Guide to Home Safety
for Kids

Children are resourceful, daring, and creative. They are natural-born explorers who perceive the world differently than adults do. That can lead to safety risks. For instance, the bookshelves you nabbed at Goodwill 10 years ago may have faded into the background. They’re kind of clunky and boring, and always there. However, they could represent a tremendous climbing opportunity for your toddler. Likewise, your prescription medications might appeal to young ones.

As the Children’s Safety Network points out, home risks include burns, falls, animal bites, choking, fire, and various types of poisoning.1 This is an all-encompassing guide on how parents and caregivers can protect their children at home when it comes to gym equipment, alcohol/liquor, prescription medications, stairs, driveways, and much more.

Table of Contents

Home gym equipment

Home workouts are huge, especially after widespread COVID-19 lockdowns. Unfortunately, the conveniences of home workouts mean increased safety risks to children.

In a 2011 study, stationary bicycles, treadmills, and jump ropes contributed to most child-related home workout injuries. Laceration was the most common injury type, with commonly affected areas of the body including head, finger, hand, and foot.2 Here’s how to keep little ones safe so you can get your workout on.3

  1. Restrict access to the equipment, for example, by keeping it in a locked room or closing it off with a baby gate.
  2. Exercise when your kids are not around, if possible. Otherwise, give them toys or other activities to busy themselves with. Stay mindful of the children while you exercise instead of losing yourself in music, TV, or your phone.
  3. Lock up or safely store/secure weights and electrical cords. Unplug equipment after you use it and perhaps have a lockable box or closet devoted to storing workout gear. Never leave free weights positioned where they are unstable
  4. Avoid using the equipment as storage for coats, purses, and the like due to the strangulation risks and the dangers of fabric or parts getting trapped.
  5. Set clear boundaries and expectations around your gym equipment. Explain each piece of equipment to your child. Talk about what it does and how children can be careful around it.
  6. Teach children to use the equipment when it is age-appropriate. Continue with clear rules and expectations, for instance, that they can use the equipment only when you are home.

Alcohol/liquor

Children are eager to eat and drink practically anything, including liquor. Alcohol poisoning is an obvious issue, but other possible problems include broken glass and injuries from falls if caregivers store liquor within a child’s climbing reach.4 Lockable cabinets are one solution but may be less effective with teens who know where their parents stash the keys.

  1. Consider a lockable alcohol/liquor cabinet. Some bar cabinets are fully lockable, while others have lockable space below with open areas or hutches above to store glassware and bar equipment. You can also add child safety latches or locks (magnetic, smart, mortise, etc.) to existing cabinets or pieces of furniture.
  2. Store liquor on elevated, inaccessible shelves if you don’t use a cabinet.
  3. Do not leave children unsupervised around alcohol. During parties, take your drink with you when you move around or go to the bathroom. Also, keep watch on guests’ drinks. Ask them to be careful about temporarily leaving alcoholic beverages behind.
  4. Secure mouthwash, hand sanitizer, perfumes, and even vanilla and almond food extracts. They contain alcohol.

Protecting teens from alcohol is a different story. In How Parents of Adolescents Store and Monitor Alcohol in the Home, researchers found that parents generally do not see a need to lock alcohol up from teens. Instead, they rely on trust and casual monitoring to gauge whether their children are drinking.5

You know your family best, so do what works for you all. Keep the lines of communication open with teens, and be a good source of information on alcohol and drug safety. If you do lock liquor away from teenagers, keep the key secure so your children cannot access it. That said, if your teens have a serious problem with liquor, it may be best to not keep it in the house at all.

Trampolines, play equipment, and yards

The American Academy of Pediatrics warns against children using trampolines, whether mini or full-sized, except in cases of supervised training for sports. Children younger than six years are at particular risk of injuries, which can include broken bones, concussions, and even paralyzing or fatal head/neck injuries.

Nevertheless, trampolines are a staple in many homes and yards. If you have a trampoline at home, here are suggestions to maximize safety:6

  1. Restrict use to children six and older.
  2. Supervise all jumping. Children should not jump if a designated person is not present to supervise.
  3. Remove trampoline ladders, if applicable, after trampoline use so kids cannot easily get back on.
  4. Place trampolines at ground level and far from hazards such as trees and fences.
  5. Keep jumpers to one person at a time. Most injuries occur when multiple users are on a trampoline.
  6. Focus jumping on the center of the trampoline, not the edges. Children should not jump/fall onto the springs or frame.
  7. Do not allow tricks such as somersaults, tumbles, and flips, or hitting/playing with other people on the trampoline (really, only solo jumping should be allowed). Stunts increase the odds of a child landing wrong and injuring the head or neck.
  8. Get children to avoid jumping off the trampoline or falling off. For instance, they could use trampoline ladders or scoot to the edge and climb down.
  9. Keep the trampoline in good shape. Check that protective padding remains in good condition, and look for general tears. Make any padding/part repairs or replacements right away.
  10. Add a home insurance rider, if necessary, to cover any injuries. Basic homeowners policies might not include trampoline coverage.
  11. Keep trampolines inaccessible or in fenced areas so they’re not attractive nuisances to other children.

