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Toddlers - keeping them safe

toddlers; safe; safety; falls; fire; car; road; traffic; burn; scald; home; burns; drowning; choking. ;

Toddlers need to have a safe environment.

  • They are too young to know how or remember to behave safely.
  • Telling them and teaching them about danger does not keep them safe.
  •  Keeping your toddler safe is your responsibility.

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Keeping your toddler safe is your responsibility.

Your toddler will become increasingly mobile now and start to walk. They will also become very curious; trying to open cupboards, turn switches on and off and seek out items they know exist even if they are hidden from view.

At this age your toddler will want to “test” everything by putting it in their mouth.

Toddlers will imitate the actions of adults, so it is important for parents to model safe behaviour.

  • Do a first aid course for children.
  • Go around your house and gardens with a checklist looking for any things that may harm a toddler.
  • Buy or make a childproof, lockable cupboard for medicines and any dangerous chemicals (eg dishwasher powder).
  • Keep a first aid kit in the house and car.
  • Keep emergency phone numbers in easy reach and where everyone knows where to look.
  • Discuss safety with grandparents and other carers.

Kidsafe SA has many excellent fact sheets about keeping toddlers and other children safe

There is a lot more information about keeping babies, toddlers and older children safe on the site of Product Safety Australia

Falls

Falls are the major cause of toddler injury. Falling out of bed, off chairs, highchairs, prams, strollers playground equipment or shopping trolleys, or falling down stairs; a child’s body is top heavy which can cause them to over balance easily.

They often fall over on flat surfaces too.

  • Use barrier gates or lock doors to stop your child going into dangerous places, such as stairs.
  • Make sure that furniture, such as television sets cannot fall over. Fix TVs, tall cupboards and bookcases to the wall.
  • Don’t have bunk beds when there are toddlers in the house.
  • Use the harness in the high chair and pusher/stroller.
  • Don’t leave young children alone on change tables, high chairs, playground equipment etc.
  • Pad sharp corners of furniture or round them off.
  • Teach your toddler how to climb down as she is learning to climb up.
  • See the topic Home safety for more information.

Traffic safety

  • Make fences and gates toddler-proof.
  • Toddlers need to be held when they are near roads.
  • They may begin to remember rules about crossing roads but they are unable to understand them, no matter how many times they are told.
  • Being hit by a car in the driveway is a common cause of injury - and the injuries can be very bad. When you are moving the car at home, it is safest to have your child in the car so she cannot be run over.

Car safety

  • Babies, toddlers and children must have properly fitted and approved child restraints or child safety seats. Use a child restraint suitable for the child's age, size and weight on every trip. For more information have a look at the topic 'Car safety restraints'.
  • Always stop the car when you need to turn around to attend to your child in the back seat. It is so easy to get distracted and have an accident.
  • Make sure that there is nothing on the dashboard, the parcel shelf, or on the floor (even a box of tissues can do a lot of harm in an accident).
  • Never put anything heavy in the back of a hatchback or station wagon unless it secured strongly.
  • Never leave children and babies alone in cars. Take them with you even for short errands. 
    • Children get bored and can explore the car's knobs and buttons which can lead to dangers.
    • Children can become distressed or may try to struggle free from their seatbelts and become injured.
    • Children may be in danger of someone trying to steal the car with them in it.
    • Children can become seriously ill when temperatures in cars change quickly in summer and winter.

Burns and scalds

Kidsafe SA has an excellent fact sheet about burns and scalds.

In South Australia every year, several hundred young children need medical care for burns and scalds. Whereas all children are at risk of being burned or scalded, children 0–2 years of age are the most vulnerable, with more children in this age group admitted to hospital for burns or scalds.

Burns are caused by contact with hot objects or flames. A scald is caused by hot liquid or steam.

Burns and scalds are among the most distressing injuries that a young child can receive. Although it is rare for young children to die from burns or scalds, they cause intense pain, with children often needing long-term treatment, and having lifelong disfigurement through scarring.

  • Never drink hot drinks such as tea and coffee while carrying or nursing your toddler.
  • Have a smoke detector fitted in your house and regularly check that it works.
  • Keep hot things well back from the edge of tables. Use placemats instead of tablecloths.
  • Turn saucepan handles away from the edge of the stove. Use a stove guard.
  • Have short or curly electric cords that don’t hang over the side of benches.
  • Be careful of hot irons and cords dangling when ironing.
  • To help prevent scalding from hot water, make sure that the hot water for your bath, shower and basin comes out at 50º C or less. Your plumber can show you how to do this. You can attach a safety shut-off device directly to the tap, or your plumber can install a device which automatically mixes cold water with the hot, to limit the temperature. The water heater itself should maintain stored water at 60 degrees Celsius minimum. (See the topic Scalds for more information.)
  • Always put cold water in the bath first, and then add hot water into the mix. Turn off the cold water last so the spout won’t be hot.
  • Remember that many toddlers can light matches and lighters, and unscrew the globes of the Christmas tree lights.
  • Use fireguards for open fires, pot belly stoves and radiators.
  • Have a fire extinguisher or fire blanket in the kitchen.

