(MayoClinic.com) Every parent knows how hard it is to protect a child from injuries related to falling. When a baby first learns to walk, preventing falls requires constant supervision. Later, a toddler who's not as likely to fall while walking may tumble during a covert ascent to the cookie jar — and an older child may miscalculate the physics involved in rocketing up a flight of hardwood stairs in socks. Still, there's plenty you can do to promote fall safety for kids.
Fall safety for kids at home
At home, fall safety for kids hinges on basic precautions. Follow these simple tips:
- Beware of heights. Never leave a baby alone on a bed, changing table or piece of furniture. Use the safety strap on highchairs and other infant seats. Don't allow a young child to play alone on a fire escape, high porch or balcony. Safety netting also may help prevent falls.
- Keep stairs safe. Make sure stairs have handrails on both sides that go from the top step to the bottom step. Keep stairs clear of clutter and well lit.
- Install safety gates. Block a toddler's access to stairs with safety gates. If you're putting a safety gate at the top of a staircase, attach it to the wall.
- Keep windows locked and screens in place. A young child may squeeze through a window opened as little as 5 inches (12.7 centimeters). Although all windows that open should have guards or screens, screens aren't strong enough to keep a child inside. Discourage play near windows and patio doors, which could lead to a fall through glass. Don't store or display anything a child could climb near a window.
- Prevent access to extension cords and ladders. It's easy to trip on extension cords. Store ladders on their sides in a shed or garage.
- Address slippery or uneven surfaces. Use a rubber pad in the bathtub to help prevent slipping and clean kitchen spills quickly. Use foam carpet padding, double-sided tape or a rubber pad under area rugs to keep them from sliding. Fix chipped or broken steps and walkways as soon as possible.
- Avoid baby walkers. A young child may trip over a baby walker, fall out of the walker or fall down the stairs while using a walker.
- Use night lights. Consider using them in your child's bedroom, the bathroom and hallways to prevent falls at night.
Despite your best attempts to promote child safety at home, falls are still possible. To reduce the risk of injury, cover sharp furniture and fireplace corners with corner or edge bumpers.
Fall safety for kids on the go
When you're out and about, continue to keep fall safety for kids in mind:
- Fasten safety belts. Always strap children into car seats, strollers and shopping cart seats. Never leave your child unattended in a shopping cart or allow him or her to stand up or ride in the basket of the cart — which could tip over.
- Examine playgrounds. Under play equipment, look for surfaces made of wood chips, mulch or shredded rubber. Try to remove tripping hazards, such as rocks, and steer your child to age-appropriate activities.
- Beware of escalators. Avoid bringing strollers onto escalators. Always carry your child or hold his or her hand as you ride, and watch for dangling clothing.
- Watch for slippery surfaces. Encourage your child to approach wet, dark and paved areas with caution in cold temperatures. Make sure your child wears shoes or boots with traction in bad weather. A heavy or bulky coat can provide cushioning in the event of a fall.
Keeping your child safe from falls takes more than luck. Follow these precautions and you'll go a long way toward preventing injuries.
More features from MayoClinic.com