The holiday season, this year more than ever, brings more time at home with family, away from the cold and dark of winter. Lighting a fire, hanging decorations and cooking family favourites can all introduce changes to the home environment that present unique seasonal considerations for the safety of all family members.
Warming up with fire and candles
There’s nothing like keeping warm by the fire with your family over the holidays. Make sure everyone can enjoy it safely.
- Always supervise children near the fireplace.
- Be sure to keep your child away from gas fireplaces; the glass barrier can heat up to over 200 °C in just six minutes. It takes approximately 45 minutes to cool to a safe temperature when switched off.
- Install safety gates to keep your child at a safe distance. If you have an open fireplace, use a screen to keep sparks from flying and keep children and pets away from the fire.