Any new parent will appreciate how important it is to ensure that the home is safe for the new arrival. It’s a little easier to keep them safe when they’re babies, but things quickly change once they start crawling and walking. Toddlers can be be into everything! They can also move surprisingly fast at times, so it’s important to ensure that they cannot access things like sharp objects, hard or rough surfaces, hot ovens and radiators, corrosive products, poisonous plants and substances, or places they could knock things over. They also need to be kept well away from places where there is a drop, from which they could fall, and places where they are in danger of something else falling onto them.
So, what steps can parents take to keep the home a safe place for their toddlers? Here, we’ll take a look at a few of the more obvious measures that can be put into place.
(The following should be a good place to start, but is not an exhaustive list, so please always do your own full risk assessment).
Install smoke detectors, if not already present, on every floor and ideally in every room or space in the home (halls, stairwells etc.). Ensure that batteries are tested regularly and replaced whenever necessary. Smoke detectors save countless lives every year when maintained correctly, so are incredibly important.
Carbon Monoxide Detectors
Carbon monoxide is a silent killer. Detectors for this invisible and scent-free gas are essential, especially in homes with any kind of heater or where there is an attached garage or even attached property or flat. The gas can travel into your home even if you don’t have a device that potentially emits it. Follow safety instructions and guidelines about positioning the detectors. Batteries should also be regularly checked and replaced whenever required. Carbon monoxide detectors are not generally as cheap as smoke detectors, but should last years (N.B. follow instructions in regard to replacement at the prescribed intervals). These devices are real life-savers.
Electricity outlets on walls, skirting boards, units and extension leads should always have covers/plates in place to protect access from tiny fingers (and anything in them). This is particularly important at the lower levels that will be accessible to the child and any higher ones they might be able to reach by climbing. Even with modern circuit-breakers fitted in electrical consumer units, nasty shocks are still possible before the circuit is broken should anything be pushed into one of the electrical points. Electrical covers/plates are cheap to buy and very quick and easy to install.
Electrical Wires & Connection Cables
Most electrical devices around the home have cables or wires of some kind. Some carry significant electrical currents, which are obviously a potential danger to young children, but even those that don’t could represent a potential strangulation or tripping risk. They could also be yanked by the youngster, resulting in something heavy falling onto them. So, always ensure they’re located securely out of reach of little ones.
Stair & Safety Gates
Installing stair gates is a no-brainer for families with young children. When installed and secured correctly, they will stop children falling downstairs, and stop them getting upstairs if a parent wants to confine them to the downstairs area, away from hazards elsewhere.
You can also get safety gates that will cordon off other hazardous areas like kitchens, as well as fireguard gates. Such levels of protection are highly recommended but always ensure products meet UK safety standards before buying.
Safety Locks & Latches on Doors
Rooms, cupboards and storage areas can contain any number of dangerous hazards for young children. However, they can be easily secured by child-proof locks, latches or even lockable door knob covers. Such devices need to be easily opened by adults, however, for the sake of convenience and also in case of emergency. Children are naturally inquisitive, so it’s best for a supervising adult to decide where they can go, and ensure they’re locked out of everywhere else rather than letting them explore freely.
Doors can be a hazard to children, who can all-too-easily get fingers trapped in the hinged side, the opening side when a door is closed, or even underneath. Parents can purchase inexpensive door stops, wedges and holders to stop such occurrences and indeed a variety of such solutions are available on the market. These even include some simple ‘finger guards’ for doors, to stop little fingers being trapped.
Windows represent a real hazard for children. Not only do they contain glass that could cut them if broken, but they are also something a child could potentially climb through and fall from if not secured. That could be fatal. There are a number of measures that can be put into place for window safety, including window guards, safety netting and, of course, childproof locks or safety latches. It’s also important to ensure that there is nothing close to windows that would allow a child to climb up to it. Even if the window is closed, it’s feasible that they could break the glass and get injured.
Floor to ceiling glass is also a potential hazard, particularly when it’s perfectly clear. Young children may run around and not realise there isn’t a gap to run through, and slam into it. An example is patio doors, or tall glazed panes in conservatories. Safety stickers or strips on the glass, placed at a suitable height, are therefore essential so that children don’t slam into, and potentially through, such panes. Better still, such areas should be blocked off from access completely, using guards or similar, or particularly stringent adult supervision should always be in place in such areas.
Window Blind Cords
Sadly, children have been known to perish after accidentally strangling themselves with pull-cords. If the pull-cord has a small toggle or knob on the end, these are also potential choking hazards. Cords can often be seen dangling down at the side of window blinds and curtains. Such things need to be secured, well away from the reach of children. Indeed, many window blinds these days are supplied with safety fitments that should always be used in houses that are homes to children.
Keep Phones Cordless
In a similar way, phones with cords are also a potential choking hazard. Wireless phones get around this issue more safely and also allow supervising adults/parents to move about freely while on a call. In this way they can watch what the child is up to at all times and not be confined to wherever the phone terminal is.