Play equipment and toys

  1. Set up a dry, safe place such as a box or shed for storing outdoor toys7.
  2. Keep sandboxes covered so cats aren’t tempted to use them. Covers also prevent other germs and ickies from getting into a sandbox.
  3. Check swing sets and other pieces of equipment for sharp edges, rust, and splinters.
  4. Make sure all parts are fastened well.
  5. Use “cushions” such as wood chips, mulch, sand, or rubber surfacing mats under play equipment to absorb the shock of a child's fall.

General yard/outdoor tips

  1. Store garden tools securely. Don’t leave these rakes, hoes, clippers, and other gear out and about where kids can trip over them or otherwise hurt themselves. Keep fertilizers inaccessible too, as they are a poisoning risk.
  2. Have an expert check your yard for poisonous plants.
  3. Ensure that sidewalks and pavement do not have cracks or uneven surfaces.

Cars (whether in driveways or garages)

  1. Set up a safe, visible spot outside for children to wait as vehicles arrive or depart. Drivers should be able to easily see this spot8, 9.
  2. Check around parked cars for children (and pets!) before you pull out of your driveway or garage.
  3. Pick up toys, chalk, bicycles, and other objects kids play with. That way, kids aren’t tempted to be in the driveway when they are not supposed to be. The ideal would be to keep your driveway as a toy-free area, but this is not always realistic.
  4. Block your driveway off with garbage cans if kids are playing in there. That way, other people won’t drive their cars in.
  5. Don’t let kids play behind parked cars.
  6. Keep vehicles locked when they’re not in use to cut down on the risk of trunk entrapment or a child accidentally starting the car. Store fobs and keys where children cannot see or access them. If applicable, chat with neighbors about keeping their cars locked.

Pools, wading pools, spas, and bathtubs

Home pools can equal family fun, but they pose significant perils. Even wading pools, bathtubs, and buckets of water can be deadly. Children have drowned in less than 2 inches of water. Here are some tips to make home pools as safe as possible for everyone in the household.10, 11

  1. Check the pool first if your child goes missing.
  2. Establish and post ground rules for pool use, for example, no swimming alone, kids can swim only with adults supervising, and no rough play or running around the pool. If it’s not you that has the pool but rather a neighbor or apartment complex, it’s equally important to discuss expectations and rules with your children.
  3. Make a rule that children can go in the pool only with an adult present. These adults need to know how to swim.
  4. Supervise children who are in the water (pool, spa, bathtub, bathroom, etc.)--always. Drowning tends to occur quickly and quietly, not with the noisy splashing that is common on TV. Supervise children even if they know how to swim and/or are using flotation devices, noodles, water wings, and the like.
  5. Don’t drink alcohol while supervising, get off the phone, and stay aware of what the children are doing.
  6. Drain wading pools when they’re not in use, and store them out of children’s reach.
  7. Empty buckets that you keep inside the house, and install locks on toilets or keep bathrooms locked when not in use (yes, children have drowned after falling headfirst into a toilet!).
  8. Install barriers. Experts recommend a fence at least 4 feet high around the pool (or spa). The barrier should include a self-closing, self-latching gate or door. Children should not be able to reach the latch. Ideally, the fence would have four sides separating it from the yard and house. If your house serves as part of the barrier, install alarms on doors and windows that offer direct pool access. Install guards on windows facing the pool, too.
  9. Ensure that the fence can’t be climbed easily, for instance, that it lacks footholds or nearby furniture for a boost. Chain-link fences can be very easy for children to climb, so if you use them, keep the openings smaller than 1¾ inches. Any vertical fence slats should have less than 4 inches of space between them.
  10. Use a power safety pool cover. Children and pets shouldn’t be able to penetrate them to get to the water. The covers are custom built, and you can control them remotely.
  11. Check that standing water doesn’t collect on top of your pool cover (remember, kids can drown in less than 2 inches of water).
  12. Secure pool toys immediately after pool time ends. Otherwise, toys may tempt children back out to the pool. Also, avoid using chemical dispensers that resemble toys.
  13. Consider pool alarms that alert you if someone or something unexpected falls into the pool.
  14. Assign one person (water watcher) to watch children in a group setting. Otherwise, if multiple adults are present, they tend to assume someone else is watching the kids or don’t give their full attention to the task.
  15. Keep a phone accessible for 911 calls if necessary. Parents and caregivers would ideally know CPR and other lifesaving skills.
  16. Close a pool if it has a loose, broken or missing drain cover. No one should get in.
  17. Use swim caps or hair bands to keep hair away from suctions and drains. Children should not swim around or hang out near drains.
  18. Allow diving only if the water is at least 9 feet deep.
  19. Go down slides feet first instead of head first.
  20. Set up kids with swim lessons starting when they are 1 year old.
  21. Get the pool regularly inspected for entrapment dangers and other potential issues. Look for companies certified through the Association of Pool and Spa Professionals or the Independent Pool and Spa Service Association.
  22. Cut off power to the pump if someone is trapped against a drain. Put a hand between the drain and person to break the seal; this is more effective than attempting to pull the person away.
  23. Get proper insurance coverage for having a pool.

