‘Tis the season to be decorating! Many families celebrating Christmas have already or will soon decorate the outside and inside of their homes, celebrating in style. But for some of you, safety may be a concern. Both infants and toddlers can become injured by electrical outlets, ornaments and even a Christmas tree. This may be the first year you’ve had to think about safety issues at Christmas either because you are a first time parent or because your toddler has started developing an interest for these lovely decorations.
If your stories include, “I woke up to find all the ornaments smashed all over the floor,” or “My infant had a glass ornament break in his mouth,” then here are my top 10 suggestions for you:
1. Use plastic ornaments.
Learn to see the world through a child’s eyes. These shiny and sparkling ornaments attract your child like a moth to a flame. Glass or sharp/pointy ornaments in his/her mouth can cause injury.
2. Use garland instead of lights.
Remove the temptation to play with the light bulbs or the electric light sockets.
3. Keep electric sockets covered.
If you have not already purchased these, these covers are available at a number of local pharmacies and stores.
4. Keep lights out of reach from all children.
Depending on the bulbs used, this can hurt sensitive little fingers or hands. Not to mention, older toddlers can pull the bulbs apart from the light set. They can chew on them or offer them to the younger children in the home. In addition, the light set can be pulled causing the Christmas tree to topple onto your child.
5. Avoid ornaments & lights at the bottom of your tree.
Some families decorate the top ½ or ¾ of the tree to help their child resist temptation. Again, for the same reason that when pulled, the Christmas tree could fall onto your child.
6. Use play yard gates to surround your Christmas tree.
To avoid direct contact all together, these gates are the best. You can find them at your local store or by doing an internet search for Superyard XT Pay Yard.
7. Keep candy dishes out of reach.
Your child can choke on a lot of traditional candy. In addition, if they pull the candy dish, it may fall & shatter onto the floor. Then, your child might get glass or ceramic cuts on their hands, feet, or elsewhere.
8. Avoid marshmallows. This is a fun treat if used appropriately. However, small children and even older children have choked on this. Some have even died. Marshmallow does not dissolve. So, it would be very hard, if not impossible to get this out of your child’s throat, even if you know how to use the Heimlich maneuver. Two very famous cases involved the death of a 12 year old girl in 1999 and a 32 year old woman in 2006 while playing the "Chubby Bunny" game (http://bit.ly/1sqHoWR).
9. Ask for help; have someone watch your child while you decorate.
It’s hard to keep your children away from all the decor while still trying to decorate. A watchful eye is especially needed if you are decorating the outside of your home. Children have a way of getting into trouble or hurting themselves whenever you are not looking. As a pediatrician, I commonly hear, “It was only a minute.” Then, injury occurs.
10. Lastly, be careful when you gift wrap.
Even wrapping gifts can result in an injury. It may only be bags, wrapping paper, ribbon, tape, & scissors to you, but it’s a gold mine for your child. If left unattended, small children can suffocate in plastic bags and cut themselves with scissors. Keep these items out of your child’s reach at all times.
A Christmas tree and Christmas time decorations can be a wonderfully fun time at home, as long as you keep safety in mind.