Making Your Home Safe for Your Child (page 4)
It is important to know how your child will be growing and acting at this age for you to know how to make your home safe. So many changes take place in your child’s first 2 years that it is sometimes difficult to know what will happen next. During the first few months, your baby will be entirely dependent on you to keep him safe and comfortable. He learns only by watching, imitating, and listening to you, and he will learn something new each day. Over the first 2 years, your baby will change from not being able to hold up his own head, to rolling, crawling, and finally walking on his own. He learns through his senses, so he will want to touch, see, taste, smell, and listen to everything. Therefore, you need to make sure that he can only get to places and things that are safe for him.
To find out if your house is baby safe, get down on your hands and knees afind ond crawl around yourself to see what your baby sees. Are there tablecloths to tug on? Stairs to fall down? Windows and cabinets to open? Food to taste? Sharp corners to run into? Once you know the dangers in your home, they are easy to fix.
Your baby is going to spend a lot of time sleeping (or at least you hope so) so you want to make sure that your crib is a safe place for your child. Check on your baby frequently, and consider installing an intercom system so that you can hear him if he starts to cry.
When buying a crib:
- Make sure that the slats are no more than 2 3/8ths inches (about the size of a soda can) apart to avoid getting your child’s head stuck between them.
- Make sure that the mattress is the same size as the crib and that there are no excess blankets, pillows, or stuffed animals that could suffocate your baby.
- To help prevent SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) your baby should sleep on his back on a firm, flat mattress. For more information on SIDS, please visit the SIDS: "Back to Sleep" Campaign.
- Hang toys and mobiles far from your baby’s reach.
- Never place the crib near cords, blinds, or drapes.
- Consider placing bumper pads inside the crib until your baby can stand.
- Never leave your baby alone in the crib with the sides down.
Over half of all infant drowning incidents occur in bathtubs. Other drownings in this age group occur in toilets and buckets, so take special care in the bathroom and when cleaning to keep your baby safe. Some tips on how to keep your bathroom baby safe include:
- When giving your child a bath, the water should not cover more than your baby’s legs.
- Never leave your baby unattended in the bath or with a young sibling.
- Always drain all the water from the tub or sink.
- Make sure that the temperature of the bathwater is not too warm (no hotter than 100 degrees.)
- Keep cabinets with cosmetics, cleaning agents, and other toiletries locked so that your child cannot get to them.
- Keep the toilet lid shut.
- Never leave water in a bucket.
The living room
The living room may be a room you choose to keep nice for when guests are over, so if it is not a safe place for your child to be, keep it locked or gated. Otherwise, here are some tips to keeping your living room welcoming to both guests and babies.
- Keep furniture and plants away from windows.
- Make sure your plants are not poisonous for children. For more information on household plants that may be toxic for your children visit the National Capital Poison Center.
- Make sure all objects that small children could put in their mouths are placed out of their reach.
- Keep electric cords out of reach and sight of children.
- Cover electric outlets.
- Avoid using tablecloths that children can pull on.
- Don’t smoke inside.
- Bolt bookcases to the wall.
- Place safety screens in front of the fireplace.
Perils of the kitchen include sharp cabinet corners, slippery floors, utensils, and food scraps on the floor that babies love to put in their mouths. Try to keep your child out of your way while you cook, and remember to:
- Test foods and liquids before serving them to your child. Be careful when microwaving a bottle to feed your baby—the tip can get hot and the liquid can have hot spots that could scald him.
- Keep pots on the stove on the back burner when possible, and with handles pointing towards the back so that they cannot be easily bumped or grabbed by a young child.
- Make sure the trashcan is covered with a lid or in a closed cabinet.
- Keep cleaners and chemicals locked up.
- Keep the Poison Control number by your phone. To find the Poison Control Center nearest you, contact the American Association of Poison Control Centers or call them at (202) 362-7217.
Garage and basement
The garage and basement are areas of the house that your child will probably love to explore. They are often dark and mysterious, with all sorts of old and dusty items and curious tools. Be particularly careful to block off all sump and furnace areas. Also remember:
- Lock tools, chemicals, rope, paint, and gas out of reach.
- Do not let children near lawnmowers.
- Place ladders on their side rather than standing upright.
