There are no more important safety precautions than baby proofing a window. All too often we hear of accidents that may have been preventable. Window technology has improved over the years to include effective safety features, and there are a few things parents and caretakers can do to help eliminate these types of accidents. Today we will discuss the importance of baby proofing a window and offer a few tips to keep children safe from falls.
Are Regular Windows Baby Proof?
Never assume a window is baby proof. There is obviously no substitute for adult supervision, however, some windows do have built-in safety features that help guard against accidents. Generally speaking, most window manufacturers offer window opening control devices, also known as WOCDs, but most older windows will not have this feature. WOCDs are available in most window designs, but they may take on a different function depending on the design of the window.
Standard windows also do not contain tempered glass. Although tempered glass is required for most windows within 18” of the floor, most windows do not meet this requirement. Standard window glass will shatter into extremely dangerous shards, so any window within the reach of children should include tempered glass.
Can I Just Use the Screen to Baby Proof a Window?
Absolutely not. Screens are not designed to protect against falls, so they should never be used to baby proof a window. Screens offer no protection at all from objects passing through the window and can be easily damaged by something as small as a bird or even large insects. Screens work wonderfully well to keep out flying insects, but they will do nothing to prevent a child from falling through the window.
What Else Can I Do to Help Protect Children From Windows?
There are several effective strategies for making a room safer for babies and small children. Again, there is no substitute for adult supervision, but we can take small actions to help reduce accidents. Among these are relocating furniture, opening top sashes only, and removing tempting items from near windows.
Move Furniture Away From Windows
Small children often love to climb, especially when there’s a prize like a bird sitting in a window sill. Being small, they tend to climb on nearby furniture for a better look. For this reason, furniture should be located away from windows, especially above the first floor. A chair, for example, located too close to the window can tip over, sending the child through the glass.
A better strategy is to move rocking chairs and other seating into corners or other solid walls. Beds and cribs should also be placed well away from windows to prevent a child from using the bed frame to access the window. In fact, some experts recommend eliminating anything tall enough to access a window to be removed from the space until the child is of school age.
Open Top Sashes Instead of Bottom Sashes
Not all windows have this feature, but many will. Known as a double hung window, these windows operate from either the top or the bottom. Older windows, like aluminum storm windows and counterweighted wooden windows are often single hung, meaning only the bottom sash operates, while the upper sash remains stationary. Double hung windows however allow the upper sash to be opened to generate air flow without opening the lower sash that a child might reach. Often, these windows will also include a WOCD to prevent strangers from opening a partially opened window.
Teach Children to Stay Away From Windows
One of the most effective ways to reduce accidents is simply teaching children to play away from windows, or any other glass. Obviously, any glass can be dangerous for children, so it’s a good idea to teach kids to play away from windows and maintain a distance. For example, some safety experts suggest using a toy as a measuring stick. When in doubt, the child places the toy on the floor between their body and the window to establish a safe distance. Ideally, the toy will be long enough so that if the child maintains this distance from the window, falling through is not possible.
How Do I Baby Proof a Window?
Baby proofing a window won’t necessarily make it impossible to prevent an accident, but applying these suggestions will help make the space safer for kids. Generally speaking, if the window is made from safety glass (tempered), any temptations have been relocated, and any furniture has been moved away from the windows, the next step is to employ some form WOCD. These can come in several forms, which we will describe next.
Install Window Restrictors if the Window Does Not Have Them
As mentioned previously, many new windows, especially vinyl and clad windows have WOCDs built in. These devices are usually spring loaded and include a stop that is engaged when the window is opened. The mechanism is located close to the center of the window to prevent the window from moving more than about four inches. If your windows do not include WOCDs, you can add them. If the window must be opened fully, often a release is included to disengage the restrictor.
Aftermarket WOCDs are available for essentially any window design, including casement, double hung, slider, and awning windows. Adding WOCDs to these windows is quite easy as many do not even require tools for installation. In any event, aftermarket WOCDs will restrict the opening of the window to four inches or less to prevent a child’s head from passing through.
Install Window Guards
Another effective solution to baby proof a window is to install window guards. Window guards are commercially available metal gates that operate similarly to a baby gate, but do not open. Window guards are very effective at preventing falls because they will not allow anything larger than 4” to pass through the entire opening. Window guards are an effective solution for any window design, as they are installed over the window, not on it.
Use a Window Wedge
Window wedges are used in a similar manner to built-in window stops, but can be installed after the fact. Window wedges work just like a door stop to prevent the window from opening past a certain point. Window wedges can essentially be installed anywhere on the window, giving the user more flexibility. For example, they can be adjusted to allow for more or less opening of the sash by simply installing them in a different location.
Use a Charley Bar
Another very effective WOCD is a charley bar. The name comes from the slang term to “charley” something to prevent it from moving. Most of us who have operated or owned a sliding glass door are familiar with charley bars. In fact, some sliding doors include a charley bar during manufacturing. In a sliding door, the charley bar is a piece of rigid metal cut to a specific length and placed in the door track. When the door is opened, it contacts the charley bar and will open no further.
Charley bars also work great to baby proof a window for the same reason. Charley bars can be purchased already to length, or project kits can be purchased for custom installations. However, charley bars will generally only work with windows that slide. For example, charley bars are especially useful with slider windows and double hung windows because these windows travel along a track. However, on casement and awning windows that are hinged, charley bars should be replaced with window stops and/or window guards.