According to the National Safety Council, over one-third of child injuries and deaths occur at home. While this subject was once a sort of taboo, many child deaths that occurred in the home have been the subject of closer scrutiny in previous years. Recent movements within the parenting sphere, however, have changed families’ openness to discussing this difficult subject. Many parents now know that their kids face risks at home—but what can they do about it?
The good news is that proactive parenting can prevent a sizable percentage of these accidents from happening. Parents can take a multitude of steps to make their homes safer for their children—and for anybody who visits, too. Experts estimate that a range of injuries that occur to children in the home could be prevented through safety awareness.
Fortunately, a wealth of CPSC-endorsed childproofing devices are available to parents. Every parent should conduct their own research to select the specific brands and products that are right for their family (and adhere to federal regulations).
Most, however, will be purchasing some form of one of these:
Safety latches and locks
- Used on cabinets and doors
- Used at the top and bottom of stairs (only use gates that screw to the wall for the top of stairs)
- Also for use blocking access to child-restricted areas
- Older safety gates (with “V” shapes large enough to trap a child by the head or neck) should be replaced
Doorknob covers and door locks
- Used to keep children out of rooms and other areas that could pose danger
- Doorknob covers should allow doors to be opened quickly by adults in case of emergency
- Should be present on every level of the home
- Place one in each bedroom, bathroom, and outside every sleeping area
- Check alarms once a month
- Change alarm batteries at least once a year
Corner and edge bumpers
- Help protect children in the event of falls
Outlet covers and plates
- Prevent electrocution
- Should not be easily removable by children
Baby Proofing and Child Proofing Your Home
Baby and child proofing your home is essential to your family’s safety. It also helps ensure that your friends, family, and other visitors can feel safe visiting with their young ones.
A few simple steps can make all the difference in keeping the youngest of us safe while we spend time with the ones we love.
- In the bathroom | Install handle covers on faucets and safety latches on cabinets. Lock down toilets and set water heaters no higher than 120 degrees. If water reaches a temperature higher than 140 degrees, it can burn a child in less than six seconds. Keep medicines locked away and out of sight.
- In the kitchen | Place guards over stove controls, safety latches on cabinet doors, and a switch lock over the garbage disposal. Anything that seems like a risk probably is—and it probably warrants a lock. Lock your oven, dryer, dishwasher, and any other appliance or area children should be kept away from. Never leave buckets of water out or sinks full of water accessible; they are a drowning risk.
- Around the home | Socket covers and soft corners are a must. Protect every socket and every corner. Door alarms are optional for parents who need a signal when a door opens. Anchor heavy furniture like cabinets and dressers to the wall—make sure mounted art and televisions are extremely secure. Children like to climb and grab things—they can tip over or fall onto a child with fatal results.
Managing Risk by Age
Many parents find that managing the risks around their child based on his or her age can simplify safety. Newborns, for example, are at risk for different injuries than most ten-year-olds. The two could also both break a bone—or a newborn could be crushed by an object that would not impact a larger child the same way.
If you understand the unique risks your child faces at each stage of growth, you can better manage the risks around them.
- Zero to one-year-olds | If you’ve chosen or were gifted a crib made before 1986, it may not measure up to modern safety standards. The gaps between the bars should not be any wider than 6cm. This way, your baby cannot fit his or her head between them. Unrestrained and unsupervised babies can easily fall from high surfaces. Electric outlets at floor level must be covered and adequate baby gates should always be present at the tops and bottoms of stairs.
- One- to two-year-olds | These children are adventurous—you need to be several steps ahead of them to keep them safe. They love to begin trying to climb and run. Both are a lot of fun, but both also open up a whole new world of risk. New falling risks begin to present themselves at this age; furniture should be attached to walls to keep little ones safe when they begin to explore. Medication can begin to look especially interesting. Lock it away and out of sight.
- Three- to five-year-olds | With their superior motor skills and strengths, three- to five-year-olds can get into a lot of trouble without much time. Injuries like burns—that come from more adult behavior—tend to increase at this age. That’s because children begin modeling the behavior of the adults around them once they enter this stage. Hot liquids, cords, and other dangerous objects should be kept out of reach.
Who to Contact if Your Child is Injured
Unfortunately, some accidents happen regardless of our best efforts. If an unintentional accident in the home harms your child—or a child you love—seek medical attention immediately.
Many families eventually elect to pursue the counsel of a seasoned personal injury attorney. These lawyers assist families who have suffered such circumstances; in many cases, this partnership allows parents to receive compensation for:
- Medical bills
- Pain and suffering and mental anguish
- Disfigurement or disability
Baby proofing is an important step of welcoming any child into your home. Nobody can promise you that an accident won’t happen—but you can better-protect your child with just a few changes around the home.