So many times when parents think of keeping their children safe, they think of all the dangers that seem to lurk in sinister abundance outside of the home: car seat recalls, guns at school, adverse vaccine reactions, sex offenders, licensed daycares. The list goes on and on. Unfortunately, the most serious dangers to a child are actually those they face at home while being cared for by loved ones. The emergency room is host to about 3.4 million child visits a year from accidents at home, and about 2,000 of those result in death in children under 14. Accidental injury is the #1 cause of childhood death in the U.S., and it is almost entirely preventable.
In honor of window covering safety month, we compiled a list of practical and affordable tips to help keep your children safe. The tips are based on recommendations from CSPC.gov, the Global Children’s Fund, and the American Pediatrics Society. Most products are easy to install and all are available for low prices either on-line or in your local hardware store.
1. Cord Safety
Cord safety should be the first thing you think about with respect to your window coverings, especially in children’s rooms. Older blinds often don’t include break away cord stops or have cord loops anchored to the wall. If you can afford it, replace old blinds. Since October is Window Coverings Safety month BlindSaver.com is offering free cordless upgrades, so this is a good month to replace blinds in the crucial rooms (your child’s room and his play areas). If you want cords or don’t order in time for the safety sales, choose blinds that have a tassel on each string which break away when weight is applied, or request cord cleats to wrap your cords around to keep them out of reach. If you want window treatments that have a continuous cord loop, make sure you attach the hardware that anchors the loop against the wall or window casing to prevent strangulation. Visit BlindSaver.com’s Child Safety Window Coverings page for a list of products available with child safe features and options.
2. Safety Latches and Locks
You may not need them everywhere, but you should definitely have them on any drawers with sharp or cutting tools (silverware, scissors, pens and pencils) and any cupboards that have things you don’t want baby exploring in the traditional way (if my feet can go in my mouth, why not the nail polish remover, Mommy?). You can go the traditional route (and often pay someone to install them if you don’t want to deal with the hassle) or you can buy products from Dream Baby- they don’t require screws or tools to install, so they’re perfect for renters or busy parents. Both are available in convenient multi-packs and kits less than $20.
3. Safety Gates
A safety gate can block off an entire area of your house, eliminating the need for safety latches in certain kitchen setups (at least until the little one figures out how to work them). They’re also crucial for homes with stairs. And for being so helpful and important, they’re very affordable. A basic gate can be found for as little as $11, although if you have the means and want a more stylish solution, you can get “designer look” gates for $75 and up. You can also find gate “yards” to keep kids away from Christmas trees and pet dishes.
4. Door Knob Covers and Door Locks
It’s a sad moment when a parent realizes that a closed door is no longer an obstacle to their child. However, whether you have a traditional knob or a lever handle, there are easy to install options available for under $15. On a tight budget? Consider that some doors may take precedence based on the dangers presented: it may be irritating for your child to sneak into Mommy and Daddy’s bedroom, but it’s far worse for them to wander into the utility closet or garage. Prioritizing will allow you to start with the most risky doors and progress to others as your budget allows.
5. Anti-Scald Devices and a Lowered Water Heater Setting
Anti-Scald Devices are available at hardware stores or online. They work by monitoring the temperature or the water flowing out of the spout. If that water reaches an unsafe temperature, the device reduces water flow to a trickle for safety. These devices can be expensive ($300 and more), but are excellent at preventing burns. Can’t afford it? Turn the heat on your water heater down to 120°. At this temperature you can still overheat in the tub, but you won’t get burned and the water will be hot enough for cleaning.
6. Smoke Alarms and Carbon Monoxide Detectors.
Smoke alarms – starting at $20 – are required by law in homes, and carbon monoxide detectors are catching up as a legal requirement. You should have smoke and carbon monoxide detectors on all levels of the house, and you should test them regularly.
7. Window Guards and Safety Netting
Screens won’t keep your child from falling out of their window, or pulling some childhood stunt like jumping out onto the trampoline on a dare. The Consumer Product Safety Commission recommends setting window locks that don’t allow the window to open more than 4” in your child’s bedroom. Both window locks and safety nets can be purchased at hardware stores for about $15.
8. Corner and Edge Bumpers
Until your child is old enough to understand and follow “no-roughhousing” rules, these easy to install miracles can prevent any number of injuries from bashing into sharp corners and crashing into sharp edges. They range in color (from white to black and many shades between) and price (most kits fall below $20).
9. Outlet Covers
The variety on these is outstanding, and they are the lowest cost safety-fix. Your child will want to explore those holes in the wall with anything they can stick in there (be that finger or fork) and you simply cannot watch every outlet all day long. Outlet covers should be difficult to remove and large enough to reduce their chocking hazard. Most are available in large packs costing less than $10.
10. Anchor Furniture and Appliances.
Remember how much fun it was to climb when you were a kid, and how you always found a way to do it without getting caught? Most of your furniture would cause serious injury if it fell on your child, so anchor it to the wall. Kids usually don’t pull things down intentionally, but climbing causes the same effect.