First aid for burns and scalds

If a child has a burn or scald, put the burnt area under running cold water for at least 20 minutes. Never use ice to cool the skin. If the burn is bigger than about a 20 cent piece see a doctor. The topic Scalds has more information about what to do.

Poisoning

Toddlers explore everywhere they can reach, and they still put things into their mouths. They cannot understand poison signs.

Have a look at the topic Poisoning for more information. Also the fact sheets on the Kidsafe SA site Prevention of childhood poisoning  and Poisonous plants

  • Keep kitchen and laundry detergents out of reach, best in a locked cupboard. Dishwasher powder is very dangerous.
  • Use a child-proof medicine cupboard for all medicines (including oral contraceptives). Don't keep medicines in handbags or put any medicines in your bedside table drawers.
  • Check that visitors, including grandparents, don't leave bags with tablets in them in your child’s reach.
  • Keep poisons in their original, labelled containers. Never put poisons into food or drink containers.
  • Lock garden products away. Put locks on shed doors and keep them shut.

Write the Poisons Information number next to your telephone, (13 11 26 in Australia).

Choking and suffocating

The topic Choking on food and other objects has lots of information about this, as does the Kidsafe SA fact sheet Prevention of choking, suffocation and strangulation in young children

Drowning

Children, especially toddlers, seem to be drawn to water whether it is in the bath, the toilet, buckets, swimming pools, puddles, dams etc. Water to most young children means fun, play, and adventure.

Most children who drown are under four years old - some die and others may be left with severe brain damage. Drowning happens very quickly and quietly. Young children can drown in only a few centimetres of water.

Teaching your toddler to swim will not prevent drowning.

Have a look at the Kidsafe SA fact sheet Prevention of childhood drowning

Supervision

Young children should never be left alone or with another child, in or around any body of water. Inadequate supervision is the most significant factor that contributes to young children drowning. Constant adult supervision means ensuring you can see your child all the time and are close to them. Keeping a close watch on your child when they are around water is the most effective way to prevent drowning.

Have a look at the Royal Life Saving Fact sheet Supervise

     

Toys and play

  • Check toys and play equipment regularly for sharp edges, splinters and loose parts.
  • The surface under climbing frames and swings should be soft and impact absorbing.
  • Toys for young children should not have small, loose parts that can be broken off and swallowed. Keep older children’s toys (marbles, building sets etc) away from toddlers.  

Have a look at the topic Toy safety.

Electrocution

Use an earth leakage circuit breaker in your fuse box or switchboard. It will switch the power off if there is an electrical fault and so prevent injury. It needs to be installed by an electrician.

  • Buy covers for powerpoints to stop toddlers poking things into them.
  • Don’t use electric blankets for young children.
  • Be careful of electrical appliances near water - it is easy to get electrocuted.
  • Put all electrical appliances away after use.
  • Use only wall-mounted heaters in bathrooms and install them up high.

Sun

Whenever possible keep toddlers in the shade. Teach them to play in the shade.

  • Make sure that their favourite play areas are shaded.
  • Children can get sunburnt even on cold, cloudy summer days.
  • Sunlight through the glass of car windows can burn the skin.
  • In the sun use a hat and clothing that covers arms and legs, such as cover-up bathers.

Sunscreen can be used in small amounts on young children on areas that are not covered by clothing. Some sunscreens irritate the eyes and sensitive skin. It needs to be re-applied often. Zinc cream is an effective sun block.

Shopping

  • Never leave babies and young children alone in the car while you shop.
  • Supermarket shopping carts can tip up even if you are using the safety seat, especially if a toddler pulls on them. Make sure children sit down when they are inside a trolley.
  • Don’t let young children wander in the aisles while you shop.

Farm safety

  • There are many safety issues for children on farms with dams, machinery, chemicals, workshops and sheds with equipment, animals and vehicles. 

Have a look at the Kidsafe SA fact sheet Child safety on farms

Passive smoking

It's easy to protect your children from passive smoking.

  • Make your home and car smoke-free. It is now illegal in South Australia to smoke in a car while a child is also in the car.
  • Avoid smoking around children, because when you smoke, children smoke too.
  • Chemicals in cigarettes and tobacco smoke can affect children’s health.
  • Children are more likely to smoke if they see you smoking.

Resources

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The information on this site should not be used as an alternative to professional care. If you have a particular problem, see a doctor, or ring the Parent Helpline on 1300 364 100 (local call cost from anywhere in South Australia).

This topic may use 'he' and 'she' in turn - please change to suit your child's sex.

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