Every parent knows how hard it is to protect a child from injuries related to falling. When a baby learns to walk, preventing falls requires constant supervision. Later, a toddler might tumble while trying to get to the cookie jar — and an older child might slip while rocketing up hardwood stairs in socks. Still, there's plenty you can do to promote fall safety and minimize injuries when falls happen.
Preventing falls at home
Taking basic precautions in these hot spots can help prevent falls at home:
- Windows. Most children 5 years old and younger can fit through a 6-inch opening. To prevent falls from windows, install a stop that prevents windows from opening any further than 4 inches. Alternatively, install window guards that cover the lower part of the window. Other prevention strategies include opening double-hung windows only from the top, moving furniture away from windows, and supervising children in a room with open windows. Don't rely on a window screen to prevent falls.
- Stairs. Install safety gates at the top and bottom of staircases. Put doorknob covers on doors that lead to staircases, such as basement doors. Install lower stair rails that are easier for younger children to reach. Don't leave clutter on stairs.
- Porches and balconies. Don't let a child play unattended on a balcony, porch or fire escape even if there are railings. Lock doors and windows that provide access to these areas.
- Baby furniture and equipment. Use preinstalled safety straps on a changing table or highchair. Select a highchair with a wide base that makes tipping less likely. Don't leave a child unattended on a changing table or in a highchair.
- Beds. Install safety rails on beds for toddlers. Bunk beds should be used for children who are six or older. Safety rails on bunk beds should be on both sides of the bed, and gaps between rails should be 4 inches or less. Use a nightlight near the bunk bed stairs or ladder for safe use at night.
- Other furniture. Don't leave a baby unattended on furniture. Place bassinets or portables car carriers on the floor, rather than on tables, counters, beds or other furniture. Place bumpers or guards on sharp corners of furniture to protect toddlers when they fall.
- Bathtubs. Use a bathmat in tubs to lower the risk of falls. Don't leave your child unattended in a bath. Use a nonslip bathmat and clean up wet floors promptly.
- Baby walkers. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends not using baby walkers, which can lead to falls. Consider alternatives, such as a stationary walker center or activity center.
- Nightlights. Use a nightlight in your child's bedroom, the bathroom and hallways to prevent falls at night.
Fall safety for kids on the go
When you're out and about, consider taking these precautions:
- Strollers. When shopping for a stroller, look for one with a wide base that is less likely to tip. Always use the safety harness when your baby or toddler is in the stroller. To avoid tipping the stroller, don't hang bags from the handles. Check the weight limit of strollers that have a place for older children to stand in the back.
- Shopping carts. Shopping carts can tip easily. Only put a child in the designated seat and use the safety belt. Don't let your child sit in the basket, stand in the cart or hang from the sides of the cart. An adult should push a cart when a child is in the seat.
- Playgrounds. Seek out playgrounds with shock-absorbing surfaces, such as wood chips, mulch, rubber or sand. Falls on cement, packed dirt and turf are more likely to result in injuries. Steer your child to age-appropriate activities to help prevent falls from equipment.
- Helmets and other protective gear. Always have your child wear a helmet while biking, inline skating, skateboarding or riding scooters. When using skates, a scooter or a skateboard, your child should wear guards for the wrists, elbows and knees.
- Escalators. Hold your child's hand when using an escalator. Watch for loose clothing, shoestrings or shoes such as flip-flops that can cause tripping. Don't let your child sit or play on an escalator. Don't use a stroller on an escalator.
- Watch for slippery surfaces. Encourage your child to approach wet, dark and paved areas with caution in cold temperatures. Make sure your child wears shoes or boots with traction in bad weather. A heavy or bulky coat can provide cushioning in the event of a fall. Teach your child not to run around a swimming pool.
Keeping your child safe from falls takes more than luck. Follow these precautions, and you'll go a long way toward preventing injuries.