Crib and Mattress Guide

Choose the Perfect Crib For Your Baby

As the place where baby sleeps at night, naps during the day, and just plain hangs out on a regular basis during their first two or three years of life, a crib will most likely become the centerpiece of your baby’s nursery. Although they typically come in a standard rectangular shape, cribs are available in a number of different styles and can differ widely in price depending on the materials used in their construction.

Most baby cribs are made of wood, but the quality of wood can range from the softer, more porous woods like pine, to more durable hardwoods like oak, ash, maple, and other imported woods. Parents shopping for a new crib are also likely to encounter a huge selection of colors and finishes, from pure whites and natural wood colors to a whole range of deeper wood stains, including lighter maple and cherry stains to the much darker mahoganies. Regardless of the color you select, the finish should be nontoxic and should not be prone to chipping or peeling.

Some cribs can be purchased as part of a furniture suite, which can include matching chests, dressing tables, and armoires. While this may be an attractive option for parents who want to have a completely coordinated set of nursery furniture, these matching suites can be expensive. Some cribs are equipped with built-in storage drawers, a convenient feature that raises the overall price.

Unfortunately, the price you pay for a crib doesn’t always match up with the quality of what you get. So learn as much as you can about the different components and the required safety features, and then try to find the best possible crib that fits your budget.

In addition to three basic crib types, there are a number of different options and features to consider. Here is a breakdown of what to look for when you start shopping:

Crib Types:

  • Standard cribs: The most common style of crib, standard cribs usually have either one or two drop sides–a side of the crib that can be easily lowered and raised so that you can place baby inside without waking or disturbing her. Double drop sides offer more versatility for caretakers, while single drop sides tend to be more stable. Look for drop sides that work smoothly and quietly (and look out for potential “pinchers”).
  • Canopy cribs: A stylish alternative to a standard crib, canopy cribs come equipped with a large post at each corner, with a metal frame over the top to secure a fabric canopy. Canopies are often available in a variety of styles and colors that can be matched up with the rest of your nursery furniture and accessories.
  • Convertible cribs: Designed to convert from a standard crib to a toddler bed, love seat, or double bed, a convertible crib can be a good choice for parents who don’t plan on having another child. Along with saving you money over time, these adjustable cribs can also make the move from a crib to a bed a little less stressful for your child by making the transition in stages.

 

Key Features:

  • Mattress support: As your bouncing baby grows into a bouncing toddler and discovers the joys of jumping in his crib, it will be tested, repeatedly, for strength. Attaching to the mattress height clips located at each corner of the crib, the mattress support is a metal frame that is designed to withstand all the abuse your child may dish out.
  • Adjustable mattress height: Holding up the mattress support at each corner of the crib, multiple mattress height adjustments allow you to raise or lower the height of the mattress, a versatile feature that becomes increasingly important as your child grows larger and inevitably tries to climb out of the crib.
  • Release mechanism: The release mechanism is a very important component of a crib and performs a dual role: it allows parents to lower the drop sides of the crib for easy access, while preventing baby from lowering them accidentally. You’ll find this essential feature in one of three forms–metal rods, trigger releases, and knee releases. Regardless of the configuration, a release mechanism should always be childproof.
  • Teething rails: These aptly named strips of plastic fit over the top of the crib’s railings and prevent little ones from gnawing directly on the wood. Teething rails are usually installed by the manufacturer, but they can also be purchased separately in 12-inch sections and attached at home.
  • Rolling casters: Available in either plastic or metal, rolling casters should come with a locking mechanism. The ability to lock down the wheels will become more important as your baby approaches toddlerhood and begins to stand upright while holding onto things–including the side of the crib.

 

Crib Safety Guidelines:

The crib you select should always meet all current national safety standards. Many older cribs do not meet all current safety standards. You should not purchase an old crib at a garage sale or accept a hand-me-down as a gift. Parents should always read through and follow the manufacturer’s instructions pertaining to both assembly and daily usage before setting up and using a new crib. Here are some additional crib safety guidelines, as compiled by the Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association (JPMA):

  • Infants should always sleep in a crib which meets current federal and ASTM standards. Never place infants to sleep on pillows, sofa cushions, adult beds, waterbeds, beanbags, or any other surface not specifically designed for sleeping infants.
  • Remember to always keep the drop side up when baby is in the crib.
  • Take rattles, squeeze toys, teethers, plush toys, and other items out of baby’s crib when baby is sleeping or unattended. Remove pillows, quilts, comforters, sheepskins, pillow-like stuffed toys, and other pillow-like products from the crib.
  • Never place your crib near windows, draperies, blinds, or wall-mounted decorative accessories with long cords.
  • Select bumper pads that fit around the entire crib and tie or snap securely into place.
  • Use bumper pads only until the child can pull up to a standing position. Then remove them so baby cannot use the pads to climb out of the crib.
  • Mobiles should also be removed when baby can stand up.
  • Make sure there are no missing, loose, broken, or improperly installed screws, brackets, or other hardware on the crib or mattress support.
  • Crib slats or spindles should be spaced no more than 2.38 inches apart, and none should be loose or missing.
  • Never use a crib with corner posts over 0.06 inch above the end panels (unless they’re over 16 inches high, for a canopy). Babies can strangle if their clothes become caught on corner posts. These should be unscrewed or sawed off and the remaining end panels sanded smooth.
  • There should be no cutout areas on the headboard or footboard, so baby’s head can’t get trapped.
  • There should be no cracked or peeling paint.
  • There should be no splinters or rough edges.
  • Look for the JPMA Certification Seal.

Our Favorite Cribs


Mattresses:

When it comes to crib mattresses, you essentially get what you pay for. Manufactured in a standard 52-by-27-inch size, most are 6 inches thick and typically come with a white or off-white cover. But that’s where the similarities end. There are two types of mattresses on the market, foam and innerspring, and each has its own strengths and weaknesses. Here’s a look at the differences between the two:

 

Mattress Types:

  • Foam: Made of polyester or polyether material, foam mattresses typically weigh less and are less expensive than their innerspring counterparts. Their weight depends on the density of foam used in their construction: the denser the foam, the heavier the mattress. A denser foam mattress will provide a firmer surface for baby and will keep its shape longer, while a lighter mattress makes changing baby’s sheets every week a little easier on the back.
  • Innerspring: Like most adult mattresses, innerspring crib mattresses come with an innerspring unit containing rows of steel coils. These coils can vary in both number and in quality and directly affect the firmness and weight of the mattress. Innerspring mattresses also have an insulator layer that sits on top of the coils to prevent them from penetrating the top layers, a cushioning layer or layers of foam or natural cotton, and a mattress cover.

 

Buying Tips:

  • For both foam and innerspring mattresses, the quality of the material and the number of layers that are used in the padding, or ticking, will help determine how long the mattress will last. Some mattresses have double- or triple-laminated ticking, and many have a layer made of heavy-gauge nylon that is bonded to a layer of waterproof material. In addition to providing water resistance, a nylon layer will make the mattress more resistant to tearing.
  • Apply the two-finger sizing test: place the mattress in the crib and try to fit two fingers between the outer edge of the mattress and the rods or spindles that run along the sides of the crib. If you can fit two fingers into this space, the space is too big and the mattress is not the right size for the crib. Baby could potentially get trapped between the mattress and the side of the crib.
  • An overly soft mattress is a suffocation hazard, especially for infants and newborns, so choose the firmest mattress that you can afford to buy. When shopping for a foam mattress, it is a good idea to test the mattress for firmness by pressing your hand on it and seeing how quickly it regains its original shape.
  • Look for a crib mattress with vent holes, typically located on either side. By allowing musty odors to escape, these will help keep a mattress smelling fresh over years of use.

