Falling is a normal part of development as children walk, climb, run, jump, play and explore their environment.
While most falls in children don’t cause serious injury, nearly 5,000 children from birth to 9 years were admitted to a hospital and more than 165,000 visited an emergency department as a result of a fall in 2010. This makes falls a leading cause for hospital admissions and emergency room visits from injury in those ages 0 to 9.”The Cost of Injury in Canada Report
As children grow older, where they fall changes.
- Infants and young toddlers typically fall around the home – from furniture, beds, change tables, high chairs or down the stairs.
- Older toddlers tend to fall while walking, running or crawling around the house.
- Children between 5 and 9 years of age most often fall at playgrounds.
In the home
Home should be a safe place for children to learn and grow. However, most fall-related injuries to children under five happen in the home. Children are vulnerable in this environment because heights, space and structures are built for adult use and comfort, often creating hazards for children. Children also have a natural curiosity about their environment and love to explore.
Follow these tips to keep your kids safe from falls in the home
Get on your child’s level!
Take time to get down on the ground and look around to see the world through your child’s eyes to identify hazards around your home.
Buckle your child in their high chair or stroller every time.
This will prevent your child from falling out as they move, wiggle and reach.
Always set car seats and other carriers down on the floor, never on top of furniture.
Always keep one hand on your child when they are on a high surface, such as a changing table or other furniture, to prevent them from falling to the ground.
Never use a baby walker with wheels – use stationary activity centres instead.
Baby walkers with wheels are banned for sale in Canada because they put children at serious risk of falling down stairs and getting to areas of the home they wouldn’t normally be able to reach.
Use stair gates in your home.
- Always use hardware mount gates at the top of stairs. Pressure mount gates can be used at the bottom of stairs.
- Install gates properly, according to the manufacturer’s instructions and with locking mechanisms placed on the side away from the child.
- Use the correct gates. Once your child’s chin is in line with the top of the gate or when they are two years old, the gate is no longer effective.
Place all furniture away from windows and balcony door handles.
Remember, children can climb even before they are able to walk. Climbing on furniture gives children access to windows and balcony door handles where they can fall from significant heights.
Use window stops or guards and keep balcony doors locked.
- A window screen can easily tear or get pushed through if your child is pressing on it.
- Keep windows locked when possible and use window stops, which prevent windows from being opened wide enough for a child to fall through.
- Or, use window guards that act as a barrier in front of the window. Make sure to use window guards that have a release mechanisms so they can be fully opened in case of an emergency.
- Tenants living in apartment buildings should check with their municipality to see if there is a window safety bylaw. This may mean that a landlord must provide window stops or guards for you.
Keep stairs and high-traffic areas in your home free from clutter and tripping hazards such as toys and books.
In areas such as the bathroom and kitchen, wipe up any water spills right away to prevent slipping.
Community and backyard playgrounds are common areas where children fall as children climb and explore playground equipment. Read about what you can do and look out for in playgrounds.
Social factors that increase injury risk
Parachute recognizes that parents who live in low-income housing may not be able to control their environment to install safety features such as window guards or buy necessary products, such as stair gates, to decrease hazards. As well, if we improve people’s access to health services, education, employment income, quality housing and improved social environments, we decrease rates of injury. Efforts to improve policies, such as banning baby walkers with wheels, are more effective in reducing or eliminating injuries for all children.