Preventing falls in toddlers and children (1 to 5 years old)

Children will take more risks as they begin to walk. They will be curious and want to climb and explore. Climbing is a big part of their development. This can lead to fall-related injuries.

Falls in children usually occur from a height. Common hazards include:

  • raised surfaces
  • stairs
  • seats
  • baby walkers
  • furniture and TVs
  • bunk beds
  • ladders
  • windows
  • balconies
  • floors

Be aware of the dangers at and above a child’s reach and height. They will be tempted to get at them. These dangers above will soon be within their range.

Raised surfaces

Never leave a child alone on a changing table or raised surface. They can wiggle off and fall from any raised surface. This can cause serious injury.

Don’t leave a baby bouncer, car seat or any other sitting device on a raised surface, such as a table. The child could topple over.


Falling down the stairs is one of the most common causes of falls in children.

To prevent this, install protective stair gates at the top and the bottom of stairs. Stair gates are also known as child gates, safety barriers and safety gates.

You can also use them for other areas that pose a trip hazard, such as steps at doorways or changes in floor level. But only use them where the instructions say they can be used.

Install them correctly. To do this, follow the manufacturers guidelines.

Make sure to keep the stair gates closed. Check the lock and if the gate is stable. Check also that it's securely fitted in the doorway or stairway it is blocking. If it's not, your child could push it over and fall down the stairs.

EU guidelines say you should stop using stair gates when your child is 2 years old. They may be able to climb over or dislodge the gate at that age and injure themselves. Remove the gates sooner if your child is able to climb over them. 

When a child is old enough, show them how to slowly and safely climb the stairs. Keep steps and staircases clear.


Strap babies into all seats, including feeding chairs, car seats, prams and bouncers. Only use equipment and sitting devices with a 5-way safety harness.

A 5-way safety harness
A 5-way safety harness

Don’t use baby walkers

Using a baby walker can put a child at greater risk of head injuries, burns, scalds and poisoning.

Activity centres that don't move or play pens are safer. A child should only use them for short periods of time. You should watch them at all times.

If a child is not walking, they should spend time on the floor. They should roll, crawl and pull themselves up. This to support their motor development.

Furniture and TVs

Avoid placing TVs on cabinets or chests of drawers. Children will often climb on open drawers to reach the TV.

Always secure free-standing equipment and furniture to the wall or floor. This includes TVs, bookcases, chests of drawers and coat stands. They can cause serious or fatal injury if the item or its contents fall on your child.

Secure these items to the wall or floor using brackets or straps. If using straps, keep them out of children's sight and reach.

Keep furniture in a child's bedroom to a minimum. This is to give them fewer things to climb on.

Bunk beds

Don't allow a child to sleep on the top bunk bed until they are at least 6 years old.

Position bunk beds away from windows, ceiling lights, fans and furniture. Do not allow children to play on bunk beds. Carpet can decrease the risk of head injury from a bunk bed fall.

Bunk bed dangers include:

  • falls from the top bunk, the ladder or from windows near the bed
  • suffocation if your child slips between the guard rail and mattress
  • heads or limbs (arms and legs) getting caught or trapped between parts of the bed or in gaps and crevices
  • strangulation or accidental hanging. This can happen if your child's head or neck gets caught up in clothing, gaps or other objects on or near the bed. These objects include a cord or rope tied to the bed or near the bed


Store ladders away out of sight and reach of children.


Use window restrictors that you do not need tools to open. This is so you can escape in case of fire. Do not place beds, cots, toy boxes or other furniture near a window. A child could climb onto them to get to the window.

A window restrictor
A window restrictor


Make sure children can’t get out onto a balcony without your supervision. Secure balcony doors and fill in or cover securely any gaps in balcony railings that a child could fit through or use as a foothold to climb on.

Do not put anything a child could climb on near balcony railings. This includes outdoor furniture, plant pots or boxes.


Children can be seriously injured from falling over common household items like floor brushes, shoes and clothing. Toys and books are also a tripping and falls hazard. Keep floor surfaces, corridors, passage ways and stairs clear.

Running in socks on a shiny or wooden floor can lead to a nasty fall. Encourage children to wear well-fitting slippers inside the house. Secure rugs with tape or rubber pads.

Other hazards

Reduce hazards around the outside of your home. Check that any walls are safe.

Also, check any gates. Make sure they are closed, locked and in good working order.

You should also make sure there is no equipment or items lying around that a child could climb onto.

Related Content

Child safety checklist for parents including child proofing (PDF 5.32MB)

Use the HSE's child proofing check list to help you child proof your home to protect your children. This list is also available from your public health nurse.

Child safety wallchart for parents including basic first aid (PDF 3.22MB)

Print this child safety wallchart and keep within easy access in your home. Includes tips on child safety, first aid information and emergency contact details.

Page last reviewed: 14 November 2018
Next review due: 14 November 2021