Let’s get one thing straight. There’s truly no way to child ‘proof’ your home. Toddlers are tiny tyrants of terror bent on unravelling, unpacking and un-decorating every corner of your home. Inevitably, your precocious little princess or prince will smear banana into the crevices of your vintage leather couch, hide slices of apple behind furnishings, explore your DVD collection with inexplicably sticky fingers and draw a family portrait on the lounge room wall in permanent marker.
Childproofing, as a concept, is a really good idea; you want protect your precious possessions and your mini-me from damage or destruction. Seasoned parents know that it almost doesn’t matter what you do; despite your exhaustive efforts, your children will manage to find the darndest things in the darndest places – they’re clever, cunning and persistent.
Children’s curiosity helps them to grow and learn, which is great, except when they play with things that may damage them or the vintage vase on the sideboard. Ultimately, you won’t really care if the vase gets broken but you will if your child hurts themselves when it lands on top of them. The value of your possessions pales in comparison to the value your little one. Unfortunately, it’s impractical to wrap your tiny tot in bubble wrap and set them loose in your house (although this would look rather amusing.)
So, there are a few basic things you can do to minimise child-related incidents, accidents and damage in your home.
First get down on your hands and knees and crawl around your house like a baby (perhaps do this when no one else is watching!). Have a look at what’s at eye level and within reach – perhaps it’s pot plants, pet bowls, low book shelves or knickknacks. Your child will spend quite a lot of time exploring at this level, so doing a quick stock-take of potential hazards from their perspective is a good idea (even if you do feel a bit silly).
One of the best ways to spot potential hazards in your home is to have your friends’ children do it for you! Invite a few friends with children over and see where they go and what they get into. Warn your friends you are doing this though – they’ll probably be more than willing to help and you’ll quickly learn what can stay and what needs to go! If it’s valuable – move it. Put it into storage for a few years until your children are old enough to understand ‘don’t touch’. You may not want them to learn that lesson on your priceless heirloom china. Don’t worry; it’s only for a few years.
All objects interest children (read ALL) but small objects seem to hold a special fascination. Perhaps it’s because they seem more normal sized relative the small stature of a baby or toddler but if there’s a small object in sight, a child will hone in like a cruise missile. Small objects may be choking hazards (think batteries, coins, bobby pins, dog biscuits, buttons, rocks/gravel, seeds/nuts, tags off new clothes, plastic bread bag ties etc.) or just fragile (like china tea cups and picture frames). Your house is full of small, interesting items your child is dying to get their hands on. Keep really small items in containers with secure lids and keep all small items out of reach. Pick dropped items up off the floor immediately.
So you’ve moved items ‘out of reach’ of your children. Think again. Take a look around at what can be dragged, pushed or stacked for climbing to reach the items stowed tantalisingly out of reach.
Secure Large Objects
Make sure your television and bookshelves are secure; bracketing them to a wall is ideal. Televisions or bookshelves that fall may crush a small child.
Stow electrical cords safely, paying particular attention to securing them away from busy little fingers. On your crawl around the floor did you notice that power points are usually at eye height for your little one? No wonder they’re so fascinated by them! Turn unused power points off at the wall and use safety plugs to prevent children from inserting objects into unused plug holes. Make sure your house is properly equipped with safety switches too. 16 Australians are killed or injured in electrical safety related accidents each week and 13% of these are children aged 0 – 14.
In the Kitchen/laundry
There are many sharp, hot, heavy and chemical hazards in the kitchen and laundry. Fit your cupboards with childproof locks, move heavy objects out of reach, consider relocating dangerous chemicals to high cupboards in a laundry room, ensure caps are screwed on correctly (most hazardous domestic cleaning chemicals, like bleach, are fitted with childproof lids just in case) and store plastic bags carefully (they are a suffocation hazard). When cooking, turn pot handles towards the back of the stove to avoid little ones grabbing hot pots and burning themselves with the contents.
Make sure pools and spas are secured and children are always supervised in or near water. Bathtubs, toilets, mop buckets and pet bowls are also potential sites for drowning so be vigilant in these spaces. Close doors to toilets and baths and consider putting the pet bowls outside.
The Final Word
Although your children will undoubtedly suffer their fair share of lumps, bumps and bruises, with a little bit of planning, you can remove many of the household related hazards that may injure your child and damage your belongings. However, accidents happen and it’s always a good idea to have a comprehensive home and contents insurance policy with extras like accidental damage, so that if something does break, you’ll be able to replace it without worry or stress. Home and contents insurance policies vary, as do their ‘extras’ packages, so make sure to compare policies to get the right one for your family.