Children are curious by nature, and as parents, we don’t want to stifle that. Play and imagination are essential to your child’s body and brain development, but we do want to provide a safe home where they can play and learn and grow.
Some of the most dangerous things in your home are electrical and chemical. While the risk of a catastrophic accident isn’t super high, any risk is too much when it comes to your children. Teaching your kids about chemical and electrical safety from an early age is a great place to start, but you shouldn’t rely on their developing brains to remember and implement those safety skills.
Let’s look into some of the most dangerous parts of your home and discuss how you can make them safer.
A small child doesn’t have to ingest or inhale very much of a chemical to have a severe reaction. The cleaners that you have used in your home for years may not affect you at all, but the fumes and residue could endanger your child. Kids move around the house on their hands and knees and put everything in their mouth, so before you use bleach or other toxic chemicals to clean, think about what might be lingering on surfaces that can make it into your child’s mouth, nose, and eyes.
If you lay fertilizer on your lawn or spray weed killer, make sure that you take your shoes off at the door rather than walking around your house in them. Imagine what could happen if your daughter’s pacifier tumbles into the spot where you just stepped, and then she puts it back into her mouth.
Any cabinets with medicines or cleaners should have a childproof lock on them. Keep in mind that toiletries like perfume and cologne, hairspray, face creams, and nail polishes are toxic to your kids, so keep them out of reach or locked as well.
Laundry and dish pods can look like candy to kids, so keep them high out of reach. While your children are young, you could also consider switching to less tempting liquid or powder cleaners instead.
A final tip: Keep the number to the national poison control center posted in a prominent spot where you and your older children can easily find it in case of an emergency: 800-222-1222.
Appliance and extension cords should always be stored above your child’s reach or under specially designed cord concealers. Covering a cord with a rug is not a safe solution because it insulates the cord’s heat and can cause a fire.
Small children put everything in their mouths, especially when they are teething, so keep cords out of their reach so that they don’t gnaw through them. If you have pets, make sure they cannot get to any cables either. You should regularly inspect electrical cords for damage to be sure that they are safe for continued use.
Loose cords pose a strangulation risk for small children, and even with little hands, they can grab the cord and pull an appliance onto themselves. If you have your entire entertainment system, for example, on a surge protector or extension cord, they could end up doing real damage to your appliances and themselves if they are able to yank on the cable.
As your children get older, teach them to remove appliances by the plug rather than the cord. Explain to them that wires are not toys for walking imaginary dogs or playing jump rope. Rough play and improper unplugging can cause cords to fray and crack, which puts your children at risk for shocks and burns.
As the homeowner, be careful to not overload outlets with adapters or multiple extension cords. You put yourself and your children in danger of trips and falls, as well as bursts of electricity that can cause a fire. If you do not have enough outlets for your needs, hire an electrician to add additional outlets and upgrade your electrical system, if necessary.
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Something about outlets draws kids to them like a magnet. The holes seem to beg them to stick something in there, even as they age out of toddlerhood. Imaginative play can turn your dangerous outlet into a car ignition or a hiding place for secret treasure. Talk to your kids early and often about the hazards of playing with outlets.
Many parents use plastic covers on unused outlets, but even a little one with rudimentary fine motor skills can get the cover off if they are left alone for long enough. Not only does this expose them to electrical danger, but those little plastic covers are a choking hazard.
A better choice is to install tamper-resistant, spring-loaded outlet covers. To plug something into a spring-loaded outlet, you have to put pressure on both holes, so the chances of your toddler getting anything in there is very small.
BONUS: no pieces come off, so there is no choking hazard!
If you live in an older home, it would be smart to upgrade to polarized (where one side is larger than the other) or grounded three-prong outlets rather than to use adapters to turn your two-prong outlet into a three-prong. The adapters add bulk to your plugs and make it easier to bop and bend the prongs. Each little push and pull on these older outlets can cause damage that increases fire risk.
Bathrooms and Kitchens Without GFCI Outlets
Ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) outlets are standard in most new home builds, but older homes often do not have them. A GFCI outlet monitors the amount of electricity flowing through it. They’re especially useful in kitchens and bathrooms because they detect the increased flow of electricity from an appliance coming in contact with water, and they cut the power to the outlet immediately.
GFCIs also protect against the outlet overheating, which reduces the risk of shocks and burns. These innovative outlets protect against ground faults, which is when the hot wire comes in contact with the ground wire. Ground faults create a surge of energy that can cause a fire, so GFCIs are smart even in rooms where you don’t have water.
GFCIs do NOT protect against short circuits (when the neutral and hot wires touch) or overloading the outlet, so you still need to use caution, as you would with any outlet. Also, you should test your GFCIs each month to ensure that they are still functioning correctly. If you need GFCIs installed or replace, it is best to hire a professional.
Safeguard Your Kids
With just a few upgrades and modifications, you can eradicate some of the biggest dangers from your home. Older homes may need more attention than newer builds, but even upgrading outlets in an older home won’t break the bank.
Remember to check the condition of your cords and outlets regularly. With just a little bit of attention, you can drastically reduce the chance of your child having a chemical or electrical accident.