The reason why I chose to write about this topic is because, I am asked often when visiting infant rooms and family childcare homes with only infants enrolled, “Why we require, “Keep out of reach of children” items, to be stored in locked cabinets?” Many providers don’t understand the reasoning for locked items in infant rooms where children cannot “reach” the items because they are nonmobile or have limited mobility. Why can’t these items be stored in easy teacher-accessible places? Let’s take a closer look at the reality of having “Keep out of reach” items stored in easy teacher reach places like unlocked low shelves and cabinets.
As an Assessor first and foremost we follow the PA Position Statements which state that any product or material labeled, “Keep out of reach of children,” is stored in locked areas or containers, including medicines and cleaning materials. These include typical everyday use items such diapering wipes, ointments, sunscreens, baby powder, hand lotions, lip balms, liquid white out, etc. These are just some of the items typically kept in unlocked cabinets and drawers in childcare programs and family childcare homes.
The best practice approach ensures that all children including infants and toddlers are in a safe environment. It provides protection from human error and when staff are consistently abiding by this practice and procedure children are less likely to find or encounter hazardous materials. In short, this best practice approach decreases the opportunity for accidents to occur.
Keep in mind nonmobile infants eventually become crawlers, walkers, and climbers. At that point they are very curious about their environment. When these growth transitions happen the “lock all up” approach is the safest route. Why not have these policies in place and in practice now rather than later?
Think about drop off and pick up times. The youngest child in the family may be the first to be dropped off and the last to be picked up and what do the older siblings’ toddlers, preschoolers or school age child do while they’re in the infant room? They may just be wandering around the room. Remember that children are curious and like to explore their surroundings. Also, most programs have low attendance in the early morning hours and in the last hour prior to closing, and there maybe one drop, off and pick up room for all ages. At times, the morning drop, off room and evening pick up room just happens to be the infant room. PA Position Statements are written to protect all children.
Now think about the infant room. Not all infant rooms are separated with non-mobile infants and mobile infants. What happens to that nine- or ten-month-old infant who is already walking? Now, he is still in the infant room and is still considered an infant. If you have good habits about locking up those “Keep out of reach” items, it will help eliminate the possibility of accidents occurring.
Best practice is what we are striving for. Let’s do our best to keep children safe and store all keep out of reach items in a locked cabinet. That way we can be safe, stay safe and not sorry. I hope this information was helpful!
The PA Position Statements can be found on the PA Keys website, at www.pakeys.org