Bumper Covers on Corners
Furniture around the home is fine for adults, but little ones, who are only just becoming mobile, will be unaware of how painful a fall against them can be. For example, the edge or corner of a coffee table (ouch!). A quick look on the Internet, though, will show up several results for corner and edge ‘bumpers’ of varying thicknesses, qualities and prices. There should be a solution for most budgets and these will soften the impact should a toddler fall against them.
Ovens, Hobs, Hotplates & Grills
The kitchen is a particularly dangerous area for children. It’s imperative that they are not allowed anywhere near sources of heat, particularly ovens, hobs, grills and hotplates. The door of an oven, often positioned at toddler level in modern kitchens, can remain hot enough to burn little fingers and hands, long after the oven has been switched off. It will not ‘look’ hot to a toddler, so parents need to be vigilant and, better still, keep toddlers well away.
Tablecloths & Table Runners
It’s also best to avoid the use of tablecloths and table ‘runners’ when children are young. Otherwise, they may grab an edge, fall backwards and any number of potentially heavy, sharp, hot or otherwise harmful things could then fall onto them.
Radiators, Heaters & Fires
Radiators, heaters and, of course, fires are sources of significant heat. So, it’s important to have fire guards in place, protective covers in front of radiators, or secure barriers in place to keep children away from direct contact with the heat sources like electrical or oil heaters. Many also have nasty, hard corners and some portable heaters can tip over easily, which could be potentially disastrous for little ones who don’t understand the dangers and could end up potentially bruised and burnt.
There are many sharp objects around the home and it’s important to keep children from accessing them. Knives, screwdrivers, scissors and even sharp pens and pencils are just a few examples. They can be potential hazards for toddlers, so it’s imperative that they’re kept well out of reach and also not placed on top of anything that could be toppled by a climbing child.
Small Objects Are Choking Hazards
Parents should also scour the house to ensure that small objects are kept out of reach of mobile toddlers, otherwise they represent a potential choking hazard.
Machines & Gadgets
Food blenders, vacuum cleaners, DIY power tools and even beauty products can be a danger to little children. So, it’s important to keep all these things out reach of the child. Once they’re mobile, they’re into everything and, if you’re not vigilant, they’ll be grabbing for things like hot hair straighteners without understanding the danger.
Household products including cleaning products can be a real hazard. So, bleach, abrasive, corrosive and poisonous products need to be locked well away. The same goes for things like dishwasher tablets, laundry pods, medicines and tablets. Many products around the house are highly poisonous and could even kill. Such hazards are best locked away rather than simply moved out of reach, because children soon learn to climb.
Front and rear gardens are full of potential hazards for children. The hazard list is almost endless, in fact. From sharp objects, germs, thorns and garden tools to ponds, poisonous plants, weedkiller and tripping/falling hazards, it’s all there. Moreover, there are probably several escape routes where children could exit or others could enter. So, gardens need extra-special supervision whenever children are present, particularly the young. It would also be wise to ensure that boundaries and gates/doors are secure and any hazards made unavailable through the use of barriers, locked storage/sheds and suchlike.
Swimming pools and hot tubs
Hot tubs and swimming pools are obviously also a potential drowning hazard for little ones, so adults need to take serious precautions to keep them away except under close supervision. Access should be possible only via the supervising adult and use of pool and tub covers carefully considered.
Baths & Bathrooms
Any source of water is a potential hazard for children. Baths and basins could hold enough water to drown little ones, scald them if water is too hot or be an electrical hazard if water is allowed to be transported or splashed anywhere near anything electrical. Adult supervision is therefore essential in such places and ideally they should be out of bounds and impossible for little ones to access at all other times.
Hot Water Safety
Parents can take this a whole step further by ensuring that hot water in tanks and devices is never allowed to get to a dangerous level of heat in the first place. Careful selection of shower models, for example, may show up variants that are particularly child-safe, with a bypass that only adults would be able to use in order to increase the temperature. A local plumber should also be able to fit some precautionary devices, systems or settings to showers, shower heads, hot water taps and water tanks to give additional protection from possible scalding. This level of safety is, though, in a much more advanced and expensive league than the other precautions above.
A Final Word
No safety device or precaution is 100% childproof. Even if they were, it’s all too easy for a parent or sibling to forget to reinstate them, for example by closing a safety gate after passing through. The important thing, therefore, is for adults to always be close by and to supervise all activity. It only takes a second or two for a young adventurer to slip past a cordon and into danger territory. That’s all too easy if a parent gets distracted by a knock on the door or a phone call. Vigilance is needed at all times.
Our Nursery in Edgbaston, Birmingham
We hope this list of precautions is a good starting place for parents, guardians and carers. Of course, at Leaps & Bounds Day Nursery in Edgbaston, we always follow best practice in regard to the safety and wellbeing of babies, toddlers and preschoolers under our care. Strict protocols are in place around safeguarding, risk assessments are taken regularly, and children are always well supervised. Our high quality childcare service is perfect for parents who live or work in Edgbaston or near Birmingham, Ladywood, Smethwick, Bearwood or Harborne. We’re also one of the few Forest Schools in the Birmingham area. To learn more about our wonderful nursery and pre-school, or to apply for a nursery place, simply contact us: