Editor’s Note: Changes made on November 13, 2017
We all want to keep children out of harm’s way. Whether you’re a child care professional, a new parent, or anything in-between, it can feel overwhelming to keep track of kids who seem to be attracted to harm like moths to a candle.
Sadly, the most common causes of injuries and death for children younger than 18 are preventable accidents. 1 Eliminating the serious risks from your home will allow you to relax and let your kids roam more freely.
This guide isn’t intended to cause unnecessary worry or work. Instead, we want to put your mind at ease by exposing the many risks in your home and providing simple solutions to help you avoid preventable injuries. This complete home safety guide covers a wide variety of childproofing areas and considerations.
Following these tips and suggestions will significantly reduce the hidden dangers in and around your home. We’ll also introduce different products and ideas to help you protect children of all ages. Let’s get started!
For new parents, the first and most impactful change to make when childproofing a home or workspace is to cover, lock, or block off all exposed outlets. When it comes to small children, if there is something they’re not supposed to do, they will do it.
If there is an exposed hole in a wall, your little one may touch it or stick something in it. Electrical outlets are deadly and are found throughout every home. Approximately 100 kids die each year by electrocution, 2 and many others are seriously hurt. Here are some rules and tips:
Children fall down a lot, especially while learning how to walk, run, and climb. While we can’t guarantee soft landings, we’ve prepared this section to increase the odds.
In 2013, more than 2.5 million unintentional falls required an emergency room visit, and many of these accidents are preventable. Similar to wearing helmets and other proper safety gear while riding bicycles, skateboarding, and playing other sports, there are many things we can do in and around the house to reduce the risk of fall related injuries.
Each year in the United States, emergency departments treat more than 200,000 children ages 14 and younger for playground-related injuries alone. 3 According to the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission, the top four equipment pieces associated with injuries are climbers, swings, slides and overhead ladders. 4 Here are a few tips to enjoy the playground without any major bump or bruises:
Kids can fall from windows opened as little as 5 inches.5 Here are a few suggestions to keep your windows as safe as possible.
Stairs are among of the most frequent places for falls, but with a little preparation, these accidents are mostly preventable. It’s easy to restrict young children’s access to staircases through the use of fences or baby gates at the top and bottom entrances, but you should never leave a small child unattended around stairs — even gated ones.
Secure heavy objects to your wall or remove them altogether. Every three weeks, a child dies from a TV Tip over. This should be a major area of concern around the house, especially if you live in an area at risk of earthquakes.
Our responsibility as caretakers also extends beyond immediate physical safety and into preserving emotional health. It takes a great deal of active awareness and preparation to control the content of images and videos children are exposed to, especially because screens are available almost everywhere. Whether viewed through smart phones, tablets, personal computers or televisions, exposure to age-inappropriate material can cause lasting effects, including triggering unnecessary fear and insecurities.6
Every meal or snack comes with a risk of choking, and even playtime for small children can be risky if the toys have small parts. Thankfully, you are reading this guide and are about to learn about several preventive measures that can reduce the likelihood of this traumatic occurrence.
Choking can be fatal for kids and adults. Choking due to a foreign object resulted in 162,000 deaths in 2013.8 In 2010, almost 1,200 kids died from unintentional suffocation, and more than 75% of them were younger than one year old.
Infants exposed to unsafe sleep environments are at great risk of injury or death. Entrapment, suffocation, and strangulation can lead to sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), death from spontaneous cessation of breathing. Here are some safety guidelines on how to to reduce the risk of SIDS and create a safe sleep environment for babies, along with other rules to live by to prevent choking:
1. Place newborns supine (lying face up) within the first few hours after birth. 9
2. Put babies to sleep on their backs to reduce risk of suffocation. Some babies may have medical conditions where they need to sleep on their stomachs, so consult a pediatrician to know what is best for your baby.
3. Move babies to a firm sleep surface as soon as possible when they fall asleep in a car safety seat, stroller, swing, infant carrier, or infant sling. Make sure your sleep surface meets current safety standards.
4. Do not use a crib with drop-side rails. Gaps can form between the crib mattress and the drop side rails. A baby’s head could get caught between the mattress and the side rails, leading to suffocation, or the baby could fall out of the crib. In 2011, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission banned manufacturers from making new cribs with this feature.
5. Never put a baby to sleep on a chair, couch, waterbed, cushion, or fur rug. Take a few minutes to check and make sure your crib or bassinet has not been recalled at the Consumer Product Safety Commission.
6. Remove crib bumper pads, pillows, blankets, stuffed animals and extra “stuff” in the crib. For children younger than 12 months old, these can present suffocation, entrapment, or strangulation hazards.
7. Babies should sleep in their own beds. Babies who sleep in the same bed as their parents are at a greater risk of SIDS, suffocation, or strangulation. Parents can roll onto babies during sleep or babies can get tangled in the sheets or blankets.
8. Keep babies away from smokers and places where people smoke.
9. Regularly offer pacifiers to babies at naptime and bedtime. This helps to reduce the risk of SIDS.
10. Do not use specialty sleeping products: Products such as wedges, positioners, special mattresses, and specialized sleep surfaces claim to reduce the risk of SIDS, but have not been proven to reduce the risk of SIDS and in some cases, infants have suffocated while using these products.