Stairs and falling risks

Children can seriously hurt themselves falling down a staircase. Many haven’t mastered walking and may not have full depth perception, plus stairs can be slippery.12

  1. Keep stairways and the surrounding areas free of clutter, toys, and loose carpeting.
  2. Lock the door to the basement, if applicable.
  3. Ensure that stairways have ample lighting.
  4. Install banisters or handrails on each side (if not there already).
  5. Use gates at the top and bottom of interior staircases to keep unsupervised toddlers off staircases. If possible, go with hardware-mounted gates that can’t really be knocked down.
  6. Show toddlers (starting when they are about 18 months old) how to descend stairs backward. This reduces the chances of them going down headfirst. If your toddlers are resistant to the backward approach, show them how to scoot down on their bottoms.

Other falling risks

  1. Avoid using walkers with infants and toddlers. As KidsHealth reports, emergency room personnel treat children for more than 3,000 walker injuries per year. The perils include kids falling over and onto objects, even heaters, pools, and stairs. Momentum from a walker can also propel children through a baby gate and then sometimes down the steps. Activity saucers are a safer choice versus walkers.
  2. Keep your attention on children who are on diaper changing tables, beds, and highchairs. A child can roll off or fall even when your attention is distracted during a mere 10-second phone call. Better to put your child in their crib or playpen if you need to take a phone call or quickly check on something elsewhere in the home.
  3. Avoid putting children in infant seats, bouncer seats, and the like atop furniture and counters.
  4. Install childproof window guards that allow for easy opening in case of fire. A window that’s open just 5 inches poses a fall risk. Keep furniture away from windows so children cannot climb onto or through windows/sills.
  5. Secure rugs since loose rugs and carpeting are fall hazards.
  6. Use nonskid strips in showers and bathtubs.
  7. Choose sturdy furniture or use L brackets to secure bookshelves, entertainment centers, dresser drawers, and other furniture so they don’t fall on a child climbing them.

Doors, windows, and drawers

  1. Put window guards or safety bars (easy to release in case of fire) on upper-level windows so kids cannot get out and fall13.
  2. Install window stops that prevent windows from opening farther than 4 inches.
  3. Use a finger-pinch guard on doors and drawers.
  4. Teach children not to slam doors or drawers.
  5. Use door knob covers to prevent toddlers from leaving the house.
  6. Remove rubber tips from doorstops (a favorite child “toy”) or switch them with one-piece doorstops.
  7. Tie window cords to reduce strangulation risks.

Choking, suffocation, strangulation, entrapment

Choking is a serious danger for kids since foods are not always child-friendly, and many kids put practically anything in their mouth. Suffocation is a threat too, especially for infants and children who cannot lift their heads well.

A key step is to follow general crib safety guidelines such as using firmly fitting sheets and mattresses, avoiding cribs with cutouts in the footboard or headboard, and avoiding cribs that have jagged edges and screws sticking out. Other tips:14,15

Choking

  1. Give children age-appropriate toys and follow manufacturer recommendations for ages.
  2. Avoid choking risks such as magnets, latex balloons, small toys, broken-off or disassembled pieces of toys, string, ribbon, and even pacifiers (particularly those with strings).
  3. Secure coins, loose pills, keys, and small or sharp objects even if they are in adult bedrooms.
  4. Avoid letting your children wear necklaces and bracelets that pose choking risks.
  5. Cut food into small pieces, and don’t let young children have gum, nuts, popcorn, grapes, and other foods that increase the risk of choking. 
  6. Make vegetables and other food easier to eat by cooking, steaming, or dicing it.
  7. Take pits or seeds out of food.
  8. Serve hotdogs cut lengthwise and not cut into coin-sized shapes.
  9. Supervise children while they eat, and ensure they sit. Don’t let them eat while they’re running, dancing, playing, jumping, or riding tricycles, bikes, scooters, etc.
  10. Model good habits such as allowing yourself plenty of time to eat, chewing food well, and not eating while rushing around.

Suffocation

  1. Practice infant safe sleep. Put babies to sleep in their crib on their backs, and check for entrapment risks such as bed sheets and mattresses that do not fit tightly.
  2. Do not use soft bedding, stuffed animals, pillows, and toys in the crib or around a sleeping infant.
  3. Avoid infants and very young children sleeping with siblings and parents. Children who get rolled over can suffocate, or children can get trapped between the wall and mattress.

