Parenting Advisor - Creating a Safe and Functional Living Room: 3 Tips for Peace of Mind

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Creating a Safe and Functional Living Room: 3 Tips for Peace of Mind

Accidental injury is the leading cause of death in kids up to 14 years old, and more than a third of these injuries happen right at home, according to KidsHealth. From cleaning products to sharp corners and stairs, there are an abundance of hazards that must be addressed, especially when one parent moves into a new home during a divorce. When aiming to successfully child-proof a home, the living room is a great place to start. From preventing furniture tip-over injuries to the dangers associated with common decor items, creating a safe living room can be achieved in several different ways.

The importance of securing the furniture

In 2020, an estimated 18,000 Americans (nearly half of whom were children), went to emergency rooms across the United States for injuries sustained when furniture, a TV, or another appliance tipped over and hurt them, highlights one NPR post. It’s further noted that a report released by the Consumer Product Safety Commission found that there have been 581 tip-over fatalities in the U.S. since 2000 — four in five of the deaths were children, underlining the serious nature of such hazards. While the data found a decline in “product instability” injuries and deaths, the statistics are still worth keeping in mind when aiming to create a safe home. This is especially imperative when it comes to a child’s curiosity, which can lead to climbing furniture pieces (and potential injury) in a matter of seconds.

“It’s admittedly hard to believe a small child could tip over a heavy piece of furniture, but the danger is less in the child’s strength and more in the weight and momentum of the child and center of gravity of the object,” explains Dex Tuttle, injury prevention program manager at Children’s Minnesota. TVs, entertainment centers, bookshelves, and credenzas are just a few common furniture pieces that can be found in living rooms across the nation — each of which can tip over and potentially injure a child. With that in mind, securing the furniture is imperative, and it doesn’t have to be a daunting endeavor, either. According to Children’s Minnesota, this can be done in different ways — for example, it’s noted that new furniture is often sold with anti-tip brackets, which should be installed right away (always by following the manufacturer’s instructions to ensure proper installation). Mounting or securing televisions and large items like bookcases are additional preventative measures worth taking, while removing tempting items can further avoid unnecessary incidents. For instance, it’s noted that keeping items like remote controls off of high shelves can make furniture less tempting to climb.

Hidden hazards: don’t forget the details

The small details that make up a well-decorated and lived-in living room can also make for an abundance of hidden hazards throughout the room, making it essential to pay attention to the details when cultivating a safe space. One Parents article points out several of such details worth addressing, including candles, photo frames, and power cords. For example, candles can be a choking hazard due to the wax (not to mention the obvious fire hazard involved), making it essential to keep both candles and matches out of reach. With that in mind, however, this doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice the decorative element that candles typically bring to a living room, highlighting the value in safe, flameless and waxless alternatives — like battery operated or LED candles (which can even mimic candlelight). 

The Parents article goes on to point out the dangers of photo frames, another living room staple. “If your child knocks over or drops a frame, the glass can shatter and cut him, even in a carpeted room,” highlights the post. Keeping these well out of reach can be a great way to ensure a safer space, and the same should be done for items like power strips, too. Minimizing electrical hazards in a living room can be made simple by taking several different precautions — a MomLovesBest post highlights several ways to do this, from using power strip covers, individual outlet covers, and cord shorteners to minimize risk. That said, discussing electrical safety with children can also help to stress the dangers involved, while setting rules surrounding the matter is another recommendation.

A cohesive and safe design

When looking to create a safe living room, stylish features don’t have to go overlooked. Many families use the living room as a hub for multiple purposes — in addition to family movie nights, for instance, parents may utilize the space for remote working while the children play in the same room. ‘Zoning’ can be a great design concept when demarcating different areas for different purposes, and entails maximizing the living space by separating areas that serve different functions in the room. Simple ways to do this can involve the integration of a rug, bookshelf, or even using the sofa to segregate a large living room into different areas, and can be tailored with safety in mind for a secure environment.

When tailoring a living room to multiple purposes while keeping safety at the forefront of the process, there are several considerations. For example, a large rug can allow for a makeshift play area for toys to be spread out freely, while a strategically placed desk can create a zone for remote work. Situating the desk in a way that faces a play area will ensure that you can watch over the kids while working, while the same concept can be applied when designing the room around hazards like stairs by ensuring that seating is faced in a way that keeps the stairway in eyesight. Incorporating elements such as decorative locking cabinetry can further serve a tailored space, by providing a smart way to lock away and store remote work essentials (like charging cords), small items such as batteries, and other necessities with peace of mind.

Creating a safe and functional living room can be a challenge, especially when taking into consideration the numerous hidden dangers — like photo frames and even the furniture. However, by implementing various precautions, ensuring that the living room is a safe space for the whole family can be easily achieved.

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