Special tips for infants and toddlers

Supervision

  • Children younger than three need to be closely watched at all times.
  • Never assume that a child’s motor abilities will remain the same from day to day.  One day a baby cannot possibly turn over and fall off a changing table; the very next day the child can give a successful push and end up on the floor!
  • Watch toddlers closely around water.  Water tables, toilets, and deep sinks are of great interest to young children and present a potential drowning hazard.

Diaper Changing Surfaces

  • Use a changing surface that is at least three feet above the floor to prevent back strain and the spread of infectious diseases.
  • Don’t use the floor as a changing surface.
  • Keep diapering, food preparation, and play spaces separate.
  • Always keep at least one hand on the baby.
  • Don’t use safety straps; they are neither sanitary nor safe.
  • Never leave the baby unattended, not even for a moment.
  • Whenever possible, use a table with guardrails or a recessed top; these offer some additional protection against infant falls.

Equipment and Toys

Keep safety in mind when you buy and use furniture and equipment for children younger than three.  Injuries involving cribs, baby walkers, and high chairs are fairly common yet usually preventable.  In general, select age-appropriate equipment and toys.

Walkers:

  • Don’t use walkers that infants can move across the floor.  Many children fall over, pull objects down on them, or go down steps in them.
  • Don’t use stationary walkers (the kind that allow children to stand and turn around) except for brief and infrequent opportunities for upright positioning of children who cannot hold themselves upright by themselves.  If used, the child should be in this equipment no more than 15 minutes at a time and no more than once or twice a day. These devices don’t help teach children to stand and walk any earlier and may actually delay motor development.
  • Don’t use stationary walkers (the kind that allow children to stand and turn around).  These don’t help teach children to stand and walk any earlier and may actually delay motor development.
  • It is fine to use a prescribed walker for children with disabilities.

Indoor Play Areas

  • Provide lots of open floor space for crawling and toddling children.  These floors should be clean, free of splinters and cracks, and not highly polished.
  • Discourage walking in infant crawling areas with shoes that have been used to walk outdoors.
  • Separate infant and toddler play areas from the general play area for older children.  This encourages the younger children to explore without the danger of older children knocking them down.
  • Provide an easily washed carpeted area for quiet activities and for infants to begin experimenting with active play.
  • Bolt down top-heavy furniture such as shelving or cubbies to avoid toppling by children pulling up on furniture.

Outdoor Play Areas

  • Every day check the playground, particularly the ground, for dangers.  These young children spend much more time on the ground than older children.
  • Closely watch toddlers and older children when they are together outdoors. Teach older children to watch out for the younger children to help keep them safe.

Sleeping Arrangements

  • Place cribs away from open windows, window blinds, and shade cords.
  • Do not use stacking cribs or bunk beds.
  • To keep diseases from spreading, arrange cots and cribs so that they are about 1 meter (3 feet) apart, or place shoulder-high partitions between children.
  • Arrange sleeping equipment so that, in the event of an emergency, you have quick access to each child.