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Preschool Education Articles


Homes are wonderful places to care for children, but they are full of hazards including electrical appliances, stairs, bathtubs, and dozens of poisonous medicines and household cleaners.

Accidents are a leading cause of death in children. Accidents leave more children crippled than do diseases. Most accidents can be prevented if more care is taken.

There is no golden rule to prevent accidents, but you can decrease the risks significantly by following the ideas listed below. Use it as a checklist and find out how well you are doing with safety in the house. Go over the checklist from time to time to maintain safety.


  ____ Position tables, chairs, shelving, and other furniture so that they cannot be toppled easily.
  ____ Screen windows, and make sure they open from the top or have a barricade in front.
  ____ Provide railings on stairs, porches, decks, and lofts.
  ____ Equip steps with tread mats or carpet to prevent slipping and a handrail that children can reach.
  ____ Secure carpets and rugs so that children cannot trip.
  ____ Use safety gates to block access to stairs and other dangerous areas.
  ____ Do not use infant walkers especially near stairs.
  ____ Use only high chairs that have a wide base so they cannot tip easily.
  ____ Use high chairs with a waist strap.
  ____ Never leave infants in infant carriers that are left on a high surface such as a table, counter, or chair.
  ____ Keep sides of playpens and cribs raised always. Make sure that crib sides cover at least three-fourths of a child's height.
  ____ Keep electric cords to lamps and appliances up and out of the way.
  ____ Keep unused rooms, basement, attic, etc., locked when children are in your home.
  ____ Make sure that all doors to rooms and closets can be unlocked from both sides.
  ____ Place heavy items (like an iron or skillet) out of a child's reach.
  ____ Teach children safe and unsafe areas for climbing. Shelves or counters are not for climbing.
  ____ Wipe spills from floors immediately.
  ____ If your garage door has an electric opener, make sure that it has a safety feature that causes the door to go back up when it touches an object or person in the way.


  ____ Keep trash covered and out of the reach of children.
  ____ Keep all cigarettes, cigarette butts, and all tobacco products away from children. Tobacco is poisonous when eaten.
  ____ Provide a non-smoking environment for children.
  ____ Keep perfumes and cosmetics and other drug products in high cabinets with safety latches or locks.
  ____ Do not store alcoholic beverages, cleaning supplies, cosmetics, pet supplies, medicines, vitamins, gasoline, paint thinner, fertilizer, weed killer, and other poisons in areas used by children.
  ____ Store hazardous products in their original containers. Do not transfer them to used food or beverage containers or to a food storage area.
  ____ Keep purses out of the reach of children.
  ____ Do not use insect poisons, rat poisons, or weed killers when children are present. Dispose of leftover poisons immediately.
  ____ Follow directions and caution warnings on drugs, cosmetics, and chemicals.
  ____ Make sure that walls, furniture, and toys have lead-free paint only.
  ____ Check to make sure that there is no peeling paint on walls or furniture.
  ____ Have your home checked for radon-an odorless gas that seeps through the soil into homes. Inexpensive test kits can be purchased at most hardware stores. Call ISU Extension for more information.
  ____ Check toys and materials to make sure they contain nontoxic, nonpoisonous materials. Look for the "CP" or "AP" seal signifying safe art material for children.
  ____ Keep Syrup of Ipecac in the first aid kit.
  ____ Flush old medicines down the toilet.
  ____ Store medicines immediately after use in a high, locked, or otherwise child-inaccessible space.
  ____ Teach children not to taste things like berries, roots, plants, pills, or tablets without your permission.
  ____ Label all house plants and remove poisonous plants.
  ____ Remove all outdoor plants that might have poisonous parts.


  ____ Make sure that toys have no small parts that could be broken off and swallowed.
  ____ Use balloons only with close adult supervision. Pop and dispose of balloons immediately after use.
  ____ Do not allow children under 3 to play with any toy that is less than 11/4 inch in diameter (about the size of a half dollar).
  ____ Make sure that mesh-sided playpens have holes no larger than 1/4 of an inch.
  ____ Remove hanging crib toys when infants are able to pull themselves up.
  ____ Remove plastic wrap on crib mattresses.
  ____ Do not feed children under 4 nuts, hard candies, popcorn, pretzels, or raw carrots. Cut hot dogs or sausages into small bites and NOT round slices.
  ____ Put infants to sleep in a crib or a play pen and NEVER on an adult bed, waterbed, thick rug, pillow, or bean bag.
  ____ Teach children to chew their food well and to eat only when sitting down.
  ____ Do not store clothing in dry cleaning bags that are accessible to children.
  ____ Store all plastic bags including small bread sacks out of reach of children.
  ____ Remove doors or lids from old freezers, refrigerators, and cars and car trunks.
  ____ Remove latches and lids from toy chests. Install a slow closing hinge and make sure the chest has ventilation holes.
  ____ Do not allow children to use or play with objects that have long cords. This includes pacifiers with strings attached, long telephone cords, old jewelry, necklaces, and long scarves.
  ____ Tie hanging cords on draperies or blinds up high and out of reach.
  ____ Install clotheslines out of reach of children.
  ____ Use only safety gates that have a straight topped edge and a rigid mesh screen. Do not use old accordion style safety gates.
  ____ Space stair railings and crib rails 23/8 inches apart.
  ____ Make sure that crib mattresses fit tightly with no more than two finger widths in the gap between mattress and crib frame.


