October 2, 2004
Wee ones wobble. And they fall down — a lot.
Mobile kids are curious and clumsy and into everything. While movement is a sign toddlers are on the right track developmentally, it can also mean more injuries and accidents.
Parents who childproof their homes often overlook some common household dangers, says Alison Morgan, owner of KidSafe Inc., a childproofing business in Scottsdale.
Most of her clients say to her at least once, "I never would’ve thought of that." Below are some suggestions for keeping your kids safe at home.
To begin, Morgan suggests parents inspect the home from a child’s level: Get on your hands and knees and crawl. Don’t forget to look up to see what is in grabbing range and move it.
STAIRS, WINDOWS AND DOORS
More than 2 million kids are injured annually in falls, making it the No. 1 concern among parents. To prevent this common accident, place gates at the tops and bottoms of staircases. Never use pressurized gates at the top of the stairs, because with enough force, they can give out. Morgan says anchoring a mountable gate to the wall will work best. She recommends Kidco’s line of gates that range in price, style and function.
Screens are not enough to keep kids from falling out a window. If your little one can climb, he can lean against the screen and push it out. Some kids may even be strong enough to open a window.
Childproof locks can be used on sliding windows. Some locks allow the window to open just 4 inches. Most are inexpensive (Mag Security, $7 per pack) and easy to use, flipping up to lock and down to release. For vertical windows, Morgan suggests guards that look like bars and are fixed across the widow. The Guardian Angel Window Guard (Automatic Specialties, $45) is easily removable in case of emergency, and the space between the plastic bars prevents kids from getting through.
"Blinds cords are also very dangerous," Morgan says. "Kids get tangled in them and can, in a sense, hang themselves or choke on them." Cord Cleats (R.H. Rowley, $9.95 per 12-pack) prevent this by keeping cords wrapped together and out of reach.
Safety door stops and sliding door latches will keep kids’ fingers safe, while doorknob guards will prevent children from getting outside without supervision and from locking themselves in a room.
Gates should be used around the fireplace to keep kids away from the flames and heat. The Kidco Hearth Gate ($189.95) comes in five sections that can be assembled to fit just about any hearth. Parents can also purchase cushions of Velcro foam padding (Kid Kushion, $49) for the brick or concrete edge around the fireplace to prevent head injuries in case of a fall.
Although most furniture may seem too heavy to be a danger, Morgan says some pieces, such as big-screen televisions, have odd centers of gravity, making it easy for kids to pull them over. If an item is taller than it is wide, it needs to be strapped or mounted to a wall. Furniture brackets (Safety 1st, $7.98 per eightpack) prevent tip-overs by attaching to the back of the furniture and into the wall stud. Deluxe Furniture Straps (Safety 1st, $12.95 per fourpack) should be used with heavier items.
Kids can also grab hold of open drawers and pull desks or dressers over on themselves, Morgan cautions. "Once they get going, they are going to fall fast," she says.
Anything below 36 inches should be monitored and secured. Also, make sure no dangerous items, like scissors or tools, are inside reachable drawers.
The toilet is a drowning hazard for kids. Toddlers are often top-heavy and like to throw toys in the potty — a bad combination. If they go in after something and fall too far forward, kids can get stuck. A Lid-Loc (Mommy’s Helper, $9.95) has a two point latching system that can be easily used by older kids and adults.
Parents should also look for tub spout guards and drain switch covers that prevent head injuries during bath time. The Tubbly-Bubbly guards (Kel-Gar, $11.95) are rubber and come in elephant and hippopotamus designs. Nonslip mats are also important safety items in the bathroom.
Latches can keep kids out of the cabinets, but Morgan says even toddlers can learn how to maneuver them if they see it done enough. She suggests Tot-Locs (Rev A Shelve, $12.95 per two-pack), which are magnetic and need a small key for entry, on all cabinets. Be sure to keep all toxic products, such as cleaning supplies, locked away to prevent ingestion.
It’s also a good idea to store knives off counters, unplug all appliances and always turn pot and pan handles away from the edge of the stove when cooking. These can be dangerous to kids who begin to stand and reach.
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