Every year, about one million children under 15 years old visit hospitals after an accident in the home – many of them electrical. There are things that you can do as a responsible parent to childproof your home against electrical hazards.
- If you’re using an extension cord, block your child’s access to it with heavy furniture and put electrical tape over its unused plug holes.
- Wall sockets should be fitted with plastic inserts, but they’re not completely childproof. They can be pulled out and become a choking hazard. Some safety outlets are designed to prevent interference from foreign objects, so use those if possible and place heavy furniture in front of the outlet.
- Children are drawn to flashing lights and appliances that make noises, so make sure that they are out of reach and behind barriers.
These precautions help, but how can you be confident that your child won’t wander into electrical danger? The best way is to teach them how to stay safe. Teachers and parents all know, though, that telling a child NOT to do something is a surefire way to tempt them to do it.
It’s not enough to give them rules to obey. In as far as possible, you need to explain WHY, too, without frightening them. Child psychologists agree that children learn better on a reward system, so use your imagination to turn the negative messages into positive ones.
You could work out a reward system for your child, giving them stars, an extra bedtime story or a longer playtime for remembering and reciting the rules to you. Stick to just a few rules that cover all the basics - make the game easy for your child to ‘win’.
Use language that’s easy to understand, using imagery to explain your point. Here are some child-friendly ways you can teach your child the basic electrical safety rules:
- “The toaster is for bread only. Never put knives, forks, spoons or anything else that’s metal in the toaster.”
- “Even though it’s near to the floor, never touch the plug socket. Those three little holes are not meant for little fingers.”
- “If something has a plug or an electric cord, it isn’t allowed near water.”
- “An electric cord is not rope. Never pull it, even though it looks like it’s meant for tugging.”
- “When you’re outside for a walk or playing in a field, stay away from big power lines. On windy days, fly your kite, remote aeroplane or drone far away from them.”
- “Poles with wires coming out of the top of them are called ‘power lines’ – and they’re not climbing frames. If you see one that’s fallen over, stay away from it and tell me straight away.”.
- “Don’t climb trees that are close to power lines.”
- “If you see something with a warning sign on it, do as it says and stay far away.”
There are lots of short videos online that you can watch together. For very young children, you could use finger puppets or toys in the lesson, giving one of them each a rule to ‘remember’ which will help your child to recall the information and act responsibly.
By approaching Electrical Safety First in an unthreatening way like this, you and your family will be able to relax at home.