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Play Time


Playing is one of the best ways for babies and children to discover the world around them.

However, unlike when they’re in the bathroom or kitchen, we’re sometimes less vigilant and assume our kids are safe when they’re playing quietly in other parts of the house.

The best way to make sure your child is safe is to play with them, so that you can teach them what is and isn’t dangerous. Having said that, we know it’s not practical to watch your child every single second of the day. That’s why it’s important to take some simple steps to make sure both your home and their toys are safe...


For kids, houses aren’t just a place to eat and sleep – they’re magical adventure spaces just waiting to be explored. While playing at home is a great way for children to learn, some things could seriously hurt, or even kill them. Getting down on our knees so we can see things from a child’s height is a great way to spot dangers we might otherwise miss. Here’s a list of other things you might not have thought of:

  • Kids love running around, and in winter especially they are liable to get a touch of cabin fever! Keep your floors clear from obstacles, especially the stairs, so that your kids (or you) don’t trip over. For under-5s falls are by far the biggest accidental cause of A&E attendance and hospital admission, so making little changes could make a big difference. Rugs should be taped down to prevent them from slipping, trailing cables should be tucked away, and wet floors can be super slippy. Running in socks on a wooden floor can lead to a nasty fall!

"If she has her slippers on it tends to stop her slipping. I'd rather bare feet than socks.”

Carly, mum of two.
  • While playing alongside your child is always the best way to keep them safe, it’s impossible to watch them every second of every day. A play pen can be a useful safe space for the times that your back is turned.
  • Make sure any medications, alcohol, cleaning products and any other chemicals are kept high up and out of reach – or even better, in a locked cupboard.
  • Little ones love to climb – make sure all heavy furniture such as bookcases and fireplaces are secured to the wall. Be extra aware of heavy flat-screen TVs too, as a number of children have been seriously hurt, or even killed, when they’ve pulled them down on top of themselves. Also remember that babies love to roll – never leave them alone on a high surface like a chair, sofa, or kitchen counter. Parents can get caught out thinking that their baby hasn’t yet mastered the art, but there’s always a first time!
  • Little fingers can be badly crushed in doors. You can use a door jammer to prevent them slamming shut – although an old towel thrown over the top of the door will work just as well.
  • Make sure your home is free from serious dangers that could hurt them while your back is turned. Fires should be guarded, hot drinks should be kept well out of reach and blind cords should be tied up and out of reach.
  • Put knives and other sharp objects away after use, and store them out of sight and reach.
  • Electric socket covers aren’t necessary because modern UK sockets have in-built safety features. However, it’s always a good idea to put appliances out of reach of little fingers so they can’t plug them in.
  • Remember, 1-2 year olds are naturally very inquisitive - they like to taste everything! Be extra careful around things they can choke on, or around things that might make them sick, such as medicine, broken glass or dog poo.
  • Keep all products containing high strength magnets out of reach of young children. Magnets can cause horrific damage to the body if swallowed. They can be found in the home in products like adult gadgets, puzzles and some craft and fashion items. Older children are also at risk when using magnets as jewellery products or as “fake” tongue or facial piercings.
  • Keep laser pointers out of the reach of children. They are not toys. Even a brief glance at a laser beam is sufficient to cause long-term or even permanent injury to eyes. These injuries cannot be treated medically or by surgery.

While you might have checked out the obvious risks in your home – the oven, the bathroom, the medicine cabinet – what about those toys lurking in the playroom? Here are some things to look out for...

  • Toys should be checked regularly for signs of damage. Sharp edges, loose hair or fur, exposed wires or frayed material can all cause problems. Sharp points can be particularly dangerous, as they could hurt your child’s eyes.
  • It’s not just food that babies can choke on. Be aware of small parts they could potentially put in their mouths. If you have older children, think about their toys too. Make sure they are tidied away out of reach when they’ve finished playing so that younger ones don’t get hold of them.
  • Button batteries (or button cell batteries) are the small, flat, often silver batteries found in many children’s toys and even in musical birthday and Christmas cards. They’re especially dangerous to young children, who might be tempted to put them in their mouth and swallow them, potentially causing internal burns that could cause death in the most serious cases. Always make sure battery compartments on toys are locked and that little fingers can’t get to them. Store spare batteries as you would any dangerous chemical – out of sight and ideally locked away.
  • If you suspect your child has swallowed a battery, don’t let them eat or drink anything and don’t try to make them sick. Instead, go immediately to hospital, by ambulance if necessary. Remember, every second counts.
  • Generally speaking, toys are likely to be safer if they are bought from a recognised retailer, as opposed to a market, jumble sale, car boot sale or eBay.
  • Always check the label and packaging to make sure the toy is appropriate for your child’s age. What might be fun for an older child might not be suitable for a baby or toddler.
  • It’s also important to check for a CE mark (which confirms the product has been made to current European standards), or a bright red and yellow lion mark (which goes beyond a CE mark and means the British Toy & Hobby Association have classified it as safe). Remember: ‘novelties’ (which are often sold at Christmas) are not sold as toys and not made to the same standards.
  • Dressing up can be loads of fun, but take extra care at Halloween, Christmas, birthdays and other times when there are naked flames around as children can be badly burned if their costumes catch fire.
  • When it comes to choosing costumes, buy from reputable stores, and again look for a CE mark to make sure it’s good quality, as well as generally making sure it’s in a good state of repair. Be aware of any loose ribbons, strings or ties that could get caught round your child’s neck.

  • Small high strength magnets can be found in some children’s toys. When two or more magnets are swallowed, they can stick together, causing damage to the digestive system by cutting off blood flow and rapidly killing intestinal tissue. Abnormal holes can be created between intestinal segments, causing serious infections, lifelong digestive disorders or even death. Check toys for magnets and keep out of reach of children.

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