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A Safety Checklist for Parents

You can help keep your children safe by following these precautions and using common sense.

General steps

Safety tips include:

  • Teach your children to wash their hands often throughout the day, particularly after using the bathroom, petting animals, playing outside, coughing, sneezing, blowing their nose—and always before eating and preparing food.

  • Keep their vaccines up-to-date.

  • Be sure you know where they are, who they're with, and what they're doing when out of your presence

  • Check the references of babysitters or caregivers carefully. Make certain they are certified in CPR. Always leave a list of emergency contact numbers. You may also want to check their social media posts.

In the home

Many injuries happen in the home. The following tips can make your home safer.

General safety issues

  • Cover sharp edges on furniture, especially tables that are at the height of toddlers. Bolt lightweight furniture, bookcases, and televisions to the walls so they can't tip over onto children if pulled on. Use outlet plugs to prevent children from putting their fingers or toys in the outlets.

  • Use safety latches, gates, door knob covers, and door locks to help keep children from entering rooms and other areas where they may be at risk for injury. Gates that are used at the top of stairs should be secured to the wall using screws.

  • Install cordless window coverings.

  • Make sure your home has smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. There should be at least one on each level and outside each bedroom. Check them monthly to be sure they still work.

  • If you have an outdoor pool or spa, make certain there is a barrier surrounding it that includes a 4-foot-high fence with a self-closing, self-latching gate. Lock the gate when the pool is not in use. If your house serves as one side of the barrier, doors leading to the pool should have alarms. Pool alarms provide extra security. Sliding glass doors, even with locks that must be secured after each use, are not an effective barrier.

Guns

In 2020, firearm-related injuries among children and adolescents ages 1 to 19 replaced motor vehicle crashes as the leading cause of death among children.

Firearm deaths are preventable. The safest approach is not to keep guns in the home. But if there are guns in the home:

  • Make sure all guns inside the house are unloaded and locked away.

  • Keep ammunition locked away separately from the firearm.

  • Keep all lock combinations, codes, and storage keys hidden. Make sure children and teens do not have access to these.

  • Talk with your children about guns. Remind them that if they come across a gun they should stay away from it and tell you immediately.

  • Ask about firearms and safe storage in all homes where your child spends time. Homes of friends, neighbors, and relatives account for more than a third of all unintentional shootings.

Accidental poisonings

Thousands of children are treated or hospitalized each year because of accidental poisonings in their homes. These tips from the American Association of Poison Control Centers can make your home safer:

  • Keep cleaning supplies, medicines, alcohol, tobacco, garden chemicals, and toxic art supplies locked away or on a high shelf. Make sure these items are put away right after each use.

  • Purchase over-the-counter and prescription medicines with childproof caps. Keep them on a high shelf or in a locked cabinet, not on your bedside table.

  • Keep vitamins, supplements, and minerals such as iron out of reach. They can be hazardous and even fatal to children.

  • Never use food containers to store nonfood substances.

  • Keep button or lithium batteries out of the reach of children. Swallowing these small batteries can cause serious life-threatening problems.

In the car

Keep your children safe in the car by following these tips from the American Academy of Pediatrics:

  • Make sure you and your children are properly buckled in every time you are in the car.

  • Use an infant car seat correctly. Don't place one in the front seat of a vehicle equipped with an air bag on the passenger side. The safest location for a car seat is the middle of the rear seat. But in some cars, it may not be possible to secure a car seat tightly in the middle. In that case, the rear side position is the safest. All babies and toddlers should ride in a rear-facing car seat until they are 2 years of age, or until they have reached the highest weight and height allowed by the car seat's manufacturing specifications.

  • Secure a child in an approved infant car seat until the child's height and weight is above the forward-facing car seat limit. At which point, a belt-positioning booster seat should be used. A child should be in a booster seat until they are 4 feet, 9 inches tall and 8 to 12 years old. Then the child should be restrained by a regular seat belt. Children should not sit in the front-passenger seat until they are 13 years old.

  • Never let children ride in the back of a pickup truck.

On the playing field

Make sure that your children are safe by following these safety guidelines:

  • If your child plays on sport teams, educate yourself about the sport's safety guidelines and work with your child's coaches to ensure all necessary protective equipment is supplied and used.

  • Insist your children wear a helmet when riding their bicycles. Helmets should carry a sticker from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) or the Snell Memorial Foundation (Snell). Be sure your kids are familiar with the rules of the road before letting them ride without supervision.

  • If a helmet has been involved in a serious fall or crash, it should not be reused. If a helmet appears damaged or you are unsure of its condition, it's best to throw it out and get a new one.

  • Insist your children wear a helmet and wrist, elbow, and knee guards when skateboarding or in-line skating. Keep them off streets with heavy traffic.

  • Give them swimming lessons from a qualified instructor. Water survival skill training and swim lessons can help reduce the risk of drowning in children ages 1 to 4. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends swim lessons for most children by the age of 4. Infant swim lessons are not advised. But parent-infant water play classes are OK to enroll in. Never let children swim alone or without adult supervision.

  • Be sure their instructors and coaches have current CPR and first aid certifications.

On the farm

Follow this strategy to help prevent injuries:

  • Separate young children from farm hazards by fencing in a play area.

  • Provide child care to assist farm families and farm workers or pool family child care, especially at planting and harvesting times.

  • Prohibit extra riders on tractors, mowers, and all-terrain vehicles (ATVs). Children under the age of 16 should not be allowed to operate ATVs, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. ATV riders should always wear a motorcycle-style helmet approved by the Department of Transportation.

  • Make sure that tractors and other farm equipment have rollover protective structures and seat belts and that these are used at all times.

  • Limit young children's access to large animals. Have an adult supervise young children around livestock and teach them how to be safe around farm animals.

  • Correctly store farm chemicals and cleaning agents in areas where children have no access.

  • Provide children who work on farms with personal hearing-protection equipment and teach them how to use it correctly. 

Online Medical Reviewer: Marianne Fraser MSN RN
Online Medical Reviewer: Rita Sather RN
Online Medical Reviewer: Tara Novick BSN MSN
Date Last Reviewed: 9/1/2023
© 2000-2023 The StayWell Company, LLC. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.