Debra Hasbrook, M.Ed.
No matter how careful and attentive you are a mobile infant or toddler can find a way to find trouble. Trouble is more likely to be found when we underestimate what a child can find, reach, climb, insert or open. It only takes a second for a disaster to happen. Unless you do nothing else but sit and watch that child, there is a window of opportunity for a little one to explore un-detected. Here are some tips to implement that will help keep these little ones safe.
It’s always best to start from the bottom up. The only way you can really see what is at floor level, is to get down on the floor yourself: hands and knees. Many items and dangers may be hidden from view if only looked down upon, even if you sweep or vacuum daily. Any room where the child will be on the floor should be checked regularly for items that may have been dropped, areas where a child could be trapped, containers that might be explored, and furniture or items that could fall if the child tugs or attempts to climb.
If you keep items behind a door that should always be shut, make sure that you check often that the door actually is shut. Doors that you do not want opened should have safety door knobs installed or a sound alarm. Often doors do not latch and a small child can easily push it open without you noticing and you find yourself asking “Where’s Egbert?” Other people who are not aware of the safety precaution can inadvertently leave the door ajar. It’s always a surprise when a parent finds that a toddler has learned to open the door. The minute you think he/she can’t is when he or she will.
Recently I was visiting my grandchildren. Mom had just laid the one and a half year old down for a nap. Because his room is on the second floor she shut the door and turned on the baby monitor so she would know when Jason woke up. When Jason is up his parents put up the baby gates so he does not fall down the stairs. Since he was behind a closed door and because he had never opened a door before they didn't put up the gate. We were visiting down stairs in the living room when who presented himself before us with a big smile? Jason! He had managed to open the door, descend two flights of stairs and come to visit. They installed safety door knobs that afternoon.
When deciding how to safeguard your child always think ahead, not where your child is currently in abilities. Planning ahead will help you feel more confident and protect your child from harm.
Helping your toddler learn to safely maneuver the steps will reduce the risk of injury when there isn't a baby gate. Allow for supervised opportunities for them to practice going up and down the steps.