Children under the age of five stand a greater risk of having an accident than any other age group. About half these accidents occur in the home. However, many of these accidents can be avoided by thinking ahead and taking simple safety precautions.
The following points will alert you to some of the potential dangers in your home. If you have any worries you can ask your health visitor for advice. Most childcare books also carry a section on safety so it is worth reading these too.
Make sure when you are buying equipment that is has a British Standard label. This ensures it meets standards of quality and safety. Standards only exist for certain products, e.g., pushchairs and cots. However, if you buy from a reputable retailer such as Mothercare, you have the reassurance that the product will have undergone a safety appraisal.
Electrical goods that meet standards set by the British Electrotechnical Approvals Board (BEAB) carry a mark of safety.
in the kitchen
- move kettles, knives or anything else dangerous on your work surface well away from the edge so your child cannot reach them
- fit a guard to your cooker
- always turn saucepan handles inwards
- use the back rings of the cooker rather than the front ones
- teach your child to stay away from the cooker and never to touch the oven door
- avoid ironing when young children are playing near you
- never leave an iron unattended
- let the iron cool down out of reach
- always stay with your baby and toddler when they are eating
- make sure all food is chopped small enough to swallow
- do not give peanuts to children under six, as they may inhale them into their lungs, where they can cause severe damage, or choke on them
- do not give young children hard, boiled sweets
- keep medicines and chemicals labelled and in a cupboard that is locked and well out of a child's reach
- always use the harness in a high chair
around the home
- you are legally obliged to have a fireguard fitted if there are children around. Guards are available for free-standing and conventional fireplaces
- have a smoke detector on each floor of the house
- fit windows with locks or catches (the key must always be accessible in the event of a fire)
- glass doors or panels should be fitted with safety glass or covered with safety film
- keep all flexes and cords out of reach and as short as possible including curtain cords. Short kettle leads are available from most electrical retailers
- fit safety gates at the top and bottom of stairs and in the kitchen doorway
- keep plastic bags out of reach
- keep small items such as coins, buttons, marbles etc. out of reach as they may cause choking
- fit 'dummy' sockets over electrical points if you do not have shutter sockets
in the bathroom
- put cold water in the bath first and then add the hot water
- always test the water with your elbow before putting your child in the bath
- never leave a baby or toddler unattended in the bath. If the phone rings ignore it, or take your child with you
- keep medicines locked away and out of reach
in the car
- always use a car restraint suitable for the weight of your baby or child. Weigh your child regularly and check you are using the right seat for that weight. Check the seat for wear and tear before each journey and make sure it is firmly secured with no excess movement
- under no circumstances use any child seat in a front passenger seat that is fitted with an airbag. This can be extremely dangerous if the car is involved in an accident
- never travel with a baby in your arms
- never leave a baby alone in a car
- children under 5 need to be closely supervised at all times.
- keep babies and toddlers harnessed in pushchairs.
- if walking, keep your toddler on reins or hold their hand.
- teach your children how to cross a road safely and show them the best places for crossing, such as zebra-crossing, pelican crossing, etc. Every time you cross a road, you should repeat messages about road safety. You should also teach your child where the safest place to cross a road is, and the routine of checking for traffic
- if your child is riding a bike or tricycle outside make sure they always wear a cycle helmet and are supervised. Be aware that cycling on the pavement is illegal, if possible take your child to a park or open space to ride their bike
- if riding a bike to the shops make sure your child gets off the bike and pushes it across any roads
- never leave a child alone near any pond or paddling pool. Take extra care when visiting someone else's house or garden
- make sure garden sheds are securely locked and any garden chemicals are stored well out of a child's reach
- take care in the sun. Keep young children covered (hats and t-shirts) and protected with high factor sunscreen
Simple precautions will help make the home and garden a safer place for your child. However, anticipation of your child's next move will always be your best defence in the prevention of accidents.