Keeping children safe from a serious fall
Each day, around 45 toddlers are taken into hospital because they’ve had a serious fall. These usually happen at home or in the garden, and there’s lots you can do to reduce the risk of your child falling.
Did you know…?
- Most falls happen when children take their parents by surprise. How many times have you heard yourself saying “She learns so quickly!” or “I didn’t realise he could do that yet”?
- Your baby’s skull isn’t fully closed at birth. This leaves a very soft spot on top, which means your baby’s head can be badly injured after a fall. The soft spot closes at different times for different babies but won’t usually close for several months.
- Serious head injuries can lead to learning problems, memory loss and even personality changes.
Safety reminders – how to stop children from falling
Although they can’t walk, babies can still roll, kick and wriggle, even very young ones. You can stop them from falling by making sure that they are in a safe place.
Changing and sitting. The floor is the safest place to change your baby. If they’re sitting in a bouncing cradle or baby car seat they can still wriggle and move the seat, so always keep these on the floor too, not a high surface.
Highchairs and pushchairs. These should come with a five point harness to stop your baby from wriggling and falling out of the seat and make them much safer.
Baby walkers. If you do use a baby walker make sure it complies with British Standard BS EN 1273: 2005. Older walkers can tip over, and can be dangerous for your baby.
Trips. Keeping stairs and other areas you walk through clear of toys and clutter will help you avoid nasty injuries from tripping when you or someone else is carrying your baby.
Crawling and first steps
As babies begin to move and learn to walk they can move quite quickly and are very unsteady. All children will have falls and tumbles during this stage, but by making your home a safe place, you can make sure that a minor bump doesn’t become a serious injury.
Walking around. Children are keen to explore, and will trip over anything that gets in their way! When you’ve cleared any clutter so they’ve got a clear space to walk in, have a look for less obvious dangers in the room. You can get ‘soft’ corners to fit on tables so they don't get hurt falling on sharp corners.
By the stairs and balconies. When children start to crawl they’ll make a beeline for the stairs. It’s safest to use safety gates until they are around two years old. It’s best to put one at the bottom of the stairs, and one to stop your child getting to the top of the stairs. You can put it right at the top of the stairs, but it’s not the best place as it can cause adults to trip if they try to step over it! The best place is a bit further from the stairs - across the landing, for instance, or the doorway of your child’s bedroom.
If the railings on your balcony or stairs have wide gaps (more than 6.5cm) your child could squeeze through. If the rails are horizontal they could even try climbing over them! If you’re worried that your child could do either of these things, board the banisters up until they are a bit older and keep away from balconies unless you’re with them.
Cot toys. When your baby starts to climb, it’s best to take big toys out of their cot so they can’t climb on them and fall out.
Toddlers are very inquisitive, and often take their parents by surprise as they develop so quickly.
Climbing. Most toddlers love to climb, and there’s plenty in the average house for them to climb on! Safety gates (see above) can be used until they are around two years old to stop them climbing the stairs or falling down. You can also board up any gaps in horizontal banisters to stop them climbing over them. This is a good time to teach your toddler how to climb up and down stairs safely but don’t let them do it on their own until they’re older.
Windows and balconies. Toddlers can climb up on furniture placed near windows. If the window is open they can fall or climb out. You can fit safety catches which stop your windows from opening wider than 6.5 cm. Keeping balcony doors locked is easiest way to keep young children from playing on balconies alone.
Beds. Save bunk beds for when they’re older – at least 6 years old.
As children get older they enjoy testing their skills and challenging themselves. They need help to learn how to do this safely. Teaching children about possible dangers and some basic safety measures can help reduce the risk of serious injury.
Stairs. Teach children to hold the banister and not to run or play on stairs.
Outdoor play. Everyone loves a trip to the park, or a visit to a playground. Find playgrounds that are well looked after and have equipment which they’ll find interesting. This will help to avoid their playing in dangerous places like on the roads, and climbing on roofs, fences, or building sites.
Cycle helmets. Encourage children to wear a cycle helmet whenever they’re on their bikes. A fall onto any hard surface can cause nasty injuries, especially to their heads.
Playing at home. Playing outside and running around is great for your child’s health and fitness. Giving your garden a safety makeover means your child can have fun without breaking anything! Put play equipment over something soft like a mat, soft earth or well watered grass. If you’ve got paving slabs, check they’re level and not cracked – it’ll stop those painful trips and falls.
Younger siblings. Children love to show how helpful they are by carrying younger brothers or sisters around, but they can easily fall with them, especially on stairs.