By Raising Children Network
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Toddlers fall because their head is heavy in proportion to their bodies, they’re unsteady on their feet, and they tend to want to climb everything they see.

 

You might have noticed how easily babies and children can fall. You can make sure your child has as few falls and bumps as possible by watching his development and adjusting the environment as he grows.

Falls are the most common cause of accidents in every age group. As babies and children become more and more mobile, falls and bumps become more likely.

Injuries to children often happen unexpectedly because grown-ups don’t realise what children can do and how quickly they develop new skills. The most useful thing you can do to try and keep your child safe is to keep an eye on the new skills she’s learning, and the new places she can reach and get to – and then adjust your environment accordingly. Understanding your child’s development will help you plan ahead for safety.

There are three important factors that can influence the seriousness of a fall:

  • The height children can fall from: the lower the height, the lower the danger. Children under five shouldn’t have access to heights over 1.5 m, and older children shouldn’t have access to heights over 2 m.
  • What children fall onto: hard surfaces such as concrete, ceramic tiles and even compacted sand are more hazardous to fall onto than softer surfaces. A bed of tan-bark or pine mulch under play equipment is recommended to provide a softer landing. These beds are required to be at least 30 cm deep.
  • What children might hit as they fall: sharp-edged furniture, such as coffee tables and bedside tables, should be placed in areas where a child is unlikely to fall on them.

For information on preventing falls for older children, see playground safety and safety for bikes and other wheeled toys.

Falls are part of the normal growing process. Most falls lead only to bumps and bruises, but they can occasionally lead to a trip to a doctor or the hospital.

Tips for preventing falls at home

Furniture

Children are at risk of falling even as young babies when they can’t control their movements. If your baby’s on a surface such as a change table or bed, always keep a hand on him. As he grows, you might not even know he can roll over until he rolls off the bed or another piece of furniture.

Check that all furniture is sturdy – your child shouldn’t be able to pull it down or knock it over. You might have to brace furniture such as bookcases and cupboards or attach them to the wall. Put the things your child wants to reach on the lowest levels so she’s less tempted to try climbing up the furniture. As a last resort, you can move the furniture to a part of the house your child doesn’t use, or put a barrier in place so she can’t get to it.

Move furniture with sharp corners away from areas where children run around, such as in hallways and near doorways. If the furniture can’t be moved, pad its corners with foam or commercial corner protectors (these are sold at hardware shops). 

Windows, glass doors and balconies
Windows should be locked or shielded with screens so your child can’t fall out. It pays to move chairs, change tables and pot plants away from windows too, because children love to climb up to see outside.

Make glass doors visible using stickers, and place furniture in front of glass doors so your child won’t run into them. Consider using safety glass or shatter-resistant film on glass doors and windows.

Always supervise small children on balconies. Install safety guards across the entry to any balconies, and make sure there are no horizontal bars or footholds children could use to climb on.

Safety aids and precautions
Put away toys at the end of the day so all family members can go to the toilet at night without tripping over them.

Wipe up spills as soon as possible – they can make the floor slippery.

Use anti-skid mats under your rugs and floor coverings, or roll them away.

Install safety gates on stairs – once your baby can crawl, it’ll be hard to keep him away from steps. Keep the gates in place until your child is very good at walking up and down stairs on his own. And always open the gate rather than stepping over it – it’s easy to trip, and stepping over the top doesn’t set a good example for children.

Try to stop your child from standing up in the bath. The bath is a very slippery place, and even adults can fall quite easily.

Move, put away or lock up anything that might be unsafe for a child to climb, or that can be used to get to unsafe places. 

 
 
 
  • Last updated or reviewed 26-03-2012