Preventing Falls in Toddlers

Keeping the home as clutter-free as possible is a first step in preventing falls in toddlers. Still learning about balance and their own speed, toddlers can easily trip on objects left on the floor or a stray electrical cord.

Secure toddler gates should be placed at the tops and bottoms of staircases. Use mesh gates or gates with slats no more than 2 3/8 inches apart, close enough so that a young child cannot get caught in them. Older accordion-style gates are not recommended, since children's fingers can get caught or pinched in the folds.

Proper lighting is important, especially at night when a toddler has moved into a toddler bed. Railings should be secure and children should be taught to use them.

Windows can present a significant fall risk. Furniture should be moved away from them so that climbing toddlers will not fall through. Window guards can provide extra protection; screens are not designed to be barriers and will not prevent falls. If possible, open windows from the top instead of from the bottom.

Consider specific falling risks around the house. Can a child climb up a stepstool on to a kitchen island, counter, or a high bed? In some cases, adults may need to shut doors to unsafe rooms. Children should not be allowed to play on balconies or fire escapes.

Playgrounds and backyard play areas should also be assessed for fall risks. Some playgrounds have areas specifically designed for toddlers with slides and bars better suited to a toddler's size and skill. Many playgrounds have wood chips or springy material beneath their jungle gyms that can lessen the severity of a fall.

Toddlers require constant adult supervision. If a child falls and concussion, broken bones, or internal injury is a possibility, call your pediatrician immediately or take the child to the nearest emergency room.

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

Published: 27 Aug 2008

Last Modified: 06 Oct 2015