By Shayne Bates, M.D. FAAP, Pediatrician, Wake Forest Baptist Health – Brenner Children’s Hospital Pediatrics – Westgate

The new year is just days away,and with it is the promise of exciting milestones. For parents with babies, it will mean first steps. Parents of young children may have plans to remove the training wheels this year. And for some parents, 2012 may be the year they find themselves gripping the dashboard with their teens behind the wheelas they navigate the roads for the very first time.

If these exciting milestones are also making you a little nervous, here is a “2012 Child Safety Checklist” that will help keep your kids out of harm’s way:

Babies and Toddlers

Most infants learn to roll from back-to-front and front-to-back at four to six-months of age – some of them even earlier. It’s important to be aware of this when placing your child on high surfaces. Never leave a baby unattended on a changing table, even if they haven’t begun to roll. Also, don’t count on the “security” of seats that don’t strap your little one in. For example, there have been numerous reports of children toppling off of high surfaces in the popular Bumbo seat.

Babies love to explore everything, and not just with their hands. The mouth is the most sensitive part of their bodies, so as they start to crawl, they will put any new object they discover into their mouths. This includes complex toys with small parts belonging to older siblings. Be aware of any small object at their eye level that may be a choking hazard. Another hazard that has been getting more attention is any toy with magnetic parts. One magnet may not be cause for concern, but swallowing two or more can result in a blockage or tear in the GI tract, causing significant damage.


Bath time presents one of the biggest hazards for little children. It is important to remember to never leave a child unattended who hasn’t yet learned to swim. Consider putting soft covers on faucets, and rubber mats on the bathtub floor. The most common area of injury is due to a fall in the bathtub, and 85percent of those falls were with proper parental supervision.

Keep cleaning supplies and other chemicals locked up and in child-proof containers. Memorize the number to poison control: 1-800-222-1222. This should be the first number you call when you think your child has ingested a possibly dangerous liquid or other substance.

Early Elementary

By age four, children should learn to recite their phone number and address. Have them repeat it to you often and make it into a song so that it’s easy to remember and fun to sing.

Teach them to never talk to strangers.Teach them to always run away when approached by someone they don’t know, and head to someplace safe where there is an adult they know nearby.

Older Kids

Older elementary and middle school-aged kids often ride bikes and skateboards unsupervised, so get them into the habit of wearing a helmet early. Always remember, a child doesn’t have to be going fast to cause significant brain injury.

Teens go through a period in proper development when they will want to take risks. Parents often express their frustration over their kids not listening to them, but teens really do care about their parents’ values, even though their behavior may say otherwise. Open up to them about topics like drinking, smoking, and drugs. Kids are able to rationalize their behavior, and this skill extends to dangerous situations.

Be approachable about the topic of sex. You don’t want to isolate them by avoiding it, because they may get education elsewhere which will lead to misinformation and confusion.Encourage abstinence but be realistic. It’s okay to provide your viewpoint, but being open-minded is always the safest approach.

Social media can also present dangers, so we don’t typically recommend it for young adolescents and preteens. If they have a cell phone, or are on Facebook or Twitter, you should always have access to each type of social media that your child uses.And, routinely view your child’s accounts on each of these social media outlets. There’s no policing of the World Wide Web, so a lot of dangerous people can gain the trust of your child.

For more parenting advice about how to keep an open dialogue with your children, consult the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Car Safety

This is one area that affects infants all the way up to teenagers.

When shopping for a car seat, it’s important to pay attention to the sticker placed on the car seat itself. Each seat has its own recommended weight and length requirements. Pick one that fits your child and fits your car easily. Make sure that you can install it, take it out, and reinstall it with ease.

Proper installation of a car seat is vital, so it’s wise to have your child’s seat inspected. Car seats can be checked at your local fire department, police station and at some medical centers. I am also a certified car seat safety technician, and we will be holding car seat safety inspections here at Pediatrics – Westgate (in Winston-Salem) in the near future. Visit our website periodically for updates.

Typically, the most common type of motor vehicle collision is a frontal collision, so for infants, the safest position for a car seat is in the back seat and rear-facing. The previous guidelines stated babies should stay in this rear-facing position for up to one year and 20 lbs. However, the recommendation has changed, and now babies should stay rear-facing until two years of age, regardless of weight. Children should stay in a booster seat or a five-point harness for up to four years of age and 40 lbs.

Even though the National Highway Traffic Safety Ad ministration (NHTSA) makes research-based recommendations on car seat safety, each state has its own individual requirements. In North Carolina, children can transition to a seat belt at 80 lbs., with no height requirements. The NHTSA recommends children should transition to a seat belt when they reach4’9” and 80 lbs.

Children should never be in the front seat until 13 years of age.Make sure the seat belt crosses the clavicle and lies on the hip correctly. Incorrect placement of the belt can result in significant injury.

You can find more information about car seats, proper installation, and the new regulations on the NHTSA website.

I hope you have a safe and happy new year filled with lots of amazing milestones for your children!