When I recently learned that another child had been injured by a fallen piece of bedroom furniture, I wasn’t surprised. More than 40 children younger than 18 are treated in emergency departments around the country each day for furniture related tip-overs.
As an injury prevention specialist, I visit families’ homes and make recommendations on ways to make their homes safer for children, with the hopes of preventing these types of unintentional injuries from happening.
Over the years I’ve learned that while many families are aware of the need to baby proof a home, many are not considering of how their behavior may unintentionally encourage their young children to climb furniture.
For instance, when parents put the remote on top of the TV — or place a bottle or sippy cup on top of a dresser – it encourages young children to climb the furniture in order to reach what they want. The unfortunate reality is that head and chest injuries, broken bones and even fatalities can result from furniture tipping over.
So what can parents do about it? Here is what I recommend to help prevent furniture tip-overs from happening:
- Secure furniture to the wall. Furniture that is easily tipped over and needs to be secured to the wall includes free-standing book shelves and dressers. And don’t forget about TVs, too! There are a number of ways to secure furniture to the wall, but a furniture strap is readily accessible at any hardware or home goods store. I recommend for any parent who may be leaving the store with a new piece of furniture to buy a furniture strap at the same time. It should be a combination purchase.
- Put cabinet locks on the drawers. If your child likes to climb on everything, I would take an extra precaution and put cabinet locks on the drawers as well. That way, they can’t be pulled out and potentially encourage the dresser to tip over. This extra precaution may also prevent the drawers from becoming steps for little climbers as well.
- Don’t place items on top of dressers, cabinets, and TVs. Parents can unintentionally encourage their children to climb something when they place a wanted item on top of a piece of furniture. If you’re in the habit of putting remotes up to prevent battery ingestion, I recommend putting them out of sight as well as out of reach.
- Keep furniture away from windows, where possible. When curious children hear the noises of their friends playing outside, they may try to climb nearby furniture to see out of the window. This poses both a furniture tip-over risk and a window fall risk. If there is space in the room, keep all furniture away from the window.
We know that kids are going to fall, climb, crash, slip and tumble. That’s all part of being a kid. But small preventive measures like the ones mentioned above, as well as active supervision, can help kids avoid the more serious injuries that can result from furniture tip-overs.