Bringing up children is a lifelong endeavour. Every stage of a child's development has its own challenges. When a child is born, a parent's main concern is the little one's growth and nutrition. But the moment a child learns to crawl, the focus shifts to safety. It also marks the beginning of an era of exploration — where the child faces many dangers in your home. A newly mobile toddler is susceptible to nicking, burning, choking or falling.
Though there's no alternative to supervision, children get hurt even when they are under adult's watchful eyes. GN Focus has some recommendations to help you childproof your home and prevent any injuries.
- When you begin to childproof your house first focus on the kitchen, which can be the most dangerous place for your child. Duri Arbab, a Dubai-based mother of three young children (seven, five and three), says, "In an ideal world children should never enter the kitchen but they follow their parents everywhere."
It is her concern for children's safety that prompted Arbab to launch Duma Safe, a company that specialises in baby-proofing products.
To prevent any injury from the stove and oven, get some knob covers so that children cannot fiddle with them and turn them on. Also install oven locks to restrict them from opening their doors. "It is critical to get an oven guard as well to prevent any burns or scalds when a child touches a hot oven door," Arbab advises.
- The stove is a potential danger for children. If they are wandering around the kitchen always make sure that your pot handles are turned inwards. Try cooking on the back burners.
- Tracy Fountain, founder of Back to Basics, a Dubai-based organisation that delivers community programmes relating to child injury prevention and paediatric first aid, says, "Create a child-free zone in the kitchen by simply boxing off an area with tape in front of the oven and teach children never to step inside the box. This is really simple but very effective with children as young as two."
- Make sure that your kitchen appliances, including refrigerators and dishwashers, come fitted with child-locking devices. All Samsung refrigerators, for instance, now boast child lock facilities. Its Massimo Zucchi model has a special child lock mechanism which restricts a child from changing the refrigerator's settings. When the child lock system is on, the ice and water dispensers are automatically switched off so that children can't play with them.
- Get safety latches for kitchen cabinets. Always store your knives, sharp objects, crockery and heavy pots and pans away from a child's reach.
- Catherine Jones, a mother of a one-year-old toddler asks not to stock any detergents, soaps, dish washing solutions, grease removers, bleach and other hazardous items in places where children have easy access. She advises keeping them in a locked cupboard.
- Move away all small knick-knacks and decorative items that can pose a choking hazard to your child. Before keeping a plant at home always find out if it carries any potential threat to your child's health. Many common decorative indoor plants are considered toxic and can cause allergies, skin rashes and other health issues if ingested.
- "If you stay in a high-rise building or double-storeyed villa, have locks for all windows and balconies and remove their keys so that children cannot open them," advises Fountain of Back to Basics.
- If you don't have a separate laundry area and keep your washing machine in the kitchen, ensure that your washer has a child locking facility. If you have a front-loading washing machine never forget to switch on the child lock system when you run the machine with your baby around.
- Switch off and unplug all the small appliances in the kitchen such as toasters, grinders and blenders when they are not in use.
- For a crawling and climbing infant, your living room and bedrooms are also full of hidden hazards. If you have tables and furniture with sharp corners and edges, either replace them with more child-friendly designs or secure sharp edges with bumpers and shields. You can find smart bumpers in plastics and vinyl in the UAE, which come in various hues to match your furniture.
- If you have heavy bookcases, wall units and curio cabinets in your living room make sure they are fitted at a height where your child cannot reach easily. You can also consider getting some anti-tip straps and brackets to further secure them against the wall so that even if you have an aggressive climber at home he/she cannot bring them down.
- You can install fibre mesh or aluminium safety nets to cover your balcony or any unsafe opening in your open deck. Buy them up from any local hardware store in the UAE. Also source separate latches for the doors or windows that lead to your balcony. These latches should be installed well above your child's reach.
- Get finger guards for all your doors to protect those soft and tiny fingers from getting trapped between the door edges and frames. They are easily available in the UAE and inexpensive and you can quickly install them without using any tools.
- Always keep electrical sockets covered when not in use, to prevent your children from sticking their fingers in them.
- To childproof your bathrooms get some toilet locks and ensure that the child cannot lift up the lid. Also place anti-slip mats on the floor.
- Keep all your toiletries, bathroom cleaning detergents, scissors, razors and hairdryers in a locked cabinet. There are plenty of cupboard and drawer locks available in the market that you can buy to prevent your child from reaching them.
- If you stay in a villa or a duplex apartment definitely install safety rail/gates to prevent your child from falling down a flight of stairs.
"Never install pressure gates at the top of stairs as a child can bust through them. Get your gates custom made to ensure fool-proof safety of your child," says Arbab. Pressure gates are portable, reasonably priced and can be mounted easily at any doorway but they are not suitable for using at the top of stairs. You can instead use them as baby gates for your kitchen to keep you child away from the cooking area.
- You can also install handrails to further secure your staircase.
Experts say that childproofing your home is an ongoing process. Children have the tendency to surprise parents with their activities at any moment. So review your childproofing devices from time to time to ensure that the children haven't outwitted the safety measures.
Some baby-proof products that we like
Wire mesh safety gates:
They help section off areas of your home and keep your child within a safe enclosure. They can be fixed at the bottom of the stairs to prevent toddlers having access to the stairs and even keep pets away from children. Sturdy and made of hard wood with vinyl coated frames these gates pressure mount instantly therefore you would not need tools to install.
Price: Dh179, available at ACE Hardware
Transparent oven door guard:
It can be used to prevent any burns from hot oven doors. An essential safety item for every home, it is produced from a heat-resistant polycarbonate plastic that can be fixed to a metal or glass oven door.
Price: Dh150, available at Duma Safe
Samsung's Eco Bubble washing machine:
It comes with a child safety feature which automatically locks the door as soon as the machine is switched on.
Price: On request
It reduces the risk of slipping and falling in the bathtub or shower. The mat comes with suction cups that are easy to fit and remove.
Price: Dh25, available at Ikea
It comes with a child locking facility which locks the control panel of the unit during operation so that the settings cannot be adjusted during the cycle. This feature also prevents the unit from being powered on or off, or the door from opening or closing.
Price: On request