Visiting Grandparents Safely

by Dr. Suzanne Van Benthuysen

Grandparents are a wonderful part of children’s lives. Going to visit grandparents can be a joyful and nostalgic family experience as children discover toys, clothes and furniture from their own parents’ childhood. However, grandparents may not necessarily have access to the latest child safety information. Here are some tips to help make your visit as safe as possible!


Inspect older toys for broken, loose or small parts that may cause injury or choking. Trim any pull cords or connector cords (ex. hammer for xylophone, cord for toy phone) as needed to make sure they are a maximum of 12 inches long. Walkers in which a child is bucket-seated can be dangerous as children can navigate them towards open stairs and off the edges of decks, and the falls tend to cause head injury due to the child’s entrapped position.  Push-toy walkers are safest for the child learning to navigate upright. Bicycles, rollerblades, and scooters should always be used with a helmet. ATVs are dangerous for children and younger adolescents. Although the Consumer Product Safety Board has issued guidelines that children ages 12-15 should not ride ATVs with engine capacity over 90ccs, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that no child under 16 should ride on or drive an ATV.

Window Safety

Second-story and higher windows should be closed and locked. Screens will not prevent a fall. Keep cribs, beds and climbable furniture away from windows. Keep all window cords out of reach of young children. Cord winders can shorten cords without cutting. Continuous-loop pull cords on draperies and vertical blinds should be pulled tight and anchored to the floor or wall with a tension device or wrapped around a cleat.

Sleeping Arrangements

Older cribs made before June 2011 may have drop-sides which have been associated with injury and death. All cribs should have stationary sides and should not have decorative cutouts that can entrap clothing or limbs. Check all hardware for loose, broken or missing pieces and only replace with manufacturer-approved parts. If practical, bring or get a collapsible play yard. Check by manufacturer, but most have a 35 lb/30 inch weight/height limit. It should not be used if a child can climb out. Only use manufacturer-approved bedding and padding. Infants should never sleep on a couch or armchair, even with an adult, as the many crevices are suffocation risks. Inflatable mattresses pose a suffocation hazard for infants and toddlers. Infant monitor cords should not be within a child’s reach from the crib. Mobiles and overhanging crib toys should be removed once the child can get to hands and knees. There should be no bumpers, pillows, large stuffed animals, or large quilts in a crib.

Around the House

Rubber-tipped spring doorstops are a choking hazard as children love to play with them and the rubber tip can easily come off. They can easily be replaced with single-unit doorstops that screw into the same hole. Make sure cleaning supplies and household chemicals are out of reach or in child-locked cabinets. Cover any exposed outlets and power strips. Toddler Shield table pads are available to make glass coffee tables as safe as possible, and foam strips can temporarily shield sharp corners and hearth edges. Lid locks for toilets can prevent plumbing disasters and decrease drowning risk. Set the hot water heater upper limit to 120°F to decrease burn risk.

Make sure the TV is as far back on its stand as possible and ideally secured to the wall. Anti-tip kits are available at hardware and baby stores to secure heavy bookcases, dressers and TVs to the wall. Dressers that seem stable can tip over if multiple drawers are pulled out, so consider adhesive drawer locks for a quick fix.

Hardware-mounted baby gates are appropriate where there is a risk of falling, such as the top of stairs. Pressure-mounted baby gates are appropriate to keep children in or out of a room or at the bottom of stairs.

Store purses and daily pill boxes out of reach of children.

Smoke alarms with CO detectors should be ideally in every bedroom, but at least on every level of the house. If there is a firearm in the home, make sure it is stored in a locked box out of sight and reach of children, unloaded, with the ammunition stored and locked separately and a trigger guard or lock in place.

General Safety

Consider taking an infant and child CPR class, usually offered by local hospitals. Professional babyproofers are available for in-home child safety evaluations and babyproofing installations. Save the number for Poison Control (1-800-222-1222) to all family cellphones.