Strangulation and entrapment

  1. Tie all cords in the house out of a child’s reach, cut the ends, or put on safety tassels.
  2. Definitely don’t keep drape or window shade cords within reach of an infant or child’s bed.
  3. Do not let children younger than six years old sleep in a top bunk bed. Their heads and other body parts are small enough to get trapped.
  4. Avoid tying ropes, scarves, jump ropes, and other strangulation risks to bunk bed ladders.
  5. Stay away from infant strangulation threats such as hanging cords, headbands, and necklaces. Even a pacifier or bib tied around your baby’s neck can strangle the child if the item gets caught on a toy, crib post, or something else. A recliner chair can become a strangulation risk too when infants are left unsupervised (heads get caught in mechanisms).
  6. Cut drawstrings off your baby’s clothes, coats, mittens, and other gear. 
  7. Remove bibs before an infant naps or sleeps.
  8. Keep mobiles inaccessible from a baby’s reach. Remove them when the child is about 5 months old and able to move around.
  9. Replace pacifiers every few months. Babies are more capable of fitting an entire pacifier in their mouth if the pacifier has degraded.
  10. Choose toy chests without lids.

Poisoning

We touched on alcohol poisoning earlier. Of course, child poisoning can occur in many other ways such as a carbon monoxide leak or a curious child ingesting colorful medications or cleaning chemicals.

Carbon monoxide

  1. Install a carbon monoxide detector if your home uses natural gas (whether for heating or cooking), or if you have a garage attached to the home. If in doubt about whether you need detectors, install them16.
  2. Install one detector per level of your home, ideally near sleeping areas.
  3. Explain to the kids what the detectors are for and what they should do if a detector sounds. Have them listen to the sounds. Practice getting out of the house.
  4. Run generators and grills outside of the home, and warm up cars and other vehicles outside the garage.
  5. Test detectors once a month.

Medications

  1. Store medications and vitamins above countertop height where they are out of sight and out of reach. Under the “umbrella” of medications, include eye drops, rash creams, and other substances that might otherwise get overlooked. Use child latches and locks to secure meds17,18,19.
  2. Remember purses, nightstands, counters, overnight guests and similar places where medications may accidentally be accessible. Hang or store purses, briefcases, and bags up high. Give grandparents and other guests a secure container to keep their medications in.
  3. Keep medications in their original containers.
  4. Don’t equate medications or vitamins to candy. It can be a battle to get children to take meds, but saying something like, “It tastes just like candy!” is not the way.
  5. Use the dosing device or container that came with children’s medications to ensure overdosing does not occur. Communicate with a child’s other caregivers and follow a medication schedule to ensure medications are administered at the right doses (versus double administered by different caregivers, for example).
  6. Display the Poison Help Number (1-800-222-1222) in a prominent place at home. Let babysitters and other caregivers know it’s there.
  7. Dispose of medications through law enforcement or drugstore/pharmacy take-back programs, if possible. Otherwise, check whether your medicine is OK to flush, or place meds in a plastic bag or container that won’t leak and that is sealable. Dissolve pills with rubbing alcohol or water, and add coffee grounds or unappetizing substances to ensure pets and kids won't get into the medications.
  8. Dispose of needles and sharps in a specific disposal container that’s out of children’s and pets’ reach. After that, follow community disposal guidelines such as collection sites, dropboxes, and mailback programs.

Teens and medications

Accidental poisoning is less of a concern with teens than it is with younger children. Rather, the issues with teens tend to involve experimentation with medications, giving meds to friends, theft, selling, and intentional overdose. In fact, about 66 percent of teenagers who misuse pain medications say they got the medications from home medicine cabinets, family, and friends.20 Whatever the case, the medical and legal consequences can be serious.

  1. Dispose of your adult medications and other household members’ meds in a way that teens don't have access to them. For instance, use take-back programs or flush medications if they’re on the FDA’s list. Add kitty litter or coffee grounds to disposal bags and containers you put in household garbage.
  2. Get rid of your medications when you no longer need them or when they expire.
  3. Lock up your medications, such as in a lockbox or safe, if you have reason to think it is necessary.
  4. Monitor medication levels in the house, including your teen’s medications. Some teenagers sell their own pain reliever or ADHD medications. Stay on top of prescription frequency to ensure overprescribing is not an issue.

Household cleaners, chemicals, and other potential poisoning substances

It is amazing just how many potentially lethal things dwell in a home or garage. The list includes batteries, laundry pods, mouthwash, personal care products, perfume, fertilizer, antifreeze, bug spray, and much more. Err on the side of caution when deciding what to keep out of children’s reach. Other tips:21

  1. Store materials in secure cabinets or on shelves high up. Use safety latches or locks as much as possible.
  2. Keep hazardous materials separate from foods and beverages, many of which are lookalikes. A child might not be able to tell the difference between apple juice and Listerine, or parmesan cheese and Comet.
  3. Keep products in their original packaging. For instance, if you put a chemical in a water spray bottle or old soda bottle, a child might think it’s safe to use. Original packaging also tends to be more child-resistant.
  4. Stay vigilant with bottles and chemicals if you clean with children around.
  5. Avoid mixing cleaners or chemicals together. It can create toxic fumes or make the substances more poisonous.
  6. Open doors and windows when cleaning, if possible.

Batteries

Swallowed batteries can cause chemical reactions that burn a child’s esophagus. Button batteries are a particular hazard since they are so small and ubiquitous, found in items such as toys, remote controls, and even talking books.22

  1. Store batteries, especially watch and button batteries, where children cannot get them. Throw them away safely, for example, putting them with something unappetizing or inaccessible.
  2. Duct tape devices and controllers to keep batteries intact.

