Your toddler is learning a phenomenal amount every single day (we’re sure you’re constantly astounded by new words they utter or things they do, that you are certain you didn’t actually teach them), and home is where they will do a considerable proportion of that learning. As well as the expected speech, walking and feeding themselves, small children are also learning about danger. Unfortunately, they’re not born knowing what can hurt them, and curiosity tends to mean they head straight for the most hazardous areas once they’re on the move. If you already have a toddler, you will most likely have been nodding along with that last sentence; if your baby isn’t quite at that stage yet, you’ll find out just how true it is before too long.
We’re sure you have already put the standard safety measures in place around your home – safety gates on the stairs and perhaps in some doorways, socket covers, cupboard locks and drawer catches to name but a few. However, there are numerous seemingly harmless items and areas in your home which could easily become the scene of an accident, particularly where a curious toddler is involved. In this article, we will cover some of the most common potential hazards around your home – some of which you may not have considered. With almost all accidental deaths (88%) and accidents hospitalising 0-4 year olds (97%) relating to an unseen danger, it’s imperative for us all to be vigilant.
If you have any top tips of your own, we’re sure your fellow readers would love to hear more – add a comment and let us all know how you combatted the hidden hazards in your home.
The most common childhood injuries and accidents happening in the home
- Falls from furniture or outdoor toys
- Burns from hot food or drinks
- Accidental poisoning from medicine, cleaning products, alcohol etc.
- Drowning or near-drowning in a bath or pool
- Dog bites, of which a surprisingly large proportion are inflicted by family pets or other familiar dogs
- Choking on food, small toys or other miniature objects
Most of these seem fairly obvious, and are hazards that we all believe we’ve properly tackled and minimised before our offspring become mobile. However, your home may not be as toddler-friendly as you may believe. You may be surprised to learn that a recent survey found;
- 80% of homes had some form of poison within reach of small children. This included medicines, cleaning products and various chemicals stored in garages and sheds.
- In three-quarters of homes, the hot water supplied through the taps was above 50C
- 3 out of 5 of the homes inspected had blind cords positioned in a way, or at a height, which presented a potential strangulation hazard
- Half of the homes involved in the survey featured furniture with sharp corners – many of which are located right at toddler head level
- A quarter of houses with more than one floor did not have sufficient safety gates or alternative measures in place
- Balconies weren’t always included in the homeowners’ child-proofing plans
Safety in the home
- Knives should be stored safely out of reach of small children. As a rule of thumb, children under ten don’t possess sufficient motor skills to correctly handle a sharp knife, so safety measures should be observed well past toddlerhood.
- While baking can be an excellent family activity, small fingers can be very tempted to explore beaters, mixers and similar small appliances. Take care!
- Ensure children stay away from cookers and ovens, whether they are hot or cold. Enforcing a “no touching” rule at all times will greatly minimise the risk of burning from a hot stove.
- Hot water is another major hazard which can be found in the kitchen. Again, children should be encouraged never to go near hot water taps or saucepans containing hot water. This is most definitely one of those situations where it’s far better to be safe than sorry.
- Dishwasher doors should be firmly shut at all times
Bedroom & living areas:
- Blinds and curtains are causes of a significant number of childhood accidents in the home. Make sure cords and tie backs are well out of the reach of small children.
- Bedside cabinets, wardrobes and other units should be secured to the wall – they can be very tempting to youngsters who love to climb
- Toiletries and cosmetics should be stored safely to avoid any becoming a not-so-tasty snack for the youngest members of your family
- Secure any cables to the wall, or ensure they run behind furniture, to remove the risk of tripping, strangulation or even toddlers chewing on electrical cables (teething youngsters will bite anything!)
- Children should never be left unattended around water, and this includes the bath. Remember, children can drown in very shallow waters, so never take any chances.
- Just as with the kitchen, a “no touching” rule should be enforced when it comes to using the hot taps in the bathroom
- Any medicines, toiletries and cleaning products must be stored as high, and as securely, as possible. Medication should always be kept in a locked cabinet, where at all possible.
- Child-safety caps should be replaced correctly after use
- Never take medicines in front of your children
- Return all medication to a locked cabinet immediately
- Follow dosage instructions carefully when administering medicine to children, and always check that your partner, or any other adult in the home, has not already done so
- If you need to carry medication in your handbag, don’t forget to keep that well out of reach too
- Never underestimate just how high a curious child can reach (and how determined they may be to get there)
- Make sure you have a fully-functional smoke alarm on each floor of your home
- A fire blanket and extinguisher should be kept in the kitchen at all times. Familiarise yourself with the operating instructions – don’t wait until you need to use them.
- Teach your children to be respectful towards fire, and never to try to touch it
- Devise a fire escape plan, and ensure all members of the family have practised it regularly
- To avoid house fires, ensure items such as clothes dryers are maintained correctly (clearing the lint filter after each use), plugs are not damaged and the wiring in your home is safe. Sockets must be fixed firmly to the wall, and any old appliances or gadgets should be safety checked by a qualified professional.
- Never overload electrical sockets or extension bars
- Keep all electrical cords and cables tucked away and covered wherever possible
- Teach children always to ask for adult assistance before using an electrical device or appliance
- Avoid pulling cords to remove plugs from sockets – this can lead to damage and a resulting fire hazard
- Ensure all electrical appliances are stored and operated well away from water
- Use socket covers on all unused outlets
- Always pay careful attention when entering or exiting the driveway, especially if reversing
- Teach children from a young age not to stand behind a reversing vehicle, or get too close to one which is moving at all
- Treat your driveway as a road, not a children’s playing area
- Install fencing and gates wherever feasible, to prevent children from accessing the driveway
Windows and balconies:
- Lock any windows in children’s bedrooms, particularly those which can be reached from a bed or cot
- Where possible, ensure windows cannot open beyond a few centimetres
- Don’t leave chairs, stools or easily-moveable furniture near windows
- If your home has a balcony, make sure the railings are high enough to prevent falls
- Keep curtain tie-backs and blind cords well out of the reach of children
General Safety Tips
- Make sure you know what to do in an emergency. This includes completing a first aid course as soon as is possible, and refreshers as and when required.
- Have an emergency plan in place, and ensure all family members are familiar with it
- Keep a list of emergency contact details beside the phone
- Keep well-stocked (and in date) first aid kits in both your home and your car
- Store all potentially hazardous items well out of the reach of children. This may include chemicals, medicines, knives, scissors and matches.
- Never leave children unattended in the home
- Have an electrician check the wiring in your home, and ensure all available safety measures have been put in place
- Ensure that all glass doors and shower screens have been constructed using safety glass
- Add protectors to the corners of tables and other items of furniture
- Secure all heavy furniture, and that which may be climbed by an adventurous toddler, to the wall
- Cover all electrical sockets with safety covers when not in use
- Windows should be locked wherever possible, particularly when the opening cannot be limited
- Make sure rugs are secure and cannot slip along floors
- Never leave any spills or wet patches on the floor
- Candles must never be left unattended, or next to any other item which may catch light
- Smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors should be installed and maintained regularly
- Lawnmowers and tools must be locked away when not in use, and not left unattended while work is being completely
- Teach children not to touch ovens, dishwashers or other appliances
- Never let a toddler run around with a sippy cup, dummy, toothbrush or cutlery in their mouth
While we have made every effort to include common hazards in this guide, it is not an exhaustive list. The best way to ensure the safety of your home is up to standard is by taking yourself to the level of a toddler. Crawling along your floor will soon alert you to any small items, dangling wires or other hazards you hadn’t previously spotted. Remember to do this regularly to ensure no dangers are missed.