Child-proof Your Deck for Your Active Toddler
Moms and dads are glad when summertime entices the kids to play outdoors. But one outdoor amenity, your deck, poses significant safety hazards to toddlers and small children. Fortunately, you can take some steps to improve your deck’s safety. However, you should still never allow a child onto the deck without supervision.
Install gates. The deck should have a baby gate at each exit point. And the gate should swing inward. An improperly installed, outward-swinging gate can dislodge from the locking mechanism if a child leans on it, leaving the child off balance, unprotected, and possibly careening down the stairs.
Install balcony shields. These can be made from Plexiglas or from less expensive materials, such as specialty outdoor netting or a clear plastic sheet designed for this purpose. Install the balcony shield with plastic ties or screws instead of staples since staples can become dislodged, creating a new hazard.
Balcony shields are important even if the spindles or your deck’s railing are within code. While correctly placed spindles will prevent a child from slipping through, children can still get appendages or even their heads caught in small spaces.
Child-proof exit points from inside the home. Children should not be able to enter the deck without an adult’s permission and supervision. The door and any windows that open onto the deck should be secured with child-proof locks. Some parents even install small alarms to let them know if the security has been breached.
Insist upon shoes. Even the most well-maintained deck can leave a splinter in a little foot.
Be extremely vigilant around wading pools. Some parents like to put a wading pool on the deck to help keep the pool clean of grass and other debris. Children under four are at the highest risk of drowning, and most of these tragic accidents occur at home. Don’t take your eyes off the children when they’re playing in water.
Constantly supervise children. The fall risk on decks is very high, even for properly child-proofed decks. Children are curious and will build structures out of patio furniture and toys in order to climb to the top of the balcony rail. So even if your deck has all the recommended safety equipment, you still need to constantly supervise little ones.
Getting outside is good for both parents and children. The outdoors literally refreshes the soul by connecting us to our natural surroundings. With a little proactive attention to possible safety hazards, your deck can be a place for consistent family fun.
-by Maggie Park