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Ten Steps to Babyproofing

1) Educate yourself

While much of baby proofing is common sense, accept that you might have more to learn about this process. Safety is a choice of the risk you want to take, and the best approach would be to learn more about what are the risks. For many, an injury happens because they were simply unaware that it could happen. For instance, there are new parents who have never heard of the fact that babies can drown in a toilet bowls or their pet's water dish. It is our hope the information throughout the site will help you gain some new awareness to know more about the risks..

One tool to assess risk is in understanding the developmental abilities and limitations of children. While it might seem obvious that children differ both physiologically and psychologically, research confirms, when it comes to safety, parent’s expectations are not always realistic.

Young children are prone to certain types of injury because they are physically small in size, with little feet and big heads, causing them to be constantly out of balance. If they fall down the stairs, it is because they are not fully in charge of their developing bodies and unaware of the force of gravity. Some parents believe if a child falls once, they will learn not to do it again. What adults may not realize is that the baby does not have this capacity to reason that the consequence of one action has something to do with another and therefore cannot apply the experience to similar settings..

Complex abstract thought and memory storage is not completely available to them yet. This is not easy for the parents to understand because children can mislead us. When they begin to talk, sometimes beyond their years, articulate the rules or instructions that we may give them, we think they genuinely understand. But while they can repeat the words by rote and are good at responding to cues, have they understood or do they have the self-control to put these concepts into action? Again research strongly identifies they do not. If a child is taught and repeats the rules about crossing the street, and their ball rolls out seconds later, they are still likely to run out after it. Being aware of the differences enables you to develop a empathetic understanding of your child's world .

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2) Stay a step ahead

Childproof when your baby is around 6 months of age, before she becomes mobile. Statistically, most babies have some sort of fall or incident with household products or tools they find, like knives or scissors. Some parents find that their baby does not seem to be interested in getting into things. Realize that this can change at any time. Also, when the next sibling comes along, they can likely have a different temperament, making another approach necessary. The combination of personality, creativity, natural curiosity, and inability to understand the consequences of behaviour, puts all children at risk of injury.

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3) Always supervise but it is more than watching

A child under the age of 3 requires direct supervision. This means having the child in the same room as the adult taking care of them. It is also important to understand that being present in the same room does not prevent injury. Your toddler across the room can stumble and hit their head on the table, before you can reach them. You cannot predict when the tumble will happen, but you are able to predict that given the baby's current developmental abilities, that it is likely. Remove the risk. Take the table away completely, move it out of the way or pad it. Supervision is not just watching: supervision involves removing hazards. Statistics show that most injuries happen, not because of absentee supervision, but when a parent or caregiver was near by but not able to react fast enough..

For older children, we still need to know their whereabouts and what they are doing. Realize even though an older child has gained some experience about dangers and can repeat the safety rules, this does not guarantee they will always follow them. When children are eagerly exploring or experiencing peer pressure, the rules they just repeated can be too difficult to apply.

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4) See the world from your child's perspective

Role-play a one year old and get down on your hands and knees and explore your rooms for potential hazards. Having no prior knowledge of what is dangerous or what hurts, young children will touch and naively explore everything they can reach. Look for colours, textures, small things like buttons, knobs, handles, drawer pulls, and holes that might appeal to little fingers. Take note of the items that can be swallowed, pushed over, pulled down, poked into or fall off and discover what could be done to avoid a baby doing this.

It is often difficult for us, as adults, to fathom why a child would want to drink a bad-smelling cleaning solution. And children have been known to stuff things up their nose, or into their ears, leaving their parents clueless until infection actually sets in. Realize you cannot think like them, so explore all possibilities! Even if a child is not tall enough to reach the handle of a fridge or cupboard, they may be able to open them from the bottom. Applying this kind of thinking may allow you to anticipate problems and take action to prevent them.