 

Mattress Accessories:

Along with the bedding you select, there are a number of accessories you can purchase to protect your crib mattress and make it more comfortable for the diminutive person who will be sleeping on it. Crib sheets, sheet savers, and waterproof mattress pads can extend the life of the mattress and are usually available in either a fitted form or with zippers. Always use a crib sheet that fits securely on the mattress and wraps around the mattress corners.

Our Favorite Mattresses

Baby Backpack, Sling & Front Carrier Guide

Choosing a Backpack, Sling or Front Carrier for your Baby

Going out and about with your baby in a stroller is one way to go, but for increased mobility and potentially greater closeness, consider using a baby carrier, sling, or backpack that straps onto you via shoulder straps. Contraptions of this type conveniently free up both of your hands and allow for a closer physical connection between parent and baby. It is much easier to navigate stairs or crowded stores with a carrier than with a stroller. And, if you plan on hiking and camping with your child, then these would be your only choice, since strollers just won’t cut it on more rugged terrain. For baby, they have the added benefit of providing a view of more than just shoes and socks and the chance for added closeness and even conversation with Mom or Dad. Here are a few things to consider when purchasing any type of backpack, front-carrier, or sling:

  • Look for a carrier that is comfortable for both you and baby. Try out the ones you’re thinking of buying, rather than asking a friend for a recommendation. A carrier that fits your friend well may not fit you.
  • Carriers can be used until your baby is about 45 pounds, though you may find that they may feel too heavy and uncomfortable even before your baby reaches that weight. At that point, it’s time to try a stroller.
  • Make sure your carrier is the right size for your child’s size and age.
  • Beware of carriers that you cannot manipulate on your own. It’s unrealistic to think that you will always have a spouse or companion with you to help get your baby in and out of the carrier.
  • If you plan on sharing the carrier with someone else (like a spouse or babysitter), make sure it adjusts to fit everybody who’ll be wearing it.
  • Carriers made of fabrics that are easy to wipe clean or that can be put in the wash are best.


Front Carriers

Front carriers are made up of two shoulder straps supporting a fabric seat. They are typically designed so that your baby can ride on your chest, facing inward or outward, and have adjustable settings to help distribute your baby’s weight across your back and shoulders.

  • Front carriers are good for newborns and can hold infants up to 30 pounds, though many parents find that a backpack works better once your baby exceeds 15 or 20 pounds.
  • Front carriers allow baby to face outward and see the world while still being close to you, which may be soothing and cut down on fussiness.
  • The snug fit of front carriers makes them warm, so pick one with breathable fabric that won’t make baby too hot.
  • Use a carrier with well-padded shoulder and waist or hip straps to save your shoulders and back from strain.
  • Make sure your carrier has a sturdy headrest that will support a sleeping baby’s neck and head and that leg holes are banded with soft fabric that won’t irritate a baby’s skin.
  • Find a carrier that is easy to slip on and off by yourself and that won’t require you to wake baby to do so.
  • It is awkward to breastfeed a baby in a front carrier. If this is something you plan to do, you might want to consider a sling instead.

Parents and reviewers have been raving about the classic BABYBJORN Baby Carrier for years now, and with good reason. It is a great, easy to use carrier that fits most parents perfectly. We love it.

Our favorite carriers are:

Slings

Slings are simply a wide swath of fabric that hangs across an adult’s torso and is supported by one shoulder strap. They allow infants to lie in a fetal position or to face outward, and older babies may enjoy straddling the wearer’s hip.

  • Slings are best for carrying newborns under 20 pounds around the house or for short distances. As infants grow, they will become cramped and uncomfortable in a sling.
  • Slings are incredibly comfortable for the wearer and allow infants to rest in a comfortable, natural sleeping position. The soft material of a sling wraps around the infant, simulating the coziness of a swaddling blanket, and the swaying motion may help them sleep.
  • Slings are the easiest type of carrier in which to breastfeed.
  • Make sure the strap of your sling is comfortable and well padded.
  • Some slings can be bulky due to the large amount of fabric they contain. Watch out for slings that have an unnecessary amount of fabric in order to cut down on some of the bulk.
  • Cotton and other breathable fabrics are best for slings, which will be warm due to baby’s close proximity to the parent.

We have a few favorite slings, but our #1 is definitely the Boba Baby Wrap.

Our favorite slings include:

Baby Backpacks

A baby backpack carrier is similar to a backpack used for camping except that a seat for baby takes the place of a storage compartment for gear. The frame and straps will help distribute your baby’s weight evenly over your shoulders and hips.

  • A baby is old enough to ride in a baby backpack when she can sit up on her own (about 5 to 6 months). Until then, it’s best to stick with front-style carriers.
  • Backpacks are sometimes difficult to get on and off without help from a second person, so they may not always be convenient if you’re running errands that require taking the pack on and off at each location. Practice solo loading and unloading of baby until you get the hang of it.
  • It is especially important to make sure a backpack fits correctly and is adjusted properly.
  • Look for a lightweight backpack with an adjustable inside seat and a harness that will safely strap baby in, ideally one that fits across baby’s chest and shoulders.
  • Choose a model that has a stable support stand that allows you to prop it up while putting your child in or taking them out.
  • If you’re planning on hiking and camping with your baby, get a backpack that comes with a protective canopy to shelter him from the elements.
  • For heavier children or for hiking, look for a model with a waist belt, which will transfer some of the weight from your shoulders to your hips.
  • A model with roomy, easy-to-access pockets for stashing baby gear will be most convenient.

If you are looking to take your little ones hiking, we highly recommend the Kelty Tour Child Carrier. It is solid, easily adjustable, and recommended by many parents.

Our favorite Backpacks:

Safety Tips

  • Carriers should not be used while driving, jogging, skating, or riding a bike.
  • Frame-style carriers should be used only when baby can sit unassisted.
  • When picking something up while wearing a carrier, always bend at the knees so that baby doesn’t fall out.
  • Do not cook while baby is in the carrier.
  • Stay off stools and ladders while wearing a carrier.
  • Do not reach for overhead items that could fall and hit baby on the head.

Crib and Sleep Safety Guide

As adults, we consider sleep such a natural part of everyday life that we often don’t give it much thought (except, perhaps, that we’d like more of it). However, because of the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), you should definitely give careful thought to how and where your baby sleeps. Though medical researchers have not found one specific cause of SIDS, they have determined several factors that most likely contribute to these tragic infant deaths. As a result, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development have developed the following safe bedding practices for infants:

  • Place baby on his or her back on a firm, tight-fitting mattress in a crib that meets current safety standards.
  • Remove pillows, quilts, comforters, sheepskins, stuffed toys, and other soft products from the crib.
  • Consider using a sleeper or other sleep clothing as an alternative to blankets, with no other covering.
  • If using a blanket, place baby’s feet at the foot of the crib. Tuck a thin blanket around the crib mattress, reaching only as far as the baby’s chest.
  • Make sure your baby’s head remains uncovered during sleep.
  • Do not place baby on a waterbed, sofa, soft mattress, pillow, or other soft surface to sleep.
  • Mobiles should be removed when babies can pull themselves up or are strong enough to grab dangling items.

