February 8, 2016

Grandparents sometimes need a refresher course in home safety and baby-proofing before babysitting.

When my brothers and I were small children, our grandparents baby-sat us while our parents were at work or if they ever went out on that rare occasion. My grandparents were sweet, kind people who loved us dearly, but looking back on those days, I realize that they were probably ill-equipped at providing a safe environment for us.

My grandfather smoked cigarettes so there were matches and ashtrays lying around the house. Medicine bottles lined the kitchen counters, and we were never in car seats or seat belts. They also didn’t speak English very well, so telephoning anyone in an emergency would have been extremely difficult for them.

Now, as a health educator who provides family members with safety tips and resources, I am acutely aware that grandparents sometimes need a refresher course in home safety and baby-proofing. Many families have both parents working, so grandparents are often relied upon for child care. Parents, grandparents and anyone else who cares for babies and small children should be aware of safety rules to keep little ones healthy and injury-free.

  • Keep small items like coins, beads, buttons and batteries out of reach to prevent a choking hazard. The batteries that power hearing aids are not only a choking risk but extremely toxic if swallowed. (If you think a child has swallowed one, call the Tennessee Poison Center immediately, at  1-800-222-1222.)
  • Many grandparents have their medicine bottles on tables or kitchen counters for convenience. Move these things out of reach of children because they are choking and poisoning hazards. Many medicines are colorful and attractive; don’t allow these to be a case of mistaken identity for a little one who thinks they’re candy.
  • Secure household cleaners and toiletries in locked cabinets.
  • Learn the ABCs of safe sleep: alone, on the back and in the crib. Provide a safe sleeping environment, like a crib or Pack ‘n Play for an infant. Pillows, blankets and stuffed animals are not safe, because they are a suffocation hazard.
  • In the car, babies and small children must ALWAYS be properly restrained in a car seat appropriate for their weight, height and age.
  • Older kids must always wear a properly-fitted bike helmet when they’re using bicycles.
  • If there are any firearms in the house, store them separately from the ammunition in locked locations. Never allow a baby or child near a firearm. Gun locks are recommended.
  • Know important phone numbers: mom and dad, child’s school, child’s pediatrician and the poison center. Post these phone numbers in the home and also program them into cellphones.

My brothers and I had amazing grandparents who provided us with their special love and wisdom. If your children are fortunate enough to have their grandparents as caregivers, ensure that Grandma and Grandpa have all the safety tips and resources they will need to create a safe and healthy environment for their precious grandchildren.

This post was written by GiGi Rose, former pediatric trauma injury prevention coordinator for Monroe Carell Jr Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt.

More Resources

For more information please check out the following websites:
Poison Control: http://www.aapcc.org/ 1-800-222-1222
Safe Kids: http://www.safekids.org/

You can take some cues from Grandma and Grandpa, too. Read 4 things you can learn about healthy living from your grandparents.

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