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5) Assess the risks of critical areas

Injuries are most likely to occur when baby meets stairs, electrical outlets and cords, cupboards, drawers, the bathtub, toilet, back deck, etc. Stairs represent an area where toddlers, because of their limited physical abilities, are at risk to be injured. You can choose to risk nothing will happen and avoid putting up a gate because they may be ugly or will "damage" your walls. But you will then be constantly dashing after your child every time he or she nears the top of the stairs. However, if you choose to reduce the risk by properly installing a gate, suited for the top of the stairs, your child is safer and you will have less stress. Your baby will have more freedom to run and play and you have more freedom to enjoy seeing them do it. It would also be useful to consider that even with a gate safely installed, there is a risk that someone forgets to close it. Accounting for this circumstance and initiating safety habits reduces the risk and gives you more peace of mind.

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6) Act Immidiately to remove all hazards

Don't wait to do it some other day. Clear out such items as cleaning products and medications, which you have accumulated. Cosmetics, shampoo, vitamins and even foods that seem harmless to us may be potentially toxic to a small child. If a 2 year old were to have a chance to eat a jamming jar quantity of sugar, this could be lethal. As little as 6 adult aspirin tablets or a tablespoon of bleach could cause death in a little one. Lock up or store out of reach items that are small, poisonous, sharp, heavy, breakable or wrapped in plastic. There are hundreds of potentially toxic products in our homes. Set aside some time, once or twice a year to weed out those you never use and reduce the chances of your little ones getting to them. On a day-to-day basis, remember to put away those things you take out as soon as you are finished with them. If you choose to store items out of reach, realize that what may be out of reach today, may not be tomorrow! There is no age limit to curiosity, and past "good behavior" is no guarantee of safety. Acknowledge the long shots!

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7) Educate your children

Begin at an early age to teach your child good safety habits. Remember the role your own behaviour has in setting an example to them. Be creative, and adjust the information to their ability and level of understanding. For example, showing a child how matches work, is more likely to help them realize that it is difficult to do and will discourage them from trying it out when a parent is not around. Including your children in activities and discussions regarding your family's safety helps them to feel a part of the process, and shows them how important you think they are.

If the majority of what a child hears is negative (i.e. constantly being told what not to do), they will probably stop listening. When curiosity gets the better of them, do not lose your temper. If you discover evidence of playing with matches for example, help the children to understand the seriousness of their mistake. You need to keep your trusting relationship so that when something does go wrong, the first thing they will do is look for you. You do not want them to run away and hide because they know you will be mad at them. Very young children can be taught words such as "hot" or "sharp" to identify problem areas. However, be cautious about relying on their ability to recall or really understand these new words. And remember! You will need to tell them again and again and again and again.

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8) Be consistent

If you have established a family safety rule, making an exception even once, teaches your child that rules are unnecessary and made to be broken. For example, everyone in the family must wear a bicycle helmet. Whenever the smoke detector goes off, everyone must get out. Studies are now showing that because many people are ignoring the warning, thinking it is a false alarm, they are not getting out on time .

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9) Be Prepared

One of the best things you can do to avoid injury is take a First Aid Course. Research suggests that people trained in lifesaving techniques or First Aid are some 40% less likely to experience an injury than those who are not currently trained. The following list was developed to help you to be more prepared..

  • Take a course in C.P.R. and and First Aid
  • Have a first aid kit on hand
  • Have a list of important information by each phone, on each level of the house

Information should include:

  • 911 or equivalent, and look up different emergency numbers for your area. i.e. fire, police, ambulance, hydro, gas. This may be particularly important when traveling or on vacation.
  • Your own name & address and work numbers
  • Names & ages of children
  • Pertinent medical information
  • Other important phone numbers, doctors, relatives, neighbours, taxi, pharmacy
  • Poison Control Centre

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10) Be ready to make continuous adjustments

As time goes by, people become complacent and drop their guard. Renewing your CPR or First Aid course helps you with your focus and ongoing commitment. As your child grows and develops, each new stage will require different approaches to meet their safety needs. Baby proofing leads to childproofing, which leads to teen proofing. As long as they are your "babies" this process is ongoing. The example you set will be carried forth by your children through their lives.

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