This topic suggests ways to help prevent illness and accidental injuries in young children. It does not cover every risk that a child faces, but it does cover many of the most common hazards and situations that can be dangerous to children ages 2 to 5 years.
Children in this age range are gaining many new skills and feel more and more independent. They may be curious, want to explore the world around them, and act without thinking. This can lead to dangerous situations.
Your child is gaining in confidence and probably wants to explore. But your child still needs your close supervision and guidance. You can:
Understand that your child will go through active and curious phases. Recognize these periods, and think about what you can do to avoid safety hazards. If your child is discovering the joys of riding a tricycle, for example, be sure to make riding in the street off limits.
No one can watch a child's every move or make a home 100% safe all the time. Try to find a balance among supervising your child, taking safety precautions, and allowing your child to explore.
Taking care of yourself is a vital part of keeping your child safe. Most injuries to children happen when parents or caregivers are tired, hungry, or emotionally drained or are having relationship problems. Other common causes of family stress include changes in daily routines, moving to a new house, or expecting another child.
Learn all you can about child growth and development. Doing so can help you learn what to expect and how to handle certain situations.
If you feel stressed, get help. Talk to your doctor or your child's doctor, or see a counsellor. Get together regularly with family and friends, or join a parenting group.
Call 911 right away if you feel you are about to hurt yourself or your child.
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Frequently Asked Questions
Learning about health and safety issues:
Protection against harmful germs:
The importance of parental self-care:
Handling food safely, practicing basic hygiene to prevent communicable diseases, and getting regular physical examinations and immunizations are all healthy habits that help protect your child against illness and infection.
Thorough cleaning and food preparation helps keep you and your child from getting food-borne illnesses. Do your best to also choose restaurants that handle food safely.
Experts recommend the following steps to prevent food poisoning:
For more information, see the topic Food Poisoning and Safe Food Handling.
Although colds and flu are more common in the colder months, they can occur any time of year. Take extra precautions to help protect your child against these and other viral and bacterial infections.
Schedule regular well-child appointments. During these visits, the doctor:
Preventing your child from having accidents and injuries is a huge task. Children ages 2 to 5 years reason with self-centred perceptions and magical thinking. These thought patterns lead children to overestimate what is in their control, which contributes to their vulnerability. They are often unaware of the consequences of their actions.
You can help protect your child from accidents and injuries by taking general safety measures around your home. Also, think ahead about what potentially dangerous situations will attract your child.
Some parents think that strict safety measures are not needed because their child is closely supervised or has not yet shown an interest in dangerous areas or items. Although responsible supervision is important, it is not realistic to think that you can watch your child's every move or that he or she will never become curious about something off-limits. Also, constant hovering over children can limit their experiences and confidence. Balancing supervision with safety precautions will help prevent accidents and injuries, as well as allow children to explore.
The following are common accidents and injuries that can occur around the house, and some suggestions on how to prevent them.
Preventing falls is not always easy. Toddlers and young children often move quickly. Their excitement about their mobility and their lack of experience can make them unaware of dangers, such as stairs or hills. Children ages 4 to 5 years anticipate many dangers but may not have the physical skills to successfully avoid accidents. You can help prevent young children from falling by putting up stairway barriers, monitoring their play area, and providing stable play equipment. Also, keep walkways, decks, porches, and stairways free of objects.
Children ages 2 to 5 years can easily choke on everyday objects and food. Your child needs your supervision even though he or she may be able to eat independently.
You can help prevent choking by taking basic precautions in how you prepare foods and by teaching your child safe eating habits.
Many household items can strangle a young child. Make sure loose cords, objects, and furniture do not pose strangling risks. The following suggestions can help you reduce potential hazards.
Suffocation is another danger for young children. Teach your child about suffocation and the importance of a safe play area. Pay attention to possible suffocation dangers, such as:
To prevent poisoning, identify household cleaners and other chemicals, plants, medicines, makeup, perfumes, and any other products that, when eaten or inhaled, can harm a child. It is critical to properly store these items out of reach of young children. If you have a possible poisoning emergency, call 911 or your local or provincial Poison Control Centre immediately. For more information, see the topic Poisoning.
Lead poisoning is another cause for concern in young children who may chew on contaminated paint flakes, painted objects, or toys. House paint is no longer made with lead, but homes built before 1978 may still have lead paint on walls and other surfaces. For more information about lead, see the topic Lead Poisoning.
