Heading into the holidays with a new baby? If your little one is mobile, you might want to rethink some of your old decorations—all those sparkles and lights will entice baby to touch and play, as if they were toys in a toy store. Fortunately, there’s no need to play the Grinch; just inspect your home for potential dangers and take a few extra precautions. And if you’re visiting someone else’s home, remember to be extra vigilant of your child—not everyone’s home is baby-proofed, after all. Here’s what to watch out for.
Holiday Safety Tips: The Tree
Nothing says Christmas time like a beautiful tree. But while little ones see gorgeous greenery covered in twinkling lights and festive ornaments, parents see all sorts of hazards. So when it comes to your Christmas tree, follow these holiday safety tips to avoid accidents.
• Find the freshest tree possible, if you opt for a live tree. Fresh trees are a rich green, and the needles are less likely to fall off—which means baby is less likely to find one and possibly eat it or, heaven’s forbid, get it in his eye.
• Watch out for the lower branches of trees. If your tot is old enough to pull at the branches but not old enough to know the tree can topple over and fall on her, consider a table-topper. Can't sacrifice the eight-foot sparkling wonder? Baby gates are always an option, says Alexandra Blumencranz, CPC, founder of Positive Parent Coaching Inc. in Clearwater, Florida.
• If you’re opting for an artificial tree, look for the label “fire resistant.” It’s better to be safe than sorry.
• To prevent the tree from getting overheated and potentially catching fire, place it away from sources of heat, including radiators, fireplaces and television sets.
• Before you spruce up your tree with a skirt, take a look at its design. Many tree skirts feature ribbons, strings and cords that can either end up around baby’s neck or become a choking hazard if he chews on them. When you have a tot, opt for simple tree skirts.
Holiday Safety Tips: The Lights
According to the National Fire Protection Association, Christmas tree fires are far more deadly than most other types of fires and often start because a heat source—like lights or candles—is too close to the tree. Here, some top holiday safety tips when it comes to Christmas tree lights.
• Get rid of old strands of lights that might get very hot, have wires that are frayed or exposed, broken sockets and loose connections. (You should probably do that anyway—they’re a potential fire hazard.)
• If your house is older, consider bringing in an electrician to check on everything before making your outlets work extra-hard.
• Consider battery-operated lights as opposed to electric ones, and place them in the higher parts of the tree.
• Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions on the box, and check that the lights have been tested by an independent safety company.
• Be sure to only use indoor lights inside and outdoor lights outside.
• Candles should (obviously) be kept out of reach. Opt for battery-operated varieties as opposed to the traditional wax ones.
• Secure extension cords along the walls so people won’t trip on them.
• Turn off Christmas lights when you go to bed at night or leave the house, since leaving them on unattended is a major fire risk.
Holiday Safety Tips: The Decorations
Decking out your home with decorations is sure to bring out the holiday spirit, but an accident can quickly quash that fuzzy feeling. Keep the festivities going with these holiday safety tips.
• Check garlands and wreaths for small elements that could be ripped off and eaten. If little leaves, berries, ribbons and other ornaments can be easily plucked, make sure you hang them high above baby’s reach.
• Give small dreidels a rest when you have a small tot in the house. For now, dreidels should be big enough so they don’t fit into baby’s mouth, Blumencranz says.
• Avoid decorations that look like candy or food in general, the American Academy of Pediatrics advises. They look especially tempting to small children.
• Secure mistletoe and holly, and make sure they’re out of reach—they can be toxic. (Contrary to popular belief, poinsettias are perfectly safe.)
• The sharp hooks that are often used to hang ornaments can easily puncture a baby’s skin. Either hang those out of reach or use bits of string instead.
• Artificial snow can aggravate the throat and lungs if it’s inhaled. Stay safe by reading the labels and following directions.
• “Angel hair” and other decorations made from spun glass are best avoided, since they can cut little fingers or end up in your little one’s eyes.
• If you hang faux icicles, tinsel or similar decorations, be sure the material doesn’t contain lead, which is hazardous if eaten by children.
Holiday Safety Tips: The Gift Wrap
Beautifully wrapped presents under the tree can add the perfect touch—just make sure the gift wrap is safe for the whole family.
• Keep presents out of reach if they’re wrapped with ribbons and bows—they can get tangled around baby’s neck or even eaten. You’re better off simply sticking with pretty wrapping paper on gifts under the tree.
• Clean up right after you unwrap your presents. Used ribbons and bows can be an even bigger hazard, given that they may have pieces of tape or even staples on them, Blumencranz cautions.
• Beware of plastic packing materials—they’re a major suffocation hazard. Store your stash away in a bin hidden in the closet and discard of used ones right away.
• Make sure presents under the tree are wrapped in non-combustible or flame-resistant paper and trimmings, since being close to all those lights can cause trouble.
• Never toss wrapping paper in the fireplace after the gifts have been opened—it can cause a flash fire.
Holiday Safety Tips: The Feast
What’s a festive holiday without the food? You’ll just need to keep a watchful eye on scalding cookware and potentially harmful sips and snacks to protect your little ones in and out of the kitchen. Check out these key holiday safety tips:
• “Be careful of hot dishes or pans,” Blumencranz says. When the buffet is laid out, do a quick check to push back anything baby could reach. Consider keeping the kiddos away by setting up another room with a few baby-safe holiday games, crafts or silly toys.
• It’s common to put out peanuts or popcorn for guests to munch on before the main meal, but these are potential choking hazards for children under age 4, so keep them out of their reach.
• Alcohol poisoning is a common risk for kids during the holidays. Don’t leave drinks lying around for children to pick them up and start sipping—even small amounts of alcohol can be dangerous for them. Be sure to keep an eye on beverages and clean up cups as soon as possible.
Updated October 2017