Toddlers – making your home safe
By Live Dr - Tue Sep 02, 2:32 pm
Reviewed by Dr Stuart Crisp, paediatric specialist registrar
Many toddlers are seriously injured in accidents around the home. These can include: falling down stairs, banging their heads, pulling objects on top of themselves, getting seriously scalded or burnt, or even falling out of windows that have not been properly shut or locked.
Making your home as safe as possible will allow your child a better opportunity to explore their world in safety and give you peace of mind. However, it cannot be emphasised strongly enough that no matter how safe your home appears to be, parents should always keep an eye on their children. It is important to know where they are and what they are doing at all times.
The kitchen can seem like an exciting place for a child, but it is full of dangers: electrical appliances with trailing cords, kettles full of boiling water, hotplates or gas burners on the stove, hot saucepans and kitchen drawers full of sharp knives.
The drawers and cupboards themselves can also be dangerous. If a drawer can be pulled out completely it could land on top of a child. It is also very easy for children to get their fingers trapped in drawers or doors. Because they don’t have complete control over their actions, they can easily slam a drawer shut on their hands.
There are two ways to secure drawers and cupboards. You can fix a stopper to the drawers to prevent them being pulled out completely or fix a safety catch to prevent a child from opening the drawer or cupboard at all.
It is also a good idea to fix a catch on the fridge door so that a child can’t get their fingers trapped, or even worse, climb inside. If the door closed by accident they would quickly suffocate or suffer from hypothermia.
Cleaning products and household chemicals
It is especially important to lock all cabinets that contain harmful or toxic products. Dish-washing agents, cleansing agents, detergent, petroleum, turpentine, flammable liquids and fertilizers are all toxic if swallowed. Dish-washing powder is also dangerous if it comes into contact with skin – for example, if a child spills a packet over themselves.
It is very easy for a child to grab hold of an electrical cord and pull a kettle, blender, or other appliance onto themselves causing severe scalding or serious injury.
This can be prevented by installing a cord holder, which will make the cord too short to reach over the edge of the table or work surface. You can also simply make electrical cords shorter.
Stoves and ovens
To prevent a child burning their fingers on hotplates or grabbing a saucepan handle and pulling the contents over him or herself, you can fix a grating at the edge of the stove. Always make sure that saucepan handles are turned inwards so children can’t reach them.
You can also safeguard the knobs on the stove to prevent the child from turning on the stove or changing the temperature.
Put a catch on the oven door so a child can’t open it. The glass window on the oven door may also get hot enough for your child to burn him or herself. You can prevent this by putting a fireguard or grate over the door.
Living rooms and bedrooms
Drawers and cupboards in the living room and bedroom can be secured in the same way as kitchen cupboards.
There are many sharp, pointed edges in the living room – on tables and shelves for example – that a toddler could accidentally fall against. Low corners that could poke a child in the eye are especially dangerous. The best way to make them safe is to put plastic corners on them, or if you can’t find these, foam rubber secured with a rubber band. This may not look very attractive, but could save your child from serious injury.
Use a wedge or hook on doors to hold them permanently open so that a child can’t get their fingers trapped.
As soon as toddlers are able to get around and explore their surroundings, they may start trying to climb up and look out of windows. If windows are not locked, put stoppers on them so they can’t be opened by more than 10cm. The best place to put them is at the top of the window so your child can’t reach them.
Move furniture away from windows, so children can’t climb up in the first place.
Some children may try to use book shelves as a climbing frame. Make sure all shelves are fixed securely to the wall so they can’t topple onto a child.
Loose carpets and rugs are dangerous for children who are just learning to walk because they could easily trip over them. Put rubber matting or stoppers under the carpets and don’t put down loose rugs until the child is older.
Toddlers will naturally grab hold of a dangling tablecloth to help themselves stand up. If you are using a tablecloth, make sure you fasten it to the table with pegs or clips so a child can’t pull the cloth and everything on the table over him or herself.
Electrical accidents are always very serious. They can cause severe third degree burns or even death.
All power sockets should be secured with a plastic covering that a child can’t remove.
Find out if there is a safety relay or circuit breaker in the house and if there isn’t, have one installed.
Children love playing with running water but it only takes 10cm (4in) of water for a small child to drown. If a small child’s face goes underwater, they will automatically breathe in so that they can scream and this will fill their lungs with water. Children also lose their sense of direction underwater, so they can’t react by pulling their head out or standing up as an adult would do.
Put bath and basin plugs out of reach so that a child can’t fill up the bath or basin.
The toilet lid can be held down with a clip attachment so a child can’t open it.
You may want to adjust the thermostat on the boiler while your child is still a toddler so that if they turn on a tap, they won’t be scalded with very hot water.
All medicine, tablets, vitamins and herbal remedies should be locked in a medicine cabinet or other cupboard so a child can’t get to them and swallow them – colourful pills are very attractive to children. Remember that medical poisonings can be extremely serious.
Stairs are dangerous for children until the age of about four years. You can safeguard against falls by putting gates in front of the staircase.
If there are openings between the steps, these should be blocked up to prevent your child from falling out underneath or getting their head stuck. A child’s head can also get lodged between the banister rails if they are more than 7.5cm (3in) apart.
Based on a text by Christel Bech, nurse