It’s November! Time for turkeys, pumpkin pies and snuggling up around grandma’s table. Traveling for the holidays outside their familiar, babyproofed environment can be exciting for toddlers and babies, but it can also pose dangers: flickering gas flames on the range, little sockets to stuff chubby fingers into and all sorts of fun candy-like pills and medicines in unfamiliar bathrooms.
“Unintentional injuries are the number one cause of death in kids 1-14,” says Rebecca Layton, a pediatric wellness and safety expert at St. Joseph Children’s Hospital. “The good news is that they are preventable.”
To keep babies safe while staying in a relative’s home or hotel this Thanksgiving, Layton has one big tip: Crawl. Literally. Layton suggests parents actually get down on their hands and knees and see the room through their little one’s perspective. You’d be surprised at all the coins, Barbie shoes, batteries, Lego pieces and other choking hazards that often lie hidden way down there that a baby’s sharp gaze would pick out. “If it fits in a toilet paper roll—about 1.5 inches wide—it shouldn’t be in a child’s mouth,” says Layton.
However, suggesting babyproofing measures to hotel staff might be easier than trying to convince the relative in whose house you are staying. Grandparents, for example, might balk and state that they raised plenty of children without door knob covers and did just fine. Layton suggests gently but firmly pointing out that over the past 30 years, seatbelts, carseats and babyproofing have decreased deaths among babies and toddlers by 60 percent. “It’s a small step to take in order to keep children safe,” she says.
Here’s our guide for baby proofing your little one’s environment this holiday. For more ideas (or safety tools that can also double as perfect Christmas presents for the new parents in your life), visit the Safety Store at St. Joseph’s Children’s Hospital. Check out https://baycare.org/sjch/for-patientsvisitors/the-safety-store for more information.
A room-by-room guide on how to baby proofing your Thanksgiving pad:
IN THE KITCHEN
- Gossiping while stirring gravy is fun, but don’t carry baby while cooking. Just seat him in a high chair within your range of vision. Use back burners to minimize scalding spills and slap some knob covers on the stove top to prevent little hands from fiddling. You can buy oven locks too, so if baby decides to heave herself up holding the handlebar, the door will stay locked.
- Go through cabinets for potentially toxic items—mothballs, cleaners, sharp knives—and make sure they’re secured in a cabinet with child locks.
- Check to see if the house or hotel has a fire extinguisher, working fire alarm and carbon monoxide detector in place.
- Keep cleaning supplies in their original containers; that way if a child accidentally ingests something, you’ll be able to tell the doctor what it was. Also have the Poison Control number handy: 800-222-1222.
IN THE BATHROOM
- Lock away medicines and makeup. Those pill boxes in which people keep multiple medications can look very much like a fun toy.
- Set the hot water thermometer to 120 degrees or lower to prevent scalding in the shower.
- Never leave babies unattended in the bath, even for the few seconds it takes to go grab a towel. Leave the cell phone in the bedroom to prevent becoming distracted by texts or calls.
- Babies are top heavy and can drown in an inch of water, so lock the toilet lid too.
IN THE BEDROOM
- It can be difficult to get baby to sleep in a strange room or house, but Layton asks that parents keep the ABCs of safe sleep in mind: A for let baby sleep alone; B for put them on their backs; and C for let them sleep in a crib (or approved sleep furniture).
- As tempting as it might have been for grandma to tuck baby under her handmade blanket or decorate the guest room with cute bedding, all baby needs is a tightly fitted crib sheet and sleep sack for warmth. Loose bedding and crib bumpers can cause suffocation. For older kids, use a bedrail.
- Keep an eye out for heavy bookcases or dressers that may not be attached to the wall; they could tip over if a toddler uses the shelves or drawers as steps to climb and explore.
- Watch out for flat screen TVs—they can tip over and hurt a child.
- Make sure the fireplace has a cover.
- Coffee tables and other furniture tops have sharp edges that can hurt kids; pop a few furniture corner cushions in your bag when you pack for your trip so you can slip them on to problematic areas.
- In all rooms—loop up blind cords; they can be a strangulation hazard.
Tampa Bay Parenting’s Favorite Safety Items to Pack n Go:
- Safety 1st Finger Pinch Guard. Protects fingers (young and old) from accidentally getting pinched in a closing door. Suggested retail price $2.49.
- Safety 1st Press Plug Protectors. The protectors are removable and reusable and help stop sharp objects or fingers from poking into unused electrical outlets. Approximately $3.00.
- Safety 1st Cabinet Slide Locks 2-pack. Installs easily to the handles or knobs of the cabinet and helps keep your child away from the contents inside. Suggested retail price $3.49.
- Safety 1st Grip ‘n Twist Door Knob Covers. They provide parents access to door knob for a better grip when entering the room. Designed to blend in with your home décor. Suggested retail price $3.49
- GE Window or Door Alarm. Designed to activate when the magnetic contact is broken, such as when a window or door is opened. Easy to install with no wiring. Approximately $10-$14.
Written by Anu Varma Panchal