What to expect
Your child is getting older and more confident, but it’s still important to keep a close eye on her.
The good news is that you can teach preschoolers more about safety than you can with younger children. For example, you can reinforce existing safety messages and teach your child about new issues, such as road safety and what to do in an emergency.
But even with your child’s impressive new learning, he still relies on you to keep him safe at all times.
The chance of a playground injury is greater for preschool and school-age children, because they’re still developing body strength and judgment skills. Falls are the most common injury.
Here are some helpful safety guidelines:
- The safest equipment for children aged 3-5 years is less than 1.5 m high (no taller than the average woman).
- Look for spaces that give your child room to run, cartwheel, jump and climb.
- Try to watch your child at all times, and stand nearby if he’s trying a daring new feat.
You might like to read more about playground safety.
Things with wheels
Wheels can be tricky to master, but these tips can help your child avoid bumps and bruises:
- Lots of practice in a safe area will build up your child’s confidence. Find a safe area such as your backyard or a park so she can learn how to ride bikes, scooters and other wheeled toys.
- Falls are part of the wheels deal. Well-fitting protective gear for bikes, skateboards and rollerblades (helmet, kneepads, elbow guards) can reduce the risk of serious injury for your preschooler.
- You can read more about teaching your child how to stay safe on wheels.
Your preschooler just loves water – playing in it, rolling in it and scooping it. To help your child stay safe around pools, you can take the following precautions:
Always stay with your child when he’s in or near the water, even if he can swim.
- Drowning can take less than a minute and is silent. Keep an eye on your child at all times around water.
- Teach your child the basics of swimming and rules for swimming safely. For example, say to your child, ‘Never go into the pool without telling me’.
- Swim between the flags when at the beach.
Safety at home
The world is your preschooler’s playground, including the inside of your house! To help your child stay safe indoors, you might think about these ideas:
- Make sure your furniture is secure enough to withstand your child’s weight. Attach wobbly furniture to the wall (so it can’t fall on top of your child), or remove it.
- Sharp corners can cause a nasty accident. Use corner protectors or clear your sharp furniture from areas where children run.
- Athletic and curious preschoolers love to climb. Keep second-storey windows locked or shield them with secure screens so children can’t fall out. Remove chairs and pot plants that can be used to climb on. Block off access to balcony areas.
- Store medicines, chemical sprays and household cleaners in child-resistant containers. Keep them in locked cupboards high out of reach. Preschoolers love gadgets that squirt (like water pistols), so be sure to keep pump-action bottles out of reach when you’re cleaning.
- Avoid storing detergents, paint thinners and other hazardous liquids in empty soft drink or juice bottles. Your child might think she’s found something nice to drink. You can read more about how to prevent poisoning.
- To prevent burns and scalds, keep guards around fires and heaters. Use the backburners on the stove, and turn pan handles towards the back of the stove. Keep kettles, teapots and cords for electric kettles and pans up on the bench, out of reach. Also, if you keep sending the message that the oven, iron and other objects are hot, your child might learn to stay away.
- Avoid bunk beds until your child is nine or so. If you do have bunks, try to make sure younger children don’t climb up – they can easily fall.
- Encourage your child to sit while eating – at a table or even on the floor is fine. Children are more likely to choke if they eat while running around or playing.
- Nuts can choke a child. It’s usually not safe for children to eat nuts until they’re five, and they shouldn’t eat them at all if they have an allergy.
Cars and road safety
Now’s the time to help your child start building a lifetime of safe car habits.
Safety rule number one is to buckle up:
- Australian law now requires that all children under seven must use an age-appropriate child restraint whenever they’re in the car.
- Children six months and under must sit in a rear-facing baby seat or capsule.
- Children between six months and four years can use either a rearward-facing or forward-facing child seat.
- Children aged 4-7 years can use a forward-facing seat or a booster seat.
- Always use a car restraint that meets Australian standards.
Here are more important car and pedestrian safety tips:
- Your car is an oven on wheels, and children can overheat very quickly if left inside. So never leave your child unattended in the car. If you have to duck into the shops, take your child with you. You might like to read more tips on car safety.
- When you’re around roads, footpaths and carparks, always hold your child’s hand. Until the age of about 10, children aren’t able to keep themselves safe around traffic.
- Kids do as you do, and they learn by example. So you can teach your child about pedestrian safety by always crossing at the lights or zebra crossing.
As your preschooler’s world expands, there’ll be times when you won’t be there to keep him safe – for example, when he’s at preschool or a friend’s birthday party. Let him know that if you’re running late to pick him up, he should stay in a safe area, such as the preschool playground, until you arrive. It’s important he understands ‘stranger danger’ so he can stay safe, even when you’re not around.