There are no shortcuts worth taking when childproofing a home, which is why Brett Horn started Charlie’s House — a nonprofit that teaches parents how to properly make their homes safe for their young children.
What led you to start Charlie’s House?
My wife Jenny and I lost our son Charlie to a tragic accident when a 30” dresser fell on him in 2007. Our pain was immeasurable. We never wanted this to happen to another family again. Working with a dedicated board and volunteers, we formed Charlie’s House, which is committed to educating parents and caregivers about child safety in the home.
We are most excited that in 2020 we are opening Charlie’s House, the nation’s first Safety Demonstration Home, in Kansas City. Caregivers, parents, and children will be able to tour the home and see how to carefully childproof a home.
Accidents can always occur, but by childproofing your home and understanding it is an ongoing process, you can lessen the risk that your child will be injured.
What are some common mistakes first-time parents make in childproofing a home?
New parents may worry more about décor than the safety of the nursery. For example, cribs are often advertised with fully decorated fabric and lights over the top to make the crib look whimsical, when in fact you could be putting your baby in danger of suffocation, strangulation, or fire. Another common mistake is using a crib handed down from an older relative as a ‘special touch’ for your family, when in reality, many older cribs are not safe by today’s standards.
Ultimately, it is vital to take action on the safety tips that parents get from many safety organizations and resources within their community. DON’T WAIT … It CAN happen to you.
How does home safety evolve from the baby years to the toddler years?
When your baby becomes mobile, you introduce a whole host of danger points, including stairs, climbing issues on furniture, burn hazards, and more. Make sure every staircase has gates at the top and bottom to prevent your toddler from getting access without supervision.
Toddlers love to hide. There have been cases where children have climbed into front-loading dryers or have been trapped behind the washer. Read all the manufacturers suggestions for safely installing appliances and use locks on them.
While detergent pod poisonings are down, poisoning remains a problem. Keep locks on your cabinets in the laundry room, kitchen, and bathroom where toddlers may explore for food or toys.
Of course, DON’T WAIT! Take these important childproofing steps BEFORE your child becomes mobile.
In what rooms in the house do most accidents occur? What rooms should be a top priority for childproofing?
Any room in the home has the potential to be the most dangerous, however, a common place for many accidents would be the bathroom. A child can drown in as little as one inch of water. Additional dangers include slips and falls, burns from hot water or a curling iron, poisonings, sharp objects, and hard surfaces.
I would start with the bathtub. Your hot water heater should be set at 120 degrees or lower. Make sure there is a cover for the spout and use of a slip-proof mat inside and outside of the tub.
Never leave a young child unattended in the bathroom. Keep your soaps, shampoos, and candles out of reach of your children.
What advice do you have for parents of young children that could help them avoid accidents?
Take the time before your child is born to walk through your house and look for any potential trouble spots, and then do it again every three months to ensure you stay ahead of a child’s development.
Every room has the potential to be dangerous. With our own son, we had childproofed the house, or thought we had. We had plug-in covers, blind cords up, baby gates on the stairs and corner protectors on the coffee table. But we didn’t do enough. I can’t stress enough the importance of anchoring your televisions and dressers.
The first step is getting educated but it’s not the last step. Be proactive and vigilant throughout your child’s life. DON’T WAIT — childproof now!