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Family CommentariesChild Proofing / Safety
I much prefer child training to child proofing, especially since I've come to find out that there really is no such thing as child "proofing" anyway.

I also think that you should be watching any child under 2 years of age (at least) virtually constantly, especially if he's had little or no training.

My 17 month old has to stay in whatever room I'm in unless someone else is watching him. He has been taught not to climb on the table or play in the potty or touch the oven, but at his age, I can't depend on him to always obey, so I watch him. The training I've given him makes life much easier for the both of us, but I still don't trust him enough to let him play in another room without supervision.

Don't depend on child proofing. It's amazing what they can get into even if you are trying your best to child proof.

Bathroom Safety:

In 21 years of having small children, I've had at least six close calls with my young ones and drowning. Most of these incidents were with pools (one was a tub incident, and one was a lake incident) and with children who were old enough to walk (2 to 5 years old). Okay, so they really were not that close, but only because I was practically within arm's reach.  In all of these cases my children would have drowned if I had not been right there to grab them. The point is: WATCH YOUR CHILDREN.

I would never leave a child under two, or maybe even three or older, alone in the tub to answer the phone or do anything else. (Especially not answer the phone, it's too easy to become distracted - let it ring.)

Another major danger to think about is the chance that your child, even at 3 or 4 or 5 years old, might grab the hot water spigot and turn it on. That could cause very serious burns. Don't take the chance.

Toilets are another major danger. Last week I found my 17 month old standing in the potty! I was just outside the bathroom within sight of him and watching him out of the corner of my eye, yet I didn't notice him climb in. That's another reason I think parents should always be watching their young children and keeping them with them (in the same room or where they can easily see them). What if he had fallen in head first! these incidents can still happen even when the parent is close by! Results could have been devastating if I'd have left him alone for even a few minutes.

Right now I have a 17 month old and I would not dream of leaving the bathroom for even a split second while he was in the tub. I also have a just turned 3 year old and a just turned 4 year old, and I "might" leave them for a few seconds if there was only 2 or 3 inches of water in the tub. Since I don't dare leave them, I stay and clean the bathroom while they are bathing, or read a book right in there, or play with them, or else I scrub them up and get them out.

I hardly child proof at all, but I do lock up poisons, make sure certain gates are locked, etc. I don't think I'm over protective, but I am very safety conscious when there is a real danger.

P.S. Don't forget pets. I once allowed a woman I knew to take home a litter of my beautiful Himalayan kittens. She shut them in her bathroom when she went out to run an errand. I had to answer her sobbing phone call later that day when she came home and found that 3 of the kittens had fallen into the open toilet and drowned. :-(

Question: I'd never leave my 8 month old in the tub alone, but I don't see a problem with leaving my 2 and 5 year olds together in the tub for a few minutes. I'm sure the 5 year old would tell me if something was wrong. Am I missing something here?

Answer: Please, please reconsider what you've been doing. (I know you will.) It is way too dangerous to leave a 2 year old with a 5 or 6 or sometimes even a 7 year old. My 6 year old is very well-behaved and responsible for a 6 year old (he's naturally mild mannered and sweet) but I don't think he could do anything if he were in charge and a younger one was in trouble. He can not even pick up my 18 month old when he is on dry land, how could he handle him all wet and slippery in the tub? It would be even harder with an older child.

Sometimes, in a tight situation, they just don't think either. They really don't know what to do. They might not even think to scream or call out to you. Once, some years ago, I left my two daughters in the tub together. I think they were about 5 and 9 years old. The 5 year old started to overheat and started crying. I was just around the corner in the family room, but could not hear her at all.

Finally the 9 year old got out of the tub and came and told me. When I got there the 5 year old was beet red and crying, looked exhausted and like she was about to faint (which could be deadly in a tub). I got her out and cooled her off and she was fine, thankfully. 

Afterwards, I asked her why she didn't just get out of the tub. She gave me this totally dumbfounded look. It had never even occurred to her to do that! Even her older sister hadn't thought of it! That made me realize that in a dangerous situation, you can't depend on children to think and act like an adult would, even when they are nine or ten!

I'm wondering what guideline to set for allowing my daughter to go swimming alone. Right now I'm thinking that when she can demonstrate that she knows how to float, how to tread water for a couple of minutes and when she can swim a couple of lengths of the pool, that ought to be enough. What do you say? 

Answer:  Well actually, that doesn't sound strict enough. At least not to me. We have our own pool at home and live on a lake as well. My 9 year old can do all the things you've mentioned, but I would still never allow him to go to the pool alone to swim. (By alone I mean without a responsible adult who can swim well.) The things you mention are the bare minimum before I will even let my kids go near the pool without me watching. Otherwise they must stay outside of the fence that surrounds our pool.

You see, once a child can do the things you mention, that might save him if he accidentally falls in, or gets too far into the deep end, but it won't help if he panics, and it won't help if perhaps the playing gets out of hand and the other kids start dunking him, etc. I'd say that when he can swim 5 or 6 times the length of the pool without touching bottom, and knows and keeps all the safety rules reliably, then he might be a good enough swimmer to know what to do in a dangerous situation and he might not panic in a scary one. That's when I'd let him go to the pool without me or another responsible adult. My 12 year old is just at that point now, after swimming on a community swim team almost every day all last summer. With a younger child I'd still want to take into consideration who else will be swimming with them, and of course no one should swim completely alone.

I grew up on the water and love it, but I have great respect for it too.

(c) Copyright 2007 L. Elizabeth Krueger.  All rights reserved.
Scripture quotations taken from the NASB.