Keeping up with your little one is hard to do in any situation, let alone a rental property where modifications are limited or can take time to get approval for.
Thankfully many baby-proofing pieces are designed to be temporary, after all, your little mover and shaker will soon be able to get around without injuring themselves in no time.
Here are some ways to make your home baby-smart while ensuring you get your bond back on your rental property.
First thing’s first. Making your home baby-smart is not just about doing the right thing, it’s about saving your baby from serious harm or death. According to Kidsafe Australia over 150 Australian children (aged 0-14 years) are killed and over 68,000 hospitalised as a result of unintentional injuries (accidents) every year. Most injuries can be prevented.
Here is a list of common children’s injury and fatalities from accidents in Australia.
From baby furniture (including cots, prams, change tables and high chairs), bicycles and playground equipment.
Bookcases or televisions falling down onto children, fingers or hands getting jammed in doors.
Car accidents, not using child seat harnesses correctly, and being hit by vehicles on the road, footpath or driveway.
Injuries from glass, scissors, knives
Hot taps and running hot tap water, kettles, hot drinks, hot liquid food like soups and noodles.
Usually in backyard swimming pools, also open water, like lakes, rivers and oceans, although children can drown in very shallow water, like ponds, buckets and bathtubs.
Accidental incorrect use of medications or accidental ingestion of poison through household cleaners (detergents, bleach).
It’s hard to believe that accidents are a bigger killer in Australia than cancer and asthma combined. The good news is prevention of accidents is easy, all it takes is some awareness and preparation.
Here is a list of things to check around your home (whether your existing home or a potential new rental property). It is best to do these checks as early as possible, even before your baby arrives. Although it will be some time before your bub is active, the time will fly and having a spare moment to think about safety equipment later on is rare.
If you live in a raised building, where there is a significant drop between an opening window and the ground it is your landlord’s responsibility to provide devices that limit the window opening size. However, it is your responsibility as the parent or guardian to use these locks at all times. Crawling babies and young children can and will go exploring outside of windows, not understanding the tragic consequences of the fall.
Stairs are a big hazard as they are difficult for children to navigate, especially babies who are top heavy. Even if you only have a few stairs they can cause injury. Never allow a child to use a ride-on or sit-in wheeled holder or toy around stairs. The best way to keep your child safe around stairs is to place a child safety gate at the top and bottom of the staircase.
Pressure-mounted gates don’t require you to drill into the wall and you can further protect your wall from buffering damage by inserting a Protect-A-Wall® on each side of the gate to help distribute the load to a wider area.
Gates are also a good way to keep children out of accident-prone areas like kitchens, bathrooms, laundries and garages.
You will need to lock cupboards, doors and drawers to prevent little hands rummaging through. This is especially important for cupboards that hold sharp objects, cleaning agents, medical supplies and alcohol, which also includes the fridge. You can get sturdy locks that are adhesive that won’t cause any damage to the surfaces they are attached to.
When children are tall enough to reach doorknobs it’s essential that you use additional safety locks on your entry doors to prevent children getting out onto the street. You might need permission for this type of lock to be installed. Some children are determined escape artists and they can get into trouble outside very quickly, especially as it may take you a few minutes to realise they are missing.
Until they are able to reach door handles closing doors to bathrooms, kitchens and laundries when not in use will be enough to contain them.
Get on all fours and go exploring, this is what your child will do. There are so many small discarded items that can pose choking hazards so make a point of buzzing around on all fours to find them. Lollies, tablets, coins, tissues, these small things are easy to miss from above but will jump out at you from ground level.
Pay attention to the places where items turn up most frequently i.e. under the couch or entertainment cabinet, and make a point of cleaning these areas thoroughly with a vacuum or spot-check frequently.
Drop and topple risks
While you are on your hands and knees checking the floor, also look around at what’s available at your new eye level.
What might a child be able to reach from shelves and coffee tables, only to be crushed beneath it?
Look for cords, books, equipment, picture frames and mementoes that a child might like to pull down and move it to another location. Another danger is anything a child might try to climb, like a bookshelf or cabinet. The weight of a child is easily enough to have the furniture fall down on top of them. Look for furniture that provides a sturdy base on your floor surface, carpets can pose a bigger risk than hard floors. If you are concerned about unstable furniture you can request permission from your landlord to have the item secured to the wall or you might like to gate off the area.
Unused power points are highly attractive to children. It’s a great place to stick things, like forks, toys and fingers. Baby safe plugs are an easy way to cover any open power points. Any power points that are in use also need to be secured to prevent the power cord being pulled, chewed on or ripped out. Securing cords to the floor with duct tape is enough to deter your little one.
Cords, ribbons and straps can cause a strangling hazard as well as a choking hazard. This is especially critical around sleeping areas; cots, beds and bunks.
In your own home you can choose to install curtains and blinds that are cord-free, in a rental home, however, you get what comes with the property. While you can request new blinds to be installed your landlord is not obligated to do so. Cords that hang down need to be moved out of reach of children. The easiest way to do this is to secure an adhesive double-ended hook high up (or use two adhesive hooks the top one right side up, the bottom one upside-down up and wind the cord between them).
Many rental properties don’t have air-conditioning and you are hardly going to want to go to the expense of installing one yourself in a temporary property.
Open the windows if it is a hot day and you don’t have air-conditioning.
You do need to make sure your home has adequate ventilation as summer heat in Australia can cause a big hazard to small children, who have difficulty regulating their body temperature.
Even if your window has fly screens it’s essential they are locked to 10cm when open so a child can’t fit through. Flyscreens are flimsy and will collapse when pressure is placed on them.
If your windows don’t have flyscreens and you want to keep flies and mozzies out you can opt for a netting over the baby cot or an expanding netting tent. For a more secure (although slightly less attractive option) magnetic tape placed on the outside of windows is effective for keeping fly screens in place.
Having everything in order before your baby arrives means you have plenty of time to talk safety issues over with your real estate agent or landlord to have a safe and happy home for your new arrival.
If you have any doubts at all about any modifications or additions to your rental home be sure to ask your landlord for permission.
**reference used in this article: https://kidsafe.com.au/statistics-2/