- If you have an electric garage door, be sure it has an automatic reverse function.
Buy toys wisely, and keep an eye on what your child is playing with to make sure that it is not dangerous.
- Make sure the toy is age appropriate for your baby. Small parts can be put into mouths easily and cause choking. If the toy can fit inside a toilet paper roll, it is too small for your baby. For a list of age-appropriate toys for your child, visit the Iowa State University Extension site entitled Understanding Children's Toys.
- Be aware of toys with sharp edges, loud noises, strings that could get wrapped around a Neck, and toys that have shooting parts. These could all be hazardous to your child.
- Never let your child play with balloons.
- To read more about toy safety, visit the Toy Safety Publications from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.
Falls remain the leading cause of unintentional injury in children. Many falls take place right in front of the parents’ eyes: a fall from a high chair, a trip down the stairs, or a slip on a wet tile floor. Since watching your child is not always enough to keep him upright, here are some more tips to keep your baby safe:
- Make sure your high chair has important safety features like a wide base, a locking tray, and a restraining belt or safety strap. It should have a label certifying that it meets current safety standards.
- Do not buy a Baby Walker. Over 16,000 children were injured in Baby Walkers in 1997. A stationary walker—a play table with a turning seat—is a much safer purchase.
- Use safety gates to keep infants from falling down stairs or going into rooms that may be dangerous.
- Keep your floors free from clutter to keep your child from tripping. Also, use rubber mats on bathroom tiles and in the tub to prevent slips and falls.
A tiny candle flame can leap into a raging fire in less than thirty seconds if given the right conditions. Therefore, you need to make sure that you and your child know how to prevent fires in your home. You should also know what to do should a fire start.
- Install smoke alarms on each floor of your home, outside the bedrooms, and in the basement.
- Test smoke alarms every month to make sure they work.
- Mount a fire extinguisher in the kitchen—and make sure you know how to use it.
- Screen all fireplaces.
- Teach children not to play with matches or lighters.
Keeping a handgun at home can have unintended dangerous consequences for families. With guns currently in about half of all American homes, all children should learn about gun safety. The recent statistics on death and injury from firearms are astounding. One in 15 child deaths are due to firearms. A 3-year-old child has enough strength to pull a trigger. Every day, 16 American children and adolescents die in gun-related homicides, suicides and accidents. Every 6 hours a child between 10-19 commits suicide with a gun. And almost 90% of accidental shootings involving children also involves an easy-to-find, loaded handgun from home.
If you own a gun, there are several things you can do to help decrease these shocking statistics:
- Do not keep the gun loaded.
- Store the unloaded gun in a locked place, out of reach of children.
- Lock the ammunition and store it in a different location from the gun.
- Do not store keys to these compartments with the house keys. Put them in a safe place and out of the reach of children.
- Lock up gun cleaning supplies. They are often poisonous.
- Teach your children that guns are not toys and should never be played with.
Even if you do not own a gun, your child still needs to learn the importance of gun safety. A study in the June 2001 issue of Pediatrics shows that many parents incorrectly assume that their child is educated about gun safety, can tell the difference between a real gun and a toy gun, and would not know how to handle a real gun.
Talk to your children early about the dangers of guns. Children of all ages need to understand that guns are not toys and should never be touched unless under your direct supervision. Explain to your child the dangers involved in handling firearms and what they can do to keep themselves safe.
The National Rifle Association's Eddie Eagle gun safety program has come up with a simple four-step plan to keep your children safe from guns. If your child sees a gun they should:
- Don’t touch.
- Remove yourself from the site.
- Tell an adult.
Additional information can be obtained at:
Kids Health, created by of The Nemours Foundation, has information on gun safety for parents and a web page just for kids at: http://kidshealth.org/kid/watch/house/gun_safety.html.
Information for parents on gun safety from the journal Pediatrics can be found at: http://pediatrics.about.com/library/weekly/aa061301a.htm.
The HELP Network has a factsheet entitled "Tips for Parents: Suggestions for Discussing Gun Safety with Other Parents." This factsheet provides suggestions for discussing gun safety with the parents of your child's friends. The fact sheet is available as a PDF document. http://www.helpnetwork.org/frames/resources_factsheets_tips_parents.pdf.
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