Safety Tips for Play-Based Exploration
Babies are naturally curious about their world, and once they start crawling and walking, watch out! These little dynamos seem to have a knack for finding potentially dangerous situations. When it comes to safety, the best defense is a good offense. Plan ahead to keep play safe and fun.
- Always use good judgment when choosing toys and play activities. You know your child's developmental level best, and so you should gauge toys and activities based on his own skills and needs. Be sure to check packaging instructions and safety guidelines for appropriate age range and use, and when in doubt, consult your pediatrician or health practitioner.
- If you haven't done so already, start child-proofing your house. This can include, but isn't necessarily limited to, covering electrical outlets, storing medications and chemicals out of reach, and installing locks on cabinets that contain hazards. Consider not locking up safe items though because mobile babies and toddlers love to explore pots and pans and plastic containers. Leave cupboards with safe versions of these objects unlocked, and let your little one explore to her heart's content.
- Pay particular attention to issues that can cause serious injury. For example, to safeguard against the hot glass on a gas fireplace or the pointed edges around that fireplace, install a fireplace screen and pad the edges to help avoid injury to your child.
- Don't assume that you can trust toy manufacturers to guarantee the safety of the toys you buy. According to James Swartz of WATCH (World Against Toys that Cause Harm), government regulation of the toy industry is minimal, and toy companies are essentially working on the honor system. You may want to do your own investigative work instead. For example, you should avoid toys with small parts, which could be choking hazards. Two types of toys that are especially hazardous to young children are toys with magnets and small toys that expand with water. If ingested, these toys can lodge in the intestines and cause serious injury or death. Avoid toys with projectile parts and sharp edges, as well as toys with loose strings that can become strangulation hazards to your child, and watch out for painted toys, which might contain lead. Finally, check for recalls before purchasing a toy.
- View electronic toys with caution. These toys generally don't have a lot of play value because they do all the work for the child, rather than encouraging exploration and creativity. Bright flashing lights can be over stimulating, while the noise these toys produce can damage hearing. They'll give mom and dad a headache at the very least!
- Spend time playing with your child. Besides the fact that your child loves playing with you more than anything else, when you play together, you develop a keen knowledge of your child's strengths and weaknesses. This knowledge can help you anticipate potentially dangerous situations. Use this time to show your little one how to play safely with toys and equipment. At the playground, for example, show your child how to go up the ladder on the toddler slide and come down the slide feet first. At home, teach your older baby how to scoot down the stairs on her bottom or with her face turned towards the stairs. As her motor skills develop, she can safely learn to walk down the stairs face forward.
- Babies and toddlers love sensory experiences, including water. Fill a small tub with water and explore it outdoors on summer days. Offer cups for dumping and pouring. Take extra care in the bathtub to keep this experience fun and safe. Babies can drown in less than 1 inch of water, according to the Safe Kids website, and most infant and toddler drowning deaths occur in bathtubs, toilets, or 5-gallon buckets, rather than swimming pools. Set your water heater to no more than 120 degrees Fahrenheit to avoid burns, and never leave a baby or toddler unattended around water.
To learn about toy recalls, visit the Consumer Product Safety Commission.