In addition to the above guidelines, the Consumer Product Safety Commission also suggests that an infant’s crib should have:

  • A firm, tight-fitting mattress, so a baby cannot get trapped between the mattress and the crib.
  • No missing, loose, broken, or improperly installed screws, brackets, or other hardware on the crib or mattress support.
  • No more than 2.38 inches (about the width of a soda can) between crib slats, so a baby’s body cannot fit through the slats; no missing or cracked slats.
  • No corner posts over 0.06 inch high, so a baby’s clothing cannot catch.
  • No cutouts in the headboard or footboard, so a baby’s head cannot get trapped.

Bottle Feeding Guide

Everything You Need To Bottle-feed Your Baby

Feeding on demand applies as much to bottle-feeding as it does to breastfeeding. A newborn may have to be fed as often as every two hours. While a nursing mom is self-sufficient in a sense, bottle-feeding does involve getting a lot more accessories together. Our handy buying guide might help you decide what’s just right for your baby.

Bottles

Nursing bottles come in three basic sizes: 4-ounce, 8-ounce, and 9-ounce. The 4-ounce bottles are typically used for newborns. They can also be used for storing expressed milk and when the baby gets older, as juice or water bottles. The 8-ounce and 9-ounce bottles are more versatile and long lasting.

There are enough types of bottles available today to make you wonder which one is right for your baby. However, they can be broken down into basically three categories:

  • Standard bottles – These have straight necks and bodies and can be used over and over again. All bottles are marked in ounces for easy and precise portion control of the formula. It’s best to buy clear plastic or glass bottles so that you can observe the milk flow as baby drinks it.
  • Bottles with angled necks – designed to keep the nipple filled with liquid to reduce baby’s air intake, bottles with angled necks also promote holding the baby’s head in an upright position. Many doctors believe that feeding in this position helps prevent ear infection in babies.
  • Disposable systems – osable systems have a hard plastic shell called the nurser, which holds disposable plastic bags. For one-time use, the bags are presterilized to hold formula. The system comes with a special nipple and screw-on collar that holds the bag in place. The advantage of this system is that the disposable bags contract to prevent babies from sucking in air bubbles that cause them to spit up. Plus, it is ready to use and requires no cleaning. The nipples, however, need to be thoroughly cleaned, as with any bottle.

Nipples

When bottle-feeding your baby, make sure the nipple hole is of the right size. If your child appears to be sucking too hard, you probably need a fast/medium-flow nipple. An overly resistant nipple could collapse under your baby’s strong sucking motion. On the other hand, if your baby seems to be sputtering and gulping often, your baby could need a slow-flow nipple. For a newborn, you know the nipple size is right when the milk comes out in a spray for a second or two when the bottle is inverted, and then trickles down to drops.

Types of Nipples

  • Traditional, bell-shaped nipples – These have a range of hole sizes from standard to small for newborns, to large for toddlers or for pulpy juice drinks. Some brands of nipples have just one hole and others have two or even three holes to ensure an easy flow of the formula. It is best to use the nipple and collar from the same manufacturer to ensure a tight fit and to avoid messy leaks.
  • Orthodontic nipples – Orthodontic nipples have an irregular shape and are designed to resemble a mother’s nipple in the baby’s mouth after repeated sucking. The nipples are elongated and have an indent in the center to evoke the same tonguing action of breastfeeding babies. It is believed that this helps in reducing the tongue thrusting and bite problems caused by standard nipples.
  • Latex nipples – Elongated to promote breastfeeding-like suckling action, latex nipples cause the milk to be delivered at the back of the baby’s tongue instead of the mouth. However, latex nipples should be checked after two to three months for deterioration, cracks, or clogging.
  • Silicone nipples – These are made of a clear, heat-resistant material that can withstand being washed in a dishwasher. Since silicone is a less porous material than latex, it isn’t as prone to bacteria. Typically, silicone nipples last three to four times longer than latex. However, all nipples must be checked every two to three months for deterioration.

Our favorite bottle nipples are:

Formula

Babies need plenty of nutrients growing up, and next to mother’s milk, formula is the best source. In fact, formula alone can meet a baby’s nutritional needs for up to six months, after which doctors recommend introducing solids, in the form of baby food, to infants. Many start as early as four months, after which the baby’s diet includes a well-balanced mix of both. It’s best to check with your pediatrician, as every baby has a different schedule.

There are two basic types of formula: cow’s milk and soy. The soy formula is designed for babies with a family history of allergies. Do not give ordinary cow’s milk to infants because it does not have the nutrients babies need. Plus, their digestive system is not yet capable of effectively breaking down and utilizing its nutritional components.

Formula comes in three forms: liquid concentrate, powder, and ready-to-feed. It is important that you follow the instructions to prepare the formula, using the same measuring spoon provided by the manufacturer. Diluting the powder or liquid concentrate form too much or too little is not good for your child. Also be sure to follow storing instructions. Usually, once the concentrate or ready-to-feed cans/bottles have been opened, you need to refrigerate and use them within the next 24 to 48 hours, as specified by the manufacturer. The ready-to-feed does not require any water. Formula should be at room temperature for a feeding.

Bottle-Feeding Accessories

There are many accessories available to help you bottle-feed. Whether it’s warming, cleaning, sterilizing, or transporting, there is a bottle-feeding accessory for you.

  • Bottle brushes – A must if you are using a standard or angled baby bottle. Bottles often prove to be a cleaning challenge without them.
  • Day or night coolers/warmers – These help keep bottles cool for up to two hours or warm them up in just minutes. They’re a great help when you need to feed the baby in the middle of the night. We highly recommend The First Years Quick Serve Bottle Warmer.
  • Bottle warmers for cars – Perfect for moms and babies on the go. Just plug right into the car lighter socket and your baby’s formula is heated in minutes.
  • A hot/cold insulated bag – Perfect for carrying formula or snacks during extended outings with your baby.
  • Sterilizers – Essential to keep baby’s nipples and bottles bacteria free. Don’t forget to sterilize them before their first use. There are several types of sterilizers to choose from: stove-top bottle sterilizers have rings and racks to hold bottles and nipples in place, and self-standing electric and free-standing bottle sterilizers have automatic cut-off mechanisms, which prevent damage to bottles if water evaporates. We are big fans of the Philips AVENT 3-in-1 Electric Steam Sterilizer.
  • Dishwasher racks and baskets – Racks and baskets help keep the nipples, collars, and pacifiers from being tossed around in the dishwasher.
  • Bottle organizers – Good for helping you store baby’s bottles, nipples, collars, hoods, and pacifiers in a clean and organized way.
  • Feeding pillows – Feeding pillows, such as the beloved Boppy, can help you get baby up to the proper angle and give your weary arms a little rest.

For a great, affordable start, we recommend going with a set like the Philips Avent Infant Starter Set.

Some of our favorite accessories:

Safety Tips

  • Never try to warm formula in the microwave, because it may be unevenly heated and parts could scald baby.
  • Do not let baby fall asleep with the bottle, as bedtime bottles may lead to teeth decay from formula accumulation in the mouth.
  • Do not prop the bottle when feeding baby, as it may cause choking. Always hold baby in a semi-upright position and angle the bottle accordingly.
  • Do not pour overheated liquid into a plastic liner, as it can burst.
  • Feed baby formula or breast milk only at room temperature.

