Keeping Homes Safe for Babies

  • 15.February 2012
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If you ever try to visualise yourself as you once were as a tiny toddler, you will realise that the world is a totally different place from a lower angle. The fact that most infants enjoy an adventurous disposition and ladlefuls of energy means that adults caring for them must be extra prudent where home safety is concerned. With some forethought and foresight you can transform a fashionable home into a safe home. Here are just a few ideas that are doable with patience and a handful of gadgets.

The most traumatic accidents which children experience are due to falls. Young children are not capable of assessing dangers and this means that stairs, balconies and windows have to be checked for safety and accessibility. Stairways should be fitted with safety gates both at the top and the bottom of the stairway. Several modern Maltese homes have, over recent years, been fitted with ‘fashionable’ iron railings on balconies and contrary to all sense and reason, these are horizontal railings rather than vertical ones. To adult eyes these railings seem fantastic and it all ends there – but to kids, these railings are literally climbing rails that are there to be climbed. Be wary of allowing a young child free and unsupervised access to balconies with such railings or when you are buying a property in Malta and you have children take note of this an action accordingly.

Another high-risk zone in a home is the kitchen. Working around a kitchen with a toddler underfoot is not the ideal situation. Kids will want to stare into a lit oven, heedless of the fact that the glass can be hot and painful. Then again, pots and pans with long handles should be kept to the back of the stove to avoid a child reaching out for the handles or knocking down pans with toys. A solution for both issues is to fit guards on the cooker top and on the oven to avoid nasty burns.

You’ll want to avoid having your children burnt by touching heating radiators or fireplaces, and this can be done quite simply by covering with specifically designed radiator guards or fire guards respectively. Don’t worry about these looking unseemly. There are some very cool designs to fit modern homes elegantly. Where gas heaters are concerned, you can always create an alcove that is shielded with a fireplace guard to prevent your child from getting too close to the flame.

Never leave a child alone and unsupervised inside a bath or paddling pool. Open wells and full buckets of water can also be dangerous. Drowning does not only happen in the big open sea. To avoid nasty slips inside baths, fit handles on the side and slip in a non-slip mat in the bottom of the bath.

Keep all medicines and household chemicals out of reach. Don’t assume that your child will never touch them – just keep them out of reach and out of sight. Some parents opt to lock medicines up just to be double sure nothing gets gobbled down or chewed on. And be sure to never store a dangerous chemical or detergent inside a bottle which is normally associated with beverages. Children will automatically associate the bottle with a drink and not know what’s inside it until after they register the nasty taste – which means they’ll have ingested the stuff and that is when you will have to rush to hospital.

Cover electrical light sockets with purposely created socket covers. Kids may not poke their fingers into a socket but they can be very ingenuous about poking other things like pens, pencils and other gadgets then manage to get hold of.

Do not show a child how to light a lighter or how to light a match until they are old enough to learn how dangerous fires can be. If you must keep matches and lighters at hand, keep them out of a child’s reach.

String, cord, plastic bags, scissors and sharp objects are all potential hazards for kids. Store them in high storage places.

If you have children of varying ages, remember that infants must not be allowed to play with older children’s toys which may contain tiny parts that can be easily swallowed, poked into a nostril or stuffed into an ear. Supervise children during playtime and be certain that your child is playing with toys suitable for his/her age group.

Lastly, remember that by minimising risks, supervising at all times and being fully observant and attentive, you can avoid painful accidents and provide your child a safe environment in which to grow.

Written by Marika Azzopardi

Marika Azzopardi is a freelance writer and journalist. A frequent contributor to national English language papers and magazines, she writes about a bevy of topics including art, people and life in general.  She is also the author of children’s books and short stories, delving into adult fiction from time to time.