Our homes are where we feel most safe and comfortable. They're also the location of around 25 percent of childhood injuries and accidents. So how do you protect your little one without covering your furniture in bubble wrap, locking everything shut and sealing the front door closed for good?
Carolyn Ziegler is a Child Safety Expert from Dreambaby and shared her best advice with Kinderling Conversation.
Firstly, before jumping online or spending hours at the shops buying locks and hooks and all manner of safety products, Carolyn recommends you simply get down on your hands and knees and look around you. In order to see areas of potential risk, you need to look at your space from your child’s point of view.
“There are lots of little clues and lots of little hints,” she says.
Once you’ve dusted off your knees and taken stock of your home, Carolyn says there are three main areas of risk in your home. They’re also three areas you spend all day going in and out of.
1. The kitchen
Some of the hottest surfaces, hardest corners, and deadliest poisons are kept in our kitchens. When it comes to keeping your little one safe from accidents, kitchens are a nightmare, says Carolyn.
Once your little one starts cruising, bum shuffling, crawling and climbing, you need to have prepared your kitchen for their inquisitive hands.
Listen to Carolyn on Kinderling Conversation
Things to look out for in your kitchen:
- Move all poisons and sharp objects from the under sink cupboard. “You do not want those there,” Carolyn explains. “They must be kept high up out of reach of children in a locked cabinet. You can't keep them down low because sometimes cabinets do not get reclosed. You want [these items] out of the way.”
- When cooking, make sure you have all handles on pots and pans turned inward. This way any reaching hands can’t grab onto them when you turn away for just a second.
- Cover sharp corners on benches with corner cushions. Or if you'd rather make one yourself, you can always chop the end off a pool noodle or a bit of old foam. Genius!
The kitchen should still be a place your child can explore and learn. Carolyn says a great idea is to have a drawer filled with plastics for them to play with.
“Give them a cupboard or a drawer that has plastics in it. You want them to be able to have 'their drawer'. You want them to learn how to close a drawer without jamming their fingers."
Kitchen play can be nerve-wracking for parents, but as Carolyn explains, "You do want to let them play." As parents, it's up to us to navigate that line "between over-cautious and letting them play.”
2. The bathroom
The bathroom has poisons and detergents in cupboards (not to mention the expensive makeup you’d rather not have crushed into the floor by tiny hands!). Spilled water or unemptied baths can be dangerous with unsupervised little ones around.
Carolyn’s advice for ensuring your bathroom is safe, is very simple: “Use a gate.”
“Your biggest issue becomes when you've got a toddler that's toilet training - that gate needs to be able to be open, and then you've got the baby. You won't use it all of the time, but you'll have to keep yourself very vigilant with that bathroom when that gate is open,” she says.
If using a gate isn’t an option, or you’re looking for added safety measures, Carolyn advises we should be conscious of these key things when it comes to bathrooms:
- Make sure your hot water gauge isn't set to a dangerously high temperature. Most hot water systems today have temperature gauges that allow you to adjust the top temperature to a safe level. If the water is too hot, the risk of scalding is high. “Scalding is a nightmare,” Carolyn explains. “It’s just an unthinkable accident”.
- Close bathroom cupboards and ensure you have a safety lock or latch on cupboard doors.
- Use power point covers on all power outlets.
3. The laundry
The laundry is the cleaning hub of the home. On top of the detergents and hardcore cleaning products, there are also things like kitty litter and dropped coins from the washing to watch out for.
As with the kitchen and bathroom, Carolyn’s first recommendation is a safety gate to keep your little one out of these areas altogether.
Dropped coins and pills are an issue when it comes to the laundry floor. These seemingly innocuous objects that fall out of pockets are choking hazards that we can often overlook.
“All these little things fall out of pockets when you're putting things in the washing machine; you've got 3,000 things in your arms and you might not remember to pick it up. So again... one of the best things to use there is a gate." This is a great solution for pets, says Carolyn. "A cat hopefully can go over the top of the gate, but wherever possible, keep [children] out of those areas altogether.”
Even with a safety gate, the things to keep front of mind are:
- If keeping kitty litter in the laundry, try and keep it raised up on a bench. You can also invest in kitty litter boxes that are a bit more hi-tech with raised sides or a cat-flap entry. Be cautious of these though, as cat-sized can also translate to baby-sized! Carolyn also adds that for health and safety reasons, “pregnant women need to be careful of kitty litter”.
- Keep detergents and washing liquids in a cupboard up out of reach, or behind a latched and locked cupboard if a raised one isn’t an option.
Super safe or wild and free?
At the end of the day, it's about what you're comfortable with as a parent. Carolyn says that there is so much information out there for parents to absorb and there is no right or wrong.
"Yes, you need to protect your child. Yes, be prepared. Yes, be vigilant, but enjoy your children. The reason we like to encourage people to keep simple safety products around the house [is that when] you turn your back you know your child is safe ... You've got to enjoy your children. Your children need to enjoy you and that's what life is all about."
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