Home is a special place; it is a place to explore, adventure and play. Unfortunately, the same is also the most common place for young children to be injured. This is because when building or designing homes, what comes into the owner’s mind mostly, is comfort and rarely children’s safety.
As is common practice today, imagine having sockets fixed all over your new house for your convenience just in case you want to shift electronics around, only to realise it was a terrible mistake when a toddler tries to poke an object into one of the socket holes.
From home fires to burns, drowning, injuries, and toxic substances, danger loiters around every corner of the house.
Jennifer Rurangwa, a mother of two, says that while it’s unrealistic for some parents to think that they can shield their kids from every possible risk, some few occasional accidents are inevitable and simply out of one’s control. However, most injuries are predictable and preventable, if parents pay attention to detail while designing their homes.
“Children don’t understand danger and as they grow, babies become naturally curious to learn new things, explore and copy what we do. In today’s volatile world, however, shielding your kids from every possible risk seems like an impossible task because they can shock you with their methods of discovery,” she says.
For this reason, she advises parents to make the home environment as safe as possible before the child starts crawling.
“Creating a safe environment where your children can safely grow and thrive should be top priority when designing your home. Thankfully, many of these hazards can be addressed pretty easily.
“One of the best ways to reduce the risk of injury is to make some physical changes around the house. Check carefully around your home and think about what the obvious risks and hazards are. You may need to change some things in your house to make sure he or she doesn’t get hurt,” she advises.
Joseph Twiringire, an architect in Kigali, says putting toddlers in mind while designing homes is very important because you want to make sure that your child is safe even when you are away.
“It’s the simple things that people ignore that matter, such as having toddler gates at the top and bottom of stairs and making sure that they do not have big spaces between the slats because it’s easy for children to get trapped in the openings.
Also, it’s important to anchor large furniture to walls, such as bookcases, dressers, to prevent them from tipping over if your child climbs on it, mount TVs and their stands on the wall, place door knob covers on doors that lead to the garage, or outdoors. This will help prevent your child from going where he or she shouldn’t go,” he says.
He adds that most importantly, is covering electrical sockets that are not in use with safety plugs and use plastic inserts to cover electric outlet. All these, he says are easy to install with the help of a professional and can be accessible in hardware shops.
If you have a baby in your house, you need to make sure he or she stays safe. Go into each room in your house and look for dangers to your child.
Attention to detail can save your baby
Another parent who preferred anonymity says that caring for one of her children who deals with hyperactivity taught her the importance of paying attention.
“Even the smallest of things, such as picture frames, detergent, toys, cutlery can be harmful to the child. Parents who have active children can relate because you cannot know where your child will be the next minute. When you have a small person running or crawling around the house, it opens up the possibility of a range of accidents,” she says.
For her, all toxic materials, frames, utensils, candles and cutlery are always kept above reach or hidden away, especially cords, to save her children from accessing them. She has also avoided purchasing any glass furniture in her house as these can be easily broken.
“If your child knocks over or drops a frame, the glass can shatter and cut him, even in a carpeted room, while cords can easily get around your baby’s neck so tie up electric cords, drape cords, or curtain cords so they are less than six inches long and out of your child’s reach. Important to note also, parents should always ensure that all medication is stored in a lockable cabinet and is not within easy reach of children,” she says.
Christopher Mugabo, a father of one, admits that one of his biggest fears is accidentally running over his child. Although he has only seen this in the movies, the possibility that it could happen frightens him to the bone that he ensures extra caution at home.
“Whether I arrive home or leave, my boy wants his hug but knowing that he is playful, it’s risky to just start the car and drive because it is impossible to see from inside a car, especially if they are immediately behind it. They can move quickly and are unpredictable and interruptions to the usual family routines such as the presence of visitors can increase the risk of run-over occurring for toddlers. I always make sure I know where my son is before I reverse out of the driveway,” he says.
For Nadine Mukarulinda, a banker and mother of two, the bathroom is an underrated risk area for most parents as it involves slips and falls, drowning, electric shocks, and exposure to hazardous chemicals. There are a number of bedroom safety hazards to consider
“Some tiles can be slippery and detergent or soap left on the floor can cause them to trip, and some dangerous chemicals and cleaning products kept in the kitchen, laundry and medicine cabinet can also be hazardous. Make sure these are put away immediately after use and stored in a locked or out-of-reach cupboard. Secure rugs to avoid slipping and water pooling on slick surfaces,” she advises.
Overall, Twiringire says that unless they live in an empty space, children cannot be totally safe from injury because it’s naturally part of growth. However, applying safety measures while building and organising the home with their safety in mind can save parents from dealing with hazards that they can control.
“Doing the basics, such as securely fixed floors, especially tiles, adequate lighting, stair and safety gates, if there are small children in the home, can be of big help. Adults are sometimes prone to accidents in the home so imagine the horror if children are involved. Also learn from mistakes and take precautionary measures,” he says.
WHAT ARE YOUR VIEWS ON CHILD SAFETY AT HOME?
When building or renovating your house, you can incorporate specific safety features in your design. Incorporating safety features at the design point in the majority of cases will be much more economical than to amend and make safer at a later time. The time to start making some changes or additions is well before your baby begins to crawl.
Stuart Uwizeye, Parent
Children mostly below six years are unable to assess the risks that hot water, household chemicals, sharp objects, and stairs pose. Their perception of the environment around them is often limited and their lack of experience and development can result in them being injured. That’s why it’s important to follow up on your child’s development, such as crawling, picking up things and walking and ensure that the environment is safe.
Rebekah Talitha, Pharmacist
Keep your home brightly lit to avoid tripping on objects that are hard to see and make your house as spacious as possible. It decreases the risk of tripping and allows room for toddlers to play freely without things getting in their way.
Joseph Kanamugire, Parent
Minor injuries such as bumps and bruises are unavoidable, but there are some things you can do to help protect your child from more serious and potentially life-threatening accidents. Supervising your child carefully, being aware of any potential risks and finding ways to avoid them will protect them. Look around for any potential harmful things and get them out of the way.
Doreen Mutesi, Parent