Baby Proofing Guide

General Safety

Thinking about baby safety doesn’t necessarily come naturally to parents and, in fact, might seem like yet another overwhelming and intimidating task related to bringing up baby. Fortunately, babyproofing is something parents can–and should–take care of before baby even arrives, when you do not yet have the day-to-day care of a new infant as your first priority. You might consider it as the warm-up before the big game–a time to get into the right mindset for parenting and get comfortable with your equipment and strategy. Like many things, you should rely on instinct, but here are some general guidelines to help you make your home a safer place for your bundle of joy.

The guidelines below contain very specific suggestions about how to babyproof your home. However, it’s also helpful to keep some basic things about baby development in mind as you consider ways to make baby’s surroundings safe:

  • A new infant, though not mobile, requires safe equipment (car seats, cribs, strollers,monitors).
  • Once a baby can push herself up on her hands or roll over (around 3 to 6 months), you will need to make sure there is nothing within her reach in or above the crib or on a playmat that may be hazardous.
  • When a baby learns to creep or crawl (around 7 to 9 months), the area in need of babyproofing expands exponentially. You may have to develop babyproof “zones” in highly frequented areas of the home–rooms that are safe for baby and are blocked off from the rest of the home by gates or other equipment. Staircases now become a hazard, and some experts suggest that the bathroom and kitchen should be completely off-limits to mobile children, due to the difficulties involved in making those areas safe for baby.
  • A walking child can get much farther than a crawling child and can do so much faster. At this stage of the game (around 10 to 14 months) you will need to be especially vigilant about watching your child and making sure off-limits areas are well guarded by gates or other barricades. An upright child can also reach much higher than a crawling toddler, so the area that must be babyproof expands vertically as well as horizontally.

Basic Household Safety

“Better safe than sorry” is the best approach to adopt when it comes to making your home a safer place for your baby. The best way to assess what could pose potential hazards for your child is to see your home from a child’s point of view, quite literally. Start by getting down on your hands and knees and explore your home from that vantage point. When you view things from this perspective, it will probably become quite obvious to you just how dangerous that coffee table corner is or how easy it would be for a baby or toddler to stick curious fingers into an electrical socket. Below is a checklist of things you should do in every room in your house.

  • Use socket guards for all unused electrical sockets.
  • Use safety locks on all windows.
  • Put coins, keys, matches, batteries, paper clips, ashtrays, purses, and other small items out of your child’s reach.
  • Place safety latches on all cupboards and closets.
  • Install smoke detectors in all sleeping areas.
  • Install a carbon monoxide detector.
  • Use corner cushions to protect your child from sharp corners.
  • Use cord shorteners to avoid exposure to window cords and wires in the house.
  • Secure gates at top and bottom of all stairways.
  • Eliminate baby’s access to the bathtubs, showers, toilets, swimming pools, and hot tubs.
  • Make sure cosmetics, perfume, aftershave, and other toiletries are out of reach.
  • Position pet food and the litter box out of baby’s way.
  • Post the number of your local poison control center next to telephones along with a list of other emergency numbers–such as the ER, pediatrician, grandparents and other close relatives, and neighbors. You can print our fridge sheet of useful numbers.
  • Stow cleaning products, paint, electrical tools, and exercise equipment out of baby’s reach.
  • Keep plastic wrap and plastic bags out of baby’s reach.

Living Room/Family Room/Nursery

  • Place knickknacks on a high shelf.
  • Use a fireplace screen that a baby cannot tip over, store fire utensils and matches out of baby’s reach, and cushion the corners of fireplace edges with padding or guards.
  • Use socket guards for all unused electrical sockets.
  • Cushion the edges of tables, desks, or other furniture with padding or guards.
  • Do not hang mobiles or other toys over the corner or sides of a playard once baby can push up on her hands, as this could present a strangulation hazard.
  • To prevent your toddler from hurting themselves climbing into or out of a playard, don’t leave them in a mesh playard with the drop side down, and keep the drop side of a playard up even when your child is not in it. Do not leave children unattended in a playpen.
  • Do not use use a playard with holes in the sides, as this could entrap a child’s limbs or head.
  • Avoid locking mechanisms on toy chests that could lead to pinched fingers or accidental closures.

Bathroom

Many experts suggest that babies and toddlers should not be allowed in the bathroom at all (except at bathtime or potty training sessions), as young children can drown in even the smallest amounts of water. However, because toddlers and crawlers are quite curious once they are up and moving on their own, experts suggest that you take the following safety precautions:

  • Keep the toilet lid down and secure it with a latch and do not allow children to play with the water in the bowl. An open toilet bowl presents a potential drowning hazard (not to mention a germ hazard).
  • Do not leave water in the bathtub when it is not in use. Children can drown in as little as 2 to 3 inches of water.
  • Do not leave a child unattended in the bathtub or rely on an older sibling to supervise.
  • Use nonskid mats in the bathtub to prevent slipping.
  • Check to see that the suction cups on a bath seat are securely attached to the bath seat and tub surface.
  • Never use the baby bath seat in a non-skid, slip-resistant bathtub because the suction cups may not adhere to the bathtub surface.
  • Do not rely on bath seats to keep baby safe in the bath.
  • Keep the medicine cabinet locked and keep all medications in childproof containers.
  • Move all soaps, shampoos, bath gels, razors, and other toiletries out of reach of children.
  • Before placing your baby in the bathtub, make sure you have everything you need to bathe your baby near you to prevent having to turn away from baby to fetch it later.
  • Test the temperature of the water before bathing your baby by using your wrist or elbow, and remember that babies may not be able to tolerate the same water temperature as an adult. The correct temperature should be between 96 and 100 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Place soft or inflatable covers over tub faucets to prevent bumps and bruises.

Dining Room

  • Always use all restraining straps provided on a highchair–both the waist strap and the strap that goes between the legs. Injuries or even strangulation can occur from unrestrained children slipping down under the highchair tray.
  • Make sure that the locking device on a folding highchair is fully engaged.
  • Don’t allow your child to stand up in a highchair or an older child to hang onto a highchair while baby is in it.
  • Place the highchair far enough away from the table, counter, or wall to prevent the child using that surface to push off and tip the chair over.
  • When seating a child at a table, use place mats instead of tablecloths, in case they succeed in pulling the tabletop items off the table.
  • Add sharp knives to place settings only after adults are seated.
  • Use plastic plates and glasses for children.
  • Be sure that your china and silverware are stored away from your baby’s curious grasp.

Kitchen

The kitchen, like the bathroom, is full of potential hazards. It may be best to block access to the kitchen with a safety gate.

  • Never leave babies or toddlers alone in the kitchen.
  • Do not let your baby play on the floor by the stove while you are cooking.
  • Use the back stove burners when possible. When using the front burners, turn the pot handles toward the back of the stove so that children cannot grab them.
  • Install cabinet and drawer latches and locks to prevent your child from finding items that may present a choking hazard.
  • Keep all dishwashing liquids and cleaning agents in locked or latched cabinets.
  • Keep sharp and potentially dangerous items out of reach.

