Safety Tips for Older Kids

Mother and son riding bike

While you may have mastered the art of babyproofing in the early years, the safety needs of older children require a fresh perspective. Joelle McConlogue, MD, a pediatrician at Bayside Medical Group of Pleasanton, shares her expert advice for ways to protect older children from accidents at home.

Dr. McConlogue also discusses kidproofing your home for kids of all ages in a HealthTalks podcast.

Your older child may not need to eat quartered grapes anymore, but it’s still important to help them watch what they ingest. Kids are curious creatures, and brightly colored cleaning supplies or medications may look appealingly like candy or juice, but with dangerous consequences if consumed.

“Some of the main things that I think about for older kids are medications and cleaning supplies. Kids this age are curious, and they like to try different things. Medications need to be kept high up or in a locked cabinet,” Dr. McConlogue said. “Same with cleaning supplies. I really recommend that those are kept in a locked cabinet that kids can’t get into. Sometimes we have small things like laundry pods that look interesting or look almost like candy syrup. So again, keep them out of the reach of children so that they’re not accidentally exposed to those and getting into danger.”

If your home has a pool, Dr. McConlogue urges parents to make sure the pool area is secured and always keep a watchful eye on children when they swim, even older kids and teens. “Pools are a significant danger because an accident can happen so quickly. Any families with pools need to have a double or triple safety mechanism such as a gate, a cover, and an alarm,” she said. “Adults need to be 100% attentive at all times around the pool.”

It’s normal for kids and teens to want to roughhouse and run around, but parents need to stay extra vigilant when there is water involved because the danger is increased. “All children need to be supervised at all times, regardless of their swimming ability, just because you need to make sure that there is safe play and safe swim, even for the older children and adolescents who can swim,” she said.

“It is important to make sure that your child is not taking inappropriate risks. Make sure older kids aren’t doing dives into the pool without approval from a parent or jumping and doing flips off the diving board that they may not be ready to do.”

Dr. McConlogue encourages families to make sure kids are wearing the appropriate safety gear for biking and other sports. If children struggle with wearing a helmet, let them help to pick out one they like and have them fitted at a shop that specializes in kids’ sporting gear to make sure the fit is comfortable and safe.

“We want kids to be active, and one of the most important things is to make sure that they’re wearing appropriate safety gear for exercise and athletic events. So, when they are biking, skiing, or snowboarding, or playing certain sports like baseball, kids (and adults) of all ages should make sure that they’re wearing their helmets,” she said. “It’s a very easy and basic thing that provides good protection.”

As children become more independent, teach them road safety. Emphasize the importance of using crosswalks, looking both ways before crossing the street, and avoiding distractions like smartphones when walking.

When in doubt, Dr. McConlogue encourages parents to reach out to their pediatrician for advice on navigating the best ways to keep their child safe as he or she grows. “I think an ounce of prevention can go a long way. Thinking ahead and just being careful can help,” she said. “It’s never a bad idea to reach out to your pediatrician. We always want to hear from you about questions or concerns.”

For more advice from Dr. McConlogue, check out Babyproofing Tips for Infants and Young Children, Sleeping Isn’t Just for Babies, Doctor’s Advice for Helping Your Child Get Enough Rest, and Avoiding Choking Hazards During the Holidays.


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