Child Falls

Did you know? 50% of emergency room visits for injured children are due to a fall.

It is exciting to watch your child learn to walk, run, jump and play. These skills are important for their physical and mental health. As children develop these new skills, they often fall. 

According to Parachute Canada, injuries from a fall are the leading cause of hospital admissions for children 0-9 years compared to all other unintended injuries combined.  Injuries to the head are the most common fall related injury.  For young children, serious falls tend to happen in the home. 

Supervising children who are learning new skills and being aware of their stage of development can help parents to reduce the risk of serious falls. The following sections will describe why children fall and provide tips to prevent falls.

Falls in Babies and Toddlers
Young children learn many new skills over a short period. Physical activity is important for their development. As babies and toddlers have large heads compared to their bodies, this affects their balance and makes them more likely to fall. To help your child avoid serious injury from a fall, it is important to be aware of your child’s stage of development.

What are common falls for babies and toddlers?

  • Babies under 1 year old fall while being carried by someone
  • Falls from a bed, change table or other furniture
  • Slips, trips and stumbles while walking or running
  • Falls from stairs
Tips to prevent a fall (0 to 3 years)
 

Active supervision is important to protect your child from Injury. This means, keeping them in view and staying close enough to reach them if you need to. Be aware of your surroundings while carrying your baby.

In the child's room:

  • Adjust your baby's crib mattress to its lowest position as soon as your baby can push up on their hands and knees (5 to 6 months).
  • Place furniture and crib away from windows.
  • Move your child to a toddler's bed or mattress on the floor once they try to climb out of their crib.
  • Use bunk beds after the youngest child is 6 years old.

In the home:

  • Remove tablecloths and fasten furniture to the wall to prevent tipping (dressers, bookshelves, TV) because babies climb before they walk.
  • If you need to leave your child unattended for a short time, the crib or playpen is a safe place.
  • When you 'child-proof' your home, get down to your child's level to see things the way they do.
  • Always stay close with a hand on your baby when they are on a raised surface such as a change table, bed or sofa.
  • Always watch your baby when they are on a raised surface such as a change table, bed or sofa.
  • Place car seats and bouncy chairs on the floor, not on tables or counters.
  • Always use the restraint strap on strollers, high chairs, and other equipment.
  • Wear socks with grips to prevent slips.
  • Do not use baby walkers (Canada banned them in 2004).
  • Lock windows and balcony doors above the first floor.
  • Use window guards to prevent window opening more than 10cm (4in). Window screens do not prevent children from falling out.

On the stairs:

  • Use a safety gate that screws into the wall at the top of the stairs. A pressure-mounted gate can be used at the bottom of the stairs.
  • Remove the gate once your child tries to climb over or when recommended by the manufacturer, usually age two. Check with Health Canada to make sure your safety gates meet current standards.
  • Securely fasten handrails on all stairs and teach your child to use them.
  • Stay close to children who are learning to use stairs.
  • Discourage play on the stairs.
  • Keep stairs free of clutter and well lit.
  • Lock doors that lead to stairs or use a doorknob cover.
Falls in Children
Children are developing skills and confidence to be active in different settings. They need opportunities to run, jump and climb at home and outdoors so they can develop physical literacy. It is important for them to practice their skills so they can learn how to be safe when playing. Parents and caregivers can help children learn these skills by being positive role models when demonstrating these activities.

How are children falling?

  • Slips, trips and stumbles while walking or running
  • Falls from playground equipment Playground Safety
  • Falls from stairs
Tips to prevent a fall (4 to 6 years)

Active supervision is important to protect your child from injury, especially when learning a new skill. This means, keeping them in view and staying close enough to reach them if you need to. 

In the home:

  • Securely fasten handrails on all stairs
  • Discourage play on stairs
  • Keep stairs free of clutter and well lit
  • Avoid throw rugs at the top of the stairs
  • Fasten furniture to the wall to prevent tipping (dressers, bookshelves, TV).
  • Keep the inside and outside of your home well lit so children can get around safely.
  • Wipe up spills promptly
  • Encourage children to wear socks with grip to prevent slips
  • Use a non-slip mat in the tub
  • Prevent falls from window by:
    • Placing furniture away from windows.
    • Locking windows and balcony doors above the first floor.
    • Using window guards to prevent window opening more than 10cm (4inch).
  • Top bunks are only for children 6 years and older and should not be used for playing.

Outdoors:

  • Watch for uneven pavement when walking or running.
  • Teach children how to wear properly fitting protective gear (helmet, etc) and how to use play equipment safely.
  • Avoid backyard trampolines. Many children are injured, even with supervision and netting.
  • Teach children how to be safe around roadways.

Check out Parenting in Ottawa website for more information about children's growth and development.

Resources

Did you know? - Child falls poster PDF

Did you know? - Stairs PDF

Did you know? - Falls in the home PDF 

 

 

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