General Home Safety for School Children

In children between the ages of 4 and 12, serious injuries often occur in the home. Supervision is generally the most effective safety precaution with children this age.

Post emergency phone numbers and information about how to locate your home (e.g., your address, nearby landmarks) near each telephone in your home. Teach children how to dial 911 as soon as they are old enough (about 4 years old).

Important emergency numbers include the following:

  • Poison control
  • Pediatrician
  • Police department
  • Fire department
  • Ambulance service
  • Neighbor or nearby friend

In addition, installing certain safety devices and keeping a few safety items on hand can greatly reduce your child's risk of serious injury at home.

To help prevent burns in school-age children:

  • Install a smoke detector on every level of your home and outside of every sleep area. In general, replace alkaline batteries every 6 months and detectors every 10 years.
  • Keep a fire extinguisher in your home and make sure that all adults and children who are old enough know how to use it.
  • Install a carbon monoxide (CO) detector near every sleep area. Be sure to follow manufacturer's instructions for installation and use of smoke detectors, fire extinguishers, and CO detectors.
  • Set the hot water heater no higher than 120 degrees F to help prevent burns and scalding from hot water in the bath or shower.
  • Keep children away from woodstoves and space heaters.
  • Teach children to stop, drop, cover their face, and roll if their clothing catches fire.
  • Keep hot foods/liquids out of the reach of young children.
  • Use the back burners of the stove for cooking and make sure pot handles are turned inward.

To prevent injuries to children from falls at home:

  • Anchor furniture, such as bookcases and cabinets, to the wall to prevent tipping.
  • Do not allow children under age 6 to sleep on the top bunk of a bunk bed.
  • Supervise school-age children at home and do not allow them to jump on beds or furniture, or roughhouse near stairways.
  • Set play structures on level ground, at least 6 feet away from fences or other structures and surround with absorbent material (wood chips, sand) that is at least 9 inches deep.
  • Check play structures periodically for loose bolts, rust, or decaying wood.

To prevent poisoning in school-age children, keep all potentially toxic substances out of reach. These substances include the following:

  • Vitamins, medications, cosmetics
  • Cleaning products, air fresheners, laundry products
  • Aerosol cans
  • Automotive supplies, paint
  • Fertilizers, pesticides

If you suspect your child may have ingested a poisonous substance, call a poison control center or dial 911 immediately.

Having a gun in the home increases the risk for injury in both children and adults. Even BB guns can cause serious, and sometimes fatal, injuries. If there is a gun in your home, the following guidelines can help reduce the risk for child gun injuries and child deaths from guns:

  • Take a gun safety course that includes information about safe storage.
  • Store guns, unloaded, separate from ammunition, in locked cabinets. Keep keys out of reach of children.
  • Make sure every gun has a high-quality trigger lock.
  • Teach your children about the danger of guns. Instruct them never to touch or play with a gun and to tell an adult right away if they see or find a gun.
  • Do not allow children under 16 years old to use high-velocity BB guns or pellet guns.
  • Check with neighbors, friends, relatives, and any place your child plays or visits to make sure that all gun safety and storage techniques are followed.

Many school-age children are injured by lawnmowers each year. The following precautions can help reduce the risk for lawnmower injuries:

  • Keep children well away from you when you are mowing.
  • Do not allow children under age 12 to operate lawnmowers. Teach children over the age of 12 to operate lawnmowers correctly and to use proper safety precautions (e.g., protective eyewear, footwear, hearing protection).
  • Do not allow children under age 16 to operate riding lawnmowers.

Publication Review By: Stanley J. Swierzewski, III, M.D.

Published: 28 Aug 2008

Last Modified: 13 Oct 2011