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Childproofing your home

Hannah Nicholas
Wednesday, November 1, 2006
Image: Snapper Media
It's not long before your little one starts to crawl and then walk, so it's better to get your home childproofed as early as possible.

The more mobile a baby gets, the more dangerous your home becomes. So during your pregnancy, start to get things around your household in order. More than 50 percent of accidents involving children occur in the home; these include falls, drownings, poisonings, burns and car, pedestrian and choking accidents.

Here’s what to look out for when making your home childproof:

Key safety points

  • Keep a list of emergency phone numbers within reach of the phone.
  • Use child resistant latches or locks on drawers and cupboards, especially those containing dangerous substances or sharp objects. Keep all household cleaning products, chemicals, alcohol and sharp objects locked up, out of reach and out of sight.
  • Keep a fully stocked first aid kit in your home and car. It's strongly recommended that parents learn CPR and basic first aid by attending a recognised first aid course.
  • Install childproof locks on all doors which lead to outside areas. Use finger jams and doorstops on all doors accessible by children.
  • Safety gates are essential items in homes with small children. As a starting point they should be used for blocking stairs, steps and the kitchen.
  • Use child safety plugs in all unused electrical sockets and ensure smoke alarms are fitted in your home. Make sure your fuse box is fitted with a cut-off safety switch in case of an electrical fault.
  • Read all you can about child development so you will understand the things babies do at various ages and the how they could lead to injuries.
  • And remember to ensure that safety measures are in place wherever your child might spend other blocks of time such as a grandparent's house.

Inside the home

One of the best ways to spot potential danger for your growing baby is to get down on your hands and knees (i.e. to their level) and see your home the way they do. You'll be amazed at what stands out. Look for anything dangly or sharp, slippery surfaces, large objects that can be reached and pulled down, or objects and dangerous substances which could be easily swallowed.

Floors
Keep the floor clear of any small items that could get caught in a baby's throat. Be aware of children around hard surfaces like tiles and mop up any spills immediately to avoid slips on non-carpeted areas. Watch out for children slipping on polished floorboards when wearing socks.

Lounge and dining room
Corner protectors are a great idea if you have hard edges on furniture. Isolate steps and staircases and seal off with safety gates. Table mats are much safer than tablecloths which can be pulled down by exploring hands. Never leave hot drinks where they can be easily reached by little ones.

Keep children away from blind cords and open windows or balconies. Make sure there is no furniture placed near balcony railings. Open fires and heaters are very attractive to babies. A sturdy fireguard will stop baby from getting too close.

Another danger point is the television. There have been many accidents where children have pulled down a television onto themselves. Make sure televisions, stereos, etc. are firmly secured within an entertainment cabinet.

Kitchen, bathroom and laundry
These three rooms are high danger areas when it comes to child safety. Safety gates are the best option to stop unwanted access to the kitchen. If they're not used, make sure your baby is in a high chair or play pen out of way when you’re cooking or preparing food. Use locks on oven and fridge doors and make sure appliance cords can’t be grabbed. Stove guards are a great idea too. Always turn saucepan handles inwards and use rear hot plates. Remove stools and other objects which could be used to climb.

Keep regular kitchen objects like scissors, matches, detergent, knives, plastic bags, etc well out of reach. It's best to put safety locks on all cupboards/drawers with anything poisonous or pointy and sharp in them. Rubbish bins are also a top attraction for little people, so keep them locked away also. Keep children away from dishwashers — they love to eat leftover powder out of the door. Get a safety lock if necessary.

In the bathroom, the major danger is water. Keep your child well away from baths, nappy or washing buckets (use firm fitting lids) and even the toilet. Children should always be supervised near water. Slipping in the bath can be an issue so use a bathmat or specially designed bath seat when bathing your child. Always test the temperature of the water. Ideally all taps should be fitted with a valve to control water temperature to a preset safe locked up and out of reach.

Never leave the iron or other appliances plugged in — always put away after use. If you’re ironing for any length of time while your baby is awake, it's a good idea to place them in a playpen out of the way of danger.

Bedrooms
In the nursery most injuries involve falls from cots, bouncers and change tables. Never leave babies on high surfaces unattended — you'd be surprised at how fast and far they can wriggle around even when tiny. Ensure the cot is placed away from blinds, cords, heaters and windows and that the cot rail is up when not in use. Ensure all nursery furniture meets Australian Safety Standards.

In your room and any spare bedrooms, make sure baby can't reach things like perfume and jewellery which could be easily swallowed. Never leave them on your bed and remove objects which they could use to climb to higher places. Watch out for dry-cleaning bags in the wardrobe which are a suffocation risk.

Outside the home

Ensure all play areas are fenced off from the road, driveways, pools, ponds, water features and barbecue areas. Watch out for things in your garden that a child might try to swallow. Keep outside toilets locked and most importantly make sure your gate to the outside can't be opened by a little one.

Pools and spas should be surrounded by an Australian Standard approved fence with a child restraint gate. It's best to keep the shed locked or put dangerous tools and substances out of reach.

Playtime

Babies and children should always have toys and equipment that comply with Australian and International Safety Standards. It's best to use toys appropriate for your child's age and make sure you supervise them at all times.

Pets

Animals should always be watched when around children. Even a trusted pet can turn on a child especially if they are being poked or prodded by a little one! Before buying a pet consult a vet or breeders association to see how a particular breed of dog or cat will suit your family.

More information

Kidsafe, the Child Accident Prevention Foundation
St John's Ambulance
Red Cross
Australian Standards


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