There are so many reasons why you might want to make sure that your preschool and school-aged child’s bedroom is very safe. Perhaps your child is about to make the transition from a crib to a bed or has begun to sleepwalk at night. Maybe you’d like to be able to leave your preschool child in his or her room to play for just a few minutes while you tend to another child. Or, maybe you just want to make sure you’ve dotted your i’s and crossed your t’s where safety in your child’s room is concerned. Home-related injuries account for more than 4 million pediatric emergency room visits each year.
You probably did some basic childproofing as soon as your child could crawl but take a moment to review the suggestions below to make sure that your preschool and school-aged child’s room is still as safe as possible and that it promotes great sleep.
- Consider a low bed or floor bed instead of a bed on a regular-height frame. Station the bed against the wall or in a corner to make falling out of bed less likely. Add a security rail to the side of the bed that faces out into the room. You can use the type of bed rail that is tucked between the mattress and the box spring or you can try a bolster-style railing. Be sure the bed isn’t near a window.
- Make sure all windows have window guards or stops and be sure that your child cannot climb on furniture to reach a window. Don’t rely on window screens to prevent falls from windows because they cannot hold the weight of a child who pushes against them. Be sure to cut any window or blind cords that are looped or that dangle, and make sure that all strings or cords are no longer than 12 inches.
- Use furniture anchors and drawer stops that allow drawers to open only about four inches so that your little one cannot climb on or tip over the furniture. Remove any heavy items on top of furniture or bookcases. Add bumpters to any sharp furniture corners.
- Add nonslip pads under any rugs.
- In terms of lighting in your child’s room, remove floor lamps and make sure all the lamps in your child’s room can’t easily fall over. Wall sconces are often great lighting choices for children’s rooms. Use night lights so that everyone can move around the room safely at night and choose ones that stay cool to the touch. Add a bedside reading light, too. Even a young child can be taught to look at a picture book until drowsy enough to fall asleep and older kids benefit from being taught to read themselves to sleep after parents leave.
- Keep cabinets locked if they contain anything unsafe (such as ointments or other items used at the changing table)
- Remove electronics. These have screens that mimic daylight and are so entertaining that your child may watch or play with these instead of going to sleep. They can also become something a child has to have in order to fall asleep and a child may wake when you turn these off later.
- Try to eliminate anything in your child’s room that turns off later (for example, a night light that plays music for a set period of time and then shuts off). These types of things can cause awakenings when they turn off, and they can make the room look or sound different when your child wakes at night (as all kids do) which can be unsettling for a child.
- Use bins so that toys can be moved to a closet or hallway at bedtime, if necessary, to keep the bedroom low in stimulation. This can help keep kids from wanting to get out of bed so often after the bedtime routine is over.
- Install smoke and carbon dioxide detectors if your child’s room doesn’t have these already. Once they are in place, check them at regular intervals.
- Make sure all of the outlets have sliding covers and secure all electrical cords.
- Block access to radiators and heaters.
- Avoid the use of electric blankets and heating pads.
- Plan fire escape options.
- Consider adding an audio or video monitor if you’d like to keep tabs on your little one without having to enter the room.
- Place a bell or motion sensor on the door so that you will know if she’s on the move at night.
- Blackout curtains can be a help during seasons when it is still light outside when it’s time for bed.
- Add a gate or half-height door (“Dutch” door) to your child’s room if your child is a wanderer and consider gating the stairway outside of your child’s room, too, for safety.
Here are two other rules you may find helpful:
- The “2am Rule” suggests that you make sure your child’s room will look and sound the same at 2am as it did at bedtime. This helps kids fall back to sleep more easily after they awaken at night.
The “Summer Camp Rule” advises that you help your child fall asleep only with items she could use at summer camp. (No one takes a white noise machine to summer camp, but they can and do take a book and a book light!).
NOTE: Some children rhythmically bang their heads or rock their bodies to get to sleep. This is normal unless you suspect a neurological issue and these behaviors usually resolve spontaneously by age 4 or so. If your child does this, check the screws and bolts on the bed often to make sure they are not working themselves loose.
Finally, remember to make choices about how many lights will be left on in the room at bedtime and whether the bedroom door will be open or closed when you leave and then stick to your choices (or these decisions may become a nightly battle or stalling tactic).
Thanks for taking the time to make sure your child’s room is as safe as possible!