Home balconies pose potential hazards for toddlers.
Even though your toddler loves spending time outside and the balcony provides an enjoyable space for family gatherings, it can be a dangerous playground for a preschooler. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, falls are the leading cause of non-fatal injuries for all children ages 0 to 19. About 8,000 children are treated every day in U.S. emergency rooms for fall-related injuries. As an alert parent, there are several things you can do to make your balcony railing safer for your child.
1Check for openings in decorative balcony railings that your toddler could slip or fall through. Make certain the railing is at least 4 feet tall and the vertical railing spindles are 4 inches or less apart so your child can't stick his head between them. Replace the railing, if necessary, or install solid sheets of clear acrylic or plastic around the inside of the balcony railing, leaving no gaps for your tot's body or head to slide through. Before removing the protective covering, drill a 1/4-inch hole in each corner of the acrylic sheet, 1 inch from the edge. Remove the protective coating and center the sheets against the railing, thread cable ties or durable wire through the holes and solidly secure to the balcony railing.
2Replace railing bars that are horizontal or diagonal and avoid using ornamental metal railings with circles and curves. Your toddler will find these tempting to use as a ladder to climb to the top of the railing.
3Inspect the railings on your balcony regularly. Your toddler might work loose a broken railing and remove it, leaving an opening that he might crawl or fall through. Cover broken or loose railing areas with solid plastic or acrylic sheeting and secure to the railing with cable ties or durable wire as a preventative measure, and keep your toddler off the balcony until the railing is repaired.
4Assign someone to stay on the balcony and keep watch over your toddler’s activities. Preschoolers are ingenious and unpredictable, so it’s important to ensure they are never on the balcony unattended. If your toddler is teething, watch to see he's not chewing on treated wood or painted surfaces.
5Place your potted plants, ornamental objects and furniture against walls or away from balcony railings so your toddler won’t use them as “stepping stones” to reach the top of the railing. Keep the clutter to a minimum as well, and push it up against the house rather than by the railing.
6Block off balcony exits with child safety gates to keep your toddler from falling or making a hasty escape. Child safety gate kits made to attach to metal stairway or balcony railings are available online and at home improvement centers. Look for gates that securely mount to walls and railings but can be quickly opened by adults in the event of an emergency, such as a fire. Avoid using a pressure-mounted gates that your child could easily dislodge from a metal railings.
- Acrylic sheeting and cable ties are available at local home supply centers.