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Thanksgiving Safety Tips for Parents and Children

Updated: Dec 31, 2019

For many families, Thanksgiving is full of turkey, travel, and gratitude. But, with the kids home from school, it can be easy to forget that hot ovens, boiling soup, and sharp cutlery are dangerous. Also, if you’re heading out or staying in, don’t forget to check the house for safety hazards.

Dr. Michael Lynch is the Medical Director of the Pittsburgh Poison Center. He says, “Unfortunately, every year, Thanksgiving is marred for many people with accidental medication ingestions, environmental exposures, and food poisoning.” It’s important to plan in advance and take extra safety precautions before and during Thanksgiving.

Follow these Thanksgiving safety tips to ensure a festive and fun holiday:

Kitchen Safety

Parents must make sure that children and pets don’t get close to hot food cooking in the kitchen. Safe Kids Worldwide says, “Avoid carrying or holding a child while cooking on the stove. Ask a visiting relative or family member to be the designated child wrangler and lead younger kids away from the kitchen to more fun activities.” Remember, young children are curious, and they will grab at anything dangling off the kitchen counter, including sharp knives, appliance cords, and recipe books.

Keep your kitchen free of clutter, children, pets, and dangerous objects:

  • Never leave children unattended when there is food cooking in the kitchen.

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

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

  • Teach children not to go near hot ovens, especially when the oven door is open.

  • Move dishes (hot and cold) away from the edge of counters, so kids or dogs don’t pull them down.

  • When cooking hot dishes, keep children at least 3 feet away, as hot steam or liquids could cause burns.

  • Consider putting up a baby gate to keep young children and pets out of the kitchen.

  • 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.

Food Safety

Keep your loved ones healthy and happy this Thanksgiving. Dr. Lynch says to “Thaw the turkey completely before cooking," and “cook stuffing separately in a casserole dish rather than stuffed within the turkey.” It’s also important to teach children the basics of food safety, and what the word “hot” means. Don’t forget that children might pull on tablecloths and spill soup or other hot dishes, which could lead to pediatric scald burns.

Keep your dining table safe and secure this Thanksgiving:

  • Always use a thermometer to make sure the turkey is fully cooked to a minimum temperature of at least 165°F.

  • Never let children carve a turkey or use sharp knives.

  • Teach children to wait for hot dishes to cool down, so they don’t burn their mouths.

  • Avoid pediatric burns by keeping hot liquids away from young children.

Home Safety

Whether you’re hosting Thanksgiving this year or heading to a friend or relative’s house, make sure to check for fire, chemical, toxic, and environmental hazards. Dr. Lynch stresses the importance of preparedness and home safety. He says, “Use of heaters, especially kerosene or gas space heaters, increase the potentially fatal risk of carbon monoxide exposure.” Lynch warns, “Be sure to have your furnace checked annually and ensure adequate ventilation of exhaust fumes.”

Keep children free of toxins and scald burns this Thanksgiving:

  • Make sure all fireplaces have protective screens.

  • Test your smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors before Thanksgiving day.

  • Choose LED or flameless candles to avoid house fires and burns.

  • If you’re traveling, bring plenty of books, toys, and games to keep children entertained.

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

  • Make sure an adult or responsible older child always watches young children.

  • If you’re a guest in someone’s home, let the host know in advance to keep chemicals and poisonous materials locked away and out of the reach of children.

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

Sleep Safety

If you’re planning to sleep out for Thanksgiving, make sure everyone goes to bed at a reasonable hour, and make sure children don’t have access to dangerous items in the sleeping room.

Have a successful Thanksgiving sleep-away:

  • If you’re sleeping out, make sure children sleep in a safe travel crib or bassinet.

  • Give children time to digest before putting them to bed.

  • Children might be nervous about sleeping out. Before you leave your home, talk to children about any worries they may have.

Vehicle Safety

With the rush and excitement of Thanksgiving, it can be easy to be distracted on the road. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration urges travelers to “Drive at a safe speed, avoid texting and driving, wear seat belts properly, ensure children are buckled in the right seats for their ages and sizes, and to drive sober.” Because crying, hungry, or bored kids can be just as much of a distraction as your mobile device, make sure to have in-car movies, music, and snacks ready to go.

Thanksgiving travel sees an increase in crashes and fatalities. Keep your loved ones safe:

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

  • Don’t strap children into car seats with their jackets on, as this can decrease the car seat’s efficiency. Instead, wrap a warm blanket around your child after safely strapping her in.

  • 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.

By following these safety tips, you and your family are sure to have a safe, happy, and healthy Thanksgiving. The Institute for Childhood Preparedness can make your childcare program safe and ready for any kind of emergency or natural disaster. Since November 2019, we have provided active shooter preparedness training to over 15,000 early childhood professionals across 17 states, 9 Tribal Nations, and Washington, DC. Book a training with us today:



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