Choosing Children’s Chairs & Tables – Safety Considerations
As we excitedly design our child’s nursery, what colour? Which toy box? Where to put the chair? We usually take for granted that the furniture we buy for our little one will be safe. However, as more parents are tempted by cute furniture that has not been designed specifically for children, but are rather scaled down copies of adult’s furniture, children’s safety is being put at risk.
Zandra Johnson, from Fairytale Children’s Furniture experienced these dangers first hand with her own daughter when she gave her a child sized folding garden chair. “Being very young she climbed into it knee first, leaning on the back of the chair for support. The lightweight chair tipped over backwards and I just caught her before she crashed face first onto the patio.”
This reinforces the fact that children are brilliant at finding ways to injure themselves, so when we purchase our child’s furniture is essential that we choose items that will ensure their safety. To help maintain the safety of our children there are certain regulations governing the design of most children’s products. For example Sarah Codrington from The Children’s Furniture Company explains, “with cots one regulation is to ensure that the bars are set a certain distance apart; and for bunks it ensures avoiding the dangers of entrapment and falling.” At Dragons of Walton Street Lucinda ensures that “all paints and glues used in the construction and decoration of furniture are water based and meet European safety standards.” However, Sarah continues that not all furniture companies follow these directives and Zandra also explains how “Sadly there often has to be an accident first before a regulation to prevent it is written.”
But, this doesn’t mean that your little one will have to miss out on having their very own piece of furniture. Because as we all know, nothing makes your child feel more grown up or more special then having a quality piece of furniture that they can cherish for their own. Instead, when choosing your child’s nursery furniture you should take certain points into consideration.
Firstly, you should make sure that all the joints in your chair are solid and not wobbly. This may sound obvious, but many accidents could be avoided if parents simply took the time to check that their chair’s joints were secure. Sarah believes parents should be cautious of flat plan furniture; this is because “Flat-pack furniture will not always allow for the best joints, as nothing is clued. Longer term it might not stand the rough and tumble of children. And of course it relies on the customer fixing it correctly as well. From our perspective we assemble all our furniture to avoid any problems of this nature.” Parents checking furniture joints should also ensure that there are no protruding screws. These should be neatly countersunk and there should never be any screw covers. Zandra says, “These little caps will come off and may present a choking hazard. Chairs, and tables, are more stable if legs angle slightly outwards. Table tops should have no sharp corners and should not extend too far beyond the legs in case a child leans heavily on one side or climbs onto the table.”
When buying folding chairs, such as deckchairs, garden chairs and director’s chairs, parents should secondly ensure that there are no finger traps. To do this Zandra advises that parents should check that there is a separator at the folding joint to prevent little fingers getting trapped in the scissor movement. Parents should then check that there isn’t a gap between the separator and the chair that is wide enough to nip the skin.
Depending on the age of your child will also affect the safety regulations you should consider when buying your furniture. If your little ones are aged at that crucial age between 18 months to 3 years every corner of a table, chest, bed, basically whatever is at head height, should have corner protectors to avoid accidents. If your child is slightly older and your are considering a bunk or high bed, the recommended age for a child to be on the top bunk is 6 years. This is not a hard and fast rule and each person know their own child, how agile they are and how likely they are to wake up in the middle of the night perhaps feeling disorientated. However, whatever the age, when buying a bunk or high bed parents should let their children know the dangers of bunk beds and give them strict rules regarding not jumping off the bed.
Another nursery favourite that parents should be weary of are rocking chairs. These can be very dangerous as the momentum generated from rocking can tip the chair over backwards. Lucinda from Dragons of Walton Street continues “the dangers of rockers are that children use them for everything other than rockers and can cause them to topple over when using them as pirate ships!” To prevent this Zandra recommends that parents buy a rocking chair with a stop at each end of the rockers to stop the rocking motion. “If there are no stops, the rockers that should extend beyond the profile of the chair and describe a shallow arc.”
So when you design your perfect nursery, simply follow these simple steps and you can rest assured that the safe furniture you buy your child will love and pass on, with all their memories, to their children.
Safety in seconds There are also some quick checks you can do when out in the shops to ensure your furniture is safe- • Get your furniture from a reputable company Lucinda from Dragons at Walton Street says this is key, because companies like themselves who have been running for over thirty years are more likely to have performed all the correct safety checks. • Check the width of the chairs arms aren’t wider than the base of the chair. Zandra says this can protect your little one as “Children are active little bodies and it is not unusual for a child to turn in a chair and, leaning all it’s weight on the arm, reach or lean over.” • Test the stays in your toy box Sarah recommends parents do this “make sure either that the stays work properly to provide a slow, safe closure or that there’s a gap to ensure fingers don’t get trapped.” • Look at the labels of your products. Zandra suggests when buying an upholstered chair or bean bag for your nursery that parents should look for a label “stating that all materials comply with the flammability regulations and contain no materials which give off noxious fumes.” • Open and close the drawers of chests. Sarah advises this as “If they are too flimsy and tip over without anything in them, parents should think again.”
Government safety tips-
- Bunk and cabin beds are not suitable for children under six – if you do have bunk or cabin beds teach your child never to play on the top bunk
- Use safety glass in glass doors and windows or cover the panes with safety film or cardboard – this will stop children being seriously cut if they trip or fall into the glass
- When your baby starts crawling, fit safety gates to stop them climbing up or falling down stairs
- Accidents happen when young children climb over or through banisters – if gaps are more than 6.5 cm (2.5 inches), cover the gaps with boards or safety netting
- Fit window locks or safety catches to stop windows opening more than 6.5 cm (2.5 inches) – this should stop children being able to squeeze through
- To make sure children are safe, there should be a barrier at least 110 cm (43 inches) high around the edge of the balcony
- If the gaps between the upright railings on a balcony are more than 6.5 cm (2.5 inches), board them up
- When securing a baby in a high chair, pram or pushchair, always use a five point harness (two shoulder straps, two hip straps and a crotch strap)
- If you are buying a harness separately, look for one made to British Standard 6684
- Only use baby walkers to British Standard EN 1273:2005 – baby walkers with older standards are less safe
Did you know…
- A baby’s skull isn’t ‘fused’ (closed together) at birth. This leaves a very soft spot on top and serious falls can cause lasting injuries.
- Around 41,000 under fives are rushed to casualty each year after falling down a flight of stairs. That’s almost 800 a week.
- Almost 2,000 under fives are rushed to casualty every year after falling from buildings. Last year, seven under-fives died this way.