Child-Safety Tips

Protect Your Child

Accidents are a leading cause of injury and death in children up to 5 years of age. Most of these accidents occur in and around the home, and many are preventable. Here are details.

  • Store all poisonous materials on high shelves, out of the reach of children. Never keep poisonous products in containers or bottles used for beverages or food. Toxic products should have safety caps and should be properly closed.

  • The following houseplants are poisonous if swallowed or chewed and should be kept out of the reach of children: poinsettia, mistletoe, dieffenbachia, philodendron, rhubarb, laurel, rhododendron, azalea, and cherry boughs.

  • Make sure that your child cannot accidentally get locked in a closet or other confined space. Check all knobs and locks in the house, and remove any that suggest possible hazards.

  • Set the water heater no higher than 120



Each room in the house has its own safety risks. Here, we go room-by-room to help you make your home safer for youngsters.

The Kitchen

  • Install childproof latches on all drawers, closets, and cabinets containing poisonous materials and dangerous items.

  • Unplug all small electrical appliances when they are not in use; when they are in use, be sure that the cords are not dangling down where your child can reach them.

  • When using the stove, remember to keep all pot and pan handles turned toward the back of the stove; be careful when handling hot liquids that could spill or splatter; and repeatedly remind your child to stay far away when someone is cooking.

  • When serving or consuming hot foods or beverages, be sure to set them down on the middle of the table -- not near the edge where a child could pull them off. Do not use tablecloths that hang over the table and can easily be yanked off.

  • Fold and put away all step stools.

  • Keep knives, forks, graters, and other utensils out of reach of infants and toddlers.
  • Do not leave jewelry where children could find it and possibly choke if they put it into their mouths.

  • Perfumes, deodorants, makeup, and other such substances can lead to accidental poisonings.

  • Belts, ties, shoelaces, and especially plastic bags can cause strangulation and suffocation. Keep them out of the reach of infants and children.

  • Never place pillows in an infant's crib, and keep the crib away from the cords of window shades, blinds, or drapes.
  • Even if you could manage to secure all the medicines, soaps, shampoos, nail clippers, hair dryers, scissors, and tweezers, the basic materials and equipment that constitute the bathroom would still represent an unacceptable level of danger to infants and toddlers. There simply are too many slippery surfaces, hard tiles, hot water faucets, and water receptacles. Supervise children in the bathroom.

  • To prevent children from accidentally locking themselves in the bathroom, make sure the door has no fastening -- like an inside bolt -- that cannot be opened from the outside. You may also remove the lock and instruct everyone in the family to knock when the door is closed.

  • Face your child toward the hot-water faucet in the bathtub to prevent accidentally bumping into the hot metal.

    In the tub, make sure your small child is facing the faucet, to prevent accidental contact .

    In the tub, children should be faced toward the faucet.

  • If your small child can't distinguish or remember to stay away from the hot-water tap, make it easier by marking it with red tape.

  • Keep electrical appliances, such as shavers, hair dryers, and toothbrushes, away from small children. Teach older children the danger of using such appliances near water or with wet hands.
Living Areas
  • Sofas, coffee tables, desks, and end tables usually have hard edges with sharp corners that pose a hazard to a crawling and climbing baby. Consider placing soft bumpers and round edge protectors on these trouble spots.

  • Remove all unstable furniture (furniture that can be easily pulled or pushed over) to an area that is inaccessible to your child. Also, watch out for rocking chairs and recliners, where a child's fingers or toes can get crushed or caught.

  • Placing a safety gate at the top of every staircase is highly recommended. Placing the lower gate at the third step up from the bottom will give your baby two or three steps on which to practice climbing stairs without risk of serious injury.

    Place safety gates at the top and bottom of stairways, to keep little children off.

    Place safety gates at the top and bottom of stairways.

  • If you have a piano in your home, guard against a toddler accidentally dropping the lid on his or her fingers by fastening an upright cork at each end of the keyboard.

  • Make it easy for small children to go up and down your stairs. Add a temporary handrail at child-height on the wall opposite the permanent handrail. Keep stairways well lit and clear of toys, clothes, and debris.

  • Whenever a fire is burning, secure a screen or lock it in place to keep sparks from flying out; use only seasoned wood. A mesh screen is preferable to a glass screen because it won't get as hot.

  • Store pokers, other instruments that are heavy and have sharp points, matches, lighters, and starter fluid out of the reach of infants and young children.

  • Install smoke detectors on every floor of your home.
Now let's consider safety concerns when the child is at home with a babysitter -- or when you're away from home with your child. They're covered in the next section.



Sometimes you leave a child home with a baby-sitter, sometimes you take the little one with you. Here are safety tips for these special situations.

Keeping Children Safe Away from Home
  • A child's fingerprints are a sure means of identification, and many organizations recommend that parents have children fingerprinted. Some police stations offer this service -- they make one set of prints that parents keep. Ask if this service is available in your area. Home fingerprinting kits are also available.

  • Make sure your children know your family's rules about talking to or accepting gifts or rides from strangers.Children love T-shirts, backpacks, tote bags, buttons, and other items on which their name is displayed. Unfortunately, such identification makes it easier for a stranger to greet a child by name, thus appearing to be a friend. Teach young children that someone who knows their name can still be a stranger to whom "stranger danger" rules apply. To be on the safe side, avoid having your child wear identity-revealing items.

  • Although it's not wise to have children wear clothing that reveals their name to strangers, they can carry an ID in an inconspicuous place when they go to a zoo, circus, or some other place where they might get lost. Attach a stick-on label listing the child's name and phone number inside a purse, tote bag, or a pocket.

  • When you take older children to a large, crowded place, such as a zoo or a ballpark, decide on a prearranged place where you will meet if you are accidentally separated. Agree to go directly to that location at a prearranged time or if you have failed to meet up after a certain length of time. Be very clear about the location.

  • For your child's safety when bicycling, insist on a helmet and identification including name, address, and phone number.

  • A child with a medical condition, such as diabetes, should always carry identification that includes medical condition, doctor's phone number, and details of medication or emergency treatment.
When the Baby's Home and You're Not
  • If you have young children and use babysitters, paste a name and address label near (or on) the telephone. Then the babysitter who knows you as "the lady across the road" but doesn't remember the street number of your house will have the full address right there if it's necessary to make an emergency call.

  • Give babysitters a tour of your house, including the location of your first-aid kit.

  • Write down instructions for babysitters; don't expect them to remember verbal instructions.

  • If you will be inaccessible while away, arrange to call and make sure the sitter has the phone number of a nearby friend or relative who can be contacted in case of an emergency.

  • Children should never reveal to callers that they are home alone. Teach them to tell phone callers that you can't come to the phone right now but if they'll give a number you will return their call.

  • Children old enough to answer the door should be able to see who's there, just as you do. Install a second peephole low enough for youngsters to use.
Now you should be familiar with the many important precautions to take -- at home and away -- to keep your children safe.