Safety Gates

When your baby starts to crawl, explore, or use a walker, it’s time to install gates wherever potential hazards may be present around your home. At the top of stairs, at the bottom of stairs, and in between rooms, safety gates act as barricades that communicate which areas are off-limits for your little scooter. When purchasing gates for your home, there are several things to keep in mind: types of gates, features, and safety. We recommend you check our complete guide to choosing safety gates for your home.

Baby-Proofing Products

Tandem Strollers

Double and Triple Bundles of Joy

If you’re the lucky parent of multiples or if you have an infant and toddler in your household, walking them by yourself may sound next to impossible… unless you have a stroller made especially for more than one child. Tandem strollers offer the convenience of walking two (or three) children at the same time as comfortably as if you were walking just one. These strollers are also handy for carrying a child and groceries, once one child has outgrown it. They are available in a wide variety of fabrics and features. Double strollers are appropriate for newborns only when the full-reclining seat feature is available and can be used until your toddler is approximately 4 years old.

There are two types of double strollers:

  • Front-to-Back (Tandem) Style Front-to-back style: infants face forward, one in back of the other. These strollers fold easily and compactly for storage or travel. For maneuverability, this is a good choice; however, there is that “front seat” issue. Some models, however, do give the back seat a “boost” so that both babies can enjoy the view. The front-to-back style is best if you have an older child and a newborn. Features may include: a single canopy hood, separate canopies, individually reclining seats, rear wheel brakes, fully retractable rear seat for a sleeping infant, removable/washable pads, separate footrests, and restraining straps with safety buckle.
  • Side-by-Side Style Infants sit next to each other. These strollers are lightweight and fold quickly and compactly. Most will fit through normal-size doorways, although due to their sheer width it can be difficult to maneuver this “minivan” of sorts through grocery stores, crowded events, or if your children vary greatly in size or weight. The side-by-side style is most commonly used by parents of twins (or two or more children of comparable weight). Features may include: European styling, thick padding, removable/washable pads, individually reclining seats, single shared canopy, storage basket, footrest, and restraining straps with safety buckle.

A great choice to consider is the Baby Jogger City Select or the BOB Revolution SE Duallie Stroller – both have been rated very highly by parents.

Age range: As with the single stroller, if the seats recline fully, the stroller is appropriate for a newborn. You can use it until your children are 3 to 4 years old.

Strollers We Love

Travel Systems

A Convenient Package

One of the most convenient innovations in the stroller industry in recent years has been the travel system–a convenient stroller and infant car seat in one. The infant car seat provides head, back, and neck support for your newborn, while keeping baby in a comfortable, reclined position, just like a carriage. With the stay-in-car base feature, the infant car seat can also be used as an infant carrier. This allows you to take the infant car seat from the car to stroller and vice versa without ever disturbing your baby. Many travel system manufacturers have designed these strollers so that the car seat inserts with baby facing you. However, there are styles that allow you to insert the car seat so that baby can either face toward you or away from you. Either style will offer your baby a comfortable and secure ride. Once baby outgrows the infant car seat, it can be removed, converting the system into a convenience stroller. The stroller’s own seating and restraint system is used until your child is approximately 4 years old. These strollers are designed to fold quickly, easily, and compactly for storage, and offer many features that will make it a comfortable ride… for both of you.

Stroller features may include: Child play tray; parent cup holder; 3-point or 5-point harness system (not overhead); removable, washable pad; all-terrain, swivel wheels; brakes that set with a lever or foot pedal; seat recline; and storage basket.

Infant car seat features may include: Canopy, level indicator, ergonomically designed handle, head cushion, stay-in-car base.

Age range: Newborn (for car seat) to toddler (stroller).

Check out the Britax B-Agile Travel System or the Baby Trend Expedition – two travel systems that have been getting consistently great reviews from parents.

Strollers We Love

Lightweight & Umbrella Strollers

A Featherweight Backup

Light as a feather and easy to fold, lightweight strollers generally offer the most basic features and are made to store easily in an overhead bin, trunk, or closet. While these lightweight models are unbeatable for quick jaunts to the store, many parents find that they aren’t as comfortable for children on longer stints as their midsize or full-size counterparts. Still, many parents feel a lightweight stroller is great to have when a buggy, pram, or travel system is too unwieldy (while traveling, for example).

Ultralightweight models, dubbed “umbrella” because of their hooked handles, are best when used as a second stroller. If you are looking for a lightweight, affordable stroller that’s easy to take along for the ride (or toss in the trunk of your car), this would be the perfect choice. Do keep in mind, however, that umbrella strollers are not recommended for use with newborns or infants who require a fully reclining seat and head and neck support. Featuring aluminum frames and weighing as little as 5 pounds, most umbrella models offer a safety device that prevents accidental closing. Umbrella strollers are available in a wide range of prices according to the features offered, and will last you well into the early preschool years (3 to 4).


Features may include: Aluminum frames, semi-reclining seat (some fully recline), canopy, one-step fold, locking swivel wheels, and super lightweight.

Lightweight Umbrella Stroller Age range: If the lightweight stroller reclines fully, it is safe for a newborn; however, most umbrella strollers do not fully recline or have suspension features, so to make sure your baby is in the appropriate age range for these strollers, it is best to wait until baby is at least 4 to 6 months old.

We especially liked the the Summer Infant 3D Lite Convenience Stroller, a stroller which has many reviewers raving. If you can afford to spend a bit more on a stroller, the excellent Joovy Caboose Ultralight Stroller should be on the top of your list. This fine stroller is comfortable for both parent and little rider, and is the first choice of many parents we know.

Umbrella Strollers We Love

Mid-Size Strollers

Compact and Portable

Midsize strollers are designed to be portable and fold easily and compactly. You will most likely find the greatest range of prices ($40 to $500) and features in this category. Made of aluminum, the frames are relatively lightweight (typically just over 15 pounds), durable, and easy to maintain. Because of these features, they offer a smooth ride for city dwellers or those who enjoy longer walks. Because they are a bit heavier than a lightweight, they are sometimes not the best choice for travel. Although the convenient midsize strollers will offer your infant a safe and comfortable ride indoors and outdoors, only those models that offer a full-reclining seat feature are appropriate for use with newborns.

Features may include: Easy-to-use folding mechanism, midweight body (typically just over 15 pounds), canopy, and roomy storage basket. Deluxe models may include features like a fully reclining seat, extendable handle, and larger, all-terrain wheels.

Age range: If a midsize stroller fully reclines (and most do), it is safe for your newborn.

Our favorite stroller in this category is the B-Agile 3 Stroller by Britax. A solid, versatile stroller, and a great all-around choice. If you can afford to spend a bit more on your stroller, the UPPABaby Vista Stroller is a favorite among parents and should be on the top of your list.

Strollers We Love

Full-Size Strollers

Considered the “limousine” of baby strollers, full-size strollers offer numerous convenience and comfort options. Although heavier than other styles, there are some full-size models designed with aluminum frames for easier maneuvering as well as rust-resistance. Ranging from English-style buggies to feature-rich rugged models, the full-size stroller is a great all-purpose pick. Most are typically convertible–that is, they can be used as a carriage or a stroller, so they grow with your baby. Full-size strollers are appropriate for newborns because they have a full-recline feature, shock-absorbing suspension system, and oversize wheels to keep baby comfortable while strolling over varying terrain, and they remain suitable for use until your child reaches approximately 3 or 4 years of age.

