Toddler care requires 'super vision'

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Toddlers get into everything. They're learning so many new skills. They seem to have boundless energy. Some days, it might be hard to keep up. It's no wonder that toddlers require consistent and constant supervision, and parents need to apply "super vision."

The biggest risks to toddlers this summer are bodies of water. A day at the pool or lake can turn into an emergency-department visit in a matter of seconds. Two-thirds of childhood drownings occur in the warm-weather months of May through August.

Water is fascinating to curious toddlers, who have no concept of the potential danger. Childhood drownings and near-drownings happen quickly and silently, and they typically occur when a child is left unattended or during a lapse of supervision. Even the few moments it takes to run to the restroom or look away to chat with a friend can be all it takes for a child to fall into a river, lake, pool or bathtub.

Auto accidents are another leading cause of injury and death for children 1 year and older. Parents need to insist that children use car seats at all times. In the United States alone, an estimated 50,000 serious injuries would be prevented and more than 500 lives would be saved each year if car seats were used by all children 5 and younger.

Using a car seat isn't enough by itself; it needs to be positioned and fastened correctly. "The No. 1 mistake parents make is that they improperly strap their children in their car seats by twisting the straps," said Amy Farrell, an early childhood expert at GrandKids Child Care Center in Steamboat Springs.

More than 90 percent of child safety seats inspected last year by the Colorado Passenger Safety Team were installed improperly. Briefly, the law requires forward-facing child safety seats for children ages 1 to 4 who weigh 20 to 40 pounds. Booster seats or child safety belt devices are required for children who are 4 or older or who weigh more than 40 pounds. An adult safety belt is not safe by itself until a child is at least 55 inches tall.

The Steamboat Springs Fire Rescue crew has done many child safety seat checks at special events and is available by appointment on Wednesdays. Parents are encouraged to call 879-0700 to schedule a time.

A toddler's own driveway is another potential danger. In recent months, several Colorado children have been run over in tragic accidents. Sadly, these incidents are on the rise. Toddlers are not sufficiently aware of the threat of a reversing car, and they are too small for a driver to see through the rear view mirror.

Every family should have a safety routine for driving out of their driveway. For example, parents can make a pact that the car doesn't move until the children are indoors or being physically held by the adult in charge.

The toddler years are a challenge to most parents, who must stay one step ahead of their children at all times. Childproofing your home may eliminate many tempting moments for your toddler. Childproofing means looking at the surroundings in a new manner. The best way to find dangers is to get down on their level and ask yourself what looks tempting.

Having spaces where it's safe for a toddler to explore and play freely can allow them to satisfy their curiosity without having parents constantly say "no" to every move.

Mindy Fontaine, public relations coordinator at Yampa Valley Medical Center, is a child safety advocate and former early childhood professional.

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