Home > Health and Safety, Ages 2 to 5 Years
This topic suggests ways to help
prevent illness and accidental injuries in young children. It does not cover
every risk that a child faces, but it does cover many of the most common
hazards and situations that can be dangerous to children ages 2 to 5
Children in this age range are gaining many new skills and feel
more and more independent. They may be curious, want to explore the world
around them, and act without thinking. This can lead to dangerous
child is gaining in confidence and probably wants to explore. But your child
still needs your close supervision and guidance. You can:
Understand that your child will go through active and
curious phases. Recognize these periods, and think about what you can do to
avoid safety hazards. If your child is discovering the joys of riding a
tricycle, for example, be sure to make riding in the street off limits.
No one can watch a child’s every move or make a
home 100% safe all the time. Try to find a balance among supervising your
child, taking safety precautions, and allowing your child to explore.
Taking care of yourself is a vital part of keeping your child safe. Most
injuries to children happen when parents or caregivers are tired, hungry, or
emotionally drained or are having relationship problems. Other common causes of
family stress include changes in daily routines, moving to a new house, or
expecting another child.
Learn all you can about child growth and
development. Doing so can help you learn what to expect and how to handle
If you feel stressed, get help. Talk to your
doctor or your child’s doctor, or see a counselor. Get together regularly with
family and friends, or join a parenting group.
Call 911 right away if you feel you are about to hurt yourself or your child.
Health Tools help you make wise health decisions or take action to improve your health.
Frequently Asked Questions
Learning about health and safety issues:
Protection against harmful germs:
The importance of parental self-care:
Handling food safely, practicing basic hygiene to prevent communicable diseases, and getting
regular physical exams and
immunizations are all healthy habits that help protect
your child against illness and infection.
cleaning and food preparation helps keep you and your child from getting
food-borne illnesses. Do your best to also
choose restaurants that handle food safely.
The U.S. Department
of Agriculture recommends the following steps to prevent food poisoning:
For more information, see the topic
Food Poisoning and Safe Food Handling.
flu are more common in the colder months, they can
occur any time of year. Take extra precautions to help protect your child
against these and other viral and bacterial infections.
well-child appointments. During these visits, the
child from having accidents and injuries is a huge task. Children ages 2 to 5 years reason with
self-centered perceptions and magical thinking. These thought patterns lead children to overestimate what is
in their control, which contributes to their vulnerability. They are often
unaware of the consequences of their actions.
You can help
protect your child from accidents and injuries by taking general safety
measures around your home. Also,
think ahead about what potentially dangerous
situations will attract your child.
Some parents think that strict
safety measures are not needed because their child is closely supervised or has
not yet shown an interest in dangerous areas or items. Although responsible
supervision is important, it is not realistic to think that you can watch your
child's every move or that he or she will never become curious about something
off-limits. Also, constant hovering over children can limit their experiences
and confidence. Balancing supervision with safety precautions will help prevent
accidents and injuries, as well as allow children to explore.
following are common accidents and injuries that can occur around the house,
and some suggestions on how to prevent them.
Preventing falls is not always easy.
Toddlers and young children often move quickly. Their excitement about their
mobility and their lack of experience can make them unaware of dangers, such as
stairs or hills. Children ages 4 to 5 years anticipate many dangers
but may not have the physical skills to successfully avoid accidents. You can
help prevent young children from falling by putting up stairway barriers,
monitoring their play area, and providing stable play equipment. Also, keep
walkways, decks, porches, and stairways free of objects.
Children ages 2 to 5
years can easily choke on everyday objects and food. Your child needs your
supervision even though he or she may be able to eat independently.
You can help prevent choking by taking basic precautions in how you
prepare foods and by teaching your child safe eating habits.
household items can strangle a young child. Make sure loose cords, objects, and
furniture do not pose strangling risks. The following suggestions can help you
reduce potential hazards.
Suffocation is another danger for young children. Teach
your child about suffocation and the importance of a safe play area. Pay
attention to possible suffocation dangers, such as:
prevent poisoning, identify household cleaners and
other chemicals, plants, medicines, makeup, perfumes, and any other products
that, when eaten or inhaled, can harm a child. It is critical to properly store
these items out of reach of young children. If you have a possible
poisoning emergency, call 1-800-222-1222 and you will be
automatically transferred to the closest poison control center. For more
information, see the topic
is another cause for concern in young children who may chew on contaminated
paint flakes, painted objects, or toys. House
paint is no longer made with lead, but homes built before 1978
may still have lead paint on walls and other surfaces.
For more information about lead, see the topic Lead Poisoning.
Prevent carbon monoxide poisoning by frequently monitoring levels and taking
precautionary measures, such as having your furnace checked each year. Carbon
monoxide (CO) is a colorless, odorless, and tasteless gas. It is produced from
burning fuels such as natural gas, gasoline, fuel oil, or wood (for example, in
indoor heating systems, car engines, cooking appliances, or fires). High CO levels quickly affect young children because of their small size. For
more information, see the topic
Carbon Monoxide Poisoning.
Indoor air pollutants, such as secondhand smoke and mold, can also affect health and safety. For more information, see Tips for Reducing Indoor Pollutants in Your Home.
Prevent household fires by having and maintaining smoke detectors, planning and practicing
escape routes, and teaching your child basic fire safety skills. Children
ages 2 to 5 are often curious about fire. Warn your child about
the dangers of fire, and explain why only grown-ups are allowed to use
Serious burns are most often caused by heat,
electricity, or chemicals. Other types of burns include radiation burns
(usually from sun exposure) and friction burns. Prevent burn injuries to your
child by identifying dangers in your home and removing them or blocking your
child's access to them. For more information, see the topic
Gun and firearm safety measures should be established for all households and especially those
where children live or visit. Keep all guns and firearms in a locked
area, unloaded, and out of reach of children. Also, store knives (even kitchen
knives), swords, and other weapons safely out of reach.
Pets are in many households. Children who
live in homes without pets likely will encounter animals in other settings.
Many injuries can be avoided by teaching children how to properly interact with
pets. Also, pet owners who train and keep their animals healthy are less likely
to have problems when children are around.
Children younger than 5 years of age die
from drowning more than any other age group.2 Help
prevent a drowning tragedy by following the recommendations from the U.S.
Consumer Product Safety Commission, the National Safety Council, and the
American Academy of Pediatrics.
In addition to these precautions, learn first aid and
CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation). Knowing these
skills can make the difference between life and death in an emergency
situation. For more information, see the topic
Dealing With Emergencies.
It is a constant
challenge to keep your child safe. Children ages 2 to 5 years
often do not recognize dangers without constant reminders because they reason
with self-centered (egocentric) perceptions and magical thinking. These thought patterns lead children to overestimate what is
in their control, which contributes to their vulnerability. They are often
unaware of the consequences of their actions.
You cannot protect
your child from every danger he or she can possibly encounter outside the home.
But you can equip your child with some basic safety rules and precautions. Let
your child's natural surroundings
give you ideas for general training to help prepare
your child for a variety of situations he or she may face.
avoid accidents, injuries, and unsafe situations outside the home, establish
and review basic rules before outings and frequently reinforce them. And let other caregivers know about them.
Before your child visits an unfamiliar home, ask whether
you need to be aware of any dangerous areas, weapons in the home, pets, or
other safety issues. Also, it is always a good idea to see the household
for yourself. Don't be afraid to voice any concerns you have about safety. You
are ultimately responsible for protecting your child.
Before enrolling your child in
day care, evaluate the environment and talk with the care providers.
Ask questions about their safety guidelines. Identify any hazards and ask
how they are handled. Inspect the food preparation area and ask how often it is
cleaned and with what kinds of products. For more information, see the topic
Choosing Child Care.
parents and caregivers want to share their favorite activities with their young
children. This can help build common interests and appreciation for exercise
and other pursuits. Be sure, however, to recognize the safety issues related to
these activities. Remember that your child's comfort and safety are most
Taking care of yourself is a vital part of keeping your child safe.
Although accidents can occur at any time, most happen during times of excess
stress, such as when:3
signs of stress and what situations cause it. Be extra vigilant during these
times and take care of yourself and your
information, see the topic
Stress Management or the Interactive Tool: What Is Your Stress Level?
All parents have times when they feel
exhausted, frustrated, angry, sad, or overwhelmed. Recognize that this is a
normal part of being human and a parent. But if these feelings become too much
for you to handle alone, keep your child safe by
getting help. For example, when your emotions are too
much for you to handle alone, you may not have the energy or desire to watch
your child as closely as you should. Some parents injure their children when
their emotions cause them to shake, hit, or push them. This can result in such
shaken baby syndrome, which can cause permanent brain
damage or even death.
Call 911 right away if you feel you are about to injure yourself or
Places to go for help include:
For more information on physical harm to children, see
Shaken Baby Syndrome and
Child Abuse and Neglect. For more information on
handling difficult emotions, see the topics
Anger, Hostility, and Violent Behavior.
This branch of the CDC seeks to
prevent injuries and violence and to reduce their consequences. The website has information on injuries, accidents, and situations that can lead to injuries. Topics include home and recreational safety, motor vehicle safety, violence prevention, and traumatic brain injury.
This website has information about chemicals in toys, clothing, and other products. The Ecology Center
created this resource because product makers aren't required to disclose what chemicals are in many consumer
Safe Kids USA is a nonprofit organization
that seeks to prevent accidental childhood injury. The website has safety tips
about car travel, fire and burns, falls, poison, drowning, toys, and more.
Links to each state's child safety laws and local SAFE KIDS coalitions also are
The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) is an
independent federal regulatory agency. CPSC seeks to protect consumers and families from dangerous products that can injure people, especially children. CPSC develops safety standards and informs the public about product hazards and recalls. You can call
their toll-free number or email them to report unsafe products.
National Center for Injury Prevention and Control (2010). Fireworks-related injuries. Available online: http://www.cdc.gov/homeandrecreationalsafety/fireworks/index.html.
National Safety Council (2009). Water safety. National Safety Council Fact Sheet. Available online: http://www.nsc.org/news_resources/resources/documents/water_safety.pdf.
American Academy of Pediatrics (2009). Keeping your child safe. In SP Shevlov et al., eds., Caring for Your Baby and Young Child: Birth to Age 5, 5th ed., pp. 457–506. New York: Bantam.
Other Works Consulted
Bunik M, et al. (2012). Ambulatory and office pediatrics. In WW Hay et al., eds., Current Diagnosis and Treatment: Pediatrics, 21st ed., pp. 231–253. New York: McGraw-Hill.
American Academy of Pediatrics (accessed August 2012). Pool safety for children. The Injury Prevention Program (TIPP). Available online:
Committee on Injury and Poison Prevention, American Academy of Pediatrics (2001, reaffirmed 2004). Falls from heights: Windows, roofs, and balconies. Pediatrics, 107(5): 1188–1191.
Committee on Injury and Poison Prevention, American Academy of Pediatrics (2002, reaffirmed 2005). Policy statement: Skateboard and scooter injuries. Pediatrics, 109(3): 542–543.
Committee on Injury, Violence, and Poison Prevention, American Academy of Pediatrics (2009). Policy statement: Pedestrian safety. Pediatrics, 124(2): 802–812.
Committee on Injury, Violence, and Poison Prevention, American Academy of Pediatrics (2010). Prevention of choking among children. Pediatrics, 125(3): 601–607.
Gardner HG, American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Injury, Violence, and Poison Prevention (2007). Clinical report: Office-based counseling for unintentional injury prevention. Pediatrics, 119(1): 202–206.
Kendrick D, et al. (2007). Home safety education and
provision of safety equipment for injury prevention. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews (1).
Window Covering Safety Council (accessed August 2012). Basic cord safety. Available online: http://www.windowcoverings.org/about-2.
March 21, 2011
Susan C. Kim, MD - Pediatrics & Thomas Emmett Francoeur, MD, MDCM, CSPQ, FRCPC - Pediatrics
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