Making Safe Simple: At play

Since the majority of children’s time is spent at home, it’s not a surprise that home is where most injuries occur. Falls, bumps, and bruises are practically expected as a part of childhood, but more serious injuries such as burns, poisoning, strangulation, entrapment, pet bites, cuts, and drowning can easily be prevented. Review the safety tips below.



More than two million emergency department visits a year are related to childhood falls. Thankfully, many falls can be prevented. Prevention is not difficult. It does require your attention and some effort. Supervision is the most important thing you can do to prevent childhood injuries. Download the fall prevention PDF.


  • Never leave babies unsupervised on any piece of furniture including changing tables, beds, and sofas.
  • Use safety straps and other safety features on high chairs, shopping carts, and changing tables.
  • Use safety covers or install padding on sharp corners.
  • Use stationary “walkers” instead of wheeled walkers.
  • Be sure televisions and other heavy furniture are stable and secure to prevent tipping.
  • Use safety gates to keep young children away from stairs.
  • Don’t place toys or items that attract children on top of furniture.
  • Make sure stairs are clear of toys and other objects.


  • Install window guards on all windows above the first floor.
  • Do not rely on window screens to keep children from falling out.

Winter weather

  • Point your feet out slightly like a penguin to increase your center of gravity
  • Bend your legs and walk flat-footed
  • Keep your hands out of your pockets; your arms can be used to help keep your balance
  • If you do fall, try land on your side or bottom and don’t brace your fall with your knees, wrists, or neck; relax your muscles as you fall to reduce injury


  • Always supervise children at playgrounds.
  • Make sure playground equipment is age appropriate. Since 1994, manufacturers are required to have a sticker placed on each piece of equipment indicating the appropriate age group for which it was designed.
  • Be sure surfaces under playground equipment are soft enough to absorb falls.
  • Make sure equipment is specifically designed for playground use.

Wheeled sports

Each year more than 175,000 children are treated in emergency departments for skating, non-motorized scooter, and skateboarding injuries. Thankfully, proper use of the appropriate helmet can reduce the risk of head injury by as much as 85 percent.

It is estimated that as many as 75 percent of bicycle-related fatalities among children could be prevented with a bicycle helmet. Prevention is not difficult. It does require your attention and some effort. Download the wheeled-sport safety PDF.

Helmet tips

  • Make it a rule – wear a helmet every time you ride bike, skateboard, ride a scooter, or in-line skate.
  • Always wear the appropriate helmet for the activity. A multi-sport helmet is a good option for children who bike, skateboard, in-line skate, and ride non-motorized scooters.
  • Helmets should be worn every time and everywhere when participating in wheeled sports.
  • To provide proper protection, a helmet should sit level on the head, not tilted back at an angle. Make sure the helmet fits snugly, and the chinstrap is buckled.

Rules of the road

  • Ride on the right side of the road, with traffic, not against.
  • Use appropriate hand signals.
  • Obey traffic signals, stop at all stop signs and stop lights.
  • Stop, look left, right, left again before entering a street or crossing an intersection.

Other safety tips

  • Children should not ride when it’s dark outside.
  • Wear clothes and accessories that have reflective materials to make sure you are seen.
  • Ensure proper bike fit. When seated on the bike, the child’s feet should be able to touch the ground.
  • Make sure equipment is properly maintained and in working condition.
  • Always model and teach safe behavior.


Household pets

  • Dogs typically don’t like hugs and kisses, particularly when it’s not on their own terms. Teach kids to respect your animal’s space.
  • Don’t stare at a dog in close proximity to its face as this can be interpreted as an act of aggression.
  • Dogs that are tied up, cooped in or curled up (sleeping or relaxing) may be more agitated if approached – they either want to get out or be left alone.
  • Know that dogs don’t only attack when they’re angry (growling, barking, hair standing up); they can attack because they’re scared; a dog with its mouth closed, eyes wide and ears forward may indicate that it’s scared or worried.
  • Recognize these behaviors in your family dog to know it’s time to stop playing and give your pet some space.
    • Avoidance – hiding behind something or someone or turning its head away
    • Submission – rolling on its back, licking, or leaving the room; even though the dog is giving up now, it may not some day
    • Body language – tail between legs or low with only the end wagging, ears in a non-neutral position, rapid panting, licking its chops, or shaking out its fur
    • Acting out – tearing up or destroying personal possessions such as toys or other items your family uses frequently, or urinating or defecating in the house; these may be signs that your dog should be seen by a behavioral professional – don’t delay!

Pets outside of the family*

  • Always ask an adult’s permission before approaching or petting a dog. Start by letting the dog sniff you, then gently pet under its chin or on top of its head, but never its tail, back or legs.
  • Never run or scream if a dog comes up to you.
  • Never try to ride a bike away from a dog; they can run faster than you can bike.
  • Always be calm around dogs and don’t look them in the eye; they may see this as an act of aggression.
  • Stand still like a tree or rock and let the dog sniff you. If a dog starts biting, put whatever you have (backpack, stick, toy, etc.) in its mouth.
  • Avoid dogs that are eating, playing with toys, tied up in a yard, or behind a fence; also avoid dogs who look ill or angry
  • Never tease a dog by throwing things at it, barking at it, etc.

*Source: Children’s Hospital of Michigan

Treating animal bites

Has your child suffered an animal bite? View tips on treating bites.