association. Be sure to lock external doors and place garage door remote controls out of the reach of children so they cannot wander off undetected.
Store all pet foods and medicines out of the reach of young children. Contact your local poison control center to get refrigerator magnets with poison control phone numbers or stickers. Have other emergency phone numbers easily available, and teach your children starting at five years old how to call 911, state their address and home phone number.
No safety tip is a substitute for adequate child supervision. Your child needs constant direct eyesight supervision during play from infancy through toddlerhood. Brief playtimes in safe play areas are good for preschoolers. School-aged children start to separate from parents, so ensure that friends and neighbors’ homes are safe when your children play there. Teens need ongoing communication regarding potential safety hazards.
The teen years are very tumultuous physically and emotionally. Many teens bring medications found at home to “pharm parties,” where they drink alcohol. Open lines of communication are crucial to prevent accidents, drug overdose, cutting and suicide.
You are responsible for providing a safe, loving environment for your kids as they grow and develop. There are many issues to think about based upon developmental level and individual personalities. Basic safety can secure your family’s environment so you have fewer worries and more loving quality time with your children.
http://www.healthychildren.org/English/ safety-prevention/at-home/Pages/ default.aspx.
Roberta Bavin, DNP, CPNP, a PNP with more than 35 years of experience in children’s healthcare, currently works in a pediatric primary care office as a PNP, providing healthcare for medically underserved children.