The spacing of the slats on a balcony railing affects safety.

Balcony Safety for Kids

by Shelley Frost

A balcony can be a great place for adults to take in fresh air and panoramic views, but a balcony can be a potentially dangerous place for children to play. An inadequate railing and risky behavior could result in a fall from the structure that causes serious injury or death. Taking safety precautions reduces the risk of a balcony fall.

1. Railing Specifications

Small gaps between the slats on a balcony railing prevent a child from slipping through the space. A child as old as 6 can fit through a gap as small as 6 inches. By decreasing a railing gap to no more than 4 inches, you prevent even the smallest children from fitting between the vertical bars. New balcony construction should comply with the 4-inch suggestion, but older balconies may have larger gaps. A high railing reduces the risk of a child accidentally falling over the top. The standard required by most local building codes is a minimum height of 3 feet, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.

2. Access

Open access to the balcony means your child can enter the outdoor area whenever he wants. Without your supervision, your child may act in an unsafe manner. Lock any doors that open onto the balcony as a safeguard for young children who haven't yet figured out how to work the locks. If the balcony entrance is a sliding door, a narrow board placed in the track prevents the door from sliding open. Place the board at the top of the track to keep it out of your child's reach. Always supervise your child when he is on the balcony.

3. Furniture Placement

Children are able to climb up on furniture and structures starting at a young age. Benches, tables and chairs make a balcony functional for entertaining, but those pieces of furniture also make it easy for your child to climb to the top of the railing. Even if he isn't trying to climb onto the railing, he could fall over if he is standing on a bench to get a better view. Position any furniture away from balcony railings.

4. Education

Your child needs to understand the importance of being safe on a balcony to prevent falls. Set rules with your child about going onto the balcony and proper behavior when he is on the outdoor space. Explain to your child why he cannot climb on the railings, stand on the furniture or roughhouse when he is on the balcony. You might say, "Standing on the railing is dangerous. You could fall down to the ground and get really hurt. When you are on the balcony, I need you to play calmly and not climb on anything." Regular reminders about balcony safety keep the information at the forefront of your child's mind.

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