How to keep kids safe at home

Keeping children safe is not just due to “good luck”. Most accidents can be predicted and are therefore preventable.

Don't think that vigilance is a substitute for simple safety measures. Being over-protective limits your child’s initiative and freedom to explore the world. And let's not forget that it's impossible to keep an eye on your child forever. Rather keep your home as safe as possible and teach the child their own safety measures.

Enforce safety rules, such as not touching plug points or not playing with matches from an early age. Repeated these rules over and over again until the message sinks in.

So make your home safer for your family's safety. We give you handy tips on how to go about it.


Most children burn with hot fluids such as water, oil, coffee and tea. Young children are most vulnerable because they have especially sensitive skin and even a burn from a cup of coffee can prove fatal.

To prevent burns:

  • Never handle small children and hot substances at the same time.
  • Never leave your child alone in the kitchen with pots on the stove and always turn pot handles towards the wall.
  • Keep kettles, toasters and similar appliances out of reach of children.
  • All electrical appliances should be safely earthed and wall plugs secured with childproof covers.
  • Always use flame-proof materials for bedding and clothing.
  • Supervise children in a room with a fireplace or paraffin stove.
  • Set your geyser at 50°C or lower.
  • Always run the cold water in the bath first and then add the hot water.
  • Teach children to "stop, drop and roll" if their clothing catches fire.

Road accidents

  • Children under 9 years old are generally not physically or emotionally developed enough to cross roads on their own. They should always be accompanied by a parent or guardian and the children should be made as visible as possible.
  • When travelling by car, fasten children in SABS-approved car seats, even if you travel to the corner cafe. Make sure that your child has not grown too tall or has reached the weight limit for the seat. Install it on the back seat, especially if your car has front seat air bags.


The majority of children who have drowned were last seen in the home, were in the care of one or both parents at the time of drowning, and had been out of sight for less than five minutes.

  • Always supervise small children near water even if they can swim.
  • Swimming pools should be fenced or covered with a safety net.
  • Children should learn to swim from 4 years old and should also be taught water survival skills.
  • Never leave small children alone in the bath, even for a second.
  • Always empty buckets or close them firmly with a lid. A small child can drown in as little as 5cm of water because of the disproportionate weight of their heads.


  • Never leave a baby alone on any high surface such as a changing table or bed. Preferably use a changing table with drawers so that you have everything you need close by.
  • Remove bulky toys or cushions from cots – a child could stand on and then topple out of the cot.
  • Don't allow small children to climb or sleep on bunk beds. The top bed should have railings right around.
  • Use safety gates on stairs and keep stairs well-lit.
  • Don’t allow your baby to use a walker – many babies have been seriously injured as a result of rolling over objects or down stairs.
  • Remove all loose rugs or fix anti-skid rubber underneath.
  • Supervise a child when in a high chair and fasten the restraining devices.
  • Install burglar bars and safety catches or locks on second-story and higher windows. Plant grass or shrubbery at the base of second storey houses to act as a cushion in case of a fall.
  • Always use safety harnesses on prams. Prams should be stable and not tip over easily. Do not overload a pram and avoid hanging shopping bags from handles.
  • Make sure your child wears a helmet, wrist, elbow and knee protectors when using roller blades, skates, skateboards or bicycles. Don’t buy a bicycle that is too big for your child.
  • Supervise children near playground equipment.


  • Never store poisonous substances with food and always keep these substances in their original containers.
  • Always read labels and dosage instructions on medication and never take or give medication in the dark.
  • Store dangerous substances out of reach in a locked cupboard or in child resistant containers if available.
  • Always use safety caps on containers of poisonous substances. These can be purchased at baby shops or through CAPFSA.
  • Know what to do in the event of an emergency and keep the number of the nearest poisons information centre next to the phone.

Be proactive

Apart from creating a safe home, parents can play an active role in preventing accidents in their neighbourhood. Report safety hazards in your environment to the relevant authority, whether it be erecting speed bumps on busy roads or replacing tarred surfaces in your local parks with grass. CAPFSA is also involved in several projects to lobby for legislation to prevent injuries and could put you in touch with pressure groups in your area. They can be contacted on 021 685 5208.

What safety rules do you have for your kids?

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