Prevent carbon monoxide poisoning by frequently monitoring levels and taking precautionary measures, such as having your furnace checked each year. Carbon monoxide (CO) is a colourless, odourless, and tasteless gas. It is produced from burning fuels such as natural gas, gasoline, fuel oil, or wood (for example, in indoor heating systems, car engines, cooking appliances, or fires). High CO levels quickly affect young children because of their small size. For more information, see the topic Carbon Monoxide Poisoning.
Prevent household fires by having and maintaining smoke detectors, planning and practicing escape routes, and teaching your child basic fire safety skills. Children ages 2 to 5 are often curious about fire. Warn your child about the dangers of fire, and explain why only grown-ups are allowed to use it.
Serious burns are most often caused by heat, electricity, or chemicals. Other types of burns include radiation burns (usually from sun exposure) and friction burns. Prevent burn injuries to your child by identifying dangers in your home and removing them or blocking your child's access to them. For more information, see the topic Burns.
Gun and firearm safety measures should be established for all households and especially those where children live or visit. Keep all guns and firearms in a locked area, unloaded, and out of reach of children. Also, store knives (even kitchen knives), swords, and other weapons safely out of reach.
Pets are in many households. Children who live in homes without pets likely will encounter animals in other settings. Many injuries can be avoided by teaching children how to properly interact with pets. Also, pet owners who train and keep their animals healthy are less likely to have problems when children are around.
Drowning is the second most common cause of accidental death among children ages 1 to 4 in Canada.2 Help prevent a drowning tragedy by following these recommendations:
In addition to these precautions, learn first aid and CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation). Knowing these skills can make the difference between life and death in an emergency situation. For more information, see the topic Dealing With Emergencies.
It is a constant challenge to keep your child safe. Children ages 2 to 5 years often do not recognize dangers without constant reminders because they reason with self-centred (egocentric) perceptions and magical thinking. These thought patterns lead children to overestimate what is in their control, which contributes to their vulnerability. They are often unaware of the consequences of their actions.
You cannot protect your child from every danger he or she can possibly encounter outside the home. But you can equip your child with some basic safety rules and precautions. Let your child's natural surroundings give you ideas for general training to help prepare your child for a variety of situations he or she may face.
To help avoid accidents, injuries, and unsafe situations outside the home, establish and review basic rules before outings and frequently reinforce them. And let other caregivers know about them.
Before your child visits an unfamiliar home, ask whether you need to be aware of any dangerous areas, weapons in the home, pets, or other safety issues. Also, it is always a good idea to see the household for yourself. Don't be afraid to voice any concerns you have about safety. You are ultimately responsible for protecting your child.
Before enrolling your child in daycare, evaluate the environment and talk with the care providers. Ask questions about their safety guidelines. Identify any hazards and ask how they are handled. Inspect the food preparation area and ask how often it is cleaned and with what kinds of products. For more information, see the topic Choosing Child Care.
Many parents and caregivers want to share their favourite activities with their young children. This can help build common interests and appreciation for exercise and other pursuits. Be sure, however, to recognize the safety issues related to these activities. Remember that your child's comfort and safety are most important.
All parents have times when they feel exhausted, frustrated, angry, sad, or overwhelmed. Recognize that this is a normal part of being human and a parent. But if these feelings become too much for you to handle alone, keep your child safe by getting help. For example, when your emotions are too much for you to handle alone, you may not have the energy or desire to watch your child as closely as you should. Some parents injure their children when their emotions cause them to shake, hit, or push them. This can result in such problems as shaken baby syndrome, which can cause permanent brain damage or even death.
Call 911 right away if you feel you are about to injure yourself or your child.
Places to go for help include:
For more information on physical harm to children, see the topics Shaken Baby Syndrome and Child Abuse and Neglect. For more information on handling difficult emotions, see the topics Depression, Anxiety, and Anger, Hostility, and Violent Behaviour.
|Product Safety Program, Health Canada|
|Health Canada, Healthy Environments and Consumer Safety Branch (HECS)|
The Health Canada Product Safety Program works to prevent product-related death, illness, and injury. The Product Safety Bureau regulates and monitors compliance for the advertisement, sale, and importation of hazardous or potentially hazardous products to protect consumers and workers. The Web site provides a wide variety of information and education materials for the public.
