Age-Appropriate Tips To Keep Children Safe

Ruzanna Harutyunyan's picture

A study of child development and unintentional injury released today by Safe Kids USA is the first to link age-appropriate safety tips to an extensive analysis of research on children’s cognitive, behavioral and physical development. The results create a blueprint of necessary safety recommendations for parents and caregivers to follow as children age.

“We’ve always taught parents how to keep their kids safe, but this report highlights precisely when and why those precautions are essential,” says Jan Stegelman, Safe Kids Kansas director. “Understanding children’s cognitive, behavioral and physical abilities and limitations at various stages is the first step in being able to foresee and prevent serious injuries.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there were more than six million unintentional injuries to children ages 0 to 14 in 2007 that required care in an emergency room. This translates into 12 injuries per minute – nearly all of which are preventable. Although the childhood injury death rate in the U.S. has dropped by 45 percent in the 22 years Safe Kids has been in operation, unintentional injury remains the leading cause of death and disability in children ages 1 to 14 in the U.S.

The release of this report, Raising Safe Kids: One Stage at a Time, coincides with National Safe Kids Week (April 26-May 3) and is based on an extensive literature review of research focusing on child development as it relates to unintentional injury. The report is divided into four stages of development: Infancy (0 to 12 months), Early Childhood (1 to 4 years), Middle Childhood (5 to 9 years) and Early Adolescence (10 to 14 years).

Each stage includes a description of a child’s developmental at that age, and easy-to-follow safety tips for the five leading injury risks to children: falls, bicycle-related injuries, motor vehicle occupancy injuries, fire and burns and poisonings. As part of the initiative, Safe Kids has created fact sheets and safety tip sheets for each of the four stages of a child’s development.

Babies (0 to 12 Months)
Did you know that infants…

Have spines that are not fully developed, leaving them vulnerable to injury if they are not correctly positioned in a vehicle. They have a slower digestion rate and a lower tolerance for medication. Their skin is thinner and more sensitive, meaning it can burn more quickly than that of an adult. To keep your infant safer:

* Use a rear-facing, semi-reclined car seat until your baby is at least age 1 and 20 pounds. Use a rear-facing car seat longer if the seat has higher weight and height limits.

* Always follow directions and read labels when giving your baby medicine to avoid over-medicating.

* Do not hold an infant while cooking or carrying hot liquids and foods.

Little Kids (1 to 4 years)
Did you know that children 1 to 4 years old…

Have muscles and bones not yet fully developed. They are also still learning how to balance themselves and adjust their stance to avoid falls. They may wander off unsupervised to explore cupboards and drawers that may contain chemicals and poisons in them. To keep your 1-to 4-year old safer:


* Provide safe places to play. Only allow your child to play on playgrounds with 12 inches of safe surfaces such as shredded rubber, hardwood fiber/mulch or fine sand below the equipment to create a softer landing in case of a fall.

* Install stair gates so your curious child will not fall down stairs, and secure furniture to the wall to avoid it tipping over on them if they try to climb on it.

* Keep medicines and poisonous household items locked up and out of reach. Also, choose products with child-resistant packaging.

Big Kids (5 to 9 years)
Did you know that children 5 to 9 years old…

Have trouble recognizing and avoiding obstacles and lack an adult’s hand-eye coordination abilities. They are also at higher risk for cooking-related scald injuries, especially from tableware and microwave ovens. If a child is too small for a seat belt, he/she is at risk for serious injuries to the head, face and internal organs. To keep your 5- to 9-year old safer:

* Make sure children wear a helmet and protective gear every time they are on wheels.

* Do not allow children to use a microwave until they are tall enough to reach the items in it safely and understand that steam can cause burns. Children at this age are at a higher risk of cooking-related scald injuries than adults.

* Keep children in booster seats with the vehicle lap and shoulder safety belts until the seat belt fits correctly.

Pre-Teens (10 to 14 years)
Did you know that early adolescents…

Have less defined visual perception than older teens and lack the ability to recognize a specific object from within a busy background. This is an important skill to identify oncoming cars in busy intersections. They are more likely to be completely unrestrained in a car than younger children and participate in risky behavior. They also may want to experiment with substances without adult supervision. To keep your 10- to 14-year old safer:

* Make sure your child wears a helmet and protective gear every time he/she is on a bike, scooter, skateboard or inline skates – make this non-negotiable and lead by example.

* Talk to them about car safety. Once your child passes the Safety Belt Fit Test, teach him/her to wear a seat belt every time.

* Talk to your child about the dangers of poisonous items such as gasoline, spray paint and medicines.

“Your child’s physical, behavioral and cognitive abilities should affect the precautions you take to help them avoid serious injury,” says Stegelman. “Serious injuries have effects lasting well into adulthood, such as spinal cord injuries and brain damage, which also lead to costly emergency department bills, missed school days, and limited future employment opportunities. But the good news is these injuries can be prevented if parents and caregivers take the right steps.”