By Courtney Ronan

You’ll hear from all of the child-safety experts that your home contains a literal minefield of dangers for your young child, particularly if he/she a curious toddler. By now, you’ve probably hired a babyproofer and have read the latest literature about keeping your home safe for your kids. Or, perhaps you’ve assumed the role of a babyproofer on your own, getting down on your hands and knees and crawling around the house in an attempt to get a toddler’s perspective on anything potentially dangerous within his reach.

And yet it’s not enough to protect your child from the one risk you never considered. It looks harmless, and it’s hanging from the windows in millions of homes throughout Canada. Mini-blind cords have only recently begun to make headlines for their ability to pose a serious risk to young children. These seemingly harmless nylon cords, looped and attached to a plastic or wood stick that allows you to raise and lower your blinds, have caused a lot of harm over the years.

The story begins like so many other tragedies involving young children: A parent turns his or her head for a brief minute, long enough for a child to fall victim to a tragedy in what is supposed to be the safest environment. Tragically, because of the silent nature of strangulation, parents have no indication that anything is wrong until it’s too late. A child either crawls or walks up to a window anywhere in the house. In perhaps the most tragic cases, the child is in his or her own crib or bed, placed next to a window with a set of mini-blinds.

You don’t have to remove the mini-blinds from every window in your home, however. You just have to make a few adjustments to ensure the safety of your children. And mini-blinds aren’t the only culprit, either. Window coverings in general present risks for children, but all of these risks are easily preventable.

Make sure you’ve eliminated all loops on your two-corded horizontal mini-blinds by:

  • cutting the cord at the point just above the “tassel” (the tassel resembles a thimble in its appearance);
  • removing the equalizer buckle; and
  • for the cords that you’ve just created, purchasing new “breakaway” tassels (available at window-covering stores), which separate if your child should become tangled in the loop.

For “child-proof” vertical blinds, drapery cords and continuous loop systems:

  • Do not cut the loops; all of these window coverings must have looped cords, or you won’t be able to move them. To eliminate hazards, you’ll need to install a tie-down device that reaches down to the window jamb, the wall or the floor and does not move. Make sure the cord is pulled very tightly.

To help keep your children safe, practice the following tips:

  • Move all infant and toddler beds far away from windows;
  • Walk through your home, and make sure all window-covering cords are far out of your children’s reach;
  • Avoid knotting or tying cords together, which creates a loop in which your child could become entangled; and
  • Adjust all cords to their shortest possible length.