Keeping our children and grandchildren safe
In two previous articles I warned about hazards in kitchens and bathrooms. This is the third of the series, in which I will address hazards in the many other rooms of the home – living room, family room, den, game room, bedrooms. Hopefully you are already aware of these and have taken steps to eliminate or at least minimize the risk of danger to your children.
“Childproof”, as defined by Merriam-Webster, means:
- something “designed to prevent tampering or opening by children”, such as pill bottles with childproof caps
- something “made safe for children (as by safe storage of dangerous materials)”, such as “a childproof home”
When it comes to “child proofing”, we need to make sure we’re not lulled into a false sense of security. Children have been known to bypass safety features.
From time to time we all need coaching – reminders, if you will. I trust you will find these tips helpful as we make every effort to make our homes as safe as possible. In this the third article in the series, let’s continue with other rooms in the home.
The following safety topics are in no particular order. One is just as important as the other. I intentionally avoid using statistics because my intent is to keep you from becoming a statistic, not simply teaching you numbers.
Plug protectors, outlet plug covers, outlet covers – regardless of what you call them, they are needed. The challenge is finding a brand that children can’t remove but adults can. I am in the process of reviewing so-called child proof plugs, as I will be replacing all of mine in the very near future. It’s definitely better to have some than none.
And while we keep a close eye on our grandkids, we’re retired grandparents and, as our grown children say, “What else have you got to do?”. It’s a bit different for busy parents. I remember when our kids were little and I worked the night shift. I often fell asleep on the floor while they played around me. They could have gotten in to all kinds of things.
Fireplaces and hearths
When our daughter had just started learning to walk, she fell forward. Her head missed the raised brick fireplace hearth by only a few inches. We quickly remedied that by spreading a quilt across the brick.
Some fireplaces have a floor tile in front and some have a raised or slightly raised hearth. For the raised hearth you can cover it with a thick blanket, cloth or quilt to protect little ones who are just learning to walk. There are also covers and pads made specifically for this purpose.
For gas fireplaces that require a key to turn the gas on, be sure to keep the gas key out of reach of children. It would be a mistake to think a child could not possibly figure out how to insert the gas key and turn the gas on. Don’t take any chances. Put the key up out of reach. For gas fireplaces requiring a remote, keep the remote out of the reach of children.
Every effort should be made to ensure small children are kept away from fireplaces, wood burning stoves and electric heaters, whether they are hot or cold. Flammable and combustible materials should also be kept away.
Window blind cords
Window blind cords that are long enough for small children to reach can be a choking hazard. There is also the risk injury from the entire blind being pulled out of its brackets and onto the child’s head if the cords are not pulled down correctly.
Be sure when you raise a blind you put the cords out of reach. New blinds usually come with a device that is to be installed on the side of a window so the cords can be safely wrapped on it. The problem is I don’t think most people install them, or, if installed, they are not used.
Windows – keep children away
OK, I said I would avoid using statistics, but here are two that might interest you. Each year about eight children under the age of five die from falling out a window. Over 3,300 children require a trip to the emergency room for treatment of injuries sustained by falling out windows. How can you keep your child from becoming a statistic?
- Keep windows closed and locked when children are present.
- Don’t allow children to play near windows.
- Only windows out of reach of children should be open.
- Keep furniture away from windows to prevent children from climbing on them.
- Remember, window screens will not hold children in.
- Keep at least one window in each room available for emergency egress (exit).
- Hardware is available that allows a window to be opened only a few inches for ventilation.
Our grandson will be two in just a few days. He loves to go outside. So far he only tried to unlock the back door when he knew we were going out. For his safety and my peace of mind, I affixed an interior lock on the back door about five feet up. The front has a secure storm door, so an upper lock is not needed there.
Bookshelves, dressers, armoires, corner shelves, entertainment centers – anything that can be tipped over by being climbed on, pulled on, bumped, overloaded, etc., is a hazard. Any and all such items should be properly fastened to the wall.
Even small television sets in bedrooms can be tipped over onto a child and cause injury. Security straps come in a variety of shapes, sizes and lengths. Be sure to secure the safety strap to a durable piece of the item being secured. Some shelves have nothing more than a thin piece of wood or panel on the back, held in place with small nails or tacks. This backing is not reliable and should not be used to attempt to secure any item to the wall.
Straps are available for securing a large flat screen to the stand or shelf on which it resides. If your flat screen is on an entertainment center, the entertainment center might need to be secured to the wall in addition to the flat screen being secured. If in doubt, secure it.
The stairway – no place for toys
A stairway is for a person to go from one level of a house to another. It is not a play area, it is no place for toys or clutter, and little ones should not have access to it. Safety gates are a wise investment to keep little ones from accessing stairs.
While on the subject of stairs, remember to keep all steps clear. If you’re holding your baby while going up or down the stairs, your line of sight will be obstructed. Be sure to keep one hand on the rail at all times.
Let the crawling begin
When your baby begins to crawl and you need a little extra help keeping him or her corralled, a play space is nice to have. As grandparents, we found ours to be helpful, so I can imagine you being a busy mom or dad would find one even more helpful. You wouldn’t have to worry about your child finding a small object under the sofa or a bug in the corner or bumping his or her head on furniture.
Bringing it home – safety, one step at a time
These are a few of the more common hazards in homes – hazards that are easy, inexpensive fixes. We cannot anticipate the end result of every action our children might take, but we can pay closer attention and minimize our chances of having to make a trip to the emergency room. As I’ve said before, most injuries are preventable.
If you have a story you’d like to share that might help the rest of us, I invite you to do so. Or maybe you’ve been through a hardship and simply need some encouragement. One thing I know about moms – y’all are great encouragers! Dads, you can chime in, too!
As always, I welcome questions and comments, and I will reply to yours promptly. If you have additional safety concerns, please share them with us.