Accidents and child development

Child development packNovember 2012

Parents are often taken by surprise when their child makes a sudden breakthrough in their development. These newly-acquired abilities can be a cause for celebration. But sudden changes in ability can also be linked to serious childhood accidents. Practitioners need to understand these links, so they can provide advice to parents and keep children safe from serious harm. To support this work, CAPT has launched a suite of practical resources and training courses.

Parents taken by surprise

In a recent survey of 2,700 parents, CAPT found that:

  • Almost one in four were constantly taken by surprise by their child's abilities to do something which they thought they couldn’t do.
  • More than half admitted they had been taken by surprise in the past.

New abilities, new risks

The abilities that children acquire as they grow and develop – such as grabbing, rolling over, crawling, standing, climbing, opening bottles and turning handles – can delight us as parents and carers. But these same abilities, when they take us by surprise, can lead to serious childhood accidents. For example:

  • A young baby grabs a nappy sack and pulls it to their face, but is unable to let go or pull it away again, so suffocates in silence.
  • A toddler climbs up to play but gets tangled in a blind cord and is strangled.
  • A young child learns to open a child-resistant container and swallows oven cleaner or bleach. Many of these accidents happen in a matter of seconds, when an adult’s back is turned or their attention is focused on something else.

Not mini-adults

Young children love to copy the grown-ups around them, whether that’s swallowing pills, straightening their hair or stirring pans in the kitchen. It’s not naughtiness – copying adult behaviour is how they learn and develop.

Young children are also good at repeating back instructions. But this doesn’t mean they can understand risk and consequences in the way an adult does. For example, research shows that children cannot judge the speed and distance of traffic until the age of eight or nine, so can’t be relied on to cross the road safely on their own.

What’s more, young children’s bodies are different to ours. For example:

  • Their skin is thinner, which makes them more susceptible to serious burns and scalds.
  • Their heads are proportionally larger, which increases the likelihood of a serious fall.
  • Their windpipes are smaller and less rigid, so they suffocate far more quickly if their necks are constricted.

The role of practitioners

Practitioners who work with children need to understand the links between child development and childhood accidents, so they can support children to learn and explore, while protecting children from dangers they cannot yet understand.

Practitioners who work with parents and carers can help to raise awareness of the biggest injury risks at different stages of a child’s development, and provide clear, practical and accurate safety advice, to help parents stay one step ahead. With this support, parents can anticipate the risks that can arise as their child grows and develops, and understand what they can do to keep their child safe from serious harm.

Effective, easy-to-use prevention resources

This is why CAPT has developed a brand new set of resources on the links between child development and childhood accidents. Our comprehensive child development pack contains: 

  • Our new child development session plan pack. A flexible, easy-to-use resource enabling frontline staff to run effective educational sessions with parents of young children. 15 session plans covering key development-related risks to babies, toddlers and small children. Plus an evaluation form that can be photocopied to capture the sessions’ impact.
  • 40 copies of our new picture-based booklet, As I grow and change I can.. This illustrates development-related risks to babies, toddlers and small children, and shows how to keep them safe from serious injury. An engaging resource for all parents of young children, including disadvantaged parents with poor literacy.
  • One copy of our latest guide for practitioners, Accidents and child development. Essential reading about the accidents that children have at different stages of their development and how to keep them safe from serious injury without restricting their freedom to learn and explore. Plus more tips on how to engage with parents.

Buy CAPT’s child development resources

You can buy CAPT’s child development pack for just £72 plus £9.45 P&P.

You can also order each part of the pack separately, for example:

Training on accidents and child development

CAPT currently offers two training courses which build understanding of the links between accidents and child development, and how best to support families with young children:

  • A full-day course designed to enhance professional development for more senior practitioners and managers, with an emphasis on children’s physical and emotional development and the links to serious childhood accidents, plus advice on effective interventions and programmes. Includes a copy of CAPT’s Accidents and child development guide for each participant.
  • A course designed to support frontline staff to deliver effective, engaging educational sessions to parents on the links between accidents and child development. This can be delivered as either a full-day course or a series of training sessions. It includes practical tips on how to use props and interactive resources to bring sessions alive, plus tried and tested ideas to stimulate discussions and help parents plan changes to their routines. This course is delivered in partnership with Fit for Safety.

For more information on our training courses:

Updated September 2014