The holidays are almost here and you know what that means: excited kids and a flurry of activities! We’ve provided you with some tips from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) to make sure you are a having a safe, holiday season.
During the winter holidays, house fires are becoming extremely common and more likely. This causes serious injuries and even lost lives.
When buying an artificial tree, be sure the label says “Fire Resistant”. When buying a live tree, check for the freshness of the tree and how green/hard the needles from the branches are. With live trees, it’s better to cut a few inches off the trunk to expose the fresh wood. This prevents fire hazards because when cut you are making your tree able to absorb water well. When you are setting up your tree, make sure you keep it away from fireplaces, radiators, or portable heaters. Make sure it is placed out of the way from hallways and doorways.
Whether you’ve just bought them or they’ve been in storage, check all the lights before hanging them. Make sure they all work and there isn’t any broken sockets. When placing your lights on the tree, make sure they are high enough and out of reach of young children. They may try to play with them or stick them in their mouths, which can result in injury. When using lights outside, read the label and check if they are outside certified to avoid outages. Most importantly, make sure all the lights are turned off when no one is home or when everyone is sleeping to avoid potential fires.
Decorating your tree is a great activity you can do with children and it should always be done under adult supervision. To prevent any hazard, try to choose decorations that are non-combustible or flame-resistant. Avoid decorations with sharp edges or small pieces that can easy be swallowed. Also, avoid decorations that can easily break if dropped, such as glass balls. This can cause serious injury as well. After gifts are opened, remove all wrapping paper, bows, etc. as they can be hazardous around children. Most important, keep potentially poisonous holiday plants away from children; these include mistletoe berries, holly berry, etc.
When buying toys for young children it is always necessary to take notice of the size of the toy. If it’s too small, it can be a choking hazard. Try and select toys that suit the age, abilities, and interest level of the child. Beware of batteries and magnets as they can pose a serious threat to those who swallow them, causing stomach and intestinal problems. Be sure to keep these away from children and contact your healthcare provider immediately if your child swallows one.
When giving your child their toy, make sure that all tags, ribbons, strings, etc. have been removed. If pull toys with strings are more than 12 inches in length, supervise your child, as this may be a strangulation hazard for younger children.
The holidays mean food and having friends and family over. When cooking, be cognizant of food safety at all times. Bacteria are often present in raw foods; always make sure you fully cook meats and poultry, and always wash your raw vegetables and fruits before eating. It sounds easy, but it can easily be forgotten. When preparing your favorite holiday dishes or desserts, make sure to keep raw foods and cooked foods separate. Keep utensils you use for food preparation apart as well. Always wash your hands thoroughly and make sure your child does the same. It is better to thaw your meat in the refrigerator rather than on the counter. After cooking, make sure to store your leftovers – they should never be left out for more than 2 hours for risk of bacteria exposure.
Also, avoid leaving hot foods near the edges. Children see this as an easy opportunity to explore. Make sure to avoid serious injury and always supervise your child when hot food is around!
When visiting, always call ahead and ensure that the house is as child-friendly and safe as possible. Try and keep your child in one area of the house. Always watch out for unlocked cabinets or accessible cleaning products. These can become serious health hazards. Remember to have a list of important numbers with you, like your child’s pediatrician or the national poison help line. Let’s hope you will not need to use them, but they’re good to have quick available. When traveling, your child may be stressed out from the long drive or restlessness from the car seat. Try to stick to your child’s sleep schedule and his usual routine: when to eat, when to play, when to nap, etc.
Fireplaces tend to be among the most decorated places in the house, filled with stockings and ornaments. However, when you want to light a fire, make sure you remove all decorations, papers, and anything flammable. Never burn the wrapping paper as this can cause a flash fire. If your fireplace is glass-fronted, the glass will be very hot and can result in serious burns when touched. It may even be still hot after the fire is out. When using “fire salts”, which produce colored flames, always supervise where they are stored and used. If children ingest this, they can experience gastrointestinal irritation and vomiting. Call poison control immediately.
HOLIDAY MENTAL HEALTH TIPS
- Take care of yourself. Nice and simple – keep yourself in mind first. Manage your emotions successfully.
- Make a plan to focus on one thing at a time. Balance everything. Write it down on a list and complete it one and at a time, never all at one. You’re only one person.
- Give to others. The holidays are about giving. Teach your child the importance of giving rather than receiving. Send a letter to a military member or donate some clothing to those who may not have clothing to keep warm.
- Keep routines the same. Even though it may be the holidays, keep everyone’s routines the same: same bedtime, same meal schedule.
- Keep your household rules in effect. Reduce stress during the holidays be keeping the same rules in effect all year round.
- Teach the skills that children will need for the holidays in the weeks and months ahead. Help your children understand how they should behave, how they should respond to gift giving and so on. Prepare them with dinner etiquette if need be.
- Don’t feel pressured to “over-spend”. Try and teach your child the value of gift giving. Try making presents with him or her for friends, teachers, grandparents, etc. These are worth more than any expensive gift.
- Most importantly, enjoy the holidays for what they are—time to enjoy with your family. Spend this wonderful time with your family and enjoy it. Do fun activities, play games, and you’ll have all those wonderful memories to look back on.