Keeping toddlers safe as they become mobile and explore their surroundings.

Keeping babies safe can be tricky, as they grow into curious toddlers who put things in their mouths, climb, open doors, and reach up and touch everything they possibly can.

Most children will be moving independently. A small number may still be using some form of crawling, others will be ‘cruising’ along furniture, and many more will be walking independently.

Exploring safely

All this exploring is an important and natural part of their development. Rather than trying to prevent it, it’s easier to make their environment as safe as possible so everyone in the whānau can enjoy this stage.

It can feel like everything is a possible hazard to toddlers, and it’s hard work keeping kids safe – but just ask any parent whose child has been hurt or hospitalised what’s really the most important thing.

Natural curiosity

When toddlers put themselves in danger they’re not being naughty, they’re being curious. Smacking or yelling will likely scare and upset them, rather than teach them how to keep safe.

With this freedom to explore independently comes another level of safety awareness for the whānau. They’ll need to consider the following things.

Family pets

  • Pets may feel displaced or jealous about losing their place in the pecking order.
  • Existing pets, although familiar with the child, may respond aggressively to being chased, pinched or having their fur pulled.
  • Pets new to the family may not be used to having a toddler around, or they’re ‘babies’ themselves, who will naturally bite and scratch if they feel threatened.

Reviewing home zones for safety

  • Review, and if necessary rearrange, where precious or dangerous things are stored.
  • Empty any containers or buckets of water after use – toddlers can drown in them.
  • Look around – what might the toddler climb on? Shelves and cupboards that could tip over on them need to be secured to the wall.

What safety equipment could help make life easier and reduce the risk of accidents?

  • Put gates over stairs and doorways.
  • Put a fireguard around fires and heaters.
  • Unplug appliances and keep loose or dangling electrical cords out of reach.

Involve the whole family

  • Help older kids to keep both their younger siblings and their own things safe – especially small choking-sized items, and things that might suffer if chewed or dribbled on.
  • Check that toys are matched to the toddler’s stage of development. If toys have little bits that can come off, keep them out of sight and reach of persistent toddlers.
  • Check any second-hand toys for lead-based paint, which is a poisoning risk.
  • Put lighters and matches where children can’t find them, and teach kids to bring them to an adult if they find them.
  • Put pots on the back elements and turn the handles inwards.
  • Store household chemicals and poisons up high or in childproof cupboards to avoid the ‘If only we’d…’ scenario after a child is harmed – or even dies – from ingesting poison.

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