Lead paint

  1. Get your home tested for lead if it is older, particularly if it was built before 1950 (or 1978 if you are remodeling or have continuous renovations).
  2. Stick with cribs, toys, high chairs, chests, and the like made after 1978.
  3. Check the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission website for toys and other products recalled due to lead, or sign up for email notifications.

Other anti-poisoning tips

  1. Familiarize yourself with the plants in your home and yard. Keep an eye out for holly, mistletoe, lilies, and other seasonal/holiday plants.
  2. Keep mouthwash, hand sanitizer, hair dye, and perfumes away from children.
  3. Avoid using liquid laundry packets if you have children younger than six years old. More than 400 children end up hospitalized each year after they breach laundry packets.23

Fire plus heating and cooling elements

Two minutes. That may be all the time you and your kids have to evacuate in case of a home fire. Practice helps a lot. So do other preparatory and preventative measures such as teaching children how to react when an alarm goes off and keeping lighters and flammable materials inaccessible.24

  1. Use only flameless candles and lighters with child-resistant features. Store lighters, matches, smoking materials, and other ignitables out of children’s reach. (Flameless candles use light bulbs so there is no knocking over open flames.)
  2. Avoid playing with lighters and matches. Your children may see you play and view them as toys.
  3. Put smoke alarms on every level of your home, outside sleeping areas, and inside bedrooms. Test them once a month, and check/replace batteries yearly. If an alarm chirps or otherwise warns you that the battery is low, replace the battery right away.
  4. Discuss the purpose of smoke alarms with your children. Let them listen to the alarms to know what they sound like. Have a plan for what your kids should do when they hear one.
  5. Install quick-release devices on any barred windows and doors.
  6. Give your kids two ways to escape the house from every room. Practice at least once every six months, and do these drills at different times of the day. Also, practice escaping from bed since many fires occur while people sleep.
  7. Incorporate low crawling and fake-calling 911 in your fire drill plans. Have the kids practice Stop, Drop, and Roll in case their clothes catch on fire.
  8. Emphasize that once children are out of the house, they should not return. Only professional firefighters should go inside. Have them practice meeting up at designated meeting places.
  9. Anticipate potential obstacles to children’s quick escape. Concern over pets, disabilities, and kids too young to get themselves out are three potential problems. Develop plans to address these areas. If you have pets, include them in fire escape plans and warn children ahead of time that they shouldn’t delay escaping because of pets nor should they go back inside the house for pets (or anything!). Reassure the kids that pets are part of the general escape plan.
  10. Get escape ladders if your house has bedrooms or sleeping areas on the second or third floor. Use the ladders during drills.

Heating and cooling elements

  1. Keep electric space heaters 3 feet from children's play areas, curtains, beds, and flammable materials25.
  2. Cover baseboard heaters and radiators with childproof screens, if applicable.
  3. Use keys or valve covers with gas fireplaces, and use screens or similar barriers with actual, working fireplaces.
  4. Keep children away from glass fireplaces, especially if it has been on in the past hour. Glass fireplaces may require more than an hour to cool to a safe temperature.
  5. Inspect chimneys, fireplaces, and vents once a year. Clean, repair, or maintain them as suggested.
  6. Set the hot water heater thermostat below 120 degrees Fahrenheit.
  7. Check water before you have a child bathe in it or use it. Water should be warm on your skin, not hot.

Electrical/Electricity

  • Put safety caps, also called plug covers, on electrical outlets26.
  • Do not let kids play with cords and outlets or treat them as toys. Children should not bite cords, chew on them, or pull them, nor should they stick body parts or objects in outlets and sockets.
  • Do not overload sockets. Have no more than two appliances plugged into an outlet. Avoid appliances piggybacking onto extension cords.
  • Discuss with kids not to use electrical stuff near water due to the risk of electrocution accidents.
  • Anticipate kids’ arguments to your rules about electricity, for example, “I’ll pull away quickly if I feel a shock.” Alliant Energy has a good summary you can use to explain how swiftly accidents occur (electricity travels 186,000 miles per second, the speed of light!). Plus, shocked muscles tighten up, making it hard for people to let go.
  • Teach children to ask adults for help with something using electricity.
  • Keep electric cords stowed out of the way. Kids can trip over them.
  • Let kids know to leave green transformer boxes alone. Children should not play near these boxes, even if they're on your property.
  • Explain that most of the time (or all of the time, depending on your household, the child’s age, and other factors), kids should go to an adult to unplug cords. Show kids how to safely pull a cord from the wall. They should pull from the plug instead of yanking or pulling on the cord.
  • Do not let kids fly kites, drones, remote-controlled airplanes and the like near power lines on your property (or anywhere, for that matter). The toys may end up conducting electricity straight through your child. The same idea applies to kids climbing trees next to power lines. Electricity can travel through a tree branch to children.
  • Let kids know to avoid downed power lines on the property. Supervise them to make sure they stay away, and contact the utility.

Pets and animal bites

Pet safety starts with selecting appropriate pets for your household to reduce the chances of injuries and germ transmission.

