Prevent a Head Injury...Move the Furniture
I have a little monkey of a toddler.
He is 18 months old and climbs EVERYTHING. In particular, he loves to climb up on our couch and watch the world go by outside. He leans on the window and giggles at the squirrels and birds in our yard.
The problem is, toddlers don’t have much in the way of safety awareness! And my little one is no exception.
Since he’s become so mobile, I’ve had to start keeping the window behind the couch closed when he’s awake, so that he doesn’t push the screen out and accidentally fall out of the window.
Our house is a one-story ranch, so it wouldn’t be far for him to fall if he did accidentally do so, but being the safety-conscious, somewhat paranoid, pediatric rehab nurse mama that I am, I don’t want to take that chance! You see, I had no idea how frequently kids fall out of windows and experience life-threatening trauma as a result until I started working in the Division of Rehabilitative Medicine at Children's Hospital Los Angeles.
Most children suffer a traumatic brain injury after a fall from a window. Some tragically die. The highest cause of traumatic brain injury in children ages 0-4 years old is falls.
More information on falls – injury statistics and incidence rates
Even infants will climb sofas as they explore their environment.
Kids Fall Headfirst
Kids are top-heavy by nature because of how they are built. So they usually fall headfirst. The ground below an open window might be grass, it might be bushes, or it might be cement (not exactly a soft landing when falling headfirst).
Now that I work in “rehab,” the Rehabilitative Medicine Division at Children's Hospital Los Angeles, I have seen and heard grief-stricken parents sharing their remorse over what could have been prevented so easily. Some of the more heartbroken parents are the ones who saw the fall take place and didn’t get there in time. It is heartbreaking to hear them say things like, “I saw it happen, but I couldn’t get to Johnny in time,” or “I grabbed the edge of Susie’s dress, but it wasn’t enough and she slipped out of my grasp and fell.” Parents or other caregivers feel incredibly sad and guilty that they were not able to protect their child.
I see a photo like this and just cringe.
A Reason to Rearrange Your Furniture
I have become aware of how furniture is arranged in our house and the safety levels of each placement as a result of working in our hospital’s rehab department. I’m excited to share that there are some pretty simple ways to try to prevent a fall from a window. Most simply involve rearranging the furniture.
Watch for “Climbable Furniture”
Don’t place “climbable” furniture under a second (or third, or fourth) story window. This includes couches, chairs, and ESPECIALLY a child’s bed. Don’t forget other rooms like dens, offices and sitting areas in bedrooms. Older children will even climb dressers as well.
Close and Lock Windows
If you are forced to place furniture under a window, keep that window closed AND locked when small children are present. If you have a low-to-the-ground window, keep it closed and locked at all times when children are present.
Bars on Windows
Some parents choose to install bars on windows to overcome this safety issue. Barred windows can prevent kids from falling through an open window. However they do not represent a foolproof safety solution because they need to be able to be opened in case of a fire.
Rooms with Accessible Windows
There may be some instances where you simply may not be able to find a simple solution for the accessible windows in your home. In these cases, it will be crucial to provide close supervision when small children are in a room with accessible windows. And be sure to cover this topic with relatives and babysitters who watch your child.
I hope I’ve helped provide you with a few helpful tips that will help you know what to look for to avoid needless falls from windows. In the meantime, please let me know if you found any problem areas in your home and how you plan to rearrange the furniture to prevent head injuries for your child.