Features may include: Multiple-position seat recline and strong back support, removable weather boot, extra seat padding, removable front tray, large storage basket, European-style canopy, reversible handle for conversion to carriage, dual wheel brakes, and adjustable footrest.

Age range: If the stroller reclines fully, it is appropriate for a newborn. It can be used with children up to 3 to 4 years of age.

Our favorite stroller is without a doubt the Bugaboo Cameleon3 Complete Stroller, a stroller that combines function, style, durability and most importantly safety to keep your baby happy and comfortable.

Strollers We Love

Understanding Toy Safety

How can you be sure a toy is safe for your child?

Keep in mind that the government doesn’t test all toys. Most toys are packaged in ways that make it difficult for the purchaser to identify potential safety hazards in the store. And most consumers just do not know what to look out for when toy shopping.

The following tips for toys safety will help you shop wisely and safely for your child and teach you how to tell the difference between safe toys and dangerous toys.

Be vigilant shoppers. You should examine toys carefully for hidden dangers before making a purchase. Always buy toys from a vendor you know and trust.

If a toy looks unsafe, don’t buy it. If you see small parts or a small ball or a balloon and don’t see a choke hazard warning, call the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC).

Keep small parts away from your toddlers, particularly if an older child has toys with small parts.

Toys with small parts, small balls and marbles are banned for sale if intended for children under 3. If intended for older children, these toys, and balloons, must include a choking hazard warning. The 1994 Child Safety Protection Act requires the following warning on toys intended for children 3-5 years old, containing small parts:

Warning! Choking Hazard! Small Parts, not for children under 3 years.

Select toys to suit the age, abilities, skills, and interest level of the intended child. Toys too advanced may pose safety hazards to younger children.

Do not purchase electric toys with heating elements for children under age eight.

Discard of plastic wrappings on toys immediately, which can cause suffocation, before they become deadly playthings.

If you are unsure of the durability of a toy that may break into small parts, don’t buy it! Look for sturdy construction, such as tightly secured eyes, noses, and other potential small parts.

Look for labels that give age recommendations and use that information as a guide.

For all children under age eight, avoid toys that have sharp edges and points.

Balloons were responsible for over 50 deaths since 1990. Always supervise children with balloons, inflated or not. Keep balloons away from children under 8. Buy mylar balloons instead of latex to avoid the choking hazard. And remember, if a balloon bursts while a child is blowing it up, it could be inhaled.

Children as old as 5 have choked to death on small balls and marbles as large as 1.75 inches. Small balls intended for children under 3 must be larger than 1.75 inches. Be careful of ball-like beads and other round objects.

Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC) and toys containing Phthalates have been linked with liver and kidney problems and are probable human carcinogens and have been banned by the European Union for use in teething toys intended for children under 3. Parents should not expose their children to toxic phthalate chemicals in any toy. Unfortunately, no U.S. law requires disclosure – and many toys made of PVC are labeled “non-toxic”. Any soft plastic toy may pose a hazard unless marked as PVC or phthalate-free. Call the manufacturer to find out if the toy contains phthalates or PVC.

The CPSC reports that there were more than 4,000 scooter-related injuries in August of 2000 alone and more than 9,400 emergency room treated injuries reported in the first nine months of 2000. Nearly 90 percent of the injuries are to children under 15 years old. To prevent injuries while using scooters and in-line skates always wear proper safety gear including a helmet that meets CPSC’s standard, and knee and elbow pads, and wrist pads. Scooters and skates should be used on smooth, paved surfaces without any traffic. Avoid streets, or surfaces with water, sand, gravel or dirt. Do not ride the scooter or use the skates at night.

Strings, cords, and necklaces can strangle infants. Infant toys that include cords can present a strangulation hazard if the cord is put around an infant’s neck. The American Society for Testing and Materials (“ASTM”) voluntary standard for pull toys states that in “pull toys intended for children under 36 months, cords and elastics greater than 12 inches long shall not be provided with beads or other attachments that could tangle to form a loop”. Parents should remove beads, knobs, or other attachments from their child’s pull toy cord if the cord is over 12 inches long.

Make sure to only buy crib toys from reputable sources. Examine crib toys for possible strangulation hazards, look at the labeling of the toy and at the length of any cords or strings. Crib gyms (toys that are stretched across the crib) should always be removed from the crib when babies can get up on hands and knees (or at the latest 7 months old). Crib toys should not have cords or strings longer than 6 inches.

Projectile Toys can cut skin, blind or deafen a child who is struck in the eye or ear. Projectile toys now come in many more forms than simple, old fashioned rubber dart guns – including foot-bellows-powered rocket launchers, mechanical windup or string powered hand launchers for flying dolls or more powerful dart guns or slingshot or crossbow-like toys.

We urge parents and toy-givers to be wary of all hard-tipped or powerful projectile toys, which can self-inflict injury on the child playing with the toy or hurt others. Keep projectile toys away from children under 3. Supervise older children and teach older children about the dangers of aiming projectiles at the face or of using substitute projectiles.

Watch out for children’s makeup kits that may contain toxics – such as toluene in nail polish. Toluene is flammable, can irritate the nose, throat eyes, can make consumers feel dizzy and repeated exposure can cause low blood cell counts and damage the liver and kidneys. Parents should read labels carefully and only purchase non-toxic nail makeup kits, craft kits and other products.

Infant bath seats are not recommended for use until 6 months of age, when most infants can sit securely. Once an infant can pull up (generally between 7 and 9 months of age) or attempt to stand while holding onto objects, infant bath seats should be discontinued, since the infant could climb from the seat. Families should not purchase bath seats found on retail shelves or at yard sales and should not use bath seats loaned by friends and family. Parents and caregivers should never leave a baby alone in the water and should always keep the child in arms’ reach.

Great Toys for Babies

Jogger Strollers

Take Baby Jogging, Safely

Want to bring baby along for the workout or for an adventure in the great outdoors? You’ll recognize a jogger stroller by its unique design. Many baby joggers are three-wheeled vehicles, complete with comfortable seating, a parking brake, a storage basket, and all-terrain wheels. Most are made to fold quickly, easily, and compactly and are great for travel. Because jogger strollers don’t offer a fully reclining seat, most pediatricians recommend not using them until your child’s 6-month mark. Most joggers can hold up to 75 pounds, but truth be told, your child will probably outgrow the seat before then. Also keep in mind (with young babies in particular) that while most jogger models are designed for some bumps along the trail, if you are planning on climbing Mount Kilimanjaro or are traveling over very rough and rocky terrain, it’s probably best to leave baby safely at home or try a backpack instead.

If you are a serious road runner, look for smooth tires on your jogger–the bigger, the better. If you will be running on fire trails, strolling to a soccer game, and so forth, knobby tires, with better traction, are the way to go. If you live in a wet climate you may want to invest in aluminum rims and an aluminum frame (which prevents rusting and is more lightweight). While aluminum strollers are typically more expensive, you’ll probably find that it is worth it in the long run.

We especially like the BOB Revolution FLEX, and the more rugged BOB Revolution Pro, which is a joy on all terrain types.

Features may include: All-terrain wheels; wrist strap; hand brake; durable, weatherproof fabric; sturdy construction; adjustable handlebar height; better suspension; and a storage pouch.

