While minor injuries are a largely unavoidable part of an active childhood, one of the most important aspects of a nanny’s job is to keep her charges safe and healthy. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that more than nine million children between infancy and 19 years of age are seen in emergency rooms across the United States each year, and that the leading cause of death among this demographic is injury. While the vast majority of the injuries that you tend to will be quite minor, eliminating the ever-present risk of serious or even life-threatening injury is of the utmost importance. By taking a few simple steps, you may be able to help lower the likelihood of a trip to the ER, or at least a few tears.
- Help Kids Learn Safe Behavior – While it is your job to help keep your charges safe, it’s also partially your responsibility to help them learn to make safe choices for themselves. It’s virtually impossible to be on guard and watching more than one child every moment of the day; for those times when your charges are playing around the corner or in the next room, it’s imperative that they have a working idea of how to keep themselves safe and avoid danger.
- Model Safe Habits – Children learn by playing, exploring, and asking questions; they also learn a surprising amount of their habits and behavior by mimicking the behavior of the adults in their lives. As such, it’s important that you make an effort to always model safe habits. Rather than taking a “do as I say, not as I do” approach to childcare, you should lead through example, helping your charges learn to behave safely by seeing such behavior in action.
- Practice Safe Car Behavior – The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration states that car accidents are the leading cause of death for kids between the ages of three and 14. While not all accidents result in such dire circumstances, it’s absolutely necessary for kids and their nannies to adhere to the basic rules of road safety, including proper restraints, keeping kids in the back seat, and minimizing distractions so that adults can drive as safely as possible.
- Supervise, Supervise, Supervise! – Whether it’s in the swimming pool in summer time or the bathtub in winter, drowning is a leading cause of death and injury among children. Any time your charges will be in or around water they must be supervised vigilantly the entire time. When there’s no water in sight it’s still not wise to lower your guard too far; an inquisitive and adventurous child can find themselves in risky, potentially dangerous situations much faster than most caregivers realize. Even experienced nannies can have injuries on their watch, so stay attentive and avoid as many distractions as you can while on duty.
- Eliminate as Many Hazards as Possible – Some parents childproof their homes the moment they get a positive result on a pregnancy test; others may take a more relaxed approach and opt not to install an array of devices and gadgets to keep little fingers from questing into unsafe territory. If your employers fall into the latter category you’ll have to be extra-vigilant in your supervision and eliminate as many of the potential hazards in a room as possible. Even in homes that are childproofed to the hilt, you should make sure that you keep an eye out for danger, and make sure that you’re not creating hazards through your own behavior. Keep the handles of pots and pans turned inward, spills wiped up to prevent slippery spots on the floor and dangerous chemicals under lock and key.
- Insist on Safety Equipment – Getting an elementary or tween-aged charge to wear a bicycle helmet alone can be a battle; convincing them to go whole-hog with the elbow and knee pads, wrist guards and other safety equipment can be near impossible. Though insisting on these safety measures might not make you the most popular nanny on the block amongst the kids you care for, it will keep them safe from major injury when they take the inevitable spill on their bike or skateboard.
- Prepare Food in a Kid-Safe Manner – Healthline states that approximately 17,000 children are treated for choking and related injuries annually in the United States, and that more than 80% of those episodes occur in children under the age of four. In addition to helping little ones learn to chew thoroughly, take small bites, and eat slowly, nannies should also be sure to prepare food in such a way that there is less of a choking hazard in the first place. Hot dogs should be cut both width-wise and lengthwise, rather than served in small, round slices that can easily block a child’s airway, for instance.
In addition to taking the proper precautions to prevent common injury, nannies should also make a habit of checking for product recalls to ensure that toys and other items marketed for use by children are in proper working order and as safe as possible. The Consumer Product Safety Commission is the single most reliable source of recall information, which can be found on their website.