in your bathroom
'Never leave a small child in the bath alone' says LUCY EVANS Home Editor of Parents' magazine
IN the kitchen, dan gers for children are legion. I wonder if you are like me and ban "crawlers" from it completely? It takes strong nerves, ingenuity and often the use of a playpen, but it's worth it for peace of mind.
It also prevents other and more serious mishaps such as touching the hot oven; tinkering with the wash-boiler when in use; getting under mother's feet and causing lethal falls or spills, prising open the cupboard where the cleaning materials are kept and sampling the bottles of disinfectant (why don't builders make one kitchen cupboard which can be locked as a standard fitment?). Pulling sharp knives off worktops, getting hold of the matches and chewing or lighting them, dragging pans off cookers (always, always turn the handles in and if possible fit a guard rail on your cooker), turning low-level gas taps on or off.
However busy you are, you should wipe up spilled water or grease at once to prevent skids and if fat on the stove catches fire, don't obey the natural impulse to fling a pan of water on itsmother it with a heavy damp cloth. Cleaning fluids, bleaches, etc., should he in clearly labelled containers, shut away or put out of reach—and never transferred to empty fruit juice bottles or sweet tins.
Not everyone knows (I didn't myself) that oily dustctoths and paint rags can ignite themselves, so they should be kept in a metal container and covered. Flamable liquids such as paint, paraffin and turps are highly dangerous so don't store them within the staircase or near the way out from a room of the house.
Check new appliances when choosing them, for safety— particularly kitchen appliances. For instance, is there a safety device on the new washing machine you are thinking of buying? Is it really impossible for a child to turn on the taps of the gas cooker? Look out for the BSI, Gas Council or BEAR marks on the appliances --it will be a guide that what you buy will be safe and fit for its purpose.
Dining rooms are on the whole fairly safe, providing the baby is firmly harnessed into his feeding chair—at sonic stage in the meal babies always decide to stand up—and that you avoid cloths hanging temptingly over the edge of the table.
Upstairs, the risks seem slightly lower than downstairs. If you are exceptionally busy or have a large family to contend with, its wise to have a safety gate on the stairs. However, if you can possibly spare the time, I think it's a good idea to teach the smallest member of the family at an early age how to descend backwards and how to climb up. I find that even crawlers very quickly learn and become expert.
In fact, as a general safety principle, I think that where there is a danger it should always be pointed out to the child and explained if possible in the simplest terms. A very small. child can understand "careful" and "hot" and "sharp" and will associate these words with something which is to be avoided. Of course, one still needs fireguards, guarded plugs and so on.
The children's room should have a safe fire—protected or mounted on wall or ceiling, windows with bars or fastenings that defy small fingers, cots that can't be unlatched by accident. Cot sides should be at least 23 in. high, bars not more than 21 in. apart. If you feel baby must have a pillow, buy a small firm one. Tuck bedclothes in firmly, but not too tightly (this is just as dangerous) and remove plastic bibs before putting the baby down for a resit. Check all toys for lose bits or eyes that come out and whisk plastic bags away at once to safety.
Never leave a small child in the bath alone. I have to confess that I did leave my daughter once when she was about 20 months old. When I returned after two minutes, she was standing in the wash-basin examining with the greatest interest the contents of the high-level medicine chest, including my iron tablets and a packet of new razor blades.
When running the bath for the children, get into the habit of running the cold water first so that if they decide to jump in when you are not there, there is no danger of scalding. Protect the hot tap with a cloth if it becomes overheated enough to burn little fingers. Hot water bottles should have thick covers and shouldn't be left in the bed when you put baby in. Lucky Jim was certainly lucky when he smoked in bed—he only burned a hole in the blanket and charred the top of a valuable bedside table in the
house of his employer whom he was visiting—smoking in bed could have far more serious consequences and should certainly be taboo.
Make certain that the outlet holes of electric convector heaters are not covered by bedcovers or curtains—a fire started in a neighbour's house in this way and completely ruined the bedroom. If you have a gas fire in your bedroom, turn it firmly off at night and see that the room is well ventilated. Have you an electric blanket? It should he returned for inspection at least every two years.
In general a tidy house is far safer than an untidy one. Its
easy to get caught up in the general rush and leave scissors, needles, pins, etc., about for the inquisitive handling of children. Carpentry tools are another source of danger. Keep buttons, safety pins, hair grips and so on in tightly lidded tins and devise a safe way of disposing of used razor blades.
We all wear up old clothes and shoes for housework, but do mend loose hems and discard any shoes that are so worn and ill fitting that they are a potential danger. If one can make certain practices a habit —for instance, plugging and unplugging electrical appliances with dry hands, not standing on a wet floor when using the iron, disposing of the dregs of medicine or surplus pills down the lavatory, this is a battle almost won.
I'm hoping that when I next do the ROSPA quiz I shall have a better score than 23 out of 36, but I'm afraid I shall never have a 100 per cent bull's eye. This will be because of question No. 8—the only one that made me laugh! What busy housewife can ever answer "Yes" to the question: "Do you avoid undue haste and carrying too much at a time?" I wish I. could!