As parents, we put our all into making our homes safe for our children. We keep chemicals and medicines out of reach, place locks and covers on cabinets, toilet lids, and electrical outlets. We are careful about everything, and every one, that comes into our home. Yet despite our best efforts, some dangers remain.
Recent tragedies and the resulting recalls of products manufactured for children have made us look hard at everything our children touch. In an effort to protect my own child, I have been scouring recall lists and other safety information. Along the way, I made a shocking discovery. One of the top hidden dangers for children is something we all have in our homes: furniture. In fact, furniture tipovers are #3 on the list of hidden dangers for children according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, right behind magnets and recalled toys.
While numbers vary according to the reporting agency, each year thousands of people are injured from falling furniture. Many of these injuries are sustained by children; some of them fatal. For a truly heartbreaking story, visit the Lambert family’s website. The Lamberts lost their beautiful daughter when a wardrobe fell on her in her bedroom. In her memory the family has launched a website and a campaign to educate the public about the dangers of furniture tipovers.
As the mother of an active 2-year-old, I know how fast things can go wrong. The doorbell rings, the pot boils over, the buzzer on the dryer beckons, and the child who was playing quietly when I left the room might be climbing the bookshelf when I return. Most tipover accidents occur, in fact, when a child is alone. But we know it is impossible to watch a child every second of the day, and children need places in the home where they are completely safe, even alone, for a few moments. Home is their haven, the place to explore and experience their first taste of independence.
They have lobbied congress to put warnings on furniture that could easily tip over on a child. But warnings notwithstanding, only parents can make sure our children are safe from harm. While there is no way to eliminate every danger a child faces, below are a few tips to help make your home and furnishings as safe as possible.
TVs: TVs are interesting, awkward, and heavy, perfect candidates for little climbers. Make sure you place them low to the ground on a stable piece of furniture. And never put remote controls, favorite DVDs, or anything else that might tempt a child on top of the TV.
Placement of Toys: This “temptation factor” applies to the whole home. Never put toys, pictures, or any coveted items in a position that will encourage a child to climb on a bookshelf, a dresser, or any unstable surface.
Heavy Objects: Never place heavy objects like books or speakers on top shelves. Put them low on the shelves, or secured in cabinets.
Discourage Children from Climbing on Furniture: It is easier for a child to understand “never” than to discern which piece of furniture might be dangerous.
Purchasing New Furniture: When possible, choose furniture that is set on a wide, sturdy base, rather than legs. Test it to see if it will tip over by pushing on edges.
Pack Dressers from Bottom Up: This way it will be bottom-heavy instead of top-heavy.
Secure Furniture with an Anti-Tip Device: Some items, like dressers, wardrobes, bookshelves and hutches, cannot be secure on their own. For such furniture, purchase an anti-tip device. Examples of anti-tip devices include safety straps, “L” brackets or the Hangman Anti-Tip Kit.
Sheila Gallien is a noted screenplay consultant who also writes articles on picture hanging and home and workplace organizing systems in her spare time.