Friday, August 1, 2008

2 story house and kid's safety

I am a little worried about my little ones scaling the railing at our two story house and falling to the first floor. I have been trying to decide what I can do to prevent this or at least make it harder to do. My 17-month-old is a climber! He is always grabbing food boxes and toys and standing on them to reach something higher.

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.

Thank you,


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 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?

-NewsAnchorMom Jen

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Rachael said...

I have an open loft area. (about 10.5 feet up) I have always worried, but the kids have never tried to go over - and my youngest is the wildest climber/scaler/jumper EVER. If he can't climb it, he drags a chair over to it. I watch them like a hawk when they are upstairs. All our bedrooms are downstairs, so they don't go up there often as there isn't much to do up there. Maybe that's a tip - make sure you keep the toys and fun stuff downstairs! My bigger problem has been my 2-yr-old throwing things over. One day I was vacuuming the stairs, so I had the gate open and was struck in the back of the head by a heavy shake-n-go car. It cut my scalp and hurt for a week! I hope he wasn't actually aiming for me! ;o)

Shannon said...

We bought a roll of that thinner, plexi-glass like stuff for the railing at our last house. I think we got it from the One Step Ahead catalog, which (at the time anyway) had a lot of great child safety stuff.

It worked well, but if my memory serves there did come a time when it started to tear away and we took it down. I don't think we had it up when our third child was born. It was very sturdy despite not being plexiglass and in the end probably lasted about 3-4 years.

We have a landing area at the top of our steps now where our kids watch TV and my husband and I have realized that putting a couch up against that railing is a bad idea until our kids are much, much older!

I'll have to look into those locks. I didn't realize until we moved in but by building a 2-story house I have those fears about my kids too. We also have double-hung windows and I make sure whenever I open them that I open from the top down. I also keep them locked and the rule is that only mommy or daddy opens them, but we need more security than that!

Copper's Wife said...

I have those locks on our windows. We found them at Lowe's. We got them so our daughter couldn't open the windows up and to keep unwanted outside people out. (burglars) They are easy to install and I don't even know if my 4 year old knows they are there. said...

I am still undecided about what to do with the railing after all this! It would be nice to just order the thing from one step ahead-a lot easier than going to a hardware store, etc. I did get two really nice safety gates at Baby Depot-They're Eddie Baurer brand only $40.00. I am glad to know I am not the only one worried about the kids falling from the second floor! My windows are low to the ground too! Double trouble!

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