Everything you need to know about Toddler-proofing your home

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 10 August, 2003, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 10 August, 2003, 12:00am

Houdini-like feats can start the moment your baby discovers the joys of getting about, and it's bound to happen far sooner than you expect. Always anticipate baby's next move long before it seems possible - tales of infants rolling off changing tables, or toddlers escaping through deadbolted doors, are all too frequent.

Nurse and midwife Terri Vowell, who runs courses on safety and first aid for children at the YWCA, considers the most essential feature in Hong Kong to be bars on every window in the house - and not just in the children's rooms.

Vowell's courses are designed for domestic helpers and cover prevention of accidents in the home, as well as basic first aid for burns, cuts, choking and bleeding. The cost is $270 for three two-hour sessions. The YWCA also runs courses on basic baby care and infant resuscitation. For details call 3476 1340 or visit www.ywca.org.hk.

The Hong Kong Childhood Injury Prevention & Research Association warns that falls are the major cause of external injury among Hong Kong children under 15 (44.3 per cent). It says more attention should be paid to modifying household environments which feature most of the risk factors for falls, such as bunk beds (not recommended for small children) and slippery floors. It offers various topics on injury prevention and first aid through its website at www.childinjury.org.hk.

Toddler-proofing your home simply involves common sense. A room-by-room safety check would begin with the kitchen and laundry areas. 'Guard' everything you can: install locks on cupboards, stove and fridge doors; put knives high up, or ideally locked away; have short cords on electrical appliances and ensure that all handles on cooking pots face inwards (see www.safety1st.com).

Robby Nimmo, who writes safety articles for Hong Kong parenting magazine Parents' Journal, advises parents with children under two to consider a playpen. A heavy playpen, no more than 50cm high with the space between the bars being between 5cm and 8.5cm, is recommended. Do not place objects in the playpen which may help the child climb out.

Hot plates of food or drink should always be placed in the middle of a table, using placemats rather than tablecloths. Heavy objects should be well away from the edge of any bench, counter or shelf. Never hold boiling water or cook with a child in your arms or carry pouch. Have a fire blanket and/or extinguisher handy, and make sure you know how to use them.

Keep the bathroom door closed when not in use, and put the toilet lid down - small children can drown in a toilet. Empty all buckets and baths as soon as you have used them, remembering that children can drown in less than two minutes in 5cm of water.

Use non-slip rubber bathmats in and out of the bath; put razors and medication up high and consider buying a lockable cabinet. Dispose of out-of-date or unused medicine.

If you have floor-to-ceiling windows, place stickers or tape at the child's eye-level to prevent accidents. Be extra vigilant with heavy items such as fish tanks and even television sets, making sure that they are stable and cannot be climbed on or pulled over.

Finally, the primary message from the Hong Kong Society for the Protection of Children is to never leave a child unattended at home.

'Many children are regularly left alone at home all day, unsupervised and in danger of neglect, injury or perhaps even death,' says executive officer Scarlett Kwan.

The society provides a variety of childcare services including extended-hours service for working parents, occasional day care in times of family emergency and a respite service for families in crisis, as well as seminars for parents. For details visit www.hkspc.org.