What to expect
Toddlers are full of energy and curiosity, and love testing out their new climbing, walking and running skills. Your toddler might fall a lot, even on flat surfaces. This is because he still has a large, heavy head in proportion to his body – he’s just learning how to be steady on his feet.
Toddlers experiment with everything. For example, it’s not unusual for toddlers to poke things into their own or another child’s nose or ear, and sometimes these things get stuck and cause irritation and infection. In fact, until they’re five or six, most children don’t understand the dangers and are still learning that actions have consequences.
The good news is that your child will gradually start to understand if you keep reminding her of safety rules. Now’s the time to start teaching.
Supervision is the only reliable way to prevent accidents. Your toddler needs your constant vigilance to stay safe. But by removing sources of danger, you can also give your toddler the freedom he needs to explore.
The best way to toddler-proof your home is to get down to your child’s level and look around. What can you see down there that might be dangerous? To avoid constantly telling your child ‘no’, just remove anything you don’t want her to touch.
Start teaching your child where he can and can’t go in the house, and what isn’t safe to touch. Put up barriers to areas where your child might be at risk – for example, safety gates at the top and bottom of stairs and on balconies to prevent falls, and guards around fires and heaters to prevent burns.
Here are some other ideas to help you protect your child:
- Toddlers love to climb, so secure your furniture, especially bookcases and TVs.
- Keep chairs away from windows and balconies so your child can’t climb up them.
- Turn off space heaters when you leave the room.
- Curtain tie-backs and window blind cords are a strangling hazard. Remove them or hook them well out of reach.
- Teach your child not to slam doors and to keep fingers out of the hinge-side. You can read more about safety around doors and hinges.
- When you make a well-deserved cup of tea or coffee, keep it away from little fingers.
- Install a safety gate at the top of stairs, and teach your young child to come down the stairs backwards.
- Turn down your hot water system to 50°C to prevent scalding.
Keep a well-stocked first aid kit, and keep it out of your child’s reach.
- Check your fire alarms regularly.
- Deadlocking doors when you’re inside the house stops you getting out if there’s a fire. Only use the deadlocks when you’re away from home.
They don’t happen every day, but accidents do happen. Be prepared by keeping a list of emergency phone numbers in your mobile or by the phone.
You can avoid choking risks by taking the following precautions:
- Encourage your toddler to sit while eating. Children are more likely to choke if they eat while they’re running around or playing.
- Nuts can choke a child. It’s usually not safe for children to eat nuts until they’re five years of age (and not at all if they have an allergy).
- Keep toys for small children and older siblings in separate boxes.
- Try to keep small household objects, such as spare batteries, out of reach of young children.
In the bedroom
Leave the side of the cot down if your child keeps trying to climb out. If she won’t stay in her cot, consider moving her into a bed.
Avoid bunk beds until your child is nine or so – younger children love climbing and playing on them and don’t know the risks.
In the kitchen
You might want to teach your child to stay out of the kitchen while you’re cooking meals. You could give him a special activity that keeps him busy while you’re cooking.
Here are more tips for making your kitchen safe:
- Dangling appliance cords can be tempting to pull on, so keep them from hanging over the edge of benches.
- When cooking, turn saucepan handles inwards and use the back stove elements (rather than the front ones) when possible.
- Keep washing up liquid, insect sprays and other household poisons and chemicals locked away and up high.
- Remove stools or chairs that could help your child reach dangerous items, like knives or glasses.
- Dispose of all plastic wrapping as soon as possible. Always knot any plastic bags you intend to store.
In the bathroom
A few basics can help keep your child safe at bath time:
Never leave your toddler alone in the bath, even for a second. Drowning is both quick and silent. If you need to leave the bathroom to get something, get your child out of the bath.
- Check the bath water temperature before you put your child in. The correct temperature for children is 37-38°C.
- Lock medicines up high, out of reach.
Out and about
Toddlers are fast and quiet. One minute, your child is standing by your side, the next she’s over at the duck pond or heading for the carpark. By always keeping your eye on her outdoors, you can avoid dangerous accidents.
- When out walking, holding hands or using a pram can keep your child from darting into dangerous situations.
Remember sunscreen and a hat. Toddlers burn very easily. Keep up the habit of wearing a hat for all outside play. Some clothing lets through more radiation than SPF30 sunscreen does. You can read more about safety in the sun.
- Always buckle up your child in the car restraint that’s right for his size.
- Children left in cars overheat very quickly, so don’t be tempted to leave your child while you pop into the shop. Never leave your child in a car alone – always take him with you.
- A secure garden fence allows your toddler to play safely in your backyard – just watch to make sure she doesn’t figure out how to open the gate. If your garden isn’t fenced, make sure your child can’t open the doors to go outside without you.
Swimming pools and open water are danger zones for a curious toddler. Drowning is swift and silent. You can take some basic swimming pool safety precautions
, and always keep your eyes on your child when he’s around pools, ponds, dams, water tanks and so on. Our illustrated guide to child CPR
is also worth printing out and sticking on the fridge.