Why are toddlers at risk?
The combination of a toddler’s growing confidence, their curiosity and the hazards inherent to rural properties can be a dangerous mix.
- Toddlers are smaller, and therefore easier to lose sight of – particularly if they have collapsed.
- Toddlers have less knowledge and understanding of the dangers around them.
- Toddlers may be unable to communicate audibly when they need help or articulate what has occurred to them.
- Toddlers are still largely dependent on adults for their care and for boundary-setting.
Perhaps the biggest risk for toddlers is that their bodies are simply more delicate, and otherwise small hazards to adults – such as a fall from a stepladder – are more likely to seriously injure a toddler.
Chemicals, fertilisers and tools
Harmful liquids, substances and tools can often appear little different to toys in the eyes of toddlers and small children. Such hazards must be locked away in household cupboards or in outdoors sheds and garages. Chemicals should never be stored in anything other than their original container; if they are transferred to reused containers such as juice bottles, they can easily confuse children.
Bodies of water
Many rural properties will contain or be near a body of water. Dams, creeks, irrigation ditches, rivers and even ponds are all potentially fatal hazards to toddlers. Where possible near the home, install childproof fencing around bodies of water, or fence an outdoor area adjacent to the home where your toddler can play. At all other times, it is critical to practice active supervision of your toddler and to lock doors that lead to outside.
Machinery and vehicles
Never operate machinery such as tractors, or vehicles such as quad bikes, with toddlers and small children riding shotgun or in your lap. When you do operate these vehicles, ensure that you know where your toddler is and that they are under active supervision by another adult who is aware that you are operating the vehicle.
Rural property holders may own guns for purposes such as hunting, pest control or sport. Each state and territory has strict rules and regulations about the storage of firearms at home. These regulations are designed to keep your family members safe, so ensure that you follow them closely. When using a gun on a rural property, it is critical to do so away from other people and to know where all people on the property are at all times.
Wildlife and domestic animals
Pets and farm animals can be as much a hazard to toddlers and small children as wildlife. While you must always supervise your toddler around animals, you can also teach your toddler how to behave; try to teach toddlers as early as possible never to scream at an animal, pull their fur or hit them.
To deter snakes and spiders from the immediate surrounds, keep the area around your home free of clutter such as woodpiles, unused furniture and other items that can provide an attractive home for wildlife.