Age range: Most pediatricians recommend waiting until your baby is approximately 6 months of age. Depending on its size, you can use this type of stroller well into the toddler years.

Strollers We Love

First Day of School

Is your child ready for his first day of school

As you and your child prepare for the first day of the new school year, use this checklist to help make sure you have taken care of the necessary tasks, learned the information you need and are both ready for the first day of school.

  • Caring for Your School-Age Child : Ages 5 to 12Is your child registered? (If they attended the same school the previous school year, they should already be registered.)
  • When is the first day of school?
  • What time does school start?
  • How is your child going to get to school? If your child is biking, does he know the school rules for bicycles? If they are walking for the first time, with whom will they walk? Have you reviewed safety precautions with them, regarding traffic and strangers? Check out our safety checklist to learn more about how to educate your child for safety on the go.
  • Does your child know their teacher’s name?
  • What will their daily schedule be like?
  • Will they need to bring a snack? What kinds of snacks are allowed and encouraged? Do they need to bring something to drink, or can they buy something? Will water be available?
  • What time is lunch? Can your child buy it at school, and how much will it cost?
  • What clothes will your child need to wear? Are there any restrictions on what can be worn? Will they need a different set of clothes for physical education or art classes?
  • Does your child need to bring pencils, paper, notebooks and other supplies? (Often, the teacher will announce these requirements on the first day.) Does your child have something in which to carry his books and supplies back and forth to school? Will they have a place (besides their desk) to keep their things at school?
  • Have you filled out all health forms or emergency contact forms that have been sent home?
  • Have any new health problems developed in your child over the summer that will affect his school day? Does the school nurse know about this condition, or is an appointment set up to discuss it?
  • If your child will need to take medication at school on the first day, have arrangements been made for this?
  • Does your youngster know where they are going after school (e.g. home, babysitter)? Do they know how they will get there? If you will not be there when they arrive, do they know who will be responsible for them, what the rules are and how to get help in an emergency?
  • Does your child have your work and home telephone numbers in their backpack?

Expectations

As you help your child get ready for the new school year, look back on your own school days at your youngster’s grade level. If you had some negative experiences, make certain you do not project them onto your own child. For example, the mother of a third-grader reflected upon her own year in the third grade and recalled having problems with reading that her teacher confused with “laziness” and “motivation problems.” The mother realized that because of her own experience, she had been passing negative expectations on to her child. When she recognized the message she was conveying, she made an extra effort to put her old feelings aside and approach her youngster’s situation afresh and optimistically.

Expectations can be a powerful influence on the kind of school experience your child has. Even when they are communicated in casual conversations, they can have a significant effect on your child’s outlook. Past experiences can also influence a child’s outlook and expectations. While he may have had some problems in the previous year, you and he should try to approach the new school year with a clean slate and a positive attitude.

Books We Love:

Leaving Kids Home Alone

When is it okay to begin leaving your child at home alone? The answer really is different for every child. In general, children under 10 should not be left on their own, and babies and younger children should not be left alone even for a few minutes. Before leaving your kids at home alone, make sure that they are mature enough to be on their own (even if only for a few hours).

Here are some questions to ask yourself.

  • Is your child at least 10 years old?
    NOTE: Please check local laws to be certain your state has not set a higher age limit for children staying home alone.
  • Does your child feel at all frightened or apprehensive about staying home alone?
  • Does your child follow your instructions and your rules?
  • Can you count on your child to tell you the truth?
  • Can your child be counted on to stay clear-headed in an unexpected or emergency situation?
  • Can your child calmly dial 911, give their full name (and yours), street address and phone number, and explain the situation?

You might feel most comfortable starting out with short trial runs, leaving your child home alone for 15 minutes or so and gradually increasing the amount of time your child spends alone. Take it slowly, staying within the comfort level of both you and your child.

Here are some measures you can take that will help to protect your kids even when you are not around:

  • Let your kids know exactly what you expect of them – discuss your house rules.
  • Make sure you have a list of important numbers where your child can find it. Check out our helpful list, print it and post it on the fridge.
  • Review basic safety rules on a regular basis.
  • Discuss how to respond in the event of an emergency situation, and role play responses.
  • You might like your child to attend a Latchkey Kids Program along with a Basic First Aid Course. Check you local hospitals, YMCA or library to learn about programs in your area.
  • Explain that you expect your child to come straight home from school, and to call you if there is any delay.
  • Remind your child to never accept a ride.
  • Ask your child to call you or a trusted neighbor as soon as he gets home from school.
  • Instruct your child not to enter your house if the door is open, unlocked, or if anything seems unusual.
  • Remind your child not to answer the door (without your prior approval) – Install a peephole at his eye level.
  • Instruct your child that he should never let someone at the door or on the phone know he is alone.
  • Be sure you feel that your child can comfortably handle using the telephone, operate the security system/door, and can safely use any appliances they might be using after school.
  • Be sure you have a working fire extinguisher and your child knows how to operate it (and you have smoke detectors with fresh batteries appropriately placed throughout your house.)
  • Plan escape routes and meeting place outside your home in case of fire.
  • Ask that your child let you know immediately if anything makes them uncomfortable or frightened.

School Bus Safety Guide

A few facts:

  • School buses are designed to be safer than passenger vehicles in avoiding crashes and preventing injury – Today’s school buses are built with safety in mind. They are tougher, cleaner and more diligently maintained than ever before. School bus drivers are required to receive special security and medical training, and undergo regular drug and alcohol testing to provide a safe ride for your child. And school bus traffic laws are strictly enforced.
  • School buses are the safest mode of transportation for getting children back and forth to school – Students are about 50 times more likely to arrive at school alive if they take the bus than if they drive themselves or ride with friends. But did you also know that your child is much safer riding the bus than being driven by you? Add in the environmental and financial benefits, and it’s hard to find a reason to send your kids to school any other way.
  • School buses keep an annual estimated 17.3 million cars off roads surrounding schools each morning – Imagine a world with less traffic, cleaner air, and more affordable transportation. These are just some of the benefits that school bus ridership provides. While school buses are one of the safest ways to send your kids to school, there are many good reasons that make them a growing choice among parents for their children’s school commute.

Safety First

While riding the bus is much safer for your child than riding the car to school, there are still a few risks worth taking into account. In fact, in 2009 alone, over 20,000 people were injured nationwide in accidents involving busses.

In fact, the greatest risk of all, is not riding the bus, but getting on or off the bus. Children need to be especially careful around the bus’ danger zone – the 10 feet in front, behind and on each side of the school bus.

Here’s what you should teach your child about school bus safety:

  • Always walk to the bus stop. Never run.
  • Walk on the sidewalk. If there is no sidewalk, walk on the left facing traffic.
  • While at the bus stop, wait in a safe place away from the road. Do not run and play while waiting.
  • Never speak to strangers at the bus stop and never get into the car with a stranger. Always go straight home and tell you parents if a stranger tries to talk to you or pick you up.
  • Wait until the driver says it is safe to board the bus, then get on one at a time.
  • Once on the school bus, go directly to your seat and sit down facing forward. Remain in your seat facing forward as long as the school bus is moving.
  • If you drop something while getting on or off the school bus, ask the driver for help.
  • If you need to talk to the bus driver: wait for the bus to stop, raise your hand, and call the driver’s name.
  • Keep all your loose items inside your backpack or book bag.
  • Be respectful of the school bus driver, and always obey his or her instructions.
  • Never throw things on the bus or out the windows. Never play with the emergency exits.
  • Once you’re off the school bus, walk five giant steps from the front of the bus, cross in front of the bus when the driver indicates it is safe, stop at the edge of the bus – look left-right-left again for traffic, and if there’s no traffic, cross the street.

