Childproof Your Holidays

The house looks picture-perfect with the wreath on the door and the glimmering tree. But despite its warm feeling, that holiday glow doesn't mean the house is automatically a safe place for young children.

Parents, family, and friends need to keep an eye red out for danger - even when visiting other people's homes.

Here are some things to keep in mind:

  • Christmas tree lights, tiny ornaments, and pine needles can be choking hazards. Be sure to clean up pine needles when they fall.
  • Those pretty ornaments look like toys to young children. Many have sharp edges or can break easily. Keep these high above a child's reach.
  • Don't use glass ornaments. They can break and cut children.
  • Keep your child away from the water for your tree. It can harbor bacteria.
  • Keep young children away from the tree completely so they won't pull it down on themselves. Make sure your tree is secure. Use a sturdy stand. Guide wires may be needed on tall or big trees to help keep them from toppling over.
  • Consider using battery-operated lights instead of candles around the house. Lit candles in a Christmas centerpiece can be dangerous, especially around children or pets.
  • Perfumed candles and oil lamps are attractive to young children but potentially harmful. The oils, if ingested, can cause severe pneumonia. Your best bet is not to use these items at all.
  • Place holiday plants out of your child's reach. Holly, mistletoe, and boxwood can all be poisonous to children and pets.
  • Avoid shock hazards. Don't use lights that have frayed or damaged wires, and don't overload sockets.
  • If you have a holiday party, clean up before going to bed. Your little one could wake before you and have access to a cup of leftover alcohol or a cigarette in an ashtray. Nicotine and alcohol are both poisonous to children.

Celebrating away from home can have hidden risks as well. Follow these tips when traveling:

  • Family members and friends who welcome you and your children to holiday gatherings should make sure their homes are safe. Chances are these homes do not have the same safeguards you use at home, such as cabinet locks and outlet covers. An adult should be with the child at all times.
  • Make sure that gifts are age-appropriate. Even if your child is old enough for a toy with small pieces, a younger sibling may not be.
  • At the homes of elderly relatives, make sure medications are not within the reach of children. These medications may not have child-resistant caps.
  • When flying, use a car seat, especially for children 4 years old or younger and children who weigh 40 pounds or less. The seat will also be needed once you land if you plan to drive or ride in a car.
  • When you're driving, don't let your child play with toys that have hard edges. Soft toys are best in case you have to stop suddenly.