Keeping children safe at home

Children are at risk of injury because their developmental stages limit their physical, mental, and emotional abilities. As they grow, children naturally test out their environments, but their curiosity and fearlessness put them at great danger for injuries.

A majority of children's injuries are predictable and preventable. They often happen in late afternoon when children are tired. Most injuries come from burns, poisoning, choking, suffocation, and falls. On farms, many children are hurt because operators of moving equipment cannot see them.

Adults can help prevent these injuries by being great role models and teachers. Adults who have an understanding of children’s developmental stages, capabilities, temperament, and individual interests are better prepared to keep children safe. Adults must set up a safe environment, supervise, and enforce safety rules at the same time as they support safe exploration and children’s innate curiosity to help them fully develop their minds and bodies.

Adults must be constantly aware of the hazards children face and persistently take measures to prevent injuries. This can be stressful.

To reduce the stress of constantly striving to preventing injuries, try these strategies:

  • Ensure a developmentally appropriate environment that is as safe as possible.
  • Get help from other adults to supervise the children.
  • Clarify and agree ahead of time on who is supervising when change occurs: Dad goes out to work in the yard; Mom goes upstairs to get something; Grandma and Grandpa visit.


How do adults keep children safe at each stage of development?

Birth to 3 months: Falls, burns from hot liquids, choking, and SUID (Sudden Unexpected Infant Death) are very common. This means you must never leave the baby alone on high surfaces, and should watch the temperatures of liquids, baths, bottles, and even your coffee. Keep small toys and objects out of reach, and put babies on their backs to sleep without any blankets or other objects in the crib.

4 to 6 months: All of the above, as well as vehicle occupant injury, drowning, and Shaken Baby Syndrome are common. Properly install cars seats. In Pennsylvania, the state police can help you. Put guards around hot things, like fireplaces and stoves. Keep children away from water, and close toilet lids. Moreover, never shake a baby, even playfully. Put the baby down and call a friend if the child cannot settle. Babies cry and are fussy at times. It is OK to put them down in their cribs and walk away for a few minutes.

7 to 12 months: Things remain the same as above, but crawling and walking can start at any time, so do a safety check by crawling around to see what could be dangerous for your child in this new phase of development. Make problems safe, or remove them. Prevention is the best option now.

1 to 2 years: Children at this age explore everything. Poisoning now takes center stage. Store all chemicals and medicines out of the reach of children, in a locked space if possible. Teach children how to climb up and down stairs safely. Tell them what they can touch. Cover all outlets. Avoid peanuts, popcorn, raw vegetables, and foods of a size or shape that can cause choking.

3 to 4 years: Children begin to make choices, have a lot of energy, and seek the attention of adults any way they can get it. Therefore, be watchful in parking lots and driveways, around tools and equipment, and in play areas. Check play areas for age-appropriate equipment, surface type, and potential safety hazards. Teach children the difference between food and non-food items. Teach them to ask an adult whether it is OK to eat or drink an item. Use non-toxic art supplies and child-friendly scissors and knives.

5 years and up: At this point children are stronger, more independent, and have their own ideas. Guns and burns frequently cause injury at this stage. Continue to teach traffic rules. Insist on use of a helmet when the child rides something with wheels. Practice family fire drills and set an outdoor meeting space in the event of a fire. Teach “Stop, drop, and roll.” Keep matches and lighters out of reach and teach children to bring you these items when they find them. Help children clean up their toys. Help them to be mindful that what is safe for one child may not be safe for a younger brother or sister. Keep guns locked up and lock ammunition in a different space.

You can keep your children safe with supervision, guidance, and a good understanding of their developmental stage.

Contact Information

Cynthia Pollich, MS Ed
  • Extension Associate:Food,Families & Health
Phone: 717-394-6851