11. Take CPR courses and consider getting CPR certified. Also, check with your babysitter or childcare professional to make sure they are up to date with the latest in CPR and first aid practices.
12. Be present whenever your young child is eating. Be sure to consult a pediatrician to understand what foods your child should or shouldn’t eat at their age.
13. Choose age appropriate child-safe toys. The general rule of thumb is anything that fits inside a roll of toilet paper is a choking hazard.
14. Regularly scan the environment for loose chokeable items within a child’s reach.
15. Do not leave out any small objects that may be accidentally ingested.
Kitchens are full of potential hazards, including fire, gas, electricity, sharp utensils, chemicals, breakable glass and dishes, and garbage disposals. In the study Pediatric Burn Injuries Treated in Emergency Departments in the U.S. Between 1990 and 2006, researchers learned thermal burns caused by heat and fire accounted for nearly 60 percent of all child injuries, and most often occurred due to kitchen-related items including appliances.10 Here are some childproofing safety tips for you to protect little ones from the dangers of the kitchen.
Children are curious little adventurers, and that’s a good thing. Unfortunately, one of the dangers of this curiosity is that we are surrounded by poisonous objects. Children and adults can easily be poisoned by eating, drinking, smelling or even touching the wrong things.
44% of poison exposures involve children younger than six, so it’s imperative you take measures to prevent occurrences and know what to do in an emergency.
According to the American Red Cross, follow these three steps if you suspect a poisoning:
One of your first steps should be to keep poisonous household items in locked cabinets out of children’s reach. Commonly used medications such as Amitriptyline or Bengay, for example, are highly toxic if ingested. One Amitriptyline pill is enough to seriously injure or kill a small child. Also, be aware that foul smells or tastes will not keep curious minds away, and young children explore with their mouth.
Lastly, be careful not to plant poisonous plants in your garden and do not buy them for your house or workspace. Common houseplants such as poinsettias or rhubarb as well as garden species such as daphne or mushrooms that grow in the garden can be highly toxic or even fatal. For a complete list, check out Western Garden Book or similar resources.
It’s important to have an open discussion with your children about alcohol safety and establish expectations, safety instructions, and health rules. Make sure everyone knows what areas are off limits. Avoiding uncomfortable conversations won’t make your kids less curious, and doesn’t let you establish house rules.
Accidental poisonings from prescription drugs present a major health risk. Medication poisoning is a leading cause of injury among children, and a pill that is safe for an adult can result in serious injury – even death – for a small child. It’s best to keep your medicine cabinet locked.
A 2017 study published in the journal Pediatrics showed that in the United States, nearly 1,300 children die and 5,790 are treated for gunshot wounds each year.12
The U.S. General Accounting Office estimated 31% of accidental firearm-related deaths can be prevented by the addition of two devices: a child proof safety lock and a loading indicator, a safety device that indicates whether a firearm is loaded and a round remains in the chamber. These are the first two items you should buy.
As children get older, they’re no longer thwarted by child locks, but it is easier to communicate about firearm safety. Here are some additional safety guidelines that should be of vital importance for gun owners, especially as your children get older:
There are many dangers to children where water, heat, or electricity is involved. 10 people per day die of drowning in the U.S. Babies can drown in as little as 1 inch of water, and it can happen very quickly.
Children are also more susceptible to burns because they have thinner skin than adults. Scalding can occur if someone comes in contact with as hot water in a bath or from a faucet, or even from steam. Contact burns are a risk around hot metals such as a hair dryer or a curling iron. Here are some ways to prevent drowning, scalding, electrocution and other injuries which can happen in bathrooms, laundry rooms and pools:
Automobiles and garages can both be extremely dangerous for children. In fact, vehicle-related injuries are the leading cause of preventable deaths and injuries to children in the United States.13 You can reduce the risk of child death and injury by as much as 71% by correctly installing and using child safety seats, which will make you one of only 27% who use their car seats correctly. Here are some tips to avoid the many hazards in your garage and on the road:
Sunlight and outdoor activity are both important for children and adults’ mental and physical health. Here are a few helpful tips to keep the smiles and laughter coming and minimize the risks and your worries.
In this guide, we’ve covered many ways to prevent injuries and reduce hazards, plus how to plan and prepare for or respond to emergencies. You now have professional child-proofing ideas for every room and appliance in your home, as well as the outdoor areas. Now you can prepare your home with the necessary precautions to eliminate as many risks as possible!
Following the advice in this home safety guide may not just help you prevent injuries and relieve some of the stress of parenting, it may help you save the life of little ones you love. Taking action to make your home safer and preparing for many types of emergencies will help you to relieve stress and rest easy.
Baby proofing doesn’t completely eliminate the risk of injury, but it does significantly reduces the majority of the risks. Whether you’re in a new or old home, parts of your living space may not be able to be made safer unless you hire a home remodeler. Don’t hesitate to seek help to make renovation and child-proofing easier!