Keep your young child safe around the house
Injuries often result in emergency room visits and hospitalizations, and are the leading cause of death among children and youth in Canada. While many injuries among young children occur at home, the majority are preventable.
Be prepared and anticipate injury risks
Consider your child’s age and developmental stage.
- Is your baby too young to lift their head?
- Can your child open a door on their own?
- Can your child move a chair or stool to the counter or stove?
Anticipate your child’s new skills and make changes in your home to reduce their risk of injury.
- For example, put locks and latches on cupboards before your child can crawl.
Actively supervise your child.
- Although you’ll teach your child about safety, the best way to prevent injury is to be aware of where your child is and what they are doing at all times.
Suffocation and strangulation
Most babies can’t lift their head until they are about 4 months old. So if an object interferes with their breathing, they won’t be able to pull themselves away from it. That includes things in their crib, like bedding or toys. Make sure to create a safe sleep environment for your baby.
Items such as blind cords, necklaces and strings can get stuck around your child’s neck and pose major threats to breathing – even if the item is not strong.
- Secure curtain and blind cords to the wall or beyond reach.
- Keep the crib away from window blinds or cords.
- Do not use amber necklaces. Use a teething ring instead to reduce pain.
- Use bibs with Velcro, not ties.
- Use a short ribbon pacifier clip. Don’t hang a pacifier around your baby’s neck.
- Use a neck warmer instead of a scarf, and mitten clips instead of strings.
- Avoid clothing with drawstrings at the neck or waist.
By 4 months of age, most babies start exploring objects by putting them in their mouths.
Starting solid foods, teething and exploring new environments are all milestones that increase a baby’s choking risk. Some things to consider:
- A safe soother is made of one piece, with a shield to prevent your baby from sucking the nipple too far into their mouth.
- Use teething rings instead of amber necklaces to reduce teething pain. Babies can choke on the beads.
- When offering solid foods, think about the size, shape and texture. Will your child be able to properly chew and safely swallow the food? Nuts, popcorns, hot dogs, grapes, and raw carrots are common causes of choking in young children.
- Keep magnets and button batteries out of your child’s reach. Button batteries can be found in unexpected places (e.g., musical greeting cards, flashing jewelry, candles, car keys, etc.) and can be easily removed by a child. These batteries can pose serious threats to your child’s intestinal walls. If you think your child has swallowed or put a button battery in their nose or ear, go to the nearest emergency department (ED) immediately. Bring the battery leaflet with you if you have it. If your child is over 12 months of age, ingesting some honey may help prevent serious complications while on your way to the ED.
- Tie plastic bags in a knot before putting them away.
- Use Mylar (foil) balloons instead of latex balloons. If a Mylar balloon breaks into small pieces, it won’t block a child’s airway. Throw away broken balloon pieces immediately.
- If an item is small enough to pass through an empty toilet paper roll, it is a choking hazard.
Babies can squirm and move along a surface long before they can turn over. Even a newborn can wriggle enough to fall off the change table, bed or sofa.
- Always supervise your baby. Don’t get distracted by people or objects (like your phone) when your child is on a raised surface.
- Store everything you need to change a baby within reach, so you don’t have to turn away. Keep one hand on your baby at all times.
- Avoid placing car seats and infant chairs on raised surfaces like furniture, counters, or appliances.
- Make sure your baby sling or front carrier is appropriate for your baby’s age and size. It should support their head and shoulders and have small leg openings, so that your baby can’t slip out. If you bend over, hold your baby against you with one hand.
- Make sure the crib mattress is at an appropriate height level for your baby’s age, size and abilities. Once your baby starts trying to climb out of the crib or reaches 35 inches tall, consider moving them to a toddler bed.
As soon as babies start to crawl, they will want to explore their environment. Safety gates prevent your baby from falling down stairways or entering certain rooms.
- Install gates with vertical bars made of metal or wood. Fix them securely to studs in the wall at the top of stairs. Pressure mounted gates are not safe at the top of stairways.
- Gates should meet current safety standards and be labeled with the manufacturer’s name, model name/number, date of manufacture, and a warning about use and installation. Follow instructions carefully.
- Install window guards, or make sure windows are latched so that they can’t open more than 10 cm (4 inches). Window screens do not prevent falls, and they cannot hold the weight of a toddler.
- Keep furniture—including cribs—away from windows that open.
Many house fires are caused by careless smoking or children playing with lighters and matches.
- Do not allow smoking in your home.
- Keep matches and lighters out of reach.
