From the moment your little one enters the world, their safety and wellbeing is constantly at the back of your mind. You’ll do anything to protect your kids, and this starts at home with your choice of furniture and décor. One of the first things you have to do as a parent is make sure your home is equipped to handle the rough of tumble nature of childhood. However, the market is so broad and there are so many options to choose from, it’s often difficult to tell whether you’re getting a quality deal or a safety hazard.
We believe that little people should be surrounded by furniture that’s designed especially for their growing bodies. We know you’ve already got a lot on your mind with nappies that need changing and toys all over the floor, so we’ve put together a guide to make it easier for you to buy kids’ furniture that is safe, reliable, and of course, stylish!
Recent years have seen a lot of information come to light about the dangers of lead-based paint, and even though its use has been banned in Australia since the late 1960s, it can still be found on imported toys and vintage pieces. Children will put almost anything in their mouths, so any item with lead-based paint can pose a serious threat to your child’s health. When buying furniture, you should only look for brands that can affirm the paint used on their products is non-toxic and lead-free. Most reputable brands will make this information easily accessible for the public, but you should always double check with the retailer or manufacturer before making any purchases.
Even if your new piece of furniture doesn’t feature lead-based paint, you should be wary of paint that rubs off easily as it could be ingested by your little one. When shopping, rub your hands on the surface to see if any of the paint balls up or flakes off. You might find this happens on some hand-me-down pieces, in which case it’s definitely worth sanding back the wood and repainting the furniture.
When it comes to furniture made from wood, you should always consider the quality of the materials before you buy it. Medium Density Fibreboard (MDF) is very commonly used in the construction of kids’ furniture and can actually be very stable, but when sanded back and painted, it may pose a potential safety risk. You should especially look out for this when buying flat-pack furniture – MDF that is too thin can cause the furniture to be flimsy and unsafe. To avoid this, you should make sure the MDF is at least 12mm thick and of good quality.
You can usually tell from looking at and using furniture whether it’s safe for a child, so keep an eye out for any sharp edges that might harm a child if they were to fall on top of them.
Fastenings and Hinges
Toy boxes are a great addition to any child’s room, but you should be wary of any hinges where little fingers can get caught. Instead, you could opt to get a toy box that has a fully-removable lid, or a safety hinge that ensures the lid closes slowly (and gives your child ample time to get out of harm’s way!).
You should also assess any existing furniture in your house and see if any tall boys, bookcases or shelving units have the potential to tip over if pulled by a child. It’s important to secure these units to the wall with brackets and screws, or invest in a wall stud for a stronger hold. If these are not supplied by the furniture retailer, you can usually purchase them at any hardware store.
If you have any flat-packed furniture in your home, you should monitor the screws and locknuts over time to make sure they are not coming loose due to natural wear and tear. In fact, this is something you should look out for on any piece of furniture, as these protruding pieces could be both a choking hazard for curious kids and a threat to the item’s stability.
It’s easy to spot safety threats when shopping in brick and mortar stores, but more and more people are shopping online, leaving themselves open to be potentially scammed by a dodgy manufacturer. Especially when shopping on eBay, you should read business reviews and check their track record before making a purchase. Most reputable businesses will openly disclose any testing reports and product information, so it’s generally a red flag if your retailer doesn’t.
Specific Items to Look Out For
There are some furniture items that may pose more risk to your kid’s safety than others. These include:
- Bean bags – children can suffocate if they crawl inside the bean bag cover or choke on the polystyrene beads. Always look for bean bags with child-proof safety zippers.
- Bunk beds – the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has a series of specific safety requirements that bunk beds must meet to prevent children from falling off. You can find them here.
- Toy boxes – any boxes without finger cut outs or air holes can be dangerous if a child were to climb inside and close the lid. Toy boxes can also hurt little fingers if they’re not equipped with a safety hinge.
- Cots – these pose a number of safety risks if they don’t meet the right guidelines and fail to provide appropriate safety and assembly instructions. Read more about them here on the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission website.
If you’re unsure about any kids’ furniture, toys or décor you bring into your home, the best thing to do is contact the retailer or manufacturer directly to qualm any concerns and find peace of mind. Always make sure to read the labels and use your furniture only as directed, and educate your child on household safety as they grow older. With these tips, you’re sure to create a safe and welcoming environment at home!
ABOUT THE EXPERT
Hip Kids is an Australian furniture and homewares retailer, stocking products specifically designed for children. Each piece in their range is hand-chosen for its superior quality and design to fulfil the needs of Australian families, all while maintaining a competitive price point. You can visit them at their showroom in Deepdene, Victoria, or shop online at hipkids.com.au.