Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Climbing Toddlers - Hidden Dangers

Do you have a small child that has discovered the joys of climbing? They start so soon, almost as soon as they can pull themselves up. Remember the sheer joy in the gap-toothed grin after a tot has pulled itself up and wriggled and kicked its way onto the seat of a chair or settee? Or watched with pride as a toddler climbs on all fours slowly up the stairs to the top and then turns to look down?

A recent article about the hazards of children climbing on furniture reveals some alarming figures. The results were published by The US Consumer Product Safety Commission and reported in detail the annual figure of 10,000 deaths and scores of crushing injuries incurred from furniture or TVs falling on children as a result of the children climbing, or pulling themselves up on furniture. Apparently few people anchor large pieces of furniture to the wall, even when a strap is provided. To a child a large chest of drawers or bookcase is as tempting as a climbing frame. Even smaller bureaus and dressers can pose the terrifying hazard of “silent death” – where a small child pulls the drawer out and it falls on them. The drawer falling makes no sound as it falls on the child’s soft body crushing or asphyxiating the child.

My own fear was always that a small child would put a baby in a drawer and close the drawer. Toy boxes have to have sufficient ventilation holes to prevent suffocation and there is a regulation stating what that should be. There are regulations covering safety for children’s furniture and toys, but the big danger comes from adult furniture and adventurous tots.

The advice given was to secure furniture to the wall, even in rented properties ask the landlord if you may. Make sure TVs are placed on furniture designed to support the weight and are very stable. 

You can’t keep your eyes on small, or even larger children, all the time and accidents happen so fast. It’s the un- foreseen ones that take the breath away. I was in the room whilst my small daughter was dancing to the music of Pirates of Penzance. In one bound (in time to the music!) she jumped on a chair grabbed a long thin paper knife placed way out of her reach and out of sight, I thought, from a tall bookcase and continued to dance and wave her “sword”. Before I could stop her she had tripped on a rug and fell onto the envelope opener and driven it deep into her throat. She was lucky the blade passed and just missed her arteries, voice box and oesophagus, but was very deep. Even now, many years later, my heart still pounds when I remember it - and the dash to the hospital in an ambulance, followed by a police car with all lights flashing and sirens wailing.

General advice on preventing accidents can be found on the NHS helpline. http://www.nhs.uk
Another website with some positive advice on keeping a pre-schooler safe at home is http://www.caringforkids.cps.ca 
This article giving tips about choosing children’s furniture from a safety angle may also be helpful.

Good luck as you try to steer a balanced path between scaring your child with too many warnings, and enjoying their adventures and triumphs.

The founder of Fairy Tale Children's Furniture, Zandra Johnson is a passionate advocate of imaginative play for children. Studies reveal free time spent playing make-believe helps children develop critical cognitive skills. Fairytale Furniture helps build those skills through imaginative play. Download your free guide to Imaginative Play at FAIRYTALECHILDRENSFURNITURE.CO.UK