  1. Avoid reptiles, rodents, amphibians, and poultry if the household includes children younger than 5, anyone with a lowered immune system, or adults older than 65. The odds of zoonotic disease transmission are higher in these situations. Even when it is safer to own these types of animals as pets, skip holding them close to your face, kissing, and snuggling them.
  2. Do not scoop cat litter if you are pregnant. Nor should you come into direct contact with pet rodents or clean their habitats. Pregnancy also is not the time to introduce a new cat to the household.27
  3. Remind your children to wash their hands, particularly after petting or handling pets (or being in their habitat or handling their waste). Handwashing is even more critical if infant care such as changing diapers, preparing bottles, or grabbing pacifiers is involved. Place posters and colorful reminders around the house to remind your children, and have them wash after pet play sessions. Along these lines, don’t let pets and pet supplies in areas where food is prepared, served, and eaten.
  4. Teach your children to respect pets. Injuries and mistreatment are more likely to result when children see pets as toys.
  5. Supervise playtime between young children and pets, especially dogs.
  6. Emphasize that kids should leave pets alone while they are eating and using the bathroom. Explain that animals may accidentally bite children who try to pet them while eating and may need space to feel comfortable using the bathroom (cats, especially).
  7. Tell your children that making loud noises, shrieking, and running away can scare and confuse pets. For instance, a dog may think it is playtime when a child yells and runs away. The dog could respond by chasing and biting the child.
  8. Model appropriate play with pets. Stop any play that leads to scratches and bites. Clean scratches or bites with warm water and soap, and get medical care if an injury appears serious, is painful, or becomes swollen, red, or warm.
  9. Clean pets’ cages, living environments, habitats, and supplies regularly. The ideal is to do as much cleaning outside as possible to ensure no contamination occurs inside the house. Otherwise, use a laundry sink or bathtub, and disinfect it after the cleaning.
  10. Scoop cat litter once a day, and use a cover for sandboxes. Use a bag when disposing of dog, cat, and other pet waste.
  11. Vaccinate your pets and keep them updated on shots. Same with deworming, tick control, and vet appointments.
Almost one in every five people bitten by a dog needs medical attention. Children are at higher risk of dog bites, and the risk of bites goes up the more dogs a household has.28

Guns

Guns are present in about a third of homes that U.S. children live in, and gun safety with kids is multifaceted.29 For instance, parents want to keep younger children from accidentally pulling the trigger. Many children and teens may also be tempted to show off guns to their friends.

Plus, children and teens with depression or other issues may turn to guns as a permanent solution. A Stanford University study is among the research that shows handgun ownership and living in a home with a gun carry a higher risk of death by suicide.30

  1. Store ammunition and guns in different places. (Also, secure gun-cleaning supplies since they can be toxic if ingested.)
  2. Lock up guns, keep them unloaded, and secure them out of reach of children. Never leave guns unattended. Options include safes or lockboxes for handguns, locked gun safes for rifles, gun trigger locks, and lockboxes for ammo.
  3. Store your guns away from home if your child/teen is depressed or if you have concerns about suicide. The risk of suicide goes up as many as 10 times when the house has guns. Don’t rely on gun locks or safes to keep your children from harming themselves. 
  4. Keep the safety in place until you are ready to fire a gun for target practice or hunting.
  5. Ask about unlocked guns at other homes and places your child goes.
  6. Use gun locks with guns that don’t have built-in security.
  7. Discuss proper care and storage of guns and weapons if guns are part of your family’s culture. Do as you say, too. You serve as an example to children, whether they are older or younger, during activities such as target shooting.
  8. Caution your children to not touch guns or gun parts, whether they're at home or somewhere else. If they see a gun somewhere else, they should let you know right away.
  9. Remember gun safety in vehicles, too. Keep guns under your control when they are in vehicles with children and pets. Guns should not be accessible to them. Lockboxes and lockable gun cases are two options and work better if they’re secured to the vehicle.31

* Below, we address holiday safety issues and safety risks associated with certain rooms and areas. Much of the information was covered earlier but organized differently. We want to ensure that nothing slips through the cracks.

Holidays

  1. Double-check the age recommendations on the toys you choose for kids. Small pieces can be a menace and choke kids32.
  2. Watch out for button batteries. Make sure they’re secure. Duct tape battery containers if you need to.
  3. Use flameless candles, or arrange lit candles 12 inches away from anything flammable. Ensure that flames are extinguished before bedtime.
  4. Keep metal hooks and breakable ornaments around the top of the tree. Let children decorate the areas within reach with safe ornaments.
  5. Check that natural trees get enough water. Dried-out needles are a fire risk.

Furniture

Many children are injured when furniture falls on them. 

  1. Secure furniture items, including bookshelves, to the wall so they do not tip over.
  2. Put protective padding on tables and other sharp edges.
  3. Keep cribs and beds away from windows.
  4. Mount flatscreen TVs to the wall. Keep older and heavier TVs on stable furniture.
  5. Install stops in removable drawers so they do not fall out.
  6. Put safety locks or latches on drawers and cabinets, especially those containing chemicals, sharp items, and choking hazards.

