Holiday decorations, especially candles and electrical lighting, can be safety hazards.
Parents, grandparents, and caregivers should take a few safety measures when decorating and entertaining for Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwaanza and other fall/winter holidays and festivities.
Some simple safety precautions can help to make sure that you and your children have a fun and safe holiday season:
Never leave candles unattended.
Be sure candles are not near curtains, drapes or blankets. Keep matches and lighters locked out of reach of children. You may want to consider flameless, real wax, battery operated candles. They flicker and are scented like real candles without an actual flame. Great for creating the ambiance without the worry.
Do not overload electrical surge protector strips, extension cords or outlets.
Do not run an electrical cord under a rug. For wires that run across the floor in the middle of a room because that is the only way to reach an outlet, an on-floor cord protector cover will conceal and protect wires and cords, create a smooth, trip-free surface, while preventing a crawling baby or toddler from touching or playing with an exposed cord.
Most home improvement and hardware stores carry cord management solutions which can be cut to any length and are available in a variety of colors.
Decorate with children in mind.
Do not use decorations that are sharp or breakable, or that have small removable parts or metal hooks, or that look like food or candy where children can reach them. You should avoid edible decorations, including popcorn chains and candy canes as well as trimmings that resemble candy or food since younger children may think that all decorations are edible and they may tempt a young child to eat them.
Remember the rule of thumb: if it can fit inside a cardboard toilet paper roll, it is small enough to be a potential choking hazard.
Keep alcohol (including baking extracts) out of reach and do not leave alcoholic drinks unattended.
Remind guests and visiting relatives, especially those who are not around young children all the time, to be mindful of where they place their wine glass, egg nog and champagne. Also, as tired as you might be when the last guest has left, clean up food and all beverages to prevent an early rising toddler from finding leftover food, alcohol or tobacco (if you allow people to smoke in your home).
And, remember, that the homes you visit may not be childproofed and you will need to keep your eyes out for danger spots.
Gifts can be unintended hazards.
The holiday season is a time for gift giving. Be sure to remember to remove all bags, ribbons, bows and plastic after a gift is opened as you don’t want these items laying around since they can pose suffocation and choking hazards to a small child.
Also, remember to watch for pull toys with strings that are more than 12 inches in length that an older sibling is playing with as it could be a strangulation hazard for babies.
Be warm – AND safe.
As the colder weather approaches, we like to warm our home to make it comfortable and inviting. Remember that if you are using a portable space heater, be sure it has built-in safety features such as automatic shutoffs, anti-tipping devices and heat guards.
Make sure all young children cannot access the fireplace or turn on a gas igniting switch. Color additives used in fireplace fires are a toxic product and should be stored out of reach. Artificial snow sprays could be harmful if inhaled.
Avoid serious swallowing hazards.
Children can have serious stomach and intestinal problems – including death – after swallowing button batteries and magnets. Keep them away from young children and call your health care provider immediately if your child swallows one.
Those small magnets found on many refrigerators that are used to showcase art projects, pictures, shopping lists, etc. are a potential danger especially if they can be pulled off by a toddler.
Some holiday plants and decorative products are potentially poisonous if eaten.
For example, holly berries, mistletoe berries, boxwood, ivy and others. Notable for not being poisonous, despite persistent beliefs to the contrary, Poinsettias may cause upset stomach.
For more information and to find out whether other plants or products are hazardous to children, call the National Poison Control Center at 800.222.1222.
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Rene Appelbaum is co-owner & founder of Baby Proofers Plus, a pioneer NYC/NJ child safety company that’s been keeping babies safer since 1993.