Tips for Toddler Safety
In what seems to be the blink of an eye, babies transform from dependent, stationary creatures to independent daredevils who can walk, run, climb, jump, and explore anything around them. As babies grow into toddlers, the changes they go through will amaze you – and sometimes make you wonder how the two of you will ever make it through this stage in one piece!
Now that your child can get around on her own, the combination of her natural curiosity and her inability to understand danger can be exhausting for you, the parent who must chase her all day long. It's true that during the toddler years, supervision is the only reliable prevention for accidents. However, unless you can literally grow a new pair of eyes in the back of your head, taking some steps to childproof your little one's environment will make things much easier on you both.
By removing sources of danger, you are giving your child the freedom she needs to explore. It's difficult to balance your child's urge to learn about the world with the need for safety, but preventing problems ahead of time helps you focus more on enjoying this time with your toddler.
Toddler-Proofing Your Home
Start by getting down on your toddler's level, and remember that your child can crawl, stand, climb, and is highly determined. Take a look around; what sorts of things are within his reach? Use this handy checklist as a starting point:
- Look for dangling cords from appliances and lamps, and make sure they are stored well away from counter or table edges. Cover outlets, and ensure cord blinds are tied up high enough so that your child can't get tangled in them.
- Check all tabletops and countertops for items that can be grabbed by curious little hands. If you're using a tablecloth, try switching it out for placemats so your child doesn't re-enact that classic magician's trick (probably with disastrous results).
- Doorknobs can be turned, stairs can be climbed, and windows can be opened. Use locks, doorknob covers, and safety gates to keep your toddler away from these dangers.
- Lower the temperature of your hot water heater to prevent scalding burns. It only takes two seconds for children to burn themselves at a water temperature of 150o. So have your settings checked. According to Energy Star, the ideal temperature setting for your water heater is 120o. Check the water temperature before letting your child get into the tub.
- Be on the lookout for small everyday objects that can be swallowed by your child. If an item is small enough to fit in a toilet tissue tube, it's considered a choking hazard.
- Keep hot beverages and foods away from table edges and out of reach. Keep a watchful eye on your toddler whenever he's in the kitchen or around hot food and drinks.
- Lock up harmful substances like cleaning products, medications, pesticides, paints and any toxic substances. Keep them securely locked away, or stored high above your toddler's reach.
- Never leave your child unsupervised near any amount of water, from bathtubs to buckets to pools. Accidents can happen in an instant and in only a couple inches of water.
This is by no means a comprehensive list. There are many childproofing guides available on the web, in parenting books, and from your pediatrician's office – check with the safety experts for a wealth of information on this subject.
Learn Safety Together
Now is the perfect time to start teaching your child the intent of words like "no", "hot", and "don't touch". It's important for toddlers to be able to rely on consistent boundaries as they learn from experience.
At the same time, you don't want to overuse the word "no" or use the word "hot" for something that is not. You want your child to really respond when it's necessary. At this age, toddlers can usually be diverted by bringing their attention to some other object, or physically moving them elsewhere.
The childproofing measures you put in place ideally should help minimize the amount of restriction you have to inflict upon your toddler, while still providing limits for her protection. You can help finesse this balance by watching what sorts of things your toddler is most interested in, and offering safe options for her.
Talk to your toddler about why certain objects are dangerous or undesirable, and present alternatives ("You can't have the glass because it might break and hurt you, would you like your cup or your spoon instead?"). By doing so, you give her the opportunity to develop her own freedom and sense of control.
Focus on the Positive
No one is having fun if you are constantly stressed about your toddler's safety. When you take steps to reduce the likelihood of injury, you create room for your toddler to self-test, explore, and grow – and you're more likely to keep your blood pressure at a healthy level.
This is a time to marvel at your child's innocent, endless fascination, and share the magical world he lives in. Teach him, protect him, and comfort him when things go wrong (it's inevitable that they sometimes will). Have patience, and hang in there – soon enough your toddler will be a sulky teenager asking for the car keys, and then you can really start to worry!