|Canada Safety Council|
|1020 Thomas Spratt Place|
|Ottawa, ON K1G 5L5|
The Canada Safety Council is a national, non-government, charitable organization dedicated to safety and to helping reduce preventable deaths, injuries, and economic loss in public and private places throughout Canada. The CSC provides resources for safety information, education, and awareness in all aspects of Canadian life—in traffic, at home, at work, and at leisure. The CSC Web site offers a wide variety of safety-related information and education materials for the general public.
|Canadian Coalition for Immunization Awareness and Promotion|
|c/o Canadian Public Health Association|
|300 - 1565 Carling Avenue|
|Ottawa, ON K1Z 8R1|
|Phone:||(613) 725-3769 ext. 122|
The Canadian Coalition for Immunization Awareness and Promotion (CCIAP) is a coalition of national organizations committed to promotion and education on immunization. Its website includes information on immunizations, diseases, and vaccines for adults and children.
|Canadian Paediatric Society|
|2305 Saint Laurent Boulevard|
|Ottawa, ON K1G 4J8|
The Canadian Paediatric Society (CPS) promotes quality health care for Canadian children and establishes guidelines for paediatric care. The organization offers educational materials on a variety of topics, including information on immunizations, pregnancy, safety issues, and teen health.
|Safe Kids Canada 36 Eglinton Avenue West, Suite 704Toronto, ON M4R 1A1|
Safe Kids Canada is a national injury prevention program provided by the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto. The website provides information on keeping children safe and preventing injuries.
- National Center for Injury Prevention and Control (2010). Fireworks-related injuries. Available online: http://www.cdc.gov/homeandrecreationalsafety/fireworks/index.html.
- Nguyen BH, et al. (2003, reaffirmed 2008). Swimming lessons for infants and toddlers. Paediatrics and Child Health, 8(2): 113–114. Available online: http://www.cps.ca/english/statements/IP/IP03-01.htm.
- Van Schaik C, et al. (2008). Transportation of infants and children in motor vehicles. Paediatrics and Child Health, 13(4): 313–318. Also available online: http://www.cps.ca/en/documents/position/car-seat-safety.
- American Academy of Pediatrics (2009). Keeping your child safe. In SP Shevlov et al., eds., Caring for Your Baby and Young Child: Birth to Age 5, 5th ed., pp. 457–506. New York: Bantam.
Other Works Consulted
- American Academy of Pediatrics (accessed November 2008). Pool safety for children. The Injury Prevention Program (TIPP). Available online: http://www.aap.org/family/tipppool.htm.
- Bunik M, et al. (2011). Anticipatory guidance section of Ambulatory and office pediatrics. In WW Hay Jr et al., eds., Current Diagnosis and Treatment: Pediatrics, 20th ed., pp. 230–232. New York: McGraw-Hill.
- Committee on Injury and Poison Prevention, American Academy of Pediatrics (2001, reaffirmed 2010). Falls from heights: Windows, roofs, and balconies. Pediatrics, 107(5): 1188–1191.
- Committee on Injury and Poison Prevention, American Academy of Pediatrics (2002, reaffirmed 2009). Policy statement: Skateboard and scooter injuries. Pediatrics, 109(3): 542–543.
- Committee on Injury, Violence, and Poison Prevention, American Academy of Pediatrics (2009). Policy statement: Pedestrian safety. Pediatrics, 124(2): 802–812.
- Committee on Injury, Violence, and Poison Prevention, American Academy of Pediatrics (2010). Prevention of choking among children. Pediatrics, 125(3): 601–607.
- Gardner HG, American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Injury, Violence, and Poison Prevention (2007). Clinical report: Office-based counseling for unintentional injury prevention. Pediatrics, 119(1): 202–206.
- Kendrick D, et al. (2007). Home safety education and provision of safety equipment for injury prevention. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews (1).
- Window Covering Safety Council (accessed 2010). Basic cord safety. Available online: http://www.windowcoverings.org/basic_cord_safety.html.
|Primary Medical Reviewer||Susan C. Kim, MD - Pediatrics|
|Primary Medical Reviewer||Anne C. Poinier, MD - Internal Medicine|
|Specialist Medical Reviewer||Thomas Emmett Francoeur, MD, MDCM, CSPQ, FRCPC - Pediatrics|
|Last Revised||January 31, 2012|
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Last Revised: January 31, 2012
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