Kitchen

  1. Avoid holding or carrying children while you cook33.
  2. Turn pot handles inward or put them on back burners while you cook. They’re more out of kids’ reach that way.
  3. Keep the trash can secure behind a latched cabinet door.
  4. Teach safe cooking to older children, and deploy oven mitts and potholders.
  5. Use a childproof latch or lock-type device to secure knives and other potentially dangerous utensils.
  6. Keep medicine bottles and vitamins securely high and out of reach.
  7. Bundle plastic bags together, if you collect them, and store them out of your child’s reach.
  8. Keep an eye on your child anytime the oven or stove is on.
  9. Keep children out of the cooking area while you’re preparing meals. The minimum buffer zone between you and children should be 3 feet.
  10. Use appliance safety locks or latches on dishwashers, refrigerators, and stoves/ovens (and elsewhere on washing machines, dryers, etc.).
  11. Keep step stools and chairs away from the stove.
  12. Avoid keeping alcohol and chemicals such as cleaning supplies, dishwashing liquid, and bug spray under the sink or within reach.
  13. Keep refrigerator magnets and other choking hazards out of reach.
  14. Store a working fire extinguisher in the kitchen. Household members should know how to use it.

Bathrooms

  1. Secure nail scissors, razor blades, and other sharp objects/tools in a locked cabinet or box. Stow mouthwash, hairspray, nail polish and removers, medications, cosmetics, cleaners, and chemicals, too.
  2. Unplug electric razors, hair dryers, and curling irons when not using them.
  3. Install childproof latches on drawers and cabinets.
  4. Place nonskid strips in showers and bathtubs.
  5. Use nonslip pads under rugs.
  6. Check that outlets have ground fault circuit interrupters that safeguard against electrocution. An electrician can confirm that your circuit breaker panels are up to date.
  7. Lock bathrooms when they’re not being used, install toilet lid locks, or leave toilet lids closed and locked to prevent drowning in very young children.

Laundry rooms and garages

  1. Store recycling containers with glass out of children’s reach.
  2. Use locks on laundry chutes, if applicable.
  3. Secure tools, supplies, and products related to yard work, car upkeep, pool care, and general maintenance.
  4. Keep cleaning products, bleach, detergents, laundry detergent pods, and the like in a locked cabinet.
  5. Close the washer and dryer doors.

Home safety for kids

Needless to say, all this can be overwhelming. To make it more manageable, tackle safety at home one room or one area at a time. Prepare earlier than you think you’ll need to. For example, before you know it, your newborn may transform into a little explorer who is capable of getting into anything. Likewise, kids’ abilities usually exceed what parents think they can do. Children can climb, swing, reach, and jump high before their parents realize it.

