The homeowner's guide to surviving school holidays

Get it together to protect your home against accidental damage


Claims for accidental damage soar during school holidays, and the reasons are obvious if you think about it. When children aren't at school, the little darlings will find all manner of ways to entertain themselves around the house. We've all seen what happens to walls and sofas when there's a small person with a felt-tip pen on the loose. So, what can you do to protect your home?


If you have young children, the chances of your home or its contents being damaged accidentally will be relatively high

Source: insurancehowknow.com


Our essential guide looks at everything from how much damage a child can really cause and what it costs to put right, to prevention tips and quick rescue remedies. Simply scroll down or click on each section to read more. You can also keep a copy by downloading a PDF here.


What damage can a child really cause?


Why are children particularly accident-prone?


Common excuses kids give to get out of trouble


Putting it right – the cost of accidental damage


Prevention is better than cure


What is accidental damage cover? How do you know if you've got it? If you haven't, how do you get it?


7. Let's end on a smile. Accident prevention can be fun, kids!


What damage can a child really cause?

Children drawing on a wall

Plenty. It may help to look at your home through a child's eyes...

  • Beds make the perfect trampoline – until the slats go south.
  • A pale-coloured living room wall or sofa presents an irresistible blank canvas to junior Picassos...
  • Natural curiosity can prompt little hands to pull up carpets or peel off wallpaper to find out what's underneath. Loose threads in carpets can be tempting to pull, and don't forget that any flaky paint will be joyous to pick!
  • A game of 'boats' in the bathroom sink can end up disastrously if the captain forgets to turn off the tap afterwards.
  • Locking and unlocking things can be fun – until the lock gets stuck. If you have young children visiting, consider removing bathroom locks – or you may need a sledgehammer to liberate them from the smallest room (at the expense of a new door and frame).
  • Budding Ronaldos practising their skills have no regard for windows and greenhouses, which are frequently unintended targets.
  • Electronic gadgets are often the victims of curiosity, look out for biscuits in DVD players!
  • Never underestimate the imagination. A bed can become a boat, a chest of drawers a mountain to conquer. Anything that can be climbed on probably will be, so don't forget to fix things firmly to the wall!
  • Carpets, walls and even ceilings can fall victim to spilled juice, flicked paint or thrown food.

Left to their own devices, children get up to the strangest things. Any of these activities sound familiar?

  • Emptying the contents of a potty over a laptop
  • Using an iPhone as a hammer
  • Flushing car keys down the toilet
  • Gluing objects to furniture and walls
  • Cooking a toy in the microwave
  • Cutting shapes out of curtains with scissors

Plus many more ingenious acts of domestic destruction that haven't made it onto parent forums or insurance claims. Bet you can think of some more...


Why are children particularly accident-prone?


Children cause accidental damage around the home because...

  • They're often absorbed in play and oblivious to their surroundings.
  • They don't understand the consequences of new situations.
  • Natural curiosity or a sense of adventure.
  • Horseplay (pushing, shoving and wrestling).
  • Over-reaching their abilities – boys are particularly prone to showing off among friends.
  • Temper tantrums or over-excitement.
  • Boredom.

"Mum, I'm bored!"

If you're a house proud parent, these words are a warning that accidental damage could be ahead. Why? Because, according to psychologists, boredom makes people keen to engage in activities that they find more meaningful than those at hand. And, what's 'meaningful' to a curious small child in a room full of gadgets and interesting household objects that need to be explored is anyone's guess...

Source: Psychologists Dr Sandi Mann, University of Central Lancashire, and Dr Wijnand A P van Tilburg, University of Southampton, writing in The Psychologist magazine

If we stop telling kids what to do, will they be less inclined to cause damage?

Clinical psychologist Dr Jamie Rishikof, who specialises in child and adolescent therapy, says: "Many kids desire a sense of autonomy and independence. A kid wants to feel like his own separate individual, and this desire is even stronger for teens. Unfortunately for him, he is not in charge (usually). He spends all day being told what to do, how much to do it, and when to stop doing what he wants to do. This presents a sense of imbalance. The desire for power is contradicted by the lack of it. To set right this imbalance, he seeks out opportunities to feel independent and powerful, in other words, to have control.

"Destroying things is a primitive version of this impulse. That is the ultimate power over an object. His action makes that object cease to exist and causes its destruction."

We've never heard: 'I broke this because I needed to feel independent and powerful' as as an excuse, yet.

child jumping on a bedchild jumping on a bed

Children under the age of 4 have the most accidents at home


Boys are more accident-prone than girls


Source: RoSPA

Timeline of the capabilities of children 

Common excuses kids give to get out of trouble


You've got to hand it to them – these youngsters know how to think on their feet...

  • "It wasn't me"
  • "Mum/dad/teacher said it was OK"
  • "It wasn't my fault"
  • "(Brother/sister) did it"
  • "I didn't mean to..."
  • "I was only playing"
  • "The dog/cat did it"
  • "The fairies did it"
  • "Peppa Pig and all her friends came in"
  • "A ghost opened the door and got in my way"
  • "A swarm of bees came"
Child making a mess with toilet paper 

Putting it right – the cost of accidental damage


Little people can cause big bills – how much is it going to cost you?

Unless you are adequately insured, stains and breakages caused by children (your own or visiting ones) can be pricey.

Broken laptop

Laptop repair

  • £35-£60
    Drying out liquid damage/drink spillage (not including replacement of damaged parts).
  • £90-£135
    Supply and replace broken laptop screen (15.6 inch).

Mobile phone repair

Costs for screen repairs vary. For example, prices start from £39.99 at some branches of Timpsons on the high street. Geek Squad, the repairs and tech support provider for Carphone Warehouse, quotes prices ranging from £79.99 for replacing a Samsung S3 Mini screen to £169.99 for a BlackBerry.

Apple products

Neither Apple's one-year hardware warranty nor AppleCare include accidental damage such as drops, spills or immersion in liquid. Apple's out-of-warranty costs (including VAT and a £7.44 shipping fee) for a broken screen, for example, are:

  • iPhone 6: £86.44 
  • iPhone 6 Plus, iPhone 5s, iPhone 5c, iPhone 5: £106.44 
  • iPad mini: £156.44 
  • iPad, iPad 2, iPad mini 2: £206.44 
  • iPad 3rd generation, iPad 4th generation, iPad Air, iPad mini 3: £256.44 
  • iPad Air 2: £306.44 
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Buyer beware! Warranties don’t usually include accidental damage cover and the cost of repairing your Apple phone or tablet could be anything between £80 and £300

Child drawing on a sofa


Medium-sized carpet or large rug (3.3m x 3m)

  • Professional steam cleaning £20-£25
    For stairs add £2 per stair. Some carpet-cleaning companies may charge extra for individual stain removal. Check that the company or individual is fully insured or you may have to foot the bill for any further damage caused.
  • Replacement £289-£344
    Price based on a standard 80% wool/ 20% man-made carpet and includes labour and materials (gripper rods, 10mm foam underlay, one door plate) but not VAT.


Average cleaning cost

  • £30-£40 armchair
  • £50-£80 three seater sofa
  • £60-£80 pair of curtains

Broken window

Typical cost of labour and materials to replace a pane of glass, 450mm x 600mm:

  • Single-glazed £100 
  • Double-glazed unit in a PVCu window £115 
  • Scaffold tower (eg for upper floors) £175 

Redecoration, medium-sized room

(3.3m x 3m)

  • Wallpapering
    Typical quote £320 (assuming walls are sound, room was previously painted and wallpaper supplied), rising to £410 if walls need to be stripped and prepared first.
  • Repainting
    Typical quote £240 (walls and ceiling with light coloured emulsion, assuming existing plaster is in good condition)

Furniture restoration/French polishing

For repairing scratches, dents, water marks, gouges and damaged veneers, prices start from:

  • Dining table (top) £150 
  • Small table (top) £70 
  • Dining chair £50 
  • Sideboard £200 
  • Display cabinet £200 

Please note, costs given are estimates, based on 2015 prices, and actual repairs could be priced differently, depending on individual repairers

window icon

More than two million children under the age of 15 experience accidents in and around the home every year, and the increased use of glass in the home has led to more glass-related accidents.

TOP TIP: Use safety glass to BS 6206 (laminated, toughened or glass which passes the impact test) in all replacement windows and doors – especially at low level. Make existing glass safer by applying shatter-resistant film

Source: ROSPA


Prevention is better than cure

6 ways to prevent an accident

Home hacks to fight disaster

  • For irresistible and stain-prone foods, such as ice-lollies, use a cup cake wrapper as a barrier. Pierce a hole in the wrapper and slip onto the stick so it’ll catch any escaping liquid.
  • Hide small but valuable objects (car keys, mobile phones, cameras, music players, etc) in empty cosmetic and food boxes – out of sight, out of mind...
  • If you have toddlers who like to draw, put up a few low level whiteboards so they don't feel tempted to create works of art on your walls.
  • If your home is awash with trip hazards – small plastic figures, cars, crayons and cuddly toys – why not turn clutter-busting into a game? Each week, ask your kids to choose one item (or more) and put it into a box to give away. Put a smiley face on the box, and tell them that every item that they put in there will make someone else happy... A neat trick that helps your home stay tidier, keeps kids occupied and encourages good anti-clutter habits!
Child putting a mobile phone down the toilet

In the event of an emergency, try this...

  • If a mobile phone gets dropped in water, remove it as quickly as possible. Take it apart if you can, and suck water out with a vacuum cleaner (don't use a hairdryer!). Place the phone in a bag of rice overnight to draw moisture out. Repeat if necessary.
  • To help prevent a juice spill becoming a permanent stain, immediately blot as much liquid out as you can by applying a dry, clean, white cloth. Apply a carpet cleaning product and follow manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Replace a broken bed slat with a piece of wood the same thickness from your local hardware store/timber merchant. Ask the store assistant to cut it to exactly the right length.

TOP TIP: Use elastic hair ties to keep kitchen cupboards closed and bathroom door latches unlocked


TOP TIP: To satisfy gadget fans, keep a supply of your old mobile devices that can be played with, worry free


What is accidental damage cover? How do you know if you've got it? If you haven't, how do you get it?

  • Most home insurance policies define accidental damage as an unintentional, one-off, non-deliberate incident that harms your property or its contents. It doesn't cover normal wear and tear or mechanical failure. A computer that’s just died on you can’t be claimed for.
  • Young children are the cause of many home insurance claims – even if they’re not yours and are just visiting. Incidents involving home entertainment equipment (for example if a toddler manages to topple your TV) are often covered under standard contents insurance policies – though it’s always a good idea to thoroughly check your particular policy documents to make sure.
  • Adding accidental damage to your existing cover will protect most other items in your home, so you may be able to claim for blackcurrant juice spilt over your curtains, or a felt-tip drawing on your sofa. Common home insurance policy exclusions are portable electrical equipment, and clothing: so keep small, sticky fingers away from your laptop and designer jeans.
  • As the details of accidental damage cover vary between home insurance providers, it's wise to familiarise yourself with the details before buying a home insurance policy to ensure that you get the cover you need, or talk to your insurer about getting adequate cover.
  • Accidental damage is a very straightforward thing to add to your policy but gives you extra peace of mind. The best thing is to get in touch with your insurer to clarify exactly what you’re covered for, and what you’re not.

It’s worth noting that adding an accidental damage premium to your buildings and/or contents policies costs an additional £20-£100 per year. However, it may not include damage to electronic gadgets resulting from drops or spills, and separate insurance may be needed for these items.

house icon

"Accidents will happen", as Elvis Costello sang – but amazingly, one in five people don't have (or don't know if they have) accidental damage cover included in their home insurance

Source: thisismoney.co.uk

Family watching television 

Check the single item limit on your insurance policy is high enough to cover the replacement cost of your television, home cinema equipment, or other high value items

7. Let's end on a smile. Accident prevention can be fun, kids!


While having the kids home all day during the holidays may take its toll on your good humour as well as your home, why not use these loveable bumblers to get the message across to children about the importance of being aware of accident prevention in a fun and entertaining way...

Mother reading with her daughter

Mr Bump – it's all in the name


Mr Bump is one of the popular Mr Men created by author Roger Hargreaves – a series loved by generations of pre-schoolers. He’s always bumping into things and falling down holes – and is always covered in bandages. His accident-prone nature has cost him many jobs, but his luck changes when Mr Barley the farmer employs him to work in his apple orchard, where he can spend his time wandering around, knocking all the apples off the trees. We love a happy ending.

Paddington – the bear who means well but usually messes up


In the movie Paddington (2014), the well-meaning bear checks out the Brown family’s bathroom – setting off a chain reaction of disasters that ends up with him surfing down the stairs in the bathtub! This loveable bear makes a terrible houseguest but a great read for the kids!

In the Paddington books, creator Michael Bond describes the marmalade sandwich-munching bear's first attempt at having a bath (A Bear in Hot Water), doing some home improvements (A Spot of Decorating; Paddington Helps Out), preparing dinner (Something Nasty in the Kitchen) and making toffee (A Sticky Time). Perfect laugh-out-loud bedtime reading for under-8s.

Mr Bean – the bumbling fool who is always in a spot of bother

Mr bean's mini

Rowan Atkinson described his character, Mr Bean, as a "child in a grown man's body". In the TV sitcom and animated cartoon version, Mr Bean, along with his faithful teddy and his strangely sentient Mini, causes mayhem while carrying out the simplest tasks. His antics make him a hit with junior-school aged children

A t'shirt that has 'such fun!' printed on it

Miranda – more than a little accident prone

To the surprise of many, this silly sitcom tickled the funny bones of teenagers across the land who could be spotted sporting 'What I call' and 'Such fun' t-shirts, publicising their loyalty to the mop-topped, well meaning blunderer who's desperate to fit in. It doesn't matter what Miranda attempts in life – be it dating, joining the gym, or dealing with her overbearing mother, she always seems to fall flat – literally. She can never seem to leave a room without knocking something over or taking a tumble. But that’s why kids (of all ages) love her. Bless.

Please note: Mr Bump, Paddington, Mr Bean and Miranda are all characters we love, but they don’t endorse our brand or any of our products.