When we think of baby safety at home, we think of covering outlets, mounting furniture, avoiding sharp objects, and putting small choking hazards out of reach. While these are all vital pieces to a safe environment for our youngest learners, we also need to be thinking of the “not-so-obvious” dangers, continuous baby-proofing as infants grow into toddlers, and creating opportunities for safe exploration.
Baby safety is a key piece of providing for children as a parent, caregiver, and/or Family Day Home provider. Setting up environments that allow for safe exploration is critical for young learners. Physically, infants rely on adults to protect them from harm. It’s also important for cognitive and emotional development that young learners be able to explore and learn about the world around them. This means baby-proofing and planning for children to maneuver in your space with some healthy limits and preventative measures taken.
Think like a baby
The easiest way to find potential dangerous situations in your home or care facility is to get down on your hands and knees and think like a mobile infant! Everything is brand new. What looks interesting? Is there anything to grab, pull, eat, or climb? Sometimes this helps us see the potential hazards that are not often thought of. You may have a table cloth hanging down that can be pulled or a poisonous plant within reach. Perhaps you have window blind cords that hang low or cabinets that are easily opened. Babies like to explore with their hands and their mouths so keep in mind anything that can be pulled, pushed, climbed, ingested, choked on, etc.
Remember: Baby’s Safety at Home Changes Over Time
Remember that baby safety is on ongoing process. Children find new ways to explore as they grow and each child is different. Don’t wait until a child starts pulling up to remove choking hazards from coffee tables or window sills. Put up baby gates at the top and bottom of stairs before children are mobile. Prepare as much as you can ahead of time to set you and the children in your care up for success. If you have another child or are expecting new children in your care facility, it is a good opportunity to take another look at your environment and equipment. Keep an eye on safety criteria for cribs, toys, cleaning products, etc. One size does not fit all for baby safety at home!
Keep Baby’s 5 Senses in Mind
Baby safety does not mean containing children all day or never letting them crawl, walk, or explore on their own. It is a huge boost to a child’s cognitive and emotional development to allow him/her to get to know the surroundings and learn from what they see, touch, and discover. This means providing space for children to remain physically unharmed while providing options for safe play. What are some appropriate things for an infant to pull on or push around? What can he safely put in his or her mouth? This is also a great opportunity for you to use language to discuss your baby or toddler’s environment and label what they’re exploring. What does that block he’s chewing on taste like? Is it squishy or hard?
We hope you won’t hesitate to reach out to ChildSavers Child Development Services Team for more ideas on how to create safe environments for young learners and build safe exploration into your day. Please also keep in mind the importance of sleep safety for babies. Babies should be put to sleep on their backs, alone, and in an approved crib. Remember that you are never done baby-proofing and must always be within reach of infants and toddlers in your care.
Small children can surprise you with their creativity! Enjoy their discovery and adjust as it is needed to keep them in the healthiest space you can.
Jess Templeman is a Project Manager for Child Development Services at ChildSavers. She earned her bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education/Special Education (Pre-K through Grade 12) from Elizabethtown College in Pennsylvania and her master’s degree in Special Education Leadership/Administration and Supervision from George Mason University. Jess taught special education in Fairfax County Virginia for 6 years and Coordinated Special Education services in Chesterfield County for 2.5 years before coming to ChildSavers in October 2019. In her current role, Jess supports the Virginia Infant Toddler Specialist team and manages a number of special projects that aim to improve the quality of care provided to children birth to age 5 in the Central Virginia Region. She is certified in Pre-K, Toddler, and Infant CLASS Observation Tools.