by Shannon Philpott
As parents, we do our best to keep a close watch on our children. However, it is impossible to monitor a toddler’s every move, especially when that toddler is constantly on the move.
Melissa Finley, mother of 9-year-old Emily and 3-year-old Evan, learned that in less than five minutes a toddler can ultimately put himself in a life or death situation. “The unthinkable can happen,” Finley said. “I am so cautious with my children and it happened to me.”
Last summer, Finley found her 3-year-old floating in the backyard pool at her southern Illinois home, completely blue and unresponsive. “I went downstairs to fold laundry and the house seemed too quiet,” Finley said. “I got this weird feeling and asked Emily to check on her brother.”
Moments later, Finley heard her daughter scream as she jumped in the water to save her brother. Finley administered CPR, and Evan responded before the paramedics arrived. It was estimated that he had been in the water for approximately three minutes.
Even though the Finleys had a lock on the pool ladder, their curious and energetic 3-year-old found his way into the pool. Since the incident, Evan has recovered fully and the Finleys have installed a pool alarm that alerts both exterior and interior receivers. “If anything hits the water that weighs more than 15 pounds, the alarm goes off,” Finley said.
Until her son’s life was threatened, Finley said she didn’t even know pool alarms existed. Unfortunately, many parents find these resources after injuries occur. There is no way to eliminate curiosity within a toddler, but with the right amount of knowledge, parents can prepare for the dangers that these inquisitive tots may find.
“Often it takes just one tidbit of information to prevent injury to a child or even save a young life,” Jamie Schaefer-Wilson, author of The Consumer Reports Guide to Childproofing and Safety, told Parent USA City.
“Of course it’s impossible to predict emergencies. The only guarantee is that children are unpredictable and will constantly surprise you and keep you on your toes.”
Preventing busy little toddlers from getting into harm's way is one of the hardest—but most critical—tasks of parenting children. From the nursery and your toddler’s room to the kitchen, living room, and back yard, potential dangers lurk for your child. The editors of Consumer Reports offer the following must-do advice for parents raising a curious toddler.
● Keep furniture away from windows. As your toddler begins to climb, open windows can become a safety hazard and furniture can make the fixtures too easily accessible. Installing window guards or window stops will prevent your child from pushing them open.
● Put appliances away. A curious toddler will not hesitate to pick up a hot curling iron or blow dryer in the bathroom. Worse, if a child drops a plugged-in appliance into the sink or toilet, it could electrocute him.
● Think ahead about door locks. Toddlers are fascinated with opening and closing doors and, unfortunately, locking them. Be prepared with emergency door keys or a two-pronged opener that works on both push and turn locks. Top slide locks and/or alarms on exterior doors also help to protect your child from exiting the home. Finley and her husband installed a door alarm that beeps three times each time the door opens.
● Keep outlets covered. Even though your toddler is no longer an infant, she is likely intrigued by plugs, cords, and holes in general. Make sure that each outlet is covered and that your child is aware of the dangers of electrical outlets. Stove knob covers will also deter little ones from turning those knobs.
● Use corner cushions. Even as adults, sharp furniture corners can cause injury. Corner cushions will soften the blow for both parents and children.
● Watch for small toy parts. Especially when older siblings are in the house, small toy pieces, jewelry, beads, and puzzle pieces are tempting for toddlers. These items are potential choking hazards and need to be out of reach of your curious tot.
● Cover the sandbox when not in use. Hidden hazards lurk in outdoor play areas, especially sandboxes. Beyond raking the sand, covering the area when not in use will prevent animals from depositing waste and trash.
● Always use stroller brakes. Strollers are designed to roll, so never trust flat land when your child is secured safely in a stroller. Even if your child is sleeping or still, something as simple as the wind can carry her away in an instant.
Supervision is the key element of raising a toddler, but taking precautions for those moments when our eyes are focused elsewhere could prevent the worst from happening.
According to Schaefer-Wilson, “There’s no greater pleasure in life than seeing your little one grow from tiny infant to a happy, healthy and independent young adult. Yet we know that the road to adulthood is filled with potholes that could harm our children. We want to do all we can to steer them clear of the dangers.”
Shannon Philpott is a writer/reporter with 10-plus years of experience, and a college journalism instructor. She maintains a blog about writing, reflecting, and teaching at shannonphilpott.com.