Having a child is an amazing and emotional experience, but it can also be nerve-wracking. It’s difficult to know how to judge how safe different activities are for your child at different ages. To help set your mind at ease, we’ve pulled together some of the most common questions and gathered some answers to help make your decisions a little bit easier.
Sleeping With a Pillow and Blanket
Here is one of the earliest safety questions you’ll probably be asking yourself. You’ll use blankets as you bring your baby home, if they benefit from swaddling, but when is it safe for your child to sleep with a pillow and a blanket like you do?
The answer to this question depends on whom you ask. Some pediatricians will recommend starting with a blanket and a firm pillow around their first birthday, while others suggest waiting until your child turns 2 or even until they graduate to a “big-kid bed” before they get a blanket and pillow. For cold nights, sleep sacks or footie pajamas are the best way to keep your little ones warm until they graduate to a full-grown blanket and pillow.
Staying Home Alone
Leaving your children home alone will depend largely on how mature and responsible your child is at their current age. Currently, only three states — Illinois, Maryland and Oregon — have laws that outline how old a child has to be before they can legally stay home alone, but for other states, there are no laws or guidelines.
It just depends on how responsible your child is, how long you’ll be gone, whether your child will be responsible for other children and how safe your neighborhood is. Start with short trips — 10 minutes to the store and back, for example — before you start leaving them alone for long periods of time.
Buying a Swing Set
Playing at the park is great, but it’s a lot more convenient to have a playset in your backyard. When should you consider buying a swing set for your children?
As soon as your child can get around on their own, they can benefit from having a playset in the backyard. Around age 2, playsets that are low to the ground and have good safety features can encourage children to play and get some exercise. As your children get older, you can invest in more elaborate playsets that encourage more imaginative play.
Water safety is something everyone should keep in mind whenever you’re at the pool or the beach. Swimming lessons can be an excellent way to increase water safety, but how old should your child be before you start sending them to swimming lessons?
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends swimming lessons for all children at age 4. They can swim and enjoy the water before they hit that age under supervision, but doctors don’t consider children to be developmentally ready for formal lessons until they have passed their fourth birthday.
Sitting in the Front Seat
We all know how important it is for us to keep our children in their car seats or booster seats until they outgrow them, and keep them in the back seat for the duration, but when are they old enough or big enough to sit in the front seat?
Children under 12 should sit secured correctly in the backseat, because the front airbags can cause fatal injuries if they deploy with children in the front seat. Keep children in the backseat until they are large enough that the seatbelt fits them properly without the use of a booster seat or car seat. Depending on their size, that may or may not be when they reach the age of 12.
Playing Outside Without Supervision
How old should your children be before you let them play outside on their own? That depends on many of the same variables that apply to leaving your children home alone — how responsible your children are, how safe your neighborhood is and if there are any places for your child to play safely in your area. Of 100 moms surveyed, 82 percent would not let their children play outside unsupervised until they hit at least 7 years old.
In this case, there are also laws you need to consider. In some states, you may not be allowed to leave your child outside unsupervised until they’re 18, while other states may not consider playing outside to be a crime, as long as the child is safe.
Our children are the future, quite literally, and it’s up to us to ensure they are safe. It can be tricky to know when certain activities are safe for children, so hopefully, these answers make your choices a little bit easier in the future.