   ____ Do not heat bottles and baby food in the microwave.
   ____ Stir and check all microwave heated foods for "hot spots" before serving to children.
   ____ Set the water heater in your home to a temperature of 120 degrees Fahrenheit or less.
   ____ Cover unused electrical outlets with safety caps.
   ____ Block electrical outlets when possible with some type of barrier or furniture.
   ____ Fit Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters (GFCI) on electirical outlets in kitchens, bathrooms, and outdoor areas to prevent risk of electrical shock when in contact with water.
   ____ Keep electrical cords for appliances (irons, toasters, radios, etc.) out of reach.
   ____ Make sure that children cannot get to the back of a television set.
   ____ Place stereos, VCRs, computers, and other electrical equipment up high and out of reach.
   ____ Store lighters and matches out of reach.
   ____ Use screens or barriers around fireplaces, wood stoves, heaters, radiators, hot water pipes, or furnaces.
   ____ Never leave children alone in a room with an open fire, heater, or hot stove.
   ____ Replace used and worn electrical cords and equipment.
   ____ Keep pots and pans on the back side of the stove where children can't reach them. Turn handles to the back.
   ____ Install smoke detectors and test them every month.
   ____ Keep an approved fire extinguisher in a secure area.


 ____ Never leave children alone in the bathtub or swimming pool or with water play.
 ____ Keep toilet lids closed.
 ____ Empty mop buckets, ice chests, or pails of water immediately after use. (Children can drown in 2 or 3 inches of water.)
 ____ Do not allow children to play near ponds, storm sewers, or excavations.
 ____ Protect, cover, and childproof wells and cisterns.


  ____  Keep all sharp objects out of reach (cooking knives, silverware, cooking utensils, scissors, razors, plastic wrap boxes, glass bottles or drinking glasses, knitting needles.
  ____ Do not allow children to play with sharp tools or around lawn mowers and power saws.
  ____ Mark glass windows and doors with decals or tape in order to be more visible. If possible, install safety glass.


  ____ Do not allow children to play near or behind a parked car.
  ____ Use seat belts and car seats when traveling by car.
  ____ Never leave children alone in an automobile.
  ____ Do not give foods while riding that could cause choking.
  ____ Cover hot vinyl seats with a large towel or sheet.
  ____ Keep purses and other dangerous items out of reach.
  ____ Teach children to sit calmly and quietly while in an automobile or bus. Leave toys that encourage vigorous activity at home or in the trunk.
  ____ Teach children to look both ways when crossing the street and to hold the hand of an adult.


  ____ Cover sand box when not in use.
  ____ If an outdoor play area is near a street, parking lot, pond, well, or railroad track, fence the area.
  ____ Keep gates closed and install childproof latches.
  ____ Check play area routinely for trash, sharp branches, tools, lawn equipment, or animal feces.
  ____ Teach children not to play near the street and to ask for help if toys roll into the street or driveway.
  ____ Keep outdoor play equipment at least 6 feet away from pavement, fences, trees, buildings, or other play equipment.
  ____ Make sure that surface area under play equipment is impact absorbing (such as 1 foot deep sand, pea gravel, or wood chips) and extends at least 6 feet beyond the edge of equipment.
  ____ Cover all protruding bolts or screws with plastic safety caps.
  ____ Cover chains on play equipment with plastic tubing unless openings are less than 5/8 inches.
  ____ Close hooks completely on swings.
  ____ Lock storage sheds, barns, and garages.
  ____ Require children to use helmets with bicycles, skateboards, or roller blades.

Reprinted with permission from the National Network for Child Care-
NNCC. (1993) Oesterreich, L. Holt, B.G., Karas, S. Home Safety Checklist
Iowa Family Child Care Handbook. pp.127-131. Iowa State University
Extension. Ames, Iowa.

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