Although school-age children are more aware of safety than younger children, they still forget safety rules occasionally. You’ll have to remind your child of the rules, and do what you can to keep your home as safe as possible.
- To prevent poisoning, keep household chemicals and other dangerous substances out of reach. Lock up or get rid of any household items that could poison your child.
- To prevent cuts, keep everything sharp out of reach. Put sharp objects at the back of benches, or in drawers with child-resistant locks.
- To prevent burns and scalds, keep guards around fires and heaters. Use the backburners on the stove. 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 keep reminding your child about what’s not safe to touch.
- To prevent falls, wipe up spills on floors, and keep play areas clear of furniture or rugs that might cause tripping. Remind your child where she can safely run and climb, whether inside or outside.
- 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 and fall.
Your child will be using computers at school. If you have access to the internet at home, he might even have his favourite websites bookmarked.
The internet is an open environment – anyone can stumble across dodgy content, like pornography, or talk to a stranger in a chat room. You can protect your child from these contacts in the real world, but the only way to protect your child on the internet is to supervise at all times.
Teaching your child about how other people use the internet can also help. You could try the following:
- Explain what chat rooms are for and how they work, so she’ll understand that people online might pretend to be someone different.
- Make a rule about entering a chat room only if he’s checked with you first.
- Teach her how to leave a chat room if someone says something upsetting.
You can also teach your child to turn the screen off and tell you if something appears onscreen that upsets him. Let your child know that it’s not his fault if this happens.
You might be interested in reading our guide to internet safety
for more advice on keeping your child safe online.
As your child becomes more physically skilled and confident, she’ll want to climb higher, balance more and ride faster than she could when she was younger. But even with her new abilities, she’s still likely to have falls.
In the playground
The chance of a playground injury is greater for preschool and school-age children, because they’re still developing body strength and judgment skills. Here are some ideas to keep in mind:
- Try to keep a close watch if your child is swinging from the monkey bars or flying fox – this is where she’s most likely to fall.
- Encourage your child to try the monkey bars when he has the upper body strength to support his weight and is tall enough to reach the bars without help.
- To prevent falls, it’s best that your child climbs no higher than 2 m off the ground (the height of a tall person).
You might like to read more about playground safety.
Things with wheels
Falls are part of the wheels deal. But you can avoid some bumps and bruises with a few simple safety measures:
Well-fitting protective gear for bikes, skateboards and rollerblades (helmet, kneepads and elbow guards) can protect your child from serious injury.
- Teach your child to ride bikes, scooters and other wheeled toys in a safe area, such as your backyard or a park.
- Teach your child how to stay safe on wheels.
Drowning can take less than a minute and is silent. Safety rule number one is to keep an eye on your child at all times around water. You can also take the following precautions:
- Always stay with your child when she’s in or near the water, even if she can swim.
- Teach your child the basics of swimming and rules for swimming safety. For example, say to your child, ‘Never go into the pool without telling me’.
- Swim between the flags at beaches.
You might like to read more about how to help your child stay safe around pools.
Cars and road safety
Older children might have a good grasp of road safety, but you’ll still need to remind your child of the rules and help him cross the road until he’s at least 10.
- Your child can move to an adult seatbelt when she’s over 26 kg or it’s too squeezy in the booster seat. If your child sits in the middle back seat (a very safe place) with only a lap seatbelt, it’s a good idea to hold her head and torso secure with a child harness. When using an adult seatbelt, make sure the lap belt is tight across her hips, not her tummy, and that she doesn’t wriggle her arms over the shoulder strap.
- Always hold your child’s hand in carparks, when walking on footpaths or when crossing a road.
- Teach your child to use lights and pedestrian crossings, look both ways and stop before driveways to check for cars. Practise good road sense yourself, and talk about what you’re doing so he can learn from your example. You can find out more about pedestrian safety.
- Be aware of other guidelines for keeping children safe in cars. For example, always take your child out of the car with you, even if you’re only popping into a shop for a moment. Leaving your child in the car, even on an overcast day, is like leaving her in an oven.
In case of fire
Many children are attracted to fire, so there are some obvious things to remember – never let your child play with matches or fire lighters, make sure all gas rings on your stove are turned off, and turn off electric heaters when you leave the room.
Here are more safety guidelines:
- Deadlocking doors when you’re inside the house stops you getting out if there’s a fire. Only deadlock when you’re away from home.
- Plan at least two clear exits from your home.
- Explain the dangers of fire to your child. His school might have also done this, so you can discuss the lessons he learned there to reinforce your message.
- Practise a fire escape plan with your family. Teach your child the ‘stop, drop, cover and roll’ drill in case his clothes catch fire. Also reinforce the ‘get down low and go, go, go’ escape drill for crawling under smoke and poisonous gases.
- Install smoke alarms to give early warning of a fire in your house. Change the batteries at least once a year. It can be helpful to get into the habit of doing it every time you change the clocks for dayight savings. Test alarms regularly.
- In a fire, keep a close watch on your child once she’s outside, to make sure she doesn’t run back into the house.
When your child starts school, you won’t be there most days to keep him safe. He needs to understand ‘stranger danger’ so he can stay safe even when you’re not around:
- Show your child the safe areas at school.
- Remind her never to go out the school gates unless she’s with a teacher or someone you’ve said she can go with.
- Let your child know that if you’re running a few minutes late to pick him up, he should stay in the school playground, with a teacher, until you arrive.
The Protective Behaviours Program
is a child safety program used by police and schools around Australia. The program is designed to give children the confidence, skills and tools to deal with difficult situations, such as school bullying, abuse at home or a stranger approaching them outside the school gates. Find out more on the Protective Behaviours Australia website