References and Endnotes

  1. Home Safety. (n.d.). Children's Safety Network. Retrieved Nov. 15, 2021, from https://www.childrenssafetynetwork.org/child-safety-topics/home-safety
  2. Martinez, Antonio, Snyder, Ashley J., and Smith, Gary A. (2011, February). PubMed.gov. Retrieved Nov. 15, 2021, from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21296844/
  3. Huang, Patty. (2021, April 06). Keeping Kids Safe Around Home Exercise Equipment. Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. Retrieved Nov. 15, 2021, from https://injury.research.chop.edu/blog/posts/keeping-kids-safe-around-home-exercise-equipment
  4. Household Safety: Preventing Poisoning. (n.d.). Children's Mercy Kansas City. Retrieved Nov. 15, 2021, from https://kidshealth.org/ChildrensMercy/en/parents/safety-poisoning.html
  5. Friese, Bettina, Grube, Joel W., and Moore, Roland S. (2012, June). How Parents of Adolescents Store and Monitor Alcohol in the Home. U.S. National Library of Medicine. Retrieved Nov. 15, 2021, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3407279/
  6. Nunez, Kirsten. (2020, July 23). Trampoline Safety: 22 Tips and Cautions. Healthline. Retrieved Nov. 15, 2021, from https://www.healthline.com/health/childrens-health/trampoline-safety-22-tips-and-cautions
  7. Backyard and Pool: Household Safety Checklist. (Reviewed 2018, March). KidsHealth. Retrieved Nov. 15, 2021, from https://kidshealth.org/en/parents/household-checklist-backyard.html
  8. Driveway Safety Tips. (n.d.). Safe Kids Worldwide. Retrieved Nov. 15, 2021, from https://www.safekids.org/tip/driveway-safety-tips
  9. Trunk Entrapment. (n.d.). Safe Kids Worldwide. Retrieved Nov. 15, 2021, from https://www.safekids.org/safetytips/field_risks/trunk-entrapment
  10. Pool Safety. (n.d.). Washington State Department of Health. Retrieved Nov. 15, 2021, from https://www.doh.wa.gov/CommunityandEnvironment/WaterRecreation/PoolSafety
  11. Rosen, Peg, and Kramer, Pamela. (n.d.). Home Swimming Pool Safety Tips All Parents Should Know. Parents. Retrieved Nov. 15, 2021, from https://www.parents.com/kids/safety/outdoor/pool-drowning-safety-tips-for-parents/
  12. Household Safety: Preventing Injuries From Falling, Climbing, and Grabbing. (Reviewed 2018, May). KidsHealth. Retrieved Nov. 15, 2021, from https://kidshealth.org/en/parents/safety-falls.html
  13. Walls & Floors, Doors & Windows, Furniture, Stairways: Household Safety Checklist (Reviewed 2018, May). KidsHealth. Retrieved Nov. 15, 2021, from https://kidshealth.org/en/parents/household-checklist-walls.html
  14. Choking and Suffocation Prevention, Children Ages Birth to 19 Years. (n.d.). New York State Department of Health. Retrieved Nov. 15, 2021, from https://www.health.ny.gov/prevention/injury_prevention/children/fact_sheets/birth-19_years/choking_and_suffocation_prevention_birth-19_years.htm
  15. Household Safety: Preventing Strangulation and Entrapment. (Reviewed 2020, January). KidsHealth. Retrieved Nov. 15, 2021, from https://kidshealth.org/en/parents/safety-entrap.html
  16. Carbon Monoxide. (n.d.). Safe Kids Worldwide. Retrieved Nov. 15, 2021, from https://www.safekids.org/carbon-monoxide
  17. Medication Safety. (n.d.). Safe Kids Worldwide. Retrieved Nov. 15, 2021, from https://www.safekids.org/medicinesafety
  18. Medicine: Proper Disposal. (n.d.). Nationwide Children’s. Retrieved Nov. 15, 2021, from https://www.nationwidechildrens.org/family-resources-education/health-wellness-and-safety-resources/helping-hands/medicine-proper-disposal
  19. Best Way to Get Rid of Used Needles and Other Sharps. (Reviewed 2021, April 28). FDA. Retrieved Nov. 15, 2021, from https://www.fda.gov/medical-devices/safely-using-sharps-needles-and-syringes-home-work-and-travel/best-way-get-rid-used-needles-and-other-sharps
  20. Rise in Prescription Drug Misuse and Abuse Impacting Teens. (Updated 2021, Aug. 09). SAMHSA. Retrieved Nov. 15, 2021, from https://www.samhsa.gov/homelessness-programs-resources/hpr-resources/rise-prescription-drug-misuse-abuse-impacting-teens
  21. Household Safety: Preventing Poisoning. (Reviewed 2020, January). KidsHealth. Retrieved Nov. 15, 2021, from https://kidshealth.org/en/parents/safety-poisoning.html
  22. Household Poisons. (n.d.). Oregon Poison Center. Retrieved Nov. 15, 2021, from https://www.ohsu.edu/oregon-poison-center/household-poisons
  23. Laundry Packets. (n.d.). Safe Kids Worldwide. Retrieved Nov. 15, 2021, from https://www.safekids.org/safetytips/field_risks/laundry-packets
  24. Fire Safety for Kids. (n.d.). American Red Cross. Retrieved Nov. 15, 2021, from https://www.redcross.org/get-help/how-to-prepare-for-emergencies/types-of-emergencies/fire/fire-safety-for-kids.html
  25. Electrical, Heating & Cooling: Household Safety Checklist. (Reviewed 2018, March). KidsHealth. Retrieved Nov. 15, 2021, from https://kidshealth.org/en/parents/household-checklist-heating.html
  26. Electric Safety. (n.d.). Alliant Energy Kids. Retrieved Nov. 15, 2021, from https://www.alliantenergykids.com/StayingSafeAroundEnergy/ElectricSafety
  27. How to Stay Healthy Around Pets. (n.d.). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved Nov. 15, 2021, from https://www.cdc.gov/healthypets/keeping-pets-and-people-healthy/how.html
  28. Dogs. (n.d.). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved Nov. 15, 2021, from https://www.cdc.gov/healthypets/pets/dogs.html
  29. Schaechter, Judy. (Updated 2021, June 02). Guns in the Home. Healthychildren.org. Retrieved Nov. 15, 2021, from https://www.healthychildren.org/English/safety-prevention/at-home/Pages/Handguns-in-the-Home.aspx
  30. Duff-Brown, Beth. (2020, June 03). Handgun Ownership Associated with Much Higher Suicide Risk. Stanford Medicine. Retrieved Nov. 15, 2021, from https://med.stanford.edu/news/all-news/2020/06/handgun-ownership-associated-with-much-higher-suicide-risk.html
  31. Firearms Safety in Vehicles. (2017). PDF. Project ChildSafe. Retrieved Nov. 15, 2021, from https://projectchildsafe.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/05/Firearms-Safety-in-Vehicles.pdf
  32. Holidays. (n.d.). Safe Kids Worldwide. Retrieved Nov. 15, 2021, from https://www.safekids.org/holidays
  33. Kitchen: Household Safety Checklist. (Reviewed 2018, March). KidsHealth. Retrieved Nov. 15, 2021, from https://kidshealth.org/en/parents/household-checklist-kitchen.html