Holiday Safety Tips, Part 2: Other Protective Stategies

In a previous blog, I discussed tips from the American Academy of Pediatrics for decorating your house safely during the holiday season. Following are more tips from the AAP to help make your holiday safe and enjoyable.

Toy safety

  • Select toys that suit the age, abilities, skills, and interest level of the intended child. Toys that are too advanced might pose safety hazards for younger children.
  • Before buying a toy or allowing your child to play with a toy received as a gift, read the instructions carefully.
  • To prevent both burns and electrical shocks, don’t give young children (under age 10) a toy that must be plugged into an electrical outlet. Instead, buy toys that are battery-operated.
  • Young children can choke on small parts contained in toys or games. Government regulations specify that toys for children under age 3 cannot have parts less than 1-1/4 inches in diameter and shorter than 2-1/4 inches long.
  • Children can experience serious stomach and intestinal problems—as well as death—after swallowing the small button batteries and magnets. In addition to toys, button batteries are often found in musical greeting cards, remote controls, hearing aids, and other small electronics. Always keep them strictly away from young children and call your health care provider immediately if your child swallows one.
  • Children can choke or suffocate on uninflated or broken balloons; do not allow children under age 8 to play with these.
  • Remove strings and ribbons from toys before giving them to young children.
  • Watch for pull toys that are fitted with strings (pull cords) longer than 12 inches in length. Strings or cords this size could become a strangulation hazard for babies or small children.
  • Parents should keep older kids’ toys away from young children.

Food safety

  • Bacteria are often present in raw foods. Fully cook meats and poultry, and thoroughly wash raw vegetables and fruits, before preparing them.
  • Be sure to keep hot liquids and hot foods away from the edges of counters and tables, where they can be easily knocked over by a young child’s exploring hands.
  • Be sure that young children cannot access microwave ovens.
  • Pots cooking on top of the stove should always have their handles turned toward the back of the stove, so they can’t be grabbed by children.
  • Wash your hands frequently, and make sure your children do the same.
  • Never put a spoon used to taste food back into food without washing it.
  • Always keep raw foods and cooked foods separate, and use separate utensils and dishes when preparing them.
  • Always thaw meat in the refrigerator, never on the countertop.
  • Foods that require refrigeration should never be left at room temperature for more than 2 hours. So, when serving or eating at a buffet, pay attention to how long the foods have been sitting out.

Happy visiting

  • Remember that the homes you visit might not be childproofed. Keep an eye out for danger spots like unlocked cabinets, unattended purses, stairways, hot radiators, or cleaning and laundry products that are accessible to children.
  • Keep a list with all of the important phone numbers you or a babysitter is likely to need in case of an emergency. Include the police and fire departments, your pediatrician, and the national Poison Help Line, 1-800-222-1222. Laminating the list will prevent it from being torn up or damaged by accidental spills.
  • Traveling, visiting family members, getting presents, shopping, and so forth, can all increase your child's stress levels. Making an effort to stick to your child's usual routines, including sleep schedules and timing of naps, can help you and your child enjoy the holidays and reduce stress.


  • Before lighting any fire, remove all greens, boughs, papers, and other decorations both from the mantle and from around the fireplace area.
  • Check to see that the flue is open.
  • Use care with "fire salts," which produce colored flames when thrown onto wood fires. These products contain heavy metals that can cause intense gastrointestinal irritation and vomiting if eaten. Keep them away from children. Or just don’t buy them.
  • Do not burn gift-wrapping paper in the fireplace. Such wrappings can catch fire suddenly and burn intensely, and so could ignite a flash fire.

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