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December 13, 2021

Holiday Safety Tips for Babies and Toddlers

Guest Blog written by Holly Choi (@safebeginnings)

Co-Owner + Instructor at Safe Beginnings First Aid

First Aid Instructor, Child Passenger Safety Technician-Instructor, Childproofing professional

 

With the holiday season in full swing, there’s a few things we should be mindful of as parents of babies and toddlers. Balancing the safety of a child alongside all the festive decorations, food, drink and socializing around the holidays can be tough.

 

Poisoning, choking and burn risks are particularly heightened during the holidays, especially during social gatherings. Remember that guests will likely not watch your child closely, or may assume someone else is (when in reality, potentially no one is).

 

We’ve seen a similar phenomenon during summertime with drowning: where adults easily let their guard down around water when other adults are present. This happens because we subconsciously (not intentionally) assume if there’s enough responsible adults around, we are probably okay to not pay full attention. Where this becomes a problem is when everyone subconsciously (again, not intentionally) lets their guard down and ultimately, no one is watching.

 

Though supervision is absolutely helpful in all aspects of safety, it’s not realistic to expect 100% supervision of a child for every moment they’re awake. For that reason, we should add in layers of protection. Here are my top 5 ‘layers of protection’ to keep our little ones safe, while still enjoying the magic of the holiday season.

 

Ask guests to put their bags and belongings behind a gated-off area

A number of poisonings occur during the holiday season when a curious baby or toddler slips out of sight for a moment to check out what’s in a guest’s bag.

 

Consider what could be in a guest’s bag that you wouldn’t want your little one to get into: hand sanitizer (this is becoming more and more common as the pandemic continues), medication, cosmetics, etc. Keep in mind that grandparents taking medication may not store their medication in child-resistant containers. Poisoning aside, choking risks are also very likely to be present in a guest’s bag, such as coins.

 

I suggest keeping bags (and coats, unless hung out of reach) behind a gated-off area, such as on the stairs. If your home is a single level and you don’t have stair gates, an alternative is to store bags or coats in another room, such as a bedroom or office, with the door closed to limit access.

 

Have a plan for food and drink

A huge part of holiday entertaining is enjoying special food and drink. To go back to my earlier messaging around supervision, if a child is unattended for a moment, there is increased choking and poisoning risk if food or drink are within reach. When entertaining, we’ll often place snacks or appetizers on lower tables, like a coffee table, but this makes the food and drinks immediately accessible to a child. 

Before you place food or drink on a low table, consider: 

  • Are bowls of nuts or candies within reach of my child? 
  • What about alcohol beverages?

If they are and you need to leave the child unsupervised for a moment (you know – getting something out of the oven, grabbing a drink for a guest) it’s important to have a plan for your child: a playard they can hang out in until you’re back, a friendly lap to sit on where that person understands their job is to fully supervise the child, a gated play area or otherwise.

 

Christmas Trees

Of course, yes, you can skip the tree! And yes, you could also skip the ornaments! But if you’re choosing to decorate a tree this year, here are some things to consider when it comes to Christmas Trees and safety:

  • If you’re worried the child will pull on the tree, consider fencing the tree off. This can be achieved either with baby gates – or – in some cases, parents have had success making a round “box wall” (think a bunch of cardboard boxes, stacked a few feet high, taped together in a circle). This can be wrapped in gift wrap and prevent access to the tree.
  • Strings of lights can be a hazard to young children, too. Mostly from a strangulation risk, but they can also be used to pull down the tree. If you have a tree that’s not artificial and “pre-lit”, consider wrapping the lights around the trunk of the tree, rather than laying them across the branches.
  • When it comes to ornaments, keep it simple. Choose shatterproof ornaments (or otherwise unbreakable) that are held up with tightly knotted ribbon, rather than sharp hooks. Avoid using any ornaments that have small parts, and save the sentimental ornaments for when they’re older to avoid the heartache of a broken keepsake.
Stockings

This is something that I had to quickly adapt to when celebrating my oldest daughter’s first Christmas holiday: where do we put the stockings? My mom is very near Martha Stewart-level when it comes to her holiday decorating, so I figured we’d hang them above the fireplace, as that’s considered typical in many North American homes. However, I quickly realized weighted mounts/hooks on a mantle can be a bleeding and head injury risk to small children; as they’re known to pull on the stocking and have the mount fall onto them. 

 

Instead, we place our stockings under the tree on the tree skirt, and keep them empty until the kids are asleep the night before Christmas. On Christmas morning, these will be accessible to our kids as they’re already on the floor, and it avoids them pulling them down from a higher area.

Age appropriate toys

I *know* this is a struggle for every parent at some point: a well intentioned friend or family member gifts your child a fantastic toy — but your child is too young to play with the toy safely. 

 

When you receive a new toy for your baby or toddler, always read the labels on the packaging to make sure the toy is age-appropriate and non-toxic (for items that they may suddenly decide to ingest, such as PlayDoh 😅). Toys labelled “not for children under age 3” may contain choking hazards or materials that are toxic if ingested. Before using the toy, read the instructions so that you can show the child how to use the toy properly.

 

Okay, but: what if I received an inappropriate toy? Here’s how I handle it: I say thank you, and I put it away for later. There are some toys that got put away until my daughter was 5 (yes, 5!) because she received toys for 5-7 year olds even on her first birthday. In my opinion, it’s not worth the awkward exchange, but I do make a habit when asked what my kids want for gifts to say, “here’s what their into – just double check for me that the age recommendation is accurate before you purchase anything, lots of things may be a bit too ‘old’ for them!” There’s no harm in getting ahead of the problem by reminding friends and family ahead of time.

 

For more baby and toddler safety tips, follow @safebeginnings on Instagram.

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Hi there!

We’re Allison & Mary.

Over the past decade, we’ve talked with hundreds of parents and educators who want to help their kiddos stay on track developmentally.

But wanting to do something and knowing how to do it are two entirely different things. So they often feel a bit lost and a lot frustrated.

We created Tots on Target to bridge the gap between parents and pediatric professionals so we can all work together to support every child’s development.

Allison Mell (L), Doctor of Physical Therapy 

Mary Deutsch (R), Licensed Occupational Therapist

Trusted by 100K parents and counting.

 

@totsontarget

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