When your kids share a room, you can never have enough space. Beds take up a huge amount of real estate, so bunk beds are a logical choice for room-sharing siblings. Safety comes first, so I talked guidelines with principal investigator for the Center for Injury Research Lara McKenzie, Ph.D.
McKenzie, who works with the website Make Safe Happen, notes that while bunk beds can be convenient space-saving sleeping arrangements, there are an estimated 36,000 nonfatal bunk bed-related injuries each year. "Children get hurt in bunk beds playing or sleeping — these injuries are from falls, jumps, ladders, bed malfunctions and striking the bed," she says, noting that bunk injuries are more severe than with conventional beds. So if you go with a bunk bed, make sure you look at brands and styles that meet current safety standards and rule out homemade or hand-me-down bunks. Check that it has not been recalled at recalls.gov. "Can’t emphasize this enough because there are a lot of bunk bed recalls," cautions McKenzie. Make sure there are guardrails on either side of the top bunk that are at least 5 inches above the mattress and that have gaps 3.5 inches or smaller to prevent kids from getting stuck or falling out.
Once you have the bunk beds home, McKenzie recommends placing them in the corner of the room (and away from ceiling fans), so that there are walls on both sides. "Discourage children from playing on or under the bunk beds," she says. And only one person on the top bunk! To prevent nighttime falls, use a nightlight for ladder climbing and clear any objects from around the bed. Also, children under 6 shouldn't sleep on the top bunk. Find out more about furniture safety with the free app Make Safe Happen.