Do you have an infant or small child in your home that you have to take care of? Or perhaps you’ve just started a family and are expecting a new healthy and glowing addition to your household any day now. Whichever the case, it’s important that you make your home as safe as you can for them. This is especially true if you’ve recently moved to a new home or apartment, as chances are, it’s been furnished to be a living space for adults, not small children.
Small children, especially those in the infant and toddler age range, are highly vulnerable to accidents that can happen inside the home environment. These accidents have become so common and have such serious ramifications that many child safety agencies and organizations consider it a major public health threat.
To illustrate this, here are some sobering statistics from Kid Safe, the Child Accident Prevention Foundation of Australia:
Thankfully, the situation isn’t as dire as these statistics may suggest. While children are indeed highly vulnerable to accidents that can happen inside the home, the vast majority of these accidents can be prevented. This can be done by making the home as child-safe as possible—i.e. removing or repositioning potential hazards that could present a threat to the safety of your infant or toddler.
To help you towards making your home a safer place for babies and small children, here are some childproofing tips that you should act upon immediately.
Even if you’re already knowledgeable or certified in CPR and first aid, you should still take the time to get trained in how to perform first aid for infants and small children. The physiology and anatomy of babies and toddlers are quite different from adults, and they have bodies that are less developed and more delicate than those of teenagers or adults. As such, first aid practices that are usually administered on adults may cause physical harm if performed on infants and children.
If you’re a new parent or guardian, or if your occupation places you in a position of caring for small children, then it’s your responsibility to undergo child care first aid training. Sign up for a certification course with a nationally accredited first aid training centre like Australia Wide First Aid. We hold training courses in twenty different locations all over Australia, seven days a week. Check out our locations page to see the centre closest to you.
Loose cords or wires are known to tangle up around children’s neck and choke them to death. To prevent accidents from happening in your home, identify all the cords in your house—even in the places where it may seem unlikely that your child may get into—and render them out of reach. You can do this by either tying up the cords so that they’re less than six inches long, taping or bracketing them against a nearby wall, or simply removing them outright.
Blinds or drape cords are especially notorious for strangling children and should be kept well away from your child’s crib or bed. Either tie up the blind cord so that it’s out of reach, or invest in a cordless window covering instead.
Small children have the capability to accidentally light matches or start a fire, even if we take into consideration their underdeveloped fine motor skills. Prevent the accidental fires and burns that this could cause by ensuring that lighters, matches, candles and other such implements are locked safely away when not in use. Infants and toddlers may also chew on candles and choke on the wax, so don’t leave them lying around.
The kitchen is home to many hazards to small children. Things like heavy appliances placed upon high shelves, sharp cutlery, and gas-powered ovens or stoves are just some of the hazards that could result in a small child getting grievously injured or hurt. As such, it’s imperative that you restrict small children from being able to access such a dangerous area of your home. To do this, simply install a child-proof gate to your kitchen’s entryway. In the case of infants, it’s best to keep them away from the kitchen altogether, as carrying them while cooking or cleaning the place may also present a risk of injury. If you must have a child in the kitchen, never leave them unattended even for a moment.
Only buy toys that are well made and designed for your child’s age. Toys and playthings that have sharp edges, projectiles, or small parts can present a cutting, blinding, or choking risk for your child. Some toys may also be covered with toxic paint or substances, which could present a poisoning risk, especially if it’s given to an infant in the teething stage. To make sure that the toys you’re buying for your child are completely safe for them, always check the safety information on the package before purchasing. If in doubt, however, check with a shop attendant or store owner first, or read reviews of the product online.
Also, be careful with stuffed or plush toys. Soft as they are, they can present a suffocation risk to your child if it falls over them and prevents them from breathing.
Toddlers and small children are too young to tell the difference between something poisonous and something edible like candy. As such, it’s prudent to keep any and all potential poisons out of their reach. This includes (but are not limited to) prescription and OTC medicine, vitamins, cleaning supplies, insecticides, rat poison, and so on. Crayons should also be properly stored away when not in use, as their bright colors may tempt children into eating them. Of course, should you believe that your child has ingested something they shouldn’t, immediately call your local poison control center or emergency services.
If your child is old enough to start crawling or walking around the house, it’s imperative that you make their surroundings safe for them to navigate. For instance, any tables, desks, or pieces of furniture that have hard corners or edges close to the floor should be cushioned or protected with rubber bump guards. This helps prevent them from being injured should they come into contact with these hard corners. Electrical outlets should also be covered with plastic or rubberized inserts when not in use to prevent against accidental electrocution. Finally, if your home has stairs leading to a higher or lower floor, restrict access to them with child gates.
Having heavy objects fall upon them is one of the major causes of infant and toddler death in Australia. As such, make sure that all appliances and furniture that have the potential of toppling over are firmly secured to the wall nearest to them for added stability and safety. These include bookshelves, microwave ovens, flat screen TVs, clocks, radios, computer monitors, refrigerators, and more. If you have heavy books or objects displayed on high shelves, either store them somewhere lower or lock them away behind shelves that can be secured with a lock and key.
It only takes a few inches of water for an infant or toddler to drown, so take extra precautions when bathing or swimming with your child. Do not let them go unattended around any source of water for any amount of time. If your home has a swimming pool or tub, ensure that they are either empty when not in use, or that they’re completely blocked off from being accessed by your toddler. The same goes if your home is near a body of water. Other potential drowning causes that need to be addressed include pails, the bathtub, and the toilet.
Don’t underestimate the danger that seemingly harmless elements in your home could present your infant or toddler. Even if you think that there’s no way that they could hurt themselves with something like a hard edge of a chair or a large flat-screen TV placed on top of a narrow entertainment centre, your child’s sense of curiosity, along with their fragile and delicate nature, could result in grievous injury. Implement the home childproofing tips we’ve listed for you above, and you should be able to greatly minimize the chances of your infant or toddler getting hurt in your home. Of course, another measure you can take to protect your child is to never leave them unattended. The safest place a child can be, after all, is in the company of their parent or guardian.
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