When it comes to Christmas, enjoying it with a baby or toddler for the first time can almost be as magical as experiencing it for yourself for the first time. Suddenly everything becomes the greatest, best thing that ever was, from the ornaments on the tree to the lights around the house to the glittering snow globe shining down from way up high on the bookshelf. However, surviving the holiday season with little ones also brings about a certain amount of fear and trepidation. What will they get into that they shouldn’t? What will they put in their mouth that they shouldn’t? How do you do a Christmas tree anyway? If you’ve started to pull out your decorations and suddenly been overcome with worry, here are some easy tips to ensure a safe, magical Christmas at your house.
First Things First: The Tree
No Christmas would be complete without the tree; it’s the central theme and décor after all. But, the tree poses many complications. It’s got ornaments just waiting to be pulled off and broken, a pot of water unfit for drinking, pine needles that drop and are unsafe for eating, and even the potential for the whole tree to be pulled on and topple over. There are a number of things you can do to ensure your baby’s safety around the tree. The very safest of all is simply to place the tree in an “adult-only” room where you enjoy the tree after baby has gone to sleep. At all other times, you can keep the door closed or simply block off the room with a baby gate, which allows you to at least see the tree during the day. You can also put baby gates around the entire tree and thus create a circular barrier, or you can consider opting for a “baby-size” tree for the next few years and putting the small tree up high on a table or bench where it can’t be reached. If you opt for the latter, make sure to attach it down securely to avoid it being tipped over.
Close Behind: The Lights
Lights are right up there with the tree in terms of “must haves” but they also pose a significant number of dangers. The biggest danger by far, is the potential for lead. Most of the plastic on strands of light is coated in lead. And, although the level of lead will vary dramatically, even the smallest amount is very toxic to a baby. Many experts even recommend not using Christmas lights at all if you do have young/little children in the house. If you do decide to go with lights, here are some tips: keep the strands well covered and out of reach of baby’s touch. After hanging them, make sure to wash your hands and disinfect thoroughly. Keep a close eye on any frays and replace immediately if you find any. Consider using LED bulbs, which burn cool to the touch and are safe for baby’s fingers if they do get ahold of one.
Stuff to Keep Out of Fingers’ Reach
Another potentially dangerous substance related to holidays is snow spray. Little ones can lick it off windows or even just stick their fingers in the snow spray (who can resist?) and then eventually end up with those same fingers in their mouth. This can upset their stomachs and make them ill, so if you do opt for snow spray anywhere, make sure it is up high and far out of reach from little fingers. Bowls of candy and nuts often make appearances at the holidays, but keep them, again, on counters out of reach. Burning holiday scented candles? Up high! Itching to start a fire in the fireplace? Block it off with a baby gate at all times.
Breakable ornaments, especially glass ornaments, are probably best avoided altogether. It’s impossible to guarantee that they won’t fall off the tree or wind up in a toddler’s reach, and if they do, they have very dangerous potential. Skipping them in lieu of soft ornaments like felted craft ones is a very good idea for the first few years.
Holiday Green Plants
While poinsettia has commonly thought to be poisonous, latest data shows it’s not poisonous, but it will make a baby sick if ingested, so it’s best kept far out of reach. Other holiday greenery with definite poisonous properties include: holly, firethorn, mistletoe and Jerusalem cherry plants. If you plan to have any one of these in your home, please be extra, extra careful. If you find yourself in an emergency situation, call your doctor first thing or call the National Poison Center at 800-222-1222.
Hopefully none of this seems overly overwhelming, because, with these simple precautions you can easily ensure a safe, happy holiday in your home! Most of the same rules you’ve already been sticking to for “baby-proofing” your home translate just the same to holiday décor. So, decorate, think soft and unbreakable and out-of-reach, and you’ll skate through the holidays!
Freelancer Jocelyn Anne writes safety related heating content for Air & Water, Inc. and translates it to helpful family information on a regular basis.