Avoid hazards at the grandkid’s home
When caring for your grandkids in their home, learn to operate all appliances and alarms. Hopefully their home is child-proofed, but looks around you for safety hazards. Lock away medicines, poisons and alcohol. Post the pediatrician’s name and phone, the school name, phone, and directions, and the name, phone, and directions for extra-curricular activities in a prominent place. Obtain the name and number of a friend or neighbor, and get an emergency number for the parents.
Get a copy of your grandchildren’s insurance cards and social security numbers and a signed and dated permission form from the parents in case the children need medical help. In fact, if the parents are leaving town, have them leave the original insurance cards with you.
Many doctors will not bill the insurance company without seeing the actual card. We found this out the hard way when my grandson split his chin. Even though we had a copy of his card, the emergency clinic would not accept it and made us pay outright for treatment.
If you must meet the children at school or a bus stop, get exact times and directions. Have the parents send a letter to the school granting permission for you to pick up the children. Learn the teachers’ names if you must take the children out early. At my grandchildren’s school-as in most- parents and grandparents must sign in at the office when visiting or taking the children out.
Child-proof your home
If the children are visiting you, you will need the same emergency information and permissions. You’ll also need to child-proof your home. According to the National Safety Council, cribs should have bars no further apart than 2 inches and no cut-outs on headboard or foot-board. Mattresses should fit snugly to avoid trapping a child’s head. Place the crib away from a window. Never put an infant to sleep on your bed for even a short period. Even the smallest can roll unexpectedly, and babies have been smothered under pillows.
Invest in bed rails for small children. Place night lights at least three feet from bedding or draperies to avoid a fire, and cut or roll up blind cords. A nursery monitor will help you hear the children. A foam bath seat will make bathing an infant safer-as will a soft “faucet guard” to protect little heads. Before bathing a child, check the water temperature. Use a rubber mat or rubber strips in the tub and an absorbent mat beside it to avoid slips.
Never-ever leave an infant, toddler or small child alone in the bathtub. A small stool will help kids reach the sink safely. Strap the baby to the changing table when diapering, or stand in front of the child so he won’t flip off the bed. Have diapers, wipes, etc. close by so you don’t have to leave the child.
Invest in a sturdy highchair with a strap. Alternatively, hold the children in your lap while feeding them-or sit them in the stroller. Avoid foods that might be a choking hazard. When taking a walk, use the stroller strap and provide sun protection.
Remove cleaning supplies, drain cleaners, etc. from lower cabinets-or install cabinet locks. Keep cigarettes, matches and lighters out of reach. Lock up any firearms. Store all pills out of reach during the visit. If the children visit regularly, buy medicine with child-resistant caps.
Secure tall furniture to the wall with safety brackets to keep it from falling, and remove breakables or heavy objects from shelves. Be sure glass-topped tables won’t tip if children lean on them. Wrap sharp table edges with masking tape or quilt strips to protect small heads. Use plastic cups and dishes-to avoid breakage and cuts.
Keep chairs or step stools away from counters or the stove. Use protective covers if stove knobs are accessible. Cook on back burners whenever possible, and turn pot handles toward the wall. Keep knives out of reach and out of the dishwasher so your grandchild won’t try-like mine did-to put away the knives.
Use door stops to prevent doors from slamming on children’s fingers, and install hooks or bolts at the top of outside doors. Safety gates will prevent toddlers from falling down stairs or entering certain rooms. “Screw-in” gates are safer than pressure ones. Unplug unused lamps or appliances, and use outlet covers to prevent electrocution.
If your grandkids are like mine, water is a magnet. Be especially vigilant at a beach. Lake or pool. Remember a child can drown in seconds in only inch of water. The Consumer Product Safety Commission recommends that all pools be enclosed by a fence at least four feet high with slats less than four inches apart and a secure, child-proof flock. A pool alarm protects children who might fall into the water.
Be cautious when including friends
If your grandchild invites a friend over, call the parent, introduce yourself and explain the activity. Ask for a phone number if the child lives close or a signed permission for emergency care when taking the children out. Know the friend’s abilities. Your grandchild may swim like a fish, but a friend who does not is a safety hazard in a pool or boat.
If your grandchild is invited to a friend’s home or party, call the friend’s parent to be sure the children will be supervised. Arrange drop-off or pick-up times beforehand. Don’t allow the child to “sleep over” while in your care. Just say “no” if you’re not comfortable with the activity.
Plan safe outings
Watch children carefully in the yard. Be sure gates are locked. Be aware of nearby dogs, wild animals, lawn equipment, chemicals unsafe climbing apparatus, pools, or ponds. Insist small and early-elementary children remain with you on walks or bike rides. Don’t let them run; ride ahead or cross streets alone. Know their abilities before letting them climb on playground equipment and bypass the area if there’s rough play going on. Our visit to a water park was ruined when an older child pushed my grandson down. Be aware of your grandkids’ skills with bikes, skateboards, surfboards,etc. before taking them out. Go with them or wait outside when they use the rest room.
When taking teens to a movie at the mall, or amusement park, allow them freedom within the facility, but arrange a meeting time and place and insist they be on time. If they have a cell phone, have them call in at specified times.
Consider your own safety
Make sure the caregiver doesn’t end up needing the care! Watch your steps when carrying infants. Don’t lift a child who is too heavy for you. Pace yourself when playing sports. Quickly wipe up spills to prevent slipping. Establish an out-of-the-way area for children to set up playthings, and insist they put them away when finished so you don’t trip over them. Get directions before driving the children somewhere.
Think ahead, and don’t overextend yourself or the kids. Fussy or tired kids and grandparents are more apt to be accident-prone. Remind yourself and the children that your goal is a fun visit and you’d like to return everyone in one piece.