I found out I am not the only one with this problem. Here's an email I received.
I have a 2 1/2 (tall) toddler who loves to climb and scale things. We are house shopping, and my husband wants to make an offer on a 2 story house. The upstairs has a large L-shaped open loft area, which looks straight down to the downstairs area with 15' ceilings. I am terrified that our toddler will scale the railings, climb over and attempt to fly down.
I have been looking online for childproofing, but all I've seen is area of concern about children getting stuck between the railings and suffocating, which leads me to yet another fear. There are suggestions of using nettings, etc. I see some suggestions about plexi-glass and acrylic, but everything is very vague. Please help me figure out how I can make the balcony railing (loft) area safe.
Maryanne's question was just the kick I needed to get some real answers about this! I talked to the President of the non-profit Home Safety Council. Meri-K Appy said she doesn't know of a specific product that would help with this railing issue, but she gave me some good tips. "A lot of time with these things we may be making it up as it goes, " she said.
1. Measure the staircase and purchase a piece of plexi-glass from a hardware store that would fit that spot and maybe even reach a feet or two higher than the railing. Have the hardware store cut holes in the glass at each end and in the middle so you can secure it to the railing. You might need to hire a handy man to make sure it is snug. "The plexi-glass needs to be .08 to .125 inches thick. Make sure you go right down to the ground," said Meri-K. Unlike railings, the glass is slippery, so the child would have to get an extremely tall object in front of the railing in order to get over the plexi-glass. Meri-K said, "If you have plexi-glass, it removes a couple of dangers. If it's just the railings, he might be able to grab on to the railings and climb. The plexi glass also prevents him from sticking his arms and legs through the bars." (the coverings made for railings that are sold on the Internet are usually not thick enough.)2. Make sure there are no light-weight, large objects on the upper level that a child could potentially move and stand-on. Watch out for laundry baskets, trash cans and diaper pales. "You are doing that environmental scan. What is it on the upper floor that can get his hands on? You're trying to be one step ahead of them," said Meri-K.
3. Use safety monitors. If your child is asleep in one room, make sure you have the safety monitor on so you can hear when he wakes up.
4. If those steps aren't enough, put a tall safety gate at his bedroom door(the ones made for pets are much taller). That way he needs you to come get him when he wakes up instead of walking out of the bedroom to the railing at the top of the stairs.
Meri-K cautions these suggestions are not fool-proof. A watchful eye is key. "The truth is when it comes to injury prevention or safety, really supervision can sometimes be the only thing. There's some back-up. It is good if everybody in the house is really aware of the danger," said Meri-K. She says if your little one is prone to certain dangers, make sure the grandparents and babysitters realize the danger. She also says using safe guards like the plexi-glass and gates is not a perfect solution, but those steps will give parents the time to get to a child before something bad happens.
The Home Safety Council just started this mysafehome.org website where you can click on an area of a virtual home and see what safety issues occur around that area and how to fix them.
And just a little tip from me. I asked the Home Safety Council to look at these window locks I found on the Internet from Safe and Sound. My double hung windows on the second floor really scare me with the kids. These inexpensive locks I found let the parent easily open the window, but the child can only open it four inches. Meri-K says she hasn't seen these, but she does have a lot of parents ask her about putting bars across the window. She advises against those unless they are easy for an adult to take off. She said she has talked to firefighters who can't get into the window because of those bars.
How do you keep your kids safe in your home?
Methodist Medical Center's new online healthcare program, MyMethodist eHealth, is a proud sponsor of this blog post. MyMethodist eHealth is the secure link to your doctor's office that lets you request appointments, order prescription refills, update your personal health record, and more. Sign up for MyMethodist eHealth here.