Before we become parents, we are often blissfully unaware of just how dangerous even the nicest homes can be. Our curious little ones are eager to explore just about anywhere and everywhere. As parents, we cannot be worrying or watching over them 100% of the time. What we can do is create a safe environment at home for our babies and toddlers to explore and learn freely.
10 Common Childhood Accidents at Home
While I don’t want to scare you, it is important to remember that serious childhood incidents take place at home every day across the country. They can range from simple scrapes and bumps to far more serious, and sometimes fatal accidents.
Here are some of the 10 most common accidents involving babies and toddlers, as well as tips to avoid them:
1. Tipping Accidents
Do you know that on average, 1 child dies every 10 days and 1 injured child in the US is being sent to the emergency room every 30 minutes as a result of TV or furniture tip-over accidents?
The threat is so real that the Anchor It! campaign is launched by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission’s (CPSC) to educate parents and caregivers on the dangers and prevention of tipping incidents. These tragedies can often be preventing by taking simple and low-cost actions, such as using furniture anchors.
2. Cuts and Burns
As soon as your child can crawl and pull themselves up to stand, it’s almost certain they will start to reach out and grab things.
This can result in scalds and burns if they happen to grab something hot, and worse, knock it over onto themselves. Similarly, they may cut themselves if they happen to grab and break items like glasses, plates, trinkets or other fragile ornaments.
We cannot leave things lying around as we are used to. Instead we need to exercise more caution, for example:
- Handles of pots and pans should be facing inwards
- Place hot food and drinks placed away from the edge of the counter-top
- Ensure that cables of electrical appliances are not dangling down from counter-tops
- Fragile items should be kept out of reach
3. Trips, Falls and Knocks
Everyone can be prone to tripping over once in a while, but little feet are more unstable.
Loose cables, badly fitted carpets, rugs, toys, bags, shoes and even small items left lying around on the floor can be a trip hazard for babies and toddlers.
To minimize tripping hazards and injuries:
- Make sure that the carpets and rugs have an anti-slip base or use a rug gripper to keep them from slipping.
- Avoid having loose cables running across the floor of the room. You can make use of cable concealer to hide them along the walls.
- Keep the floor space clear.
- As our little ones grow older, it’s also good to instill them the good habit of keeping their toys away after playing.
Little fingers like to find their way into low level wall sockets. Protect your children from getting a nasty electric shock by using socket covers at all times.
5. Falling Down the Stairs
Protect your baby against falls on the stairs by fitting baby gates at the top and bottom of the stairs.
6. Drowning in the Bath or Shower
It is common sense to not leave young children unattended around a swimming pool. But it is important to realize that a child can drown in as little as one inch of water if they can’t get up. Therefore, never leave your little one unattended in the bath or shower, even for just a moment.
7. Suffocation in the crib
Your baby’s crib should be a safe place for your baby to sleep.
To protect against suffocation:
- Use only crib mattress that are firm and flat.
- Keep the baby crib free from soft beddings, bumpers, soft pillows, stuffed toys and loose blankets. Instead of using loose blanket, consider dressing your baby in a sleep sack.
- The crib sheet should fit the mattress snugly so that they do not come loose when your baby moves while sleeping.
8. Chemical and Medicine Poisoning
Almost all household chemicals (such as cleaning solutions and bleach) have warnings on the label, so you probably know well enough to keep them locked away at all times.
However, even shampoos, perfumes, soaps and deodorants can make a young child unwell if ingested. Hence, it is also necessary to keep your day-to-day toiletries well out of reach from your little ones.
Medications, vitamins, supplements and first-aid supplies should also be kept in locked cabinets or drawers. The brightly colored pills and potions may look like attractive candies to the young eyes. Not only can it lead to poisoning or adverse reactions, pills can also be a choking hazard.
9. Strangulation from Window Cords
Do take note if you are not using cordless window coverings. Your window blinds may have served you well by keeping the sun out. Well, that’s before you baby came along.
Now, the loose blind cords could potentially be a strangulation hazard if not kept out of reach of young children. Loose window chords can easily get entangled around a baby or toddler’s neck.
Therefore, you should never let the chords hang loosely nor place cribs near the window. You can tie the cords up high or make use of child proofing window safety devices such as cord cleats or winders.
You will soon realise that your baby is putting just about anything that they can lay their hands on into their mouth.
Well, that’s just the way they are learning and exploring. As a result, small objects have to be kept off the floor and out of the reach of these little hands as they pose huge risks of choking.
Child Proofing vs Teaching about Dangers and Safety
You cannot underestimate just how important it is to make sure that your home is safe for you and your baby. Accidents can happen in a second, and can change your life completely.
Baby proofing your home also means creating a safe environment for your baby or toddler to explore at their own pace, without you being fraught with worry. You can let them explore and develop freely without having to constantly restrict them or telling them “no”.
Just because your little ones have not started walking or talking, doesn’t mean you can’t start to educate them on the dangers at home. In fact, education about dangers and safety should begin as early as possible.
Children learn by observing their parents, as well as repetition.
For example, when you are in the kitchen with your child. As your hand approach a kettle, you can demonstrate and verbalise the danger by saying “hot” while moving your hand away and blowing it. Through repetition, your child will learn to recognize the danger and avoid going near or touching the kettle.
Instead of scolding or simply shouting “NO”, you can help to steer them away from potentially risky situations through positive reinforcement and redirection techniques. When they are old enough, you can go on to explain to them about the dangers and hazards at home.
Always remember that your baby or toddler is at a stage where they are eager and curious to learn about the world by exploring his or her surroundings.
They may not be old enough to make good choices, but often they are just curious to discover new things or learn about how things work. For example, they may want to attempt to get the soap out of the soap dispenser just like the adults.
While such activities can be annoying and dangerous, the toddler isn’t doing them to “be bad” – they are just being curious. So while we may be tempted to child proof everything at home, we should leave at least a quarter of the house or play area “free” to roam.
For example, when installing safety locks onto drawers and cabinets to keep things out of reach of the children, you may want to keep a few drawers and cabinets accessible. Fill them up with items that your child can safely play with and easy for you clean up the mess. In this way, they can learn and discover how to pull out the drawers and enjoy the fun of emptying out the contents.
When to Start Baby Proofing?
My advice is always to begin baby proofing as early as possible.
You can start baby proofing as early as when you are preparing for your newborn. Some new moms may be in a state of postpartum fog for the first couple of months, and before you know it, you will be too busy catching up with a crawling baby. Things can get really busy and panicky quickly.
Alternatively, it’s probably a good time to start your baby proofing strategy when your baby hits the six month old mark.
Your 6 month-old may only be able to roll over at this point of time, while some babies may even be able propel themselves up. However, in the blink of an eye they will be able to sit, crawl and trying to pull themselves up. You may not have the luxury of time or the energy once your baby is on the move, and it could be easy to miss things out.