- Smoke and carbon monoxide detectors should be installed on every level of the home and outside every sleeping area. Check them monthly and change the batteries as per the manufacturer’s recommendation.
- Keep a fire extinguisher in your home, ideally in the kitchen.
- Have a fire escape plan that your family regularly practices.
Burns and scalds
Babies and young children have very thin skin, which puts them at risk of serious burns even after quick exposure to heat. Be especially careful when children are around hot liquids, which can scald.
- If you are drinking hot liquids around your child, use a cup with a tight-fitting lid.
- Never carry a baby and a hot drink at the same time. Keep hot drinks away from counter edges.
- Use plastic placemats instead of a tablecloth, because your baby could pull it down.
- Set your hot water heater temperature to 49°C (120°F) or put an anti-scald device on your faucets.
- Before bathing, check the water temperature with your elbow or wrist. It should feel warm, not hot. Bathe your child away from the faucets and remove them from the tub before running the hot water again.
- Don’t heat breastmilk or formula in a microwave. Dangerous “hot spots” can burn a baby’s mouth. Warm a bottle in a pot of hot water instead and test the milk on your wrist before feeding.
- When possible, use the stove’s back burners. Turn pot handles in from the stove edge.
- Remove front- or top-mounted stove knobs between cooking times, especially if you have a gas stove.
- Place fire-safe barriers around – and at a safe distance from – space heaters, gas fireplaces and wood stoves. Position the barrier so that the lowest point of its top edge is at least 56 cm (22 inches) off the floor.
Medications are the leading cause of poisoning in children.
- Store medications, cleaning supplies and other corrosive or poisonous household products (laundry detergent, dish detergent, bleach, pesticides) safely out of sight, out of reach, away from food, and in their original containers, ideally in a locked cabinet.
- Keep all cannabis and vaping products locked up and out of reach in child-resistant packaging or containers, just as you would medications and other potentially toxic products.
- Make sure visitors keep their purses or bags out of your child’s reach.
- Cigarette and cigarette butts are poisonous to young children. Keep them out of reach and, ideally, out of the house.
- Make sure that batteries from watches, remote controls, toys, calculators, etc. are secured and only accessible using a tool, such as a screwdriver. Button batteries can be found in unexpected places (e.g., musical greeting cards, flashing jewelry, candles, car keys, etc.) and can be easily removed by a child. A swallowed battery reacts with saliva and lets off an electrical current that burns the tissue and can be deadly.
- Keep pet food and water off the floor between feedings or in an area that your child cannot access.
- Remove poisonous houseplants or keep them out of reach.
- Keep your poison control centre’s number close to the phone.
Electrical outlets are right at a young child’s eye level. Dangling wires, a power bar or even empty wall sockets will attract the attention of a curious child. Babies may want to chew on a wire and examine outlets with wet fingers.
- Put safety covers on all electrical outlets that are not in use.
- Use only electrical cords provided by the appliance or fixture’s manufacturer and keep out of reach.
- Use extension cords that are the single-plug type.
- Cover empty outlets with safety plugs.
A child can drown very quickly and quietly in as little as 2.5 cm (1 inches) of water. Supervise your child at all times when they are around water, including in the bath. Bath seats and rings give parents and caregivers a false sense of security and should be avoided. Create a safe water environment for your child by following the recommendations outlined in our water safety handout.
The Canadian Paediatric Society does NOT recommend keeping firearms in the home. Children lack the experience and maturity to distinguish a toy gun from a real one. They also don’t understand the consequences of handling a gun, so it’s mandatory to ensure a safe firearm environment for your child if you choose to keep guns in the home.
Additional safety tips
- Install child-resistant door handle covers, especially for rooms with hazards, and exit doors.
- Keep all sharp (scissors, skewers, knives), breakable or heavy objects in a latched drawer, locked cabinet, or out of reach.
- Anchor top-heavy furniture or objects (televisions, dressers or bookcases) to the wall.
- Tie up dangling cords and push appliances or gadgets to the back of the counter when not in use.
- Be careful when opening or closing doors and teach siblings to do the same. Little fingers often get caught in closing doors and pinch injuries are especially common in households with more than 1 child.
- Reclining chairs have a space between the footrest and seat when the chair is raised. Lower the footrest when not in use. Young children should be kept away when raising and lowering the footrest.
For more information on keeping your young child safe, visit Parachute Canada.
More information from the CPS
Reviewed by the following CPS committees
- Injury Prevention Committee
- Public Education Advisory Committee
Last updated: May 2020