As parents, caregivers, and guardians, our primary concern is to create a home environment that is safe for the children under our care. Creating a child-friendly environment can be a challenge because it is easy to see safety concerns simply from the standpoint of what is or is not safe for adults. However, an environment that is completely safe for adults can be extremely hazardous for children.
In order to make your home safe for a child, you need to look at the environment from the standpoint of and with the mindset of a child. This will make it easier for you to find out what the risks are, prevent the risks, and then remove the risks.
That being said, even if you removed all of the identifiable risks from your home, children will still be children. They will stumble, they will fall, and they will turn benign situations into potential hazards. For this reason, supervision is the primary key to having a safe home. A child let on their own is a recipe for dangerous situations.
It is important that the safety precautions you put into place grow with your children. As your child gets older and becomes more mobile, you will need to adjust the environment in your home to keep it a safe place for him or her to live, play, and explore.
Part of keeping the home environment safe is training your children. From an early age educate them on what is safe and what is not safe. Use positive reinforcement to reward safe habits as well as correction to remove the incentive to engage in potentially dangerous activities.
In most homes, the kitchen is a place where family members get together to enjoy meals and conversation. Unfortunately, the kitchen is also rife with potential hazards.
In the kitchen there is electricity, sharp utensils, glass, gas, fire, garbage disposals, plastic bags, cleaners, chemicals, and a whole host of potentially dangerous items. One report showed that in the United States between 1990 and 2006, burns accounted for 60 percent of all child injuries. And most of these took place in connection with kitchen items.
Some things that you can do to keep your children safe in the kitchen include:
• When an appliance is not in use, unplug it.
• Use a cover or protective screen over the garbage disposal.
• Teach your children how to use appliances such as the garbage disposal or toaster safely.
• Use safety devices to prevent children from accessing stove controls.
• When cooking, use the back burners, so children cannot access them.
• Don’t let your children play with pots and pans. They will mistake them for toys and may accidentally grab them while they are on the stove.
• Put matches, lighters, cleaning utensils, plastic bags, and other dangerous kitchen items in a cabinet that has a safety latch.
• Keep cooking spices out of reach of children. Some spices if eaten in large doses can be dangerous.
Fire (Smoke Alarms)
There are many things that can cause a house fire, including faulty electrical wires, burning candles and incense, or children playing with matches. Working fire alarms may be the only thing that allow you and your children to get out of the house safely in the event of a fire.
There should be a fire alarm and smoke detector installed outside of each sleeping area in your home. If your family sleeps with the bedroom doors closed, then install alarms inside the bedrooms.
Do not take for granted that the smoke detectors work. Test them every month and replace old batteries annually. Fire alarms should be replaced every decade.
It is very sad to think that according to the American Association of Poison Control Centers, approximately 30 children die in the United States from poisoning every year. Approximately 1.2 million children under the age of five were poisoned in 2009 alone. There are steps you can take to protect your children from this danger.
• Preparation is key. If your child is poisoned, dial 1-800-222-1222 in the United States for poison control. Or dial your local emergency number.
• Prevention is better. Keep poisonous products where your children cannot reach them. Cabinets that have cleaning products, prescription medication, over-the-counter medication, household products, and pest-control poisons should be under lock and key.
• Be alert to unseen poisons. Carbon monoxide is odorless, but it can be deadly. A carbon monoxide detector can protect your family if one is stalled in every sleeping area in your home, including the nursery.
• Be on guard for lead. If you have a house that was built before 1978, it might have lead paint. If your child eats lead paint, it can be disastrous. Lead poisoning leads learning disabilities, it can lead to delayed growth, as well as a host of other problems.
Electrical power points are accidents waiting to happen for small children. Whenever there is an electrical accident, it is serious. It can lead to severe burns, broken bones, and even death.
You can minimize the risk of an electrical accident by covering the power sockets with a plastic covering that children cannot remove. Children are naturally curious, and they are inclined to stick things into electrical outlets, not fully understanding the danger that these pose.
If you do not have a circuit breaker installed in your house, install one. This way, if your child is able to get access to an electrical outlet, the circuit will break immediately, preventing or minimizing the injury caused.
Electrical outlets that are near sources of water, such as in a bathroom or a kitchen, should have a ground fault circuit interrupter. This way, if a child inadvertently gets water on one of these outlets or if an appliance falls into the water, the power to the outlet is immediately turned off.
Finally, hanging electrical cords, such as those connected to a kettle or to a blender, are an inviting target for children. If they pull on these cords, they could severely injure themselves or others. Prevent this by installing a cord holder, which will make the cord too short for a child to grab.
Prevent Injuries from Falls
Falls are the number one reason why adults find themselves in the emergency room. If this is true of adults who are more coordinated physically, it stands to reason that children who are still developing their coordination are at risk of injuries from falls.
There are certain steps that you can take to keep your home safe. For example:
• Use safety guards in areas such as stairs and balconies. Even if you have safety guards, supervise your children in these areas.
• Lock your windows, especially when those that are on the upper stories of the house. Use a window guard to prevent your child from falling out.
• Install a nightlight in your child’s room. Children are notorious for getting out of bed and moving around at night. A small nightlight will make their night travels safer.
• Install a motion sensor in the hallway. This way, when older children get up and go to the bathroom, they can do so without tripping over obstacles.
Water and Drowning
How much water does it take for a baby to drown in? The surprising answer is as little as one inch of water. It is not something that we want to think about, but water and drowning pose a real danger for children.
It is easier for children who have thinner skin than adults to burn if they come in contact with hot water from a bath or from a faucet.
• Never leave a child unattended in or near a bath.
• If a bathroom is not used, keep the door closed.
• Install an anti-scalding device in your shower, or keep the water heater under 120°.
• Use toilet seat locks, and when potty training, do not leave your children unattended.
• Supervise children when they are around a pool, and install self-latching security devices.
• Learn CPR, and learn the signs of secondary drowning.
Choking and Strangulation
Choking is a risk that children face every time they eat something or every time they play with a toy that has small parts. Thankfully, there are a lot of preventative measures that you can take to reduce the likelihood of your child choking.
• Keep your baby sleeping face up during the first few hours after they are born.
• Generally, babies should sleep on their backs.
• Avoid using cribs that have dropped side rails since a baby’s head could get caught between the mattress and the side rail.
• You never want to have your baby sleep on a chair, a couch, a waterbed, a cushion, or other soft surfaces.
• Babies should sleep in their own beds since minimizes the risk of SIDS or strangulation.
• Parent should take CPR courses and make sure that anyone who watches their child is CPR certified. Parents or other guardians should always be present when a child is eating.
• The toys that your child has should be appropriate for their age and not have choke hazards.
• Parents should be observant of their child's environment, looking for anything that is loose and within their child's reach.
Children love playing outdoors. Make their outdoor time safe by making sure that they are on playground equipment that is built securely and does not have loose parts.
Children should not play at playgrounds that have concrete surfaces or hard surfaces. If your child wants to play on playground equipment that is high of the ground, make sure that there’s nothing they can slip through and hurt themselves.
Keep tools, lawnmowers, and other sharp items out of your child's reach.
In this brief article, we have talked about a lot of ways that you can prevent or reduce hazards in and around your home. Supervision is key to success. Plan for emergencies and prepare how you are going to respond. Take action to make your home safe. This will minimize the chance an emergency arising and allow you to rest easier.
Thomas Palmer is an enthusiast, researcher and businessman in the field of home technology. As the owner of a home security business, he knows exactly what homeowners desire in order to keep themselves protected at all times. Read more of his works on - Property Guard Master!