Guidelines for Keeping Children Safe at Every Stage

As parents, we have many responsibilities and worries-and child safety falls into both categories. While we are entirely responsible about keeping our crawling babies safe from electrical outlets, we must also remember to teach our tweens and teens about the dangers of drugs, alcohol and other challenges they face.

While specific safety issues do vary by age group, there are some hazards that cross all age ranges, including: water, dogs, helmets, cars, and guns. Even if you do not have dogs or guns, others do. For many, just visiting relatives' houses can pose a danger, especially if there are not often children present-there may be unfenced pools, dogs that bite, scalding water temperatures, hanging cords, loose medications, and other dangers. Safety issues that may not be relevant in your own home-guns, gas stoves, pools-should still be taught and supervised to prevent problems when visiting other homes. Keep the lines of communication open with your children.

Here are some general safety guidelines to follow for every stage:

Infants

  • Falls: Do not leave baby on any elevated surface.

  • Suffocation: No fluffy bedding or plastic bags.

  • Water: Never leave an infant alone in or near their bath.

Babies

  • Baby gates: At the top and bottom of all stairs; other areas you do not want baby accessing.

  • Electrical cords/outlets: Cover outlets and check cords that can bring down appliances/lamps if tugged.

  • Choking: Coins, broken toy parts, and parts from older siblings' toys. Be sure to cut solid foods up into small pieces.

  • Poisoning: Lead paint, batteries, and household cleaning supplies should be removed or contained.

  • Burns: Turn your water heater down to 120°F to avoid bath time burns; do not eat hot soup or drinks with baby in your lap.

  • Water: Babies can easily fall into a toilet or bucket headfirst, and be unable to get back out. Also watch pools, kiddie pools, and bath time.

  • Suffocation: Immediately store any grocery or packaging plastic bags.

Toddlers

  • Sharp edges: Fireplaces, coffee tables, other furniture-cover sharp corners or edges!

  • Choking: Be sure to cut up hot dogs, grapes, and other foods into small pieces; watch out for small objects within reach.

  • Poisoning: If your toddler is a chewer, be aware of windowsills and other objects that may have lead paint. Also, lock up household cleaners and move houseplants out of reach.

  • Water safety: Watch out around pools, buckets, kiddie pools, open water, and consider a toilet lock.

  • Suffocation: Continue to keep plastic bags in a safe place, and cut window blind cords that are looped (usually older blinds).

  • Tipping furniture: Wall-bolt any furniture your toddler may climb-dressers, bookcases, and TVs can all fall over onto them.

  • Burns: Never leave pot handles sticking out from the stove.

Preschoolers

  • Choking risks continue: Make sure to warn kids to avoid activity while eating, etc.

  • Helmets: For bicycles, whether the child is riding or a passenger.

  • Crossing streets: Model and teach good behavior

  • Stranger danger: Begin teaching rules

  • Water safety: Be aware around pools, creeks, and open water.

  • Tipping furniture is still a hazard: Warn kids not to climb shelves, etc.

Elementary Schoolers

  • Stranger danger: Continue teaching at an age appropriate level

  • Internet safety: Begin teaching basic rules as soon as your child begins accessing the internet

  • Helmets: Bicycles, scooters, skateboards

  • Crossing streets: Continue teaching and modeling rules

  • Water safety: If your child cannot swim, it's time for lessons.

Tweens

  • Internet safety and cyber bullying: Teach what is and is not OK.

  • Helmets

  • Drugs and alcohol: Legal and illegal, prescription and otherwise

  • Inhalants, smoking, and choking games: Be aware of these dangers

  • Water safety: No horseplay; respect those who do not swim well. Avoiding high and fast water; ocean safety.

Teens

  • Drugs and alcohol: Legal and illegal; friends who pressure are not true friends.

  • Cyber bullying/sexting/internet safety

  • Dating: Discuss your house rules; teach about dating violence and safe sex.

  • Fireworks, fire crackers

  • Cars-driver and passenger: AAA and many insurance companies offer programs for teen drivers. Discuss drunk driving with your teen; be available if their driving friend has been drinking.

  • Water safety: Ocean safety, diving safety, and avoiding high or fast water.

There are many websites offering safety tips and ideas for all topics and age groups. The CDC offers online information on "Safety in the Home and Community" for age groups 0-4, 4-11, and 12-19. Safety tips for all ages are also available here. Information on dating safety for girls and women is also available. Be sure to read up on internet safety tips for kids, tweens, and teens.

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