Children have been seriously injured and killed by unsafe products, dangerous situations, and improper practices in homes and childcare situations. Could your church nursery be at risk of causing harm to a child? The stakes are too high to take anything for granted. Use this up-to-date information to evaluate your nursery for often-overlooked dangers.
Don’t accept secondhand cribs if they don’t meet safety standards. According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, more infants die each year in crib-related accidents than with any other nursery product. Here’s what to check for in any crib, new or used:
•No missing, loose, or broken screws and brackets.
•No more than two and three-eighths inches between crib slats.
•Firm, snug-fitting mattresses, with hangers secured by closed hooks.
•No corner posts more than one-sixteenth of an inch above the end panels.
•No decorative headboards or footboards with large openings.
•No cracked or peeling paint or splinters.
- Bumper pads that fit the entire crib, tie, or snap into place, and have at least six straps. Remove such bumpers once babies start to stand, or they may crawl onto the bumpers and out of the crib.
•Drop-side latches that babies can’t release and that remain at least four inches above the mattress when lowered.
•Look for cribs and other furniture that are certified by the Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association, or that meet ASTM or CPSC standards. Such products should be clearly marked.
Toy chests should have spring-loaded lid supports that won’t trap children inside. They should also have ventilation holes in case children do get trapped. If an existing toy chest doesn’t have a safe lid, remove the top before using.
Children under age six shouldn’t play with un-inflated balloons, and children who put objects in their mouths shouldn’t be allowed to play with marbles. Remove rattles, squeeze toys, and other small objects from cribs while infants sleep.
All toys in a nursery should be washable. Smooth, plastic-covered toys are best because they can be easily cleaned.
Buy age-appropriate toys. Infants up to age one like toys that stimulate their sight, hearing, and touch, such as rattles, large blocks of wood, and soft animals. Kids ages one to two like musical toys and push-and-pull toys. Children ages two to five enjoy books, crayons, housekeeping toys, and simple puzzles. Children ages five to nine like card games, hand puppets, paper dolls, and crafts. And older kids, ages 10 to 14, appreciate sports equipment, board games, and computer games.
The old-fashioned diaper pail is history. Products like the Playtex Diaper Genie II allow for clean, easy, odor-free diaper disposal.
Wall-mounted diaper-changing stations are popular. The station operates like a built-in ironing board; it can be pulled down to change a baby and pushed back when done. Diaper decks hold baby wipes, rubber gloves, and other diaper-change items. It saves space, and you don’t need another piece of furniture to use when changing diapers. Instruct all workers to use the safety straps. Every year children are injured when they fall off changing tables.
The table should be cleaned with a disinfectant cleaner after every use.
Rocking chairs present a pinch hazard. Children can crawl behind a rocking chair and get their hands and fingers under the chair as it rocks back. Choose glider rockers and matching ottomans. Gliders are easier to rock, and are often super-padded. But use only gliders that have the gliding mechanism completely covered to prevent catching and possibly amputating hands and fingers.
Most children who fall from highchairs do so because they were not properly strapped in. The chair should have a waist strap and a strap or other divider that goes between the legs to prevent the child from sliding under the tray. Be sure the straps and belts are sturdy and cannot be easily loosened. The chair should have a wide base for stability. Some manufacturers sell replacement straps for secondhand highchairs.
If you use hook-on chairs that attach to table edges, don’t place them where children’s feet can push against the table and dislodge the chairs.
Walkers represent the number one hazard of all nursery products. Accidents occur quickly, and usually in the presence of a caretaker. Walkers are not recommended for church use. Walkers with coil springs can pinch fingers. Walkers with an x-frame that collapses pose a risk of finger amputation.
Look for tiny mesh netting and slat spaces that are no more than two and three-eighths inches wide. If a secondhand playpen has vinyl-covered top rails, don’t use it, because children can bite off and choke on the vinyl.
All nursery surfaces should be washed regularly and kept dust-free, but areas where baby diapers are changed or where babies spit up or leave other messes require special attention. Add one tablespoon of household bleach to a quart of water and spray it on the affected area, then wipe it off. But never add bleach to another cleaning chemical unless the manufacturer recommends it. Make sure all chemicals have child-resistant closures. Also, use safety latches on cabinets used to store hazardous items such as chemicals, medicines, paint solvents, plastic trash bags, polishes, or waxes. Better yet, keep hazardous items where children can never reach them.
Keep a supply of instant hand sanitizer products available in the bathrooms and at the changing tables.
Other Safety Tips
• Keep window blind cords out of reach by hanging them at the top of the window covering. Better yet, use window coverings that don’t have cords or sashes, and don’t set cribs near windows.
•Install anti-scald devices on faucets to keep water temperatures below 120 degrees Fahrenheit.
•If the nursery air is dry, consider using a cool-mist humidifier. This is especially helpful during winter months when children have colds. Clean a humidifier frequently to prevent the growth of bacteria and mold.
•Standard, cheap, metal coat hooks are dangerous and can cause seri-ous injury if a child runs into one. Coat hooks must be located where they cannot injure a child. A better solution is a relatively new product called HangSafe Hooks. These strong, plastic hangers offer no sharp corners.
Follow the Rules
Nurseries and daycare centers must operate according to state regulations. This includes appropriate licensing and following guidelines regarding the number of toilets, step stools, sinks, the number of caregivers per child, food storage and preparation, napping facilities, square footage per child, assistance for disabled children, and other issues. While most churches do not
seek licensing of their nurseries, you should still be familiar with all applicable regulations.
In addition to the state, other agencies are involved in daycare licensing, including town or city departments such as zoning, health, building, and fire. Regulations cover many facets, including admission procedures, personnel qualifications, recordkeeping, first aid, and garbage removal. Before you start a nursery or daycare center, research state and local requirements, talk with daycare operators, visit other programs. Then decide exactly what you want in your program.