There are also a few rules to be aware of as a parent:

  • Have your child wear bright, contrasting colors so they will be more easily seen by drivers.
  • Make sure they leave home on time so they can walk to the bus stop and arrive before the bus is due. Running can be dangerous.
  • Walk your young child to the bus stop and have older children walk in groups. There is safety in numbers; groups are easier for drivers to see.
  • Make sure your child stands at least 10 feet (5 giant steps) from the road while waiting for the bus. The child will then be out of the way of traffic. Have younger children practice taking 5 giant steps to become familiar with 10 feet.
  • Teach your children to secure loose drawstrings and other objects that may get caught in the handrail or door of the bus as they are exiting.
  • Give your child a note or follow the school’s procedures if you would like for the child to get off at a stop other than the one they are assigned. The driver isn’t allowed to let a child off at another stop without written permission.
  • If you meet your child at the bus stop after school, wait on the side where the child will be dropped off, not across the street. Children can be so excited at seeing you after school that they dash across the street and forget the safety rules.

Child Safety Checklist

What You Can Do To Protect Your Child’s Safety Outside of The House

Before sending your child to school or to a friend’s home, go over this child safety list to make sure you are doing everything possible to keep your child safe.

  • Have you taught your child to recite his or her name, address and phone number? Sometimes putting the information in a simple song may help a child remember.
  • If you must send someone else to pick up your child, do you have a secret code word? Does your child know to always ask for that codeword (while standing a safe distance from the vehicle) before getting into anyone else’s car?
  • Does your child understand that he or she should never get in a car with anyone but Mom or Dad?
  • We recommend you read a book about strangers, such as The Berenstain Bears Learn About Strangers with your child to explain the concept of the “kind” stranger and the stranger who is not a child’s friend.
  • Does your child know not to get into cars or go into the houses of neighbors he or she doesn’t know very well? (Go over a list of acceptable neighbors.)
  • Have you explained to your child that, if lost or in danger, he or she can locate a pay phone and dial 911? Children should know that they do not need money to call 911.
  • Does your child know to never use a public restroom alone?
  • Does your child know that it is okay to say “no” to adults?
  • Does your child know to be as loud as possible if he or she is in danger?
  • Does your child know that it’s okay to use physical violence, such as kicking, if he or she needs to protect himself or herself from harm?
  • Does your child know to never exit an area (such as a store or a mall), even if the person helping asks him or her to step outside?
  • Does your child know what to do if he or she is separated from you in a public place and how to identify a low risk adult?
  • Does your child know to approach a police officer if he or she has a problem?
  • Does your child know to approach uniformed personnel if he or she is in danger? Can your child identify employee uniforms?
  • Does your child know the body parts that are unacceptable for others to touch? Some Parts are NOT for Sharing teaches your child the boundaries for physical contact.
  • Does your child know to shout “no” or “stop” if someone touches him or her inappropriately?
  • Does your child know that you trust his or her instincts, and that even if your child makes a bad choice with an innocent stranger, you will support him or her?
  • Does your child understand that even trusted people shouldn’t ask him or her to do something that makes him or her uncomfortable? Only 1.4 percent of abductions are by total strangers!

Preventing and Avoiding Dog Bites

An estimated 4.7 million people in the United States are bitten by dogs each year. While some 2,500 of these are letter carriers, children are the most common victims of severe dog bites. Dog-bite injuries are a serious problem, but they are a problem we can solve.

Here are some pointers to help you protect your children:

  • Spay or neuter your dog. Dogs who have not been spayed or neutered are three times more likely to bite than are dogs who have been spayed or neutered.
  • Train and socialize your dog so that she is comfortable being around people including friends, neighbors, and children.
  • Never play “attack” games with your dog. He won’t always understand the difference between play and real-life situations.
  • If you don’t know how your dog will react to a new situation, be cautious. When a letter carrier or other service person comes to your door, be sure your dog is safely restrained or confined in another room before opening the door. Don’t allow your dog to bark, jump against the door, or bite the mail as it comes through the mail slot; this will only teach your dog to attack the letter carrier.
  • If your dog exhibits behavior such as growling, nipping, or biting “even on an occasional basis” seek professional advice from your veterinarian, an animal behaviorist, or a skilled dog trainer.
  • Never approach a dog you don’t know or a dog who is alone without his owner, especially if the dog is confined behind a fence, within a car, or on a chain.
  • Don’t disturb a dog who is sleeping, eating, or caring for puppies.
  • Don’t pet a dog, even your own, without letting him see and sniff you first.
  • When approached by a dog you don’t know, don’t run or scream. Instead, stand still with your hands at your sides and do not make direct eye contact with or speak to the dog. Teach children to “be a tree” until a dog goes away and to practice with a stuffed toy dog.
  • If you are knocked to the ground, curl into a ball with your hands over your ears. Lie still and keep quiet until the dog goes away. Teach children to “lie like a log” until a dog goes away.
  • If a dog attacks, you may be able to decrease injury by “feeding” him your jacket, purse, bicycle, or anything else that can serve as a barrier between you and the dog.

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Dealing with School Bullies

Bullies. Every school has them. They taunt, tease, shove, and beat up other kids. Indirect bullying — where kids are ignored or excluded — can be just as devastating as a physical assault, say experts.

While as many as one-half of children today experience pain at the hands of bullies, parents may still believe that schoolyard bullying is simply a rite of passage, something that must be endured and then becomes a distant memory. But being the victim of a bully can have long-lasting psychological scars, says Kim Zarzour, author of Facing the Schoolyard Bully.

Kids may be afraid or ashamed to tell adults about a bully. Some parents don’t intervene because they think kids should work it out on their own. What can you do to help your kids protect themselves from a bully?

Encourage your kids to tell you, a teacher, or another adult when they’re having a problem. It’s important for them to let someone know early, before the situation escalates.

Explain the difference between tattling and telling. Tattling is when you report something just to get someone in trouble. Telling is when you report that you or someone else is in danger.

Insist on the buddy system to and from school and in the neighborhood. Children give each other support, and a child who has friends is less of a target. “This can be hard to do when kids don’t have a lot of friends,” says Jeannette Collins of the New Jersey Center for Assault Prevention. “Parents should encourage their kids to reach out to other kids. That way they can watch out for one another.”

Consider enrolling your child in a self-defense course. “People think the training will escalate the violence,” says a mother whose son was bullied. “But it’s just the opposite — it stresses self-discipline, self-control, and self-esteem, not aggression.”

Let your school know your safety worries. Suggest closer supervision in hallways, bathrooms, lunchrooms, under stairways, and on the playground. Your kids have the right to feel safe at school, so find out what your school’s policies on bullies are.

Ask the school or PTA to sponsor safety training workshops and to initiate a peer mediation program, in which staff and students are trained in nonviolent conflict resolution. For more information, contact the National Center for Assault Prevention, or the National School Safety Center.