What is the importance of child proofing our homes? This is ensuring the house you are living in is conducive to a young and growing child.
I know you are wondering if in Africa, we have actually come to this. It still seems like something only done by Europeans whom we as Africans see as being too fussy over small stuff like letting a child be.
I found out this past weekend how important it is. It was a really sad and regrettable disaster that could have been prevented. My sister’s pal lost her son from an accident. When I say accident the first thing that comes to your mind is car accident. Well, that is not the accident I’m talking about. The five year old boy was playing at home on the balcony and fell from the 3rd floor dying on the way to hospital. The child did not make it and left the mother devastated wishing she could have foreseen & prevented it all from happening. His twin sister was safe but has had to learn the pain of loss real early.
I have not experienced the joy of being a mother and could not imagine what the woman was going through, but by just hearing the story I got chills all over me. We are always worried when we leave the children alone and want to protect them from outside dangers, but we tend to forget that even the safe haven could be a danger zone. I do not know how many mothers child proof their houses but a child could get injured in several ways just by playing at home.
It is usually a very tricky balance knowing how to ensure that your child is not exposed to obvious dangers and being overly careful limiting your child’s freedom to play and explore as they ought to at their age.
Some of the child hazards we have at home and have never thought twice about them are:
- Cabinets and drawers that contain knives, coins, other items that can be harmful to children. Drawers that are easy to open even for a child are not recommended.
- Glass door cabinets and wall units. These could be hazardous when a child plays and accidentally breaks the glass.
- Open balconies that a child could fall from. If living in a flat the open balcony is hazardous when a child plays there.
- Stairs are also dangerous for children especially those who are crawling. The child could miss their step and end up at the bottom of the staircase.
- Easy access to handbags where one can get makeup or other items that are dangerous to the child.
- Chemical substances under the kitchen sink. The child could easy open and drink harmful substances.
- Open fires on the gas cooker, traditional fire places (three stoned) or charcoal jiko.
- Handles of pans and saucepans hanging out of the cooker where a child could grab and burn themselves.
- Wet bathroom floors and toilets.
- Uncovered electric outlets and plugs. A child could get electrocuted.
Whereas some of the hazards above can be avoided by e.g buying furniture hat is mindful of young children and carefully monitoring kids especially when they start crawling to the time they can comfortably walk and run about, some of the hazards cannot be avoided due to other challenges. A good example is residence, finding affordable maisonettes, bungalows or main houses is impossible in most urban towns, therefore most of us live in flats where the ground floor apartments are always taken first.
Well there are several but let us look at child proofing. It would solve most of the hazards around the house. Let us get one thing straight, the life of your child is more valuable than anything else in the world. So do not think that all this means more expenses. Some of them are do-able without spending a cent.
If you are expecting a child you have the chance to move houses to a much secure one. That is if the changes to child proof the house cost as much as renovating the entire house.
How do you know your house is conducive enough for your child? You can get to the child’s eye view, crawl position, and see what the child will see. This will help keep items they could choke on far from them. Check your wiring, electrical sockets and cables, if they are in open areas and not well placed. These are very dangerous for the child. The cables could be pinned up to make sure the child doesn’t trip over them.
Secondly, putting away items that are harmful is also child proofing. Ensure at all times that one doesn’t leave things like plates, cups that made of glass lie around. There are habits that we wait awhile while after eating to take away the dishes. Not when you have a child, a second or two is what separates an accident from happening. Even if the child is crawling, if you have a table cloth they could tag on it and everything moves to the floor.
Third, you could hire a professional to do the child proofing. Some of it requires items to be attached to the doors, like latches to prevent opening of cabinet doors or drawers by children. If you can afford it then why not. You could also do it yourself at home. Installing latches is a good idea though if you renting a house you cannot make so many changes. Just improvise by putting papers when closing the drawers, that it requires force to open them and only an adult could manage.
You should ensure the bathroom doors are locked because of the wet floors. You could lock them to ensure the children don’t open them and play there. This doesn’t require any changes. Though if it is your house the door latch is advisable.
When in the kitchen cooking it is good to ensure all the handles face away from you. This will ensure the child doesn’t reach them and accidentally pour the food on themselves or the floor. You can also make sure to constantly tell your child not to play in the kitchen because of the fire and objects like knives. The younger the better, they grow up knowing the reason not to play in the kitchen, reducing their curiosity.
There are several dangers for a child in the house. There are useful sites that could help you if you want more information. Let us make sure our children are safe even without supervision, but that doesn’t mean that we should not supervise them. Though supervision is the best childproofing, accidents could still happen. Make a list of emergency contacts and have a first aid kit readily available. It is good to prevent but also good to prepare for accidents.