November is Child Safety & Protection Month, so it’s a great time to re-evaluate the safety of the places where your child commonly spends time. Each year, hundreds of thousands of children suffer preventable injuries. Not only can some basic safety precautions save lives, they can also give you the peace of mind to allow your child more independence, which can help foster their development.
First, make a list of the areas where your child spends a lot of time. Where are they unsupervised the most frequently? This can be a great place to start your safety inspection.
- Place cribs/beds away from windows to avoid cords that are choking hazards.
- All your baby needs in their crib is a fitted sheet over a firm mattress. Any other toys, blankets, or bumpers could be hazardous.
- There should be no gaps around the edges of the mattress.
- The mattress should be lowered according to your baby’s development stage. Before they learn how to sit, make sure the mattress is low enough that they can’t reach the top edge of the crib. Before they learn to stand, move the mattress to the lowest level.
- Baby’s changing table should have a concave pad or 2-inch high guardrail to prevent falls. Be sure all changing supplies are within arm’s reach.
Toddlers and school-agers
- Remove any toys or other things your kid might want from top shelves or other high places.
- All furniture should be untippable or secured to the wall or floor. Knobs and handles should be firmly attached, and too big to swallow.
- Window guards should be securely installed at the bottom of each accessible window.
- Check all medications for child-safe caps. They should also be out of sight and out of reach.
- Toilet lids should have a safety latch and stay down when not in use.
- No standing water should be left in the tub or sink in excess of 1 inch.
- Check the water heater to ensure it’s set to 120 degrees Fareinheit or lower.
- Faucet handles and spouts should be covered with child-safe guards.
- All electrical appliances should remain unplugged and out of reach when not in use.
- Keep all sharp utensils in their own drawer or cabinet with a child safety lock.
- Cleaning products and other chemicals should be kept in a cabinet with a safety lock that automatically latches when the door is closed.
- While cooking, the handles of pots and pans should be turned backward, away from the front of the stove, to avoid being tipped by curious hands or an accidental bump.
- There should be a working fire extinguisher somewhere easy to reach.
- Check that refrigerator magnets are not small enough to be swallowed.
Living room safety
- Cover all sharp edges and corners of furniture with child safety pads.
- Extension cords should be run behind large furniture where possible, and generally kept out of reach.
- Houseplants should be out of the reach of young children.
- Tall cabinets and bookshelves should be secured to the wall.
- TVs, stereos, and other appliances should be secured to tables when possible.
- Regularly check any outdoor areas where your child plays for trash or hazardous materials.
- Any water deeper than one inch (like a pool, pond, or even a bird bath or bucket) should be drained or covered.
- Your grill should be covered and kept out of play areas when not in use.
- Any play structures like swing sets or playhouses should be checked frequently for wear and tear. Kids should be kept off of any equipment that needs repairs.
- Sandboxes, mulch, or other digging areas should be raked for debris regularly and kept covered at night.
- Lawnmowers and power tools should be kept turned off, unplugged, and locked away.
- Make sure car seats are installed properly. To find a place that will inspect yours, visit the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) website or call 1-866-SEAT-CHECK.
- If your child is old enough to drive, periodically review safety rules, like limiting the number of passengers and never texting while driving.
- Be aware of car seat/toy/food recalls.
- Cover all electrical outlets and heat sources with heat-safe guards.
- Use safety gates at both the top and bottom of stairs to help avoid falls until your child is old enough to open or climb over the gates themselves.
- Put the number for poison control (1-800-222-1222) in your phone and display it on your fridge or other east-to-find spot.
- Install smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors on each level of your home and outside bedrooms. Set a reminder to test them monthly to make sure they work. (You can often get free alarms and even batteries through your local fire department.)
During your inspection, did you come up with some places that aren’t on our list? Scan through and see if any of these safety checks might work in those areas as well. Then, do a walkthrough to identify and correct potential hazards that the checklist may have missed. This checklist should be used as a starting point for establishing safe areas in your home, but isn’t a substitute for a super thorough inspection of all of the places where your child spends time.
And don’t forget to revisit the list periodically. Putting a monthly reminder on your calendar to do a safety walkthrough can be a great way to stay on top of things—especially as your child gets older and learns new skills or is able to reach new surfaces.
If your child is older, try inviting them to join one of your safety walkthroughs (to observe only!) and explain what you’re doing as you go. Getting your kids involved in the process will make them more mindful of things they encounter every day that could be dangerous. Parents and caregivers can also help foster that mindfulness by modelling safe behavior around their children.
Wondering about the potential hazards someplace you don’t have free access to, like their school or a friend’s house? Share this checklist with a trusted adult with access to that space and ask them to look it over. This can spark important conversations among the adults in your kid’s life that will help keep them safe.