Top Tips for Keeping Toddlers Safe and Sound

Toddlers know no bounds, and so it's no surprise that they are at risk for accidental injuries. Toddlers are curious climbers, natural thrill-seekers, and are typically fearless.

Parents, child care providers, and any caregivers of children at this age know that there's no rest when it comes to supervising a toddler; for them, life is one big adventure.

Here are some tactics to keep your beloved and active youngster out of harm's way at home and on the go.

1

Kid Safety in the Kitchen

Little boy (1 y) trying to reach pan on stove
Bernhard Lang/Taxi/Getty Images

Toddlers gravitate to the kitchen; after all, that's where families spend much of their time. However, it has many potential hazards. Here are a few key safety tips to remember:

  • Cook on the back burners and turn pot handles away so they aren't in a child's reach.
  • Remove stove knobs or use a child-proof cover so that little ones can't turn on gas burners.
  • Keep knives, forks, scissors, and anything else sharp (such as food processors with sharp blades) in a latched drawer or cupboard.
  • Drink hot beverages out of spill-proof and unbreakable travel mugs to avoid burns.
  • Never leave dangling cords; unplug items when not in use and store, and those that are used, keep cords wrapped tightly with a twist tie.
  • Store cleaning fluids in a locked cabinet out of sight and temptation.
  • Don't allow access to the pantry.​
  • Keep a fire extinguisher in your kitchen.
  • Do not use refrigerator magnets that are small enough for your child to choke on or swallow.
2

Kid Safety in the Bathroom

For safety, keep the toilet lid down and locked when not in use. The toilet poses a drowning risk, in addition to the risk of expensive plumber calls if your child clogs it with a toy or some other unauthorized item.

Always keep medications locked away and out of reach. Stow other items that can be harmful if ingested this way, such as toothpaste and mouthwash.

Bath time with a toddler can be fun or a challenge (depending on the day) but a tub of unattended water always poses a drowning risk for little ones. Remember to always drain the bathtub after bath time. When your child is in the tub, supervise them 100% of the time. It depends on the child, but most cannot be left alone in a bathtub until they are at least five or six years old.

In addition to drowning risks from the tub and toilet, bathrooms are home to small electrical appliances, such as hair dryers, that can cause electrocution, burns, and strangulation (from the loose cords). Keep these items locked up when not in use.

Plungers can make a fun (if disgusting) play toy to a toddler. While it might be the most convenient spot, don't leave the tool sitting by the toilet.

Overall, It's a good idea to limit access to the bathroom with a safety gate or lock. There is too much temptation and danger. Install a doorknob cover or a hook-and-eye latch out of reach on the outside of the bathroom door so that kids cannot get in by themselves. Always keep the door shut when not in use. So that kids cannot lock themselves in the bathroom, use a doorknob without a lock or switch the handle so that the door locks and unlocks from the outside.

3

Kid Safety in the Family Room

With kids, when is there ever not things on the floor? Be on constant guard for small toys and objects that can be choking hazards: batteries, coins, marbles, and pieces of toys from older siblings (wheels, doll shoes, etc.).

Other tips to keep in mind include:

  • Keep electrical cords out of reach and use outlet covers.
  • Child-proof window treatment cords to prevent strangulation: Choose cordless window coverings, if possible; or keep cords well out of reach by tying them up high and keeping furniture away from windows.
  • Secure furniture, televisions, and other electronic equipment to avoid any potential for tipping over on a child.
  • Use safety gates at the top and bottom of stairs. Do not use pressure-mounted gates at the top of the stairs; use gates that are screwed into the wall.
  • Clear tempting items from tabletops.
  • Place bumper guards on the edges of furniture to reduce the chance of head injury if a child trips and falls onto a corner or edge.
  • Move furniture away from windows to prevent kids from trying to climb out (especially in upstairs rooms).
4

Kid Safety in the Bedroom

Lamps, flowing curtains or drapes, area rugs, and even candles are items that add to the ambiance of a parent's bedroom but could prove to be dangerous for young children. Often, parents childproof their toddler's room, but forget to do the same in their own bedroom. Since most kids spend time in their parents' (or siblings') bedrooms, it is important to childproof all bedrooms.

  • Lamps: Children may pull the cord or the base and topple the lamp onto their head (causing head injuries). Use wall-mounted lamps or overhead lighting instead.
  • Curtains: Kids may try to climb them, pulling the rod off the wall and down onto their head or body.
  • Rugs: Little ones may slip and fall on an area rug. Use a grip pad underneath.
  • Candles: To help prevent fires, never leave a candle burning unattended, and keep matches in a locked area.

Cute table lamps and rocking chairs that were so precious in an infant's room can now spell disaster if a toddler starts standing on the chair or can reach for the lamp and remove it from its base. Be sure pictures are mounted solidly on the walls. Any piece of furniture that is taller than it is deep, especially items with shelves or drawers that a child may try to climb, must be anchored to the wall.

5

Kid Safety and Guns

In 2019 alone, there were at 241 unintended shootings by children. These caused more than 100 deaths and nearly 150 injuries. Since a gun in the home is 43 times more likely to kill a friend or family member than a burglar or other criminal, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) advises that the safest home for a child is one without guns.

If you do keep a gun in your home, it's essential to store it unloaded, in a locked box or safe. Ammunition must be kept separately, and also locked up. Never let your child handle a gun, even if it is unloaded. 

6

Kid Safety in the Yard

Be sure to limit access to outside with locks out of reach of a curious tot. Backyard swing sets and play areas are wonderful, but make sure they are safe by having a soft surface underneath. If your yard is fenced, be sure that is locked as well.

Always enclose pools, ponds, or hot tubs and put a safety fence between any water source and the house.

Keep kiddie pools drained when not in use. Make sure that power tools and garden equipment are safe and out of reach. The same holds true for any chemicals like insecticides.

7

Kid Safety in the Car

Be sure you have your child's car seat installed correctly and in accordance with safety regulations. Toddlers (and preschoolers) should be in a rear-facing car seat that is appropriate for their height and weight. One-third of U.S. states now require rear-facing for kids until at least age two, but most kids can stay rear-facing until they are three to five years old.

Never, ever leave your toddler unattended in a car, and make sure they cannot access the car on their own. Toddlers die in hot cars when they climb in and get stuck, so keys should be kept out of reach and the car should be kept locked when unoccupied.

Other hot-car deaths happen when an adult forgets the child, usually due to a change in routine. To help prevent this, put something in the back seat that your need (phone, purse, etc.) to remind you to check the back seat where your child is when you get out of the car.

Children should be taught that the car is not a place to play. Having kids sit on parents' laps in the driver's seat is very dangerous, as it tells the child that cars are places to play).

Be sure that kids cannot open a door or window from their seat (use child locks, as needed). Also think about safety practices when getting in and out of the car, such as carefully opening and shutting doors to prevent smashed finger injuries.

8

Kid Safety at Others' Homes

Your house may be toddler-proof, but neighbors and relatives may not have the need. Parents must be on guard when visiting others' homes for safety.

  • Guns: Ask whether there are any guns in the home. If so, they must be locked and unloaded, with ammunition locked separately.
  • Pools: Find out what safeguards are in place to keep children from accessing swimming pools or other water sources.
  • Pets: Animal bites are a significant source of injury for kids, so talk to your host in advance about how to keep pets and kids separated and safe.

Whether you're out or at home, always accompany your toddler to the bathroom—even if they're potty-trained.

Medicine cabinets, drawers, and other "unsafe" areas can tempt toddlers, and it only takes a moment for them to get into danger. If possible, bring entertainment for your toddler and designate a single "safe room" for your youngster to stay in.

9

Kid Safety Out and About

Parents' greatest safety fears can sometimes be when walking with kids to and from stores, among parked cars, and in crowded situations. These fears are with good reason: Toddlers are prone to darting around and often insistent on walking independently.

Kids should be clear about the rules of hand-holding and other safety measures, and parents should enforce those rules. If your child can't or won't hold your hand, use a leash so your child can only go a few feet from you. Some attach to your child's wrist; others attach to a backpack your child wears.

10

Kid Safety and Toys

Always require that your youngster wear a bike helmet and other safety gear, even if they protest. Make or buy a safety flag for bikes, tricycles, or other on-the-go outdoor toys so you can distinguish your child and their location at a glance.

Carefully consider toys like trampolines, spinning toys, scooters, bouncing balls, in-line skates, and other popular items that can be potentially dangerous.

If you do buy such an item, be sure to follow safety recommendations and supervise your child's use closely.

11

Kid Safety and Sports

More and more parents are placing their toddler-aged children into sports for exercise and to learn fundamentals of soccer, gymnastics, baseball, basketball, and cheer.

Age-appropriate programs can be a great outlet for a toddler's energy as well as provide exercise and coordination practice. Just beware of programs that don't take younger kids' limitations into account, as these activities may put them at risk for injuries or accidents.

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Article Sources
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  1. American Academy of Pediatrics. Kitchen safety. Updated November 6, 2019.

  2. Denny SA, Quan L, Gilchrist J, et al. Prevention of drowning. Pediatrics. 2019;143(5). doi:10.1542/peds.2019-0850

  3. American Academy of Pediatrics. Window blind cords.

  4. Berchelmann KD. Preventing furniture and TV tip-overs. American Academy of Pediatrics. Updated February 20, 2018.

  5. Schaechter J. Guns in the home. American Academy of Pediatrics. Updated June 12, 2020.

  6. Insurance Institute for Highway Safety - Highway Loss Data Institute. Seat belt and child seat laws. Updated July 2020.

  7. Kidsandcars.org. Look before you lock.