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Holiday Safety Tips for Children and Parents from the Institute for Childhood Preparedness

Updated: Dec 31, 2019

The holidays are a wonderful time of the year filled with cheer, presents, and fun. But holiday celebrations also lead to distraction and can be dangerous for young children. Parents should take time to check their surroundings for potentially dangerous items, and teach children the importance of holiday safety.

Keep children happy and injury-free this holiday season by following these safety tips:

Safe Decorating

Before children start to hang decorations, parents should inspect decor for sharp and frayed edges, hanging wires, loose strings, and easy-to-open battery packs. The Honest Company says, “Loose strands of lights, ribbons, and cords longer than 7” present a strangulation risk, while broken ornament shards can cut bare feet.”

  • Make sure all trimmings, tinsel, and artificial icicles are lead-free. Keep these items up high and out of reach of small children.

  • Eliminate decorations that are tiny or that have small parts, as they can cause choking in young children.

  • Choose LED or flameless candles to avoid house fires.

  • Plants such as mistletoe and holly berries are poisonous. Keep them away and out of the reach of young children.

  • Be aware of singing holiday cards that contain button batteries. These batteries can cause damage to the esophagus if ingested by young children.

Kitchen Safety

The kitchen can be dangerous, so when possible, have a designated adult watch children in another room.

  • Keep children and pets out of the kitchen while cooking. If necessary, use a baby gate.

  • Keep pot handles turned inwards and out of the reach of children.

  • Use the back burners instead of the front burners to avoid hot liquid scald burns.

  • Keep the kitchen floor and counters clutter-free to avoid fires and falls.

  • If children have to stay in the kitchen with you, keep them at least 3 feet away from the oven and stove.

  • Never let young children carry hot soup, as this can cause scald burns.

  • Keep sharp utensils stored up high and out of the reach of children.

  • Have a fire extinguisher handy in case of a grease fire.

  • Don’t forget to turn off the oven and burners when you’re finished cooking.

Outdoor Safety

Make sure children under 12 are always supervised by a responsible adult, and keep young children away from electrical outlets and circuits when hanging outdoor holiday lights.

  • When hanging Christmas lights outside, make sure the lights are securely fastened so children cannot tug on them.

  • Do not hang lights with metal tacks or nails, and do not wrap lights around metal gutters, as this can cause electric shock.

  • Make sure that outdoor lights are plugged into circuits with ground fault circuit interrupters to avoid electric shock.

  • If you’re climbing a ladder to hang lights, make sure children stay inside and away from the ladder. Be sure to store the ladder away after use.

Indoor Safety says “To help prevent CO hazards in your home, have a qualified heating contractor perform a yearly maintenance check of your furnace and venting system, and clean or replace your furnace filter frequently during the heating seasons.”

  • Test your smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detector before the start of the holiday season.

  • Immediately remove any wrapping paper, ribbons, or bows that can cause suffocation, strangulation, or choking in young children.

  • Make sure to turn off all decorative indoor lights before going to bed or leaving the house.

  • Make sure to purchase all decor, electrical cords, and lights with UL safety certifications.

  • Make sure all fireplaces have protective screens.

  • Before turning on the fireplace, check to make sure children haven’t thrown in any toys, stockings, or flammable decor.

  • If you have guests over, make sure to keep purses with medicine stored up high and out of the reach of children.

  • Make sure an adult is always supervising young children.

  • Make sure young children don’t accidentally consume alcoholic punch or eggnog during holiday parties.

  • Stress the importance of handwashing, so children don’t spread germs during the holiday season.

Travel Safety and Sleeping Out

According to the National Safety Council, the holidays see a spike in car accidents and vehicle-related injuries. Keep your family safe by getting a good night’s sleep before hitting the road, prepping your car’s emergency kit, and by leaving early and planning for traffic.

  • Properly install car seats and boosters before leaving the house.

  • Bring plenty of books, toys, and games to keep children entertained.

  • Make sure children use the bathroom or have a fresh diaper change before leaving home.

  • Keep your eyes on the road, and look out for intoxicated drivers.

  • If you see something suspicious, say something. Don’t be afraid to report strange behaviors to 9-1-1.

  • Make sure children don’t get into medicine cabinets or other dangerous areas.

  • Make sure children sleep in a safe travel crib or bassinet.

  • Stick to your routine. Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day.

Toy Safety

The Consumer Product Safety Commission said in 2018, “There were an estimated 226,100 toy-related injuries treated in U.S. hospital emergency departments to children under the age of 15.”

  • Inspect all toys before purchasing. Avoid toys with flying parts, shooters, and sharp edges or points. Toys should also be sturdy and able to withstand rough play.

  • Parents should inspect toys for age, skill level, safety, and developmental ability before allowing children to play.

  • Supervise children while they’re playing with toys. Always clean up and store toys away after use to prevent falling and injuries.

  • If you’re buying a toy for a child with special needs, consider all sensory issues, and check for a toy’s movement and texture to make sure it’s safe.

Christmas Tree Safety

Choose the Right Tree and Decor

  • Fresh trees with plenty of moisture are less likely to catch fire than dry trees. Choose a tree with bright green needles and minimal shedding.

  • Make sure the tree is sturdy and secure so kids can’t grab onto the tree and tip it over.

  • If you’re putting up an artificial tree, make sure it’s flame-retardant and safety tested.

  • Check artificial trees for metal surfaces, as this can lead to electric shock if you place electric lights on the tree.

  • Eliminate small ornaments, as they can be choking hazards to young children, especially if they fall off the tree without parents knowing.

  • Make sure not to place the tree in an emergency exit pathway or in front of the stairs.

Keep Trees Away From Heat

  • Make sure to place trees at least 3 feet away from fireplaces, radiators, space heaters, heat vents, and televisions.

  • Never light candles near or on the Christmas tree.

  • Keep a fire extinguisher close in case your Christmas tree catches fire.

Water is Key

  • Cut 1”-2” from the base of the trunk so your tree can absorb water.

  • Make sure to water your Christmas tree daily. Check the base for dryness and refill accordingly.

  • When the tree completely dries out, dispose of it immediately. Keeping it in storage, or the garage is a fire hazard.

Choose LED Lights

  • If you plan to wrap your Christmas tree in lights, opt for LED bulbs. LEDs burn longer and brighter, are more energy-efficient, and they also don’t get too hot to the touch.

  • When choosing lights, make sure the package is UL or ETL/ITSNA certified for safety.

  • Make sure to choose indoor lights instead of outdoor lights when decorating your tree.

  • Switch off Christmas tree lights before bed or before leaving the house.

Check Electrical Sources

  • Don’t overload your extension cords. Only attach three strings of Christmas lights to one extension cord.

  • Never run extension cords underneath carpets, instead run cords along the wall to prevent tripping and overheating.

  • If you notice any damaged lights, frayed cords, loose bulb sockets, or damaged plugs, immediately discard them and keep them away from your tree.

Half of all Christmas tree fires occur 20 days after Christmas. When Christmas ends, slowly remove all lights and decor, place them safely in storage boxes, and recycle your Christmas tree.

By following these safety tips, families are sure to have a merry and bright holiday season! The Institute for Childhood Preparedness is proud to offer our training in English and Spanish, and our 2020 calendar is filling up fast. Book active shooter preparedness, fire extinguisher, or emergency preparedness, response, and recovery training today:


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