Safety Issues with Toddlers

As any toddler’s mother knows, toddlers require constant supervision for many reasons, including their own safety. Toddlers have reached a stage of cognitive development where they perceive a huge world around them, and they want to experiment with everything they see. They are rarely bored because they see wonder in everything. Yet they don’t know danger exists. This is at a time when they have more energy than anyone at any other age, including their mothers. This combination of curiosity and energy can make for a dangerous combination.

The home is a surprisingly dangerous place for a toddler, even with childproofing. Conscientious mothers cover outlets with plastic covers, equip cupboards and drawers with latches, anchor heavy dressers to walls, and install latches on their refrigerator doors in hopes of protecting their toddlers. Yet curious, inquisitive toddlers often find ways to work around these techniques and get hurt anyway.

Electricity

Even with outlet covers, toddlers can find ways to get hurt by electricity. Outlet covers themselves are very effective in preventing a toddler from sticking anything into an outlet. Toddlers cannot remove these—they are even difficult for adults to remove. However, toddlers can easily learn to unplug cords. Parents should also be careful to avoid using equipment with damaged cords, because these could be electrocution or fire risks. Toddlers grabbing these could be disastrous.

Pulling large items down

One of the most difficult accidents to prevent is toddlers pulling large objects or pieces of furniture down on themselves. If they see a cord, they may pull on it, pulling down whatever the cord is attached to. This may not be a big deal if it is just a phone on a charger, but it is a very big deal if it is a hot iron or a hair dryer.

Toddlers can pull large pieces of furniture down on themselves, such as dressers or file cabinets simply by opening, standing on, or pulling on drawers. Or they may try to climb bookshelves. All these types of furniture should be securely anchored to a wall stud, and toddlers should be steered away from them. File cabinets could be locked, and dressers could have drawer latches installed. Bookshelves could be moved to rooms with doors that can be closed.

Other large objects a toddler could pull down on himself include vacuum cleaners, pots and pans, glass bowls or plates, and floor lamps. The only way to childproof against these types of items is to remove them from areas where toddlers have access. Keep these items put away, and do not let cords hang down where toddlers can reach them. Most importantly, toddlers should be supervised closely.

Toxins

Many people keep cleaning supplies in the kitchen under the kitchen sink. The problem is many toddlers figure out how to work door latches. The only safe solution is to find a different place to store the cleaning supplies—up high where the toddler can’t reach. Be careful to put them away after use, and never store them in food containers. Toddlers need to be able to differentiate between food and poison containers as they grow out of toddlerhood.

Even the refrigerator can be a source of toxins. If you take iron pills or keep vanilla extract or cooking wine in the refrigerator, these items can be toxic to your toddler. Refrigerator latches are effective at keeping toddlers out. You may also want to consider temporarily discontinuing use of some of these items, if possible, until your toddler is older. Otherwise, you can keep them hidden somewhere up high as a precaution.

Falls

Toddlers haven’t been walking long, and they are not always steady on their feet. They can trip and fall over their own feet. They love the challenge of stairs. Typically, toddlers will climb up and down stairs on all fours if allowed. They are capable of climbing stairs successfully in this manner, but this is unsafe and should never be allowed unsupervised. Toddlers should not have access to stairs. Many different kinds of gates with latches can be purchased, which can be effective in keeping them off the stairs.

Toddlers love to climb anything else they can find. They will attempt to climb out of bathtubs. They will climb out of their cribs. Toddlers who try to climb out of bed should sleep are ready to switch to regular or toddler beds. A toddler may also try to climb into a window from a bed or couch. Or he might try to climb onto a chair or barstool. These can be dangerous ventures. The bathroom door can be kept shut, but you can’t necessarily remove everything a toddler might want to climb. Supervision is key.

Skin injuries

Toddlers do not know what “hot” and “sharp” mean without hard experience, and that type of experience can come at a price that is not worth paying. Kitchen knives should not be kept in drawers the toddler cannot reach. Remember, they can figure out how to work the drawer latches. Razors should not be kept in the bathtub or anywhere within the toddler’s reach. The toddler should never be allowed in the bathroom unsupervised, but the bathroom should be childproofed anyway, in case the bathroom door is accidentally left open. Other sharp objects to watch out for include thumbtacks, sewing needles, and even safety pins. All these items need to be kept out of the toddler’s reach.

Toddlers can easily be burned on a number of items in the house. If you have a fireplace or wood stove, teach your toddler the word “hot” in association with the fire, and also keep safety gates around it. When cooking, keep your pan handles turned towards the side or back so the toddler cannot pull them down or spill boiling water on himself. Better yet, cook on back burners when you can. Keep the toddler in a high chair or supervised by someone else outside the kitchen when you are cooking, if possible, especially if he can reach the stove burners. Remember, these take a while to cool off after being turned off. If you use a hair straightener or curling iron, be mindful of your toddler while using them, and make sure he cannot get to them while they are cooling down after use.

Choking

Toddlers are prone to choking, but this can mostly be prevented. This can be difficult, because as a busy parent struggling to keep on top of the toddler, keeping the house picked up can be quite a challenge. However, toddlers love to put things in their mouth. Coins, thumbtacks, beads, buttons, marbles, and small parts of complex toys are common culprits. Toddlers with older siblings are especially vulnerable to finding these types of items within reach.  Older siblings must be taught about the risk of choking and the importance of keeping these types of objects out of the toddler’s reach. When purchasing toys for toddlers, always comply with age recommendations.

Many foods can cause choking. Hot dogs are a well-known choking hazard. These non-nutritious treats must be chopped very small before being served to a toddler. Grapes need to be chopped up. Nuts, popcorn, hard candy, taffy, and chunks of cheese should be avoided altogether.

Strangulation can also lead to choking. Toddlers can easily get tangled in cords, belts, long scarves, ropes, yarn, twine, and string. Caretakers must take care to keep these items out of reach.

Drowning

The most likely place a toddler could drown at home is in the bathtub. The only sure way to prevent this is to supervise your toddler at all times while in the bathtub. If you have a pool, make sure you have a reliable method of keeping the toddler away from it when you are not there. He should take swimming lessons as soon as possible to lower his risk of drowning.

Escapism

Toddlers are excellent escape artists. Once they learn to open doors, they are in danger of escaping the house and running into the street or another unsafe area. If you have a small fenced area in the back yard, you might be able to make it safe for the toddler to open the back door and go in and out freely, but you will have to supervise him. The front door will have to be childproofed, either with a plastic doorknob cover or a latch up high.

Siblings

Siblings must be supervised around toddlers, especially if they are very young themselves. They also need to be trained in safety practices. Children can forget to close doors, latch gates, pick up toys, or put cords up high. Older siblings might forget to let the water out of the bathtub or may share popcorn or hot dogs with toddlers without thinking. These innocent childhood mistakes can leave toddlers vulnerable to all possible hazards. Children must be taught about these dangers and trained to take care to prevent them.

Outside the home

Parents have to be vigilant outside the home as well. Toddlers do not leave their curiosity at home. If they see something on the ground that is brightly colored, they will try to pick it up and put it in their mouths. They will quickly wander off if given the opportunity. They may try to climb out of the grocery cart as soon as you turn your head. Parents should take care to buckle safety belts. Many toddlers figure out how to unfasten these, so this doesn’t always help.

Toddlers enjoy playgrounds, and an outing to the park provides excellent quality time. In this situation, parents should remain close to their toddlers at all times, and never take their eyes off them. This is to protect toddlers from wandering off, falling, or being kidnapped.

Some toddlers do not like sitting in their car seats, so they scream. This can be distracting and upsetting, tempting parents to drive too fast, or to pay less attention to the road. It can also tempt some parents to unfasten the child. Parents would do well to remember this is only temporary and work towards finding ways to distract or calm the child. At all costs, children must remain properly restrained in the seat while the vehicle is in operation.

Thinking about all these dangers may make a person wonder how anyone ever survives childhood. A lot of vigilance, a little luck, and a little training go a long way toward keeping toddlers safe while they discover the world.