How to Make Your Home Safe for Children
Do you have a little one who's just reaching, or perhaps already has reached, the age where he or she is getting into just about everything in sight? While it is a joy to watch them explore everything with such great curiosity, parents are also justified in worrying about the trouble children can get into because of child safety issues in the home. In this article we'll take a closer look at some common pitfalls for children that are present in most homes and things you can do to make your home a safer environment for your little explorers. Anticipating potential accidents before they happen and taking the necessary steps to prevent them will pay off enormously in the form of happy memories, peace of mind, and of course, fewer visits to the doctor's office. So let's get started!
This is an important mainstay for any household with children and stairs. It should be easy for adults to open and close but safely a mystery for the baby. Place a gate at the top of the stairs to keep your child from falling down the stairs. If you have living space at the bottom of your staircase, having another gate there to keep the little one from climbing up and getting into a dangerous position is a good idea too.
Chemical cleaners like Windex, Comet, and 409, which are often stored in cabinets under the kitchen or bathroom sink (right at child-height), are a very serious but very preventable threat. There are many types of cabinet locks out in stores, from the kind that requires an adult to press on a latch with significant force to open to a kind that requires a special magnetic key to open. You can also find doorknob covers that make it hard for little ones who can reach doorknobs to go into rooms or closets they shouldn't be going into.
Use these wherever there is an unused outlet that your child might encounter. For outlets that you don't or infrequently use, there are plastic plug covers you simply press into the outlet. If you want to protect an outlet and also need to use it sometimes, you can get a sliding outlet cover so you don't have to worry about losing the little plug cover.
Stovetop burners are one of the most serious danger zones for children in the home. The tasty aromas coming from the stovetop and the glowing color of a red-hot heating element can intrigue little hands and potentially cause disaster. The best solution is to keep children as far away from the stove as possible. If your kitchen is accessed through doorways on all sides, you could install safety gates to secure the entire kitchen area. If this is not feasible, there are many stovetop barrier products in stores which usually consist of a strong heat resistant shield you can attach to the front of your stove to keep pots and pans safely on the stove and prevent your child's fingers from reaching the burners. These shields can also, to a degree, stop spatters of grease and boiling water.
Children love to run. While this is great for their bodies, in some areas around the house, especially around dressers, end tables, kitchen islands, and anywhere else a hard corner is found, it can be bad for their heads. You can find corner pads in most stores like Target or Wal-Mart in the children's department.
Probably all of us, at some point, have pulled one of those little rectangular vent pieces right out of its spot on the floor. Usually those things are made out of metal and have some sharp edges. Even if you have the plastic kind, chances are that down in the vent hole there are some metal flaps or maybe some ductwork that would make a safety hazard for a child's foot to fall into. Why are these vent covers so easy to remove? Whatever the reason, you can keep those lids in place by simply screwing them into the floor. The next time you want to clean the ducts, just take out those screws and replace them when you're done.
For a home with children and a fireplace, protective fencing around the fireplace is a must. Most fireplaces come with one of these, but if you currently have and use your fireplace without one, please go out and get one today! For those of you who have the kind of fireplace with closing doors, unless you have an advanced model with specific guarantees stating otherwise, remember that those doors can get hot too. With fireplaces, the best advice is really to never leave a child unattended in the presence of a working fireplace in addition to the above words about fencing and dooring.
Most kids can make play out of anything, even a fan. They can sit in front of it and let it blow their hair, and when they talk into it, their voice sounds funny. The bad thing for kids about electric fans is that the grid work designed to keep fingers out of the way of the spinning blade is sometimes wide enough to let the little fingers of a small child through. If you have an electric fan where a child can get to it, one idea is to cover that gridwork with some of the same type of screen material that screen doors are made of. You can find this material at home improvement stores. Certainly a safer solution is to place the fan safely out of reach of the child.
There are reports1 of glass tables being touted by their sellers as being made of safety glass when in reality they are made of regular glass. The difference is this: when safety glass breaks, it crumbles into small less dangerous pieces throughout the body of the glass. Regular glass can remain in large very dangerous shards when broken. One shudders to think of the possible danger if a small child were to tip over a flower pot or otherwise break a glass table and find that the table was made of regular glass. If you're buying a glass table, look for more assurance than the salesman's word that it really is made of safety glass.
Who doesn't love one of those easy chairs with the handle on the side to kick up your feet as you recline? Maybe a child if he or she gets a finger caught in the metal mechanism which is so often completely accessible when the footrest is in the up position! The best advice here is to always be careful to get your child away from that area when you are flipping your easy chair's footrest up or down. Also, never leave the footrest in the up position when you're not sitting in the easy chair- to a little adventurer it might seem like a cave or a fort worth crawling into. Just imagine the next person coming into the room unknowingly folding the footrest down, nobody wants that!
Of course this article hasn't covered every possible danger in the home. The best thing you can do for the safety of your children is to constantly be vigilant. This doesn't mean to always worry and be hypersensitive to every splinter in the house, because then you'd lose the peace of mind you were seeking in the first place! In the words of an old Navy man, "A danger foreseen is half avoided."
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