Show me a toddler who doesn't love a good laundry room, and I'll show you a little toddler liar. Wee ones almost always dig washing machines, just as they are magically drawn to all things potentially hazardous (i.e. basement stairs, power tools, medicine cabinets). Which is why it's imperative that parents know how to properly childproof a laundry room and keep their spin cycle-lovin' kiddos safe.
Colleen Driscoll is the Executive Director of the International Association for Child Safety. Her number one tip is, unsurprisingly, to keep little ones away from dangerous cleaning agents. "Ensure that children do not have access to dangerous, single-use laundry packets. Better yet, don’t purchase them for your home if you have young children, especially since they look like candy."
So yeah, you're better off not purchasing any pods, period. I am still afraid of those things, even though my son would no sooner mistake a Tide pod for candy than he would mistake a dryer sheet for a piece of pizza. But even still, the bright, Skittles-esque look of them freaks me out. Perhaps I'm worried that in a moment of hunger I myself might be tempted to scarf one. Anyway, if you do have pods or packets in your home, make sure to always keep them in the labeled, childproof container they came in, and be sure to store them well out of reach.
Of course, the appliances themselves can also be potentially hazardous to small children. Today's Parent noted that machines should be positioned in such a way so that small children cannot crawl behind them, and run the risk of getting burned.
And parents should always make sure to utilize the built-in locking feature on washers and dryers. Children are instinctively drawn to the idea of climbing into the small hiding spaces inside these appliances, and front loading machines in particular can be extremely dangerous. The Consumer Product Safety Commission reported that since 2014, there have been at least three deaths of children 5 and younger attributed to accidents with laundry machines — two of which were front loaders.
Driscoll suggests — if possible — to just make the laundry room off limits altogether. "Add a lock to to deny access. There are childproofing locks available that can be used on the top of the door that work from both sides of the door in case one parent is doing laundry, and another caregiver is watching the child."
This might sound extreme, and you may be thinking, "Sheesh, can't I just let my kid help me shove in some towels and get on with my day?" And yes, I know it can be sweet when kids want to "help out" with chores. But parents should really think of the laundry in the same way they would cooking. I mean, you wouldn't let a 3-year-old stand at a hot stove and stir a skillet of ground beef, would you? Well, washing machines and dryers are much the same — big, potentially dangerous appliances that can cause serious injury.
Also, let's be real: a 3-year-old's version of "helping with the laundry" generally means throwing your clean underwear onto the dirty floor. So, if they really really want to "help", maybe encourage them to put their 300 scattered Magnatiles back into the toy bin?
Colleen Driscoll, executive director of the International Association for Child Safety
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