Stop whatever you’re doing and read this article right now.
I know, I know: There’s wrapping to be done and cards to be addressed and gifts still left to buy. But it can wait. What can’t wait? Knowing how to keep your kids safe from the danger are lurking around every mistletoe sprig and Elf on the Shelf.
Too dramatic? Nope.
The holidays are a time unlike any other. Your attention is particularly divided, you’re multitasking to the point of exhaustion, and your kids are suddenly surrounded by new decorations and toys that might not be safe.
So, step away from the wrapping paper and pay attention. Because you’ll want to be on the lookout for these 7 holiday dangers.
LITHIUM “BUTTON” BATTERIES
Those little silver discs found in a ton of electronic equipment are tiny, shiny and deadly. If one gets lodged in a child’s esophagus, it can burn a hole through it in 15 minutes. Yes, 15 minutes. If it doesn’t get stuck there, it may pass through your child’s body uneventfully—or it may cause vomiting, abdominal pain and fever. If you even suspect that your child may have swallowed one of these, go to the ER right away.
If I sound particularly panicked, it’s because I recently found one in my preschooler’s “laser fingers,” little plastic lights that a kid can wear as rings. They came in a pack of 5 for probably $5. A great stocking stuffer, right? I was going to buy more until my son somehow shattered his and out popped that little battery. It hadn’t even occurred to me that it might be in there, but there it was…suddenly on the floor with my teething toddler. Every other laser light got thrown in the garbage immediately, I told my preschooler what to do if he ever encountered one again, and I had a big glass of wine that night.
Kids are thrilled when they graduate to the next level of Lego sets. The structures get more complex, and the pieces multiply and shrink. And that’s the problem. If you’ve also got a baby or a toddler, this poses a major choking hazard. Those Lego pieces are TINY. I mean, I’m an adult and have great fine-motor control, and I can barely get those damn things to fit where they’re supposed to.
Anyway, it’s all fine and good to say you’ll keep your baby away from your older child’s toys, but let’s be realistic: Your older child can be clumsy and careless and accidentally knock the pieces to the ground, and your little one wants everything that her older sibling has. My rule is that Lego needs to be played with on the table, an adult needs to be present if the toddler is awake, and every piece must be put away immediately after use.
And to be honest, because I get hives just thinking about this, I tend to favor bigger building materials that I don’t have to worry about. My favorites? The colorful, magnetic Magna-Tiles, which my preschooler makes insane castles out of and my toddler can also play with, and old-school wooden blocks, which my son and all of his friends are obsessed with at their preschool. Potential crises: Averted!
INAPPROPRIATE BABY GIFTS
I’m not talking about the onesies that say “Future Trophy Wife” or an astronaut teddy bear decked out in a pink princess tutu, though those are inappropriate in plenty of other ways. I’m talking about the toys that are age-inappropriate for little ones but still given to them as gifts. They might be stuffed animals with hard eyes or toys with small parts that can come off and be swallowed. Don’t get me wrong: They’re great for growing into, and I always like to buy ahead; just make sure not to open them now!
Toddlers are insane. Let’s just start with that. They might throw breakable ornaments like baseballs. They might body-slam the tree, WWE-style. They might try to fashion the pretty lights into a noose—er, necklace. Depending on your particular toddler, you might want to put up a safety gate around your Christmas tree, just in case.
HOLIDAY DECORATIONS IN PRECARIOUS PLACES
This occurred to me last year as I was hanging my stockings onto mantel holders. They’re stable and sturdy, so the weight of the stocking won’t pull them down. But they’re also so heavy that they can cause blunt-force trauma if a child jumps up to grab the stocking and accidentally brings down the whole thing on his head. This year, I’ll be putting them up on Christmas Eve and taking them down on Christmas morning, as soon as the kids see them.
There’s more lurking danger when you consider breakable and/or heavy decorations placed on consoles and up high on bookcases. My preschooler attempted to scale a bookcase the other day for that reason, and I just about lost my mind. Remember to have this safety conversation with your kids, and also make sure that bookcases and other furniture are securely anchored to the walls, which is an important thing to have in place for the rest of the year, too.
Toddlers are insane. Let’s just start with that. They might throw breakable ornaments like baseballs. They might body-slam the tree, WWE-style.
This may go without saying…or it may not. Open flames and children do not mix. If you encounter this situation when you’re out, gently remind your host of this fact, and make sure that lit candles are on stable surfaces and out of reach of little hands.
LOW-LYING HOLIDAY FOOD AND DRINKS
I’m Italian, and I have an overwhelming need to feed my guests a ridiculous amount of food. This includes things to nosh on before we sit down for our big meal. So, cute little dishes on coffee tables filled with nuts, peppermints, raw veggies, pigs-in-a-blanket and the like? I get it. I also get that they’re choking hazards for the under-5 set. And, of course, don’t forget about breakable glassware and holiday cocktails, which might look particularly festive and appealing to your innocent little party animals. So, if you’re spending time at someone else’s house, watch your kid like a hawk and/or discreetly move those potential dangers to higher ground.
Who said the holidays were relaxing? Um, no parent ever. Maybe you should have that cocktail instead of just moving it.
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