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Here’s how to keep your child safe, when you can’t be present

When children are not at school they have got to be somewhere. Whether your own children are spending idle time at your home or you’ve got grandchildren or nieces and nephews visiting, these are all situations that require a decent check-in with the kids or parents to ensure the young people are aware of basic safety no-no’s and kept safe.

It is, of course, all age dependent and nothing beats good, present supervision, especially when more dangerous activities are underway. But drilling some of these points into the young ones in and around your home will make your job a great deal less stressful.

Animal safety

Girl in bed with dog

Children should know how to respectfully and gently interact with animals. At home and when visiting homes with pets children need to remember the following safety rules:

  1. Don’t bother a pet when it is eating or drinking and do not try to take food or the water bowl away from the pet.
  2. Do not tease or hurt pets. Things like pulling tails and ears, or sitting on animals should be strictly off limits.
  3. Do not bother a pet that is sleeping or feeling ill. Trying to wake a sleeping pet or bothering a sick pet can cause the animal to react badly by nipping at the child.
  4. Animal mothers can be very protective; do not try and go to close or touch new babies.
  5. When interacting with a pet that is not known to your children teach them to ask first if it is okay to approach and pet the animal. And when initiating contact with the animal your child should let the animal sniff their hands first.

Speak to your children about more exotic pets that they might not be familiar with; young children especially need to understand the importance of respectfully handling all pets correctly. Rabbits, hamsters and guinea pigs should be slowly lifted from their cages and securely held under their bellies, while reptiles such as bearded dragons or pet snakes require that hands be washed directly after they were handled since these pets can sometimes carry bacteria like salmonella. While birds should also not be teased, children should not hit or shake the cage or try to feed the birds by sticking fingers in the cage as the birds could bite.

Keep your child a phone call away, without the risk of the internet

Finally, the holidays should, hopefully, mean more time outside exploring for your little ones. Ensure that they know how to stay safe around animals, insects or reptiles they might find in your garden or the local park.

Rule number one is simple – teach your children that it is not okay to ever go close to a wild animal, no matter how cute or cuddly the animal may appear they should never try to catch or touch the wild animal.

Secondly, drive home the fact that wild animals should not be fed. This is not only dangerous and could create a problem (think vermin monkeys at holiday spots), but is also unfair towards the animal since that wild animal now becomes reliant on humans for food.

Human safety

Trust baby holding parents hand

The basic safety standard here is that your child should know, at as early an age as possible, about stranger danger. Teach them not to leave or get into anybody’s car that you’ve not okayed. This is not an easy conversation to have with very young children since you’d, understandably, like to preserve some innocence, but it is your job as a parent or guardian to educate your little one.

You can never realistically watch your child 24/7; this is why this next safety point is so vitally important. Teach your child that they should never, ever, under any circumstances open the door to people they do not know. Better yet, teach your child not to go to answer the door without you.

While teaching your child about the potential dangers of people they do not know, make sure they know who they can trust and go to for help if they are ever scared or in danger. This ranges from people that can pick them up from school, to neighbours that they know and can go to for help if needed.

Home safety

Girl playing in room

In addition to basic home security issues such as ensuring that doors and windows all lock securely and that the pool is child-proofed, there are some baby (child)-proofing things you need to ensure are in place to keep your children safe when they are spending more time at home:

The letter no dad wants to write

  1. Cleaning products and other dangerous chemicals should be stored out of reach of children, preferably in locked cupboards. If dealing with very young toddlers and babies just becoming mobile it is a good idea to put baby-proof latches on all cupboards, drawers and the fridge.
  2. Consider how safe your furniture is for children running around. Sharp corners should be softened with corner guards or similar while bookcases and any other inviting challenges for little climbers should rather be fastened to avoid the furniture falling over onto the child.
  3. Turn off appliances and wall plugs. Teach your children that they should not play with electric cords and, as far as possible, keep this packed away rather.
  4. Do not leave young children alone in the bath and always run out bath water. Children drowning in very shallow water is, sadly and unfathomably, a reality for many families.

While you can never be present and have eyes everywhere with children running around, doing exactly what they should be doing, there are some things you can do to keep your littlest loved ones safe when at your home.


Mariette Steynberg is a qualified economist with a post-graduate diploma in financial planning. She has enjoyed working on holistic financial plans for clients in various stages of life, as well as a development economist assessing the socioeconomic impacts of new developments. When she is not working, Mariette enjoys parenting her quirky, delightful toddler girl. Cloth diapering, Eskimo kisses and the importance of reading to your child are all causes close to her heart. Mariette is passionate about financial education and hopes to use the experience she has gained to share knowledge with HomeTimes’ readership. Her goal is to provide information that is implementable by everyone.

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