Kids can certainly add a new level of joy to the holiday season, but — as cute as they are — little ones can also wreak the most havoc on what was once a peaceful time of year.
A recent study from the Consumer Product Safety Commission estimates that more than 15,000 injuries occur during November and December because of unsafe holiday decorations.
Before you box up your Christmas ornaments for good, pediatrician Dr. LeAnn Kridelbaugh suggests simply following some basic safety guidelines to prevent household accidents. Here's what you need to know:
If possible, secure the tree to the wall like you would any other piece of furniture that could topple over. (Tip: install eye hooks into the walls on either side of the tree, then string clear fishing line through the eye hooks and around the tree.)
- Real trees: If you're purchasing a natural tree, make sure it's as fresh as possible by bending branches to ensure they don't snap and testing that needles don't fall off readily at a slight touch. Ideally, the base of the trunk is sticky from sap, another indicator of freshness. Once you get the tree home, make sure it's in a sturdy stand that's rated for the tree's size. Place it where foot traffic won't knock it over, and be sure to water it regularly so it doesn't dry out, which can cause fires.
- Artificial trees: Older artificial trees may contain lead, a common stabilizer used in PVC plastic. Contact the manufacturer of yours for more details, or replace it with a polyethylene tree.
2. Lights and ornaments
Small ornaments, light bulbs, and other tiny decorations pose a choking hazard if swallowed by small children, as these items may block the airway. Make sure that small items are placed well above reach, in lieu of bigger, softer ornaments that can be placed near the bottom. Unfortunately, that includes string lights and garland on your tree. It might not be aesthetically pleasing to forgo twinkle lights at the base of your tree, but make sure that no child under 4 years of age can pull the string and potentially topple the tree.
A festive table runner might add warmth to your dining room, but be warned – kids love to yank on them, which could send glassware, plates, and hot food flying.
4. Seasonal plants
Beware of poisonous plants like holly, mistletoe, and amaryllis. Contrary to popular belief, poinsettias are only slightly poisonous — although its leaves and sap can cause gastrointestinal distress and skin irritation. To be safe, keep all plants out of reach of children and pets.
Pine-scented candles and Hanukkah menorahs are holiday mainstays, but as you do all year round, use them with caution. Never leave them unattended, and make sure they are well out of reach of children.
6. Presents and packaging
One of the joys of Santa is that most gifts are hidden away in a closet somewhere until they are to be unwrapped Christmas morning with adult supervision. If you do, however, plan to keep wrapped gifts under the tree, remember that ribbons and bows can be choking or suffocation hazards. And, as your kids open their presents, keep an eye on foam peanuts and twist ties often used to secure dolls and action figures.
When choosing gifts, always check the toy's intended age range listed on the packaging, and follow the manufacturer's guidelines. Keep toys meant for older kids away from infants and younger children. Buy dolls or stuffed animals with eyes that are sewn on, rather than plastic ones, which tend to fall off and can quickly become a choking hazard.