Child-proof your home
Babies and toddlers love to explore. It's worth taking a good look around your home for potential danger areas to child-proof.
According to the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents, every year around 55 under-fives in the UK are killed in accidents in the home and a further half a million are injured and require hospital treatment. All you need to do is spend around an hour or so child-proofing your home and put your mind at rest. Then you'll know your home is as safe as houses!
This is generally where the most danger lies - ovens, hobs, boiling water and cleaning products could all be hazardous for young children. Several points to remember when you're in the kitchen with your kids are:
- Use the back hobs wherever possible so your child can't tip hot water or food over themselves;
- Turn saucepan handles towards the back of the hob when cooking;
- Don't hold children while cooking or carrying hot food;
- Use a kettle with a short or curly flex. Keep it pushed away from kitchen surface edges;
- Keep knives, glasses, matches and other potentially dangerous utensils out of reach;
- Store poisonous cleaning products up high or put a child-proof latch on low cupboards;
- Keep hot dishes and cups of tea away from table edges. Hot drinks are the number one cause of scalds for under-fives, according to the Child Accident Prevention Trust (CAPT).
- Always supervise young children when they're in the bathroom. To help make sure they're safe, remember these simple tips:Put a rubber mat in the bath to avoid them slipping;
- Always put cold water in the bath before hot to reduce the risk of scalds;
- Test the bath water first with your elbow - it should not feel either hot or cold;
- Set your thermostat on your water heater so the water is not too hot if your child gets to the hot water tap without you noticing. According to CAPT, every day one child under five is admitted to hospital because of scalds caused by bath water;
- Lock medicine cabinets securely and never leave your medicine lying around. Medicines are the most common cause of accidental poisoning in children and every day almost 20 children are admitted to hospital because they have swallowed something poisonous;
- Keep sharp utensils such as scissors and razors out of reach.
This is probably the area you'll spend most of the time with your child as it usually doubles up as a playroom, so it's worth taking extra caution.
- Cushion sharp table edges with cushion guards;
- Keep furniture away from windows, especially if your child can climb things easily;
- Put window locks on that allow windows to open, but not wide enough for a child to climb out;
- Use fireguards if you have a fireplace;
- Secure rugs with rubber backing to stop children slipping on them;
- Use safety covers on all unused plug sockets;
- Secure bookcases to the wall to stop children knocking them over.
As soon as babies start to crawl they head for their next challenge - the stairs! To avoid any unwanted accidents stair guards are available from a range of high street retailers. Ranging from £15 to £40, most parents find them an invaluable part of child-proofing their home. When they are old enough, teach children to use stairs safely and supervise them. Don't encourage them to play on stairs.
Other potential dangers
Make sure you have a working fire alarm installed. You need one on each floor and should test it once a week. Common causes of fires are from chip pans and electrical fires. If you own a chip pan replace it with a thermostatically-controlled deep-fat fryer or use oven chips. To avoid electrical fires, one plug per socket is safest. If you smoke make sure you stub cigarettes out properly in an ashtray. Hair straighteners are the fastest growing causes of burns among young children, so if you use them keep them out of reach of little hands.
Leaving children alone
According to UK law there is no age limit for leaving a child on their own, but it is an offence to leave a child alone if it places them at risk. Parents can be prosecuted for neglect if they leave a child unsupervised "in a manner likely to cause unnecessary suffering or injury to health." (Children and Young Persons Act).
The National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) advises that:
- Babies, toddlers and very young children should never be left alone;
- Children under the age of 13 are rarely mature enough to be left alone for a long period of time;
- Children under the age of 16 should not be left alone overnight.
Written by Sam Nichols
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