Make safety a priority on your holiday list
The Christmas season is a time of wonder and fun for kids and their parents, but it’s also a time when we need to stay alert about holiday hazards.
“Safety needs to be part of your mindset when the seasons change and we decorate for the holiday season,” said Cape Cod Hospital pediatrician Janelle Laudone, MD.
“Parents with infants and toddlers babyproof their home when their child first becomes mobile, but that isn’t a one-time thing. It’s something that needs to be done repeatedly, as the seasons change – and there are so many changes during the holiday season,” she said.
If you have young ones, be extra selective in your use of holiday decorations. All the color and excitement of the decorations are irresistible to children.
“Be mindful about not using ornaments that are made of glass and could break and cut a child or ornaments that have small parts or resemble candy and might be choked on,” she said. “Even some holiday plants, like holly and mistletoe, are risky, since they have poisonous berries that a child might eat.”
The cooler weather also means people are using radiators, fireplaces or space heaters. Dr. Laudone suggested putting gates around heating elements so children don’t get burned.
If you’re buying presents for children, be sure to check the annual list of the 10 most dangerous toys, as compiled by the consumer watchdog group World Against Toys Causing Harm (WATCH).
Dr. Laudone recommended that parents check the American Academy of Pediatrics’ list of Holiday Safety & Mental Health Tips.
A few highlights from that list:
- Select toys to suit the age, abilities, skills and interest level of the intended child. Toys too advanced may pose safety hazards for younger children.
- Remove tags, strings, and ribbons from toys before giving them to young children.
- When setting up a tree at home, place it away from fireplaces, radiators or portable heaters. Place the tree out of the way of traffic and do not block doorways.
- Check all tree lights (even if you’ve just purchased them) before hanging them on your tree. Make sure all the bulbs work and that there are no frayed wires, broken sockets or loose connections.
- Before using lights outdoors, check labels to be sure they have been certified for outdoor use.
- Traveling, visiting family members, getting presents and shopping, can increase your child’s stress levels. Try to stick to your child’s usual routines, including sleep schedules and timing of naps.
- Remember that the homes you visit may not be childproofed. Keep an eye out for danger spots like unlocked cabinets, unattended purses, accessible cleaning or laundry products, stairways, or hot radiators.
Children old enough to know that Santa is coming might need a little help with holiday perspective, Dr. Laudone advised.
“As kids get to know about the holiday season and know what it means, sometimes they can be too focused on the material aspect of things and receiving gifts,” she said. “It’s important to use the holiday as an opportunity to highlight the importance of family and of giving back to the community.”
She encourages parents to help children create homemade gifts, to shift the focus away from shopping for material items. Volunteering as a family is another way to make the season meaningful, she said.
“I also love the idea of having a child write a letter to a member of the armed forces or an elderly neighbor,” she said. “That way kids can experience the joy of giving, rather than just receiving.”