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Preventing Falls

Worldwide, falling is the greatest risk to children's safety. Statistics tells us that every child in North America will go to a hospital emergency at least once because of a fall.

Children are prone to falling because their head is a disproportionate size to the rest of their body. Whenever they lean over or loose their balance, they have a hard time not falling because their head or their centre of gravity draws them down.

The most likely place from where a young child falls is furniture. To prevent this, why not spend more time joining them down at their level, closer to the floor, rather than putting them up on counters, tables or chairs.

To reflect a safer example to your child, when you want to reach something up high, instead of using a chair get a step-stool or ladder, which you put away after use. In the kitchen keep floor areas clear of spills, or other tripping hazards such as toys, for everyone's safety.

Many falls for babies, even newborns, occur from a changing table. Have all necessary articles within reach before you start to remove diaper. Consider changing them in their crib or on the floor when they become wiggly. Children love to climb so start early to teach your child where and when it is safe to climb. Discourage them from climbing furniture, bookshelves and counters. When you stand them up on counters or tabletops, consider your role in giving them the idea that it is O.K. to be up there.

As babies learn to walk, they grab things to help pull themselves up. Fasten tipsy furniture such as standing lamps, pedestal tables, narrow dressers, bookshelves, T.V. units to the wall (See Furniture Safety). Keep stairways well lit and free from obstacles. Avoid leaving objects on the stairs to bring up at a later time, they could become tripping hazards.

Crawling up the stairs is an easy extension of crawling forward. Getting back down is more complicated for babies. As soon as your child starts to crawl up the stairs, get down with them to teach them how to crawl backwards or slide down, feet first, on their tummies. Install gates.

Because it is so easy for them to loose their balance as they learn to walk, make sure they wear shoes or better yet, go barefoot. Though their feet may feel cool, children's circulation is different from ours and they are not as uncomfortable as you might think.

Check your railings. If the distance between the centre of one post to the centre of the next is more than 3 1/2 inches as directed by the building code, then your little one could fall through or get stuck. The Federal government regulated a change in the space between slats of cribs from 3 inches to 2 1/4 inches after many children were found strangled from their heads getting caught or their bodies went through these bars. Railing spaces are often much wider than code. If yours are, you would do better to cover them (See Railing Shield or Deck Net).

Screenings at windows are not sturdy enough to keep a child from falling out. If you need to keep windows open, either install window guards, gates or locks to limit how far the window could be opened (See Window Safety).