Minor injuries in young children are common and part of growing up. However, more serious preventable injuries that lead to a child being hospitalised, disabled or to die, are the ones we want to prevent. Serious falls account for the most injuries that end up in hospital among young children across the UK.
These injuries usually happen in the home or in the garden, and there’s plenty you can do to reduce a falls risk.
Did You Know?
- Most falls happen when children take their parents by surprise. How many times have you heard yourself saying “She learns so quickly” or “I didn’t realise he could do that yet!”?
- Serious head injuries and fractures can lead to permanent disability of a young child and have a massive effect on all the family.
- Small changes around the home can help prevent these injuries
To make the advice quick and easy to access, we will divide the information into age categories; Babies; Crawlers; Toddlers; Running Free; and School Starters.
Babies develop quickly and within the first few months they can roll, wriggle and kick. You can stop them from falling from a height by making sure that they are in a safe place like a cot or on the floor. It’s best not to leave them on the bed or a sofa. When you carry a baby at home and especially on the stairs, hold onto the rail and ensure there are no trip hazards around.This will avoid serious injury.
Changing and sitting – The floor is the safest place to change your baby. If they’re sitting in a bouncing cradle or baby car seat they can still wriggle and move in the seat, so always keep these on the floor too.
Highchairs and pushchairs – These should come with a five-point harness to stop your baby from falling out of the seat Remember to refer to our guide on buying this equipment – which can be found here
Baby walkers – Are not recommended by health professionals as they increase the risk of injury to babies and there is no evidence that they help your baby to walk. If you do decide to use a baby walker make sure it complies with British Standard BS EN 1273: 2005. Older walkers can tip over, and can be dangerous for your baby.
When babies begin to sit unaided, and then start to crawl they can suddenly move quite quickly and get to places unexpectedly. This sometimes catches parents and carers out and it is the time to think about child safety gates to keep them safe from harm and prevent them climbing the stairs. Making your home as safe as possible will help prevent a serious falls injury.
Exploring – When your baby starts crawling, areas you hadn’t considered now become a risk. A new world to explore is opened up to your child and brings its own dangers. Crawlers may start pulling themselves up onto chairs and sofas and will be a bit wobbly. Soft corners fixed to coffee tables and low units,can help avoid your child falling on sharp corners.
By the stairs and balconies – When children start to crawl, they’ll make a beeline for the stairs! It’s safest to use safety gates until they are 24 months. And it’s good practice to install one at the base of the stairs and one to stop your child getting near the top of the stairs. You can install the latter one at the top of the stairs – but it’s not the best place as it may cause a trip hazard for the adult carrying the child. Fixing it a bit further away from the stairs,e.g. across the landing, or the doorway of your child’s bedroom would be better. See our safety gate buying guide by clicking here.
Toddlers are very inquisitive, and often take their parents by surprise as they develop so quickly.
Climbing – Most toddlers love to climb and explore, and there’s usually a multitude of things around the house for them to try! Safety gates (see above) can be used until they are 24 months old.to stop them climbing the stairs or falling down them. You may want to board up any gaps in horizontal banisters to stop them climbing over them. This is a good time to show your toddler how to climb up and down stairs safely. Adult supervision is important to keep them safe.
Balconies – A number of young children are seriously injured or die each year as a result of a fall from a balcony. There should be a barrier at least 110cms (43’’) high around the edge of the balcony. Furniture of any kind or large pot plants can be a hazard if a child uses them to climb up. Also, check the width of the railings on your balcony, if there are gaps of more than 6.5cm a young child could squeeze through and it is recommended they are boarded up. Young children should be kept away from balconies unless accompanied by an adult, this can be done by keeping doors to balconies locked with the keys out of the child’s reach.
Windows– Toddlers can climb onto furniture placed near windows and then onto a window sill. You can fit window restrictors which stop your windows from opening wider than 6.5cm. It is advisable in the child’s bedroom where they spend time alone, to keep cots, beds and furniture well away from the window to prevent a child falling out.
Beds – Falls from bunk beds are common in young children and result in sprains and fractures. Young children often use them as an indoor climbing frame, although they are not designed for this purpose. Bunk beds are not recommended for children under 6 years of age. If you have bunk beds for older children, discourage children playing on them.
Running free/School Children
Between the ages of 3 and 5 children enjoy testing their skills and challenging themselves and their play becomes more adventurous and imaginative. Their understanding of risk and consequence is limited, and they are likely to forget simple safety instructions, particularly if they are excited, distracted or tired and upset. They need to be encouraged to test their abilities through play and experimentation and an attentive adult can encourage and support the child while minimising the risk of serious injury by being close by and alert.
Stairs – Show children how to hold on to the banister on the stairs and remind them not to run or play on stairs.
Outdoor play – Ensure your child is the right age to play on home play equipment like trampolines or climbing frames. It’s a good idea to check the equipment regularly and make sure it is secure and safe to use. Public parks and playgrounds generally have modern equipment in them that meet the British Standard. However, adult supervision is most important to prevent the risk of a serious injury. A fall from the top of a climbing frame in a park will result in an injury. Child injury experts currently have concerns about mobile device distraction when adults are looking after children, as they may be focusing on their phone and not the child.
Cycle helmets – Encourage children to always wear a cycle helmet whenever they’re on their bikes or scooters. A fall onto any hard surface can cause serious injuries – and young children’s heads are more fragile than an adult’s.
Playing at home – Playing outside and running around is great for your child’s health and fitness. Giving your garden a safety makeover means your child can have fun without getting injured. It’s best to put play equipment over something soft like a mat, soft earth or well-watered grass. If you’ve got paving slabs, check they’re level and not cracked – it’ll help prevent those painful trips and falls.
Younger siblings – Children love to show how helpful they are by carrying younger brothers or sisters around, but they can easily fall with them – especially on stairs.