When sourcing children’s furniture, your first consideration may be how bright, fun, and funky it is, or whether it works within the overall theme of your child’s bedroom or nursery. Or, perhaps you’ve been offered the gift of family furniture, passed down through the generations?
Obviously style or sentiment are big considerations, but it’s even more crucial that you bear safety in mind when choosing kids’ furniture. Certain everyday items have particular safety issues. For example, did you know that there are more child injuries annually involving cots than any other item of nursery equipment in the U.S.? So, safety first — just bear the following tips in mind for a happy, child-friendly home.
1. Antique, Vintage, or Pre-Used Furniture Should Conform to Current Safety Standards
Back to cots again. Once very popular, the drop-side style of cots has been prohibited in the U.S. since 2011 . A child could slip down between the drop side and the base of the cot, become trapped, and potentially suffocate due to the instability of fastenings in the mechanism, which meant the drop side came away from the cot base. Also, entrapment is a big issue. Use the two-finger rule. Make sure you can’t insert more than two fingers between the edge of the mattress and the sides of the cot (or bed rails). If you can, your child can become trapped.
Plain common sense is a good guide; don’t use old cots (or other items of furniture) with missing slats or rails, or that are unstable or shaky. Slats on cots or bed rails should be no more than 2 3/4 inches apart. Contemporary high chairs require safety straps — old-style chairs may lack these, so if you can’t part with that piece of Victorian nostalgia, attach a safety harness (and always watch over any child in a high chair).
Old furniture can have rough edges, splinters, and rusty or missing parts. Loose nails, hinges and screws can scratch; they can also cause the furniture to fall apart. Old furniture upholstery can be inflammable. Replace old chair cushions or old bed and cot mattresses with well-fitting, new upholstery that conforms to current safety standards.
2. Children’s Furniture Should be Made of Appropriate Materials
That fab glass coffee table may be all very well in your cutting edge loft-style apartment, but children and glass don’t go well together: Anything fragile, breakable and potentially dangerous has no place in a nursery or kids’ bedroom. Similarly metal furniture, like beds or chairs, are too hard and unyielding. Sturdy, smooth plastic or polished wood is ideal.
3. Make Sure the Furniture Is Non-Slip
This one’s a no-brainer. Lightweight, brightly colored tables and chairs may look sweet and appealing, but if they slip when in use, they’re an accident waiting to happen. Tables that are easily moved or pushed over are not a good choice for placing hot food and drink on, for example. Children must not be placed in, or on, furniture that can easily fall over.
4. Children’s Furniture Should Never Have Sharp Corners or Edges
If you have a dining or kitchen table with sharp corners, this is a hazard for children, who like to run around and whose faces are possibly even at table height. Either don’t buy them in the first place, or pad them with something if the children are not a permanent feature. I once knew someone who was very style conscious and the proud possessor of a glass designer dining table, complete with killer corners. He fashioned “bumpers” from polyethylene pipe insulation material and popped them over the edges of the table whenever friends’ kids came to stay. But as a good rule of thumb, never invest in, or inherit, furniture that can easily cause damage to your children if they bump into it.
5. Painted Furniture Should Never Be Toxic
All furniture, not just furniture for a kid’s bedroom or nursery, must conform to present day safety standards, and this is particularly true of paint finishes. Anyone who’s gone through the pain of a teething child knows how a child can gnaw away at the edges of bunk bed rails or high chairs. It’s true! So, it’s even more essential that a little one’s furniture is never covered in lead-based or toxic paint.
6. Buy Appropriate Beds
Never place a child who’s aged under 6 years old on the top bunk of bunk beds. Make sure the top bunk has a guard rail on each side — not just on the wall side. Make sure the ladder has no missing rungs, is not slippy, and is firmly attached to the side of the top bunk.
Mattresses should snuggly fit around all four sides of a bed. There should also be adequate depth from the top of the mattress to the tops of any safety rails so that your very small child can’t fall out of bed.
7. Choose Lower, Wider Dressers for Children’s Storage
To prevent your child from falling when trying to access his toys or belongings from dressers, perhaps by way of climbing onto open drawers, buy furniture for storage that is low-level and has a firm, wide base. Also consider anchoring kids’ furniture — cupboards, drawers, book cases, and wardrobes — to the wall, so a child can’t pull them down. Consider placing safety locks on lower drawers when your children are very young.