Some safety suggestions: The following safety advice is mostly common sense and things most providers would know intrinsically when they have even a little experience with their own kids going out. I’m outlining these for a completely new provider so many of the suggestions may be things you already know.
Load the babies in the stroller from back to front. Don’t put the heavier babies in the front seat first because it can topple the stroller forward.
Put the little babies as close to the adult as possible. You have to supervise them visually at all times so they keep their heads upright. Positional asphyxia can occur in a stroller seat as well as a car seat or a swing. You can use the little crescent moon inserts for car seats in your stroller to keep a young baby or newborns head from lobbing over.
Don’t let the babies use the arm rest to rest their heads. With normal bumping and going over sidewalk grades, you can end up with a baby having their head bounce up and down off the rail. If the baby leans over to the rail to suck on the rail you can have their teeth and mouth get cut if you go over a bump.
If you have seats with five point harnesses you shouldn’t have any problem with the kids leaning forward. Unfortunately, most multiple seat strollers don’t have attached five point harnesses. We use this item: http://www.amazon.com/Leachco-Sit-Secure-Seating-Noahs
Leachco Sit-n-Secure Safe Seating Wrap to keep the babies sitting upright in our three point harness strollers.
Keep an eye on the babies for kicking or pulling on the babies seat in front of them. If you have a baby that can’t resist the blonde hair of the baby in front of them you can put a mitted sweatshirt or mittens on them before the walk. With kicking you can put thick blankets at the feet in the stroller to soften the kicks. Triple strollers don’t have a ton of leg room between seats so the longer legged and taller baby will most likely need the front seat.
I don’t take toys for the babies on the walk. Fixed toys add another layer to get the kids loaded into the stroller. Loose toys get chucked out of the stroller and can trip the walking kids. We’ve tried it a few times but have ended up loosing toys, breaking toys, and having kids kick at the fixed toys across their laps. I’ve found it’s just best to have them ride and not play during the walk.
Check the babies body temperature when the weather is on the cooler or hotter ends of the spectrum for acceptable outdoor weather temperatures. A baby can get overheated easier than an older child and can chill quicker than the ones who are up walking. They aren’t generating heat by sitting so they get cooler faster. In the winter we use oversized footed pajamas to put over their clothes for extra layers of warmth. We also double sock them since they don’t normally have shoes when they are really little.
Take a first aid pack with you when you go out. We keep Kleenex and a Ziploc of wet wipes with us for clean ups. We keep extra blankets (for warmth or to put over the top of the stroller hoods to keep the sun out), extra diapers, hats and gloves in the bottom of the stroller. We also have a kit with band-aids, gauze, plastic gloves, saline, sun screen, emergency numbers, and an identification list of all the kids. We also carry a cell phone at all times.
We don’t allow kids to free walk. We have them attached to the stroller with the tot-a-longs I discussed in the first part of this blog. I feel it is unsafe to allow kids to walk ahead, behind, or beside the stroller holding onto a rope or each other. I know many providers feel differently because they are able to keep track of the children well without having them right next to them and the children follow their directions when they are out.
My daycare kids are very well behaved and follow directions but I still worry about them being little children and making poor choices in a split second. I have read way too many posts over the years on internet boards where providers believed their daycare kids would stick with them and not bolt off and then one day out of the blue a kid decides to take off. When this happens the provider can’t get to them quickly and can’t get the other kids to keep up while they are chasing the one who got away. It can get extremely dangerous for everyone very quickly. My philosophy is that my little angel babies will “mind me” 999 out of a 1000 times but the ONE time they decide to get froggy can be the day someone looses their life and everything I have worked SO hard for goes POOF in one day. It’s easy to allow the 999 times of compliance to steer your decision to allow them to free walk and give you a false sense of security. Small children, city streets, moving vehicles and a stroller full of other little kids can be a lethal combination. To me, it’s not worth taking the risk.
The other thing to consider when allowing free walking is having your own children out on the walk. If you allow your own children to free walk ahead or behind you, you are still putting the other children at risk. A mother’s natural instinct is going to be to protect her own child. A child’s natural instinct is to act up around their parents. Those two together are going to lend a provider to take off away from the stroller and other kids who are attached or free walking to catch or rescue her own child.
A providers child has the highest likelihood of disobedience when excited. This can lead to a chase scene where the other kids are left unattended. It’s another one of those decisions where you have to include your own child in your “group” think. If your own children come along they need to have the same rules and placement as the daycare children in order to protect the daycare children. Allowing your own child a different set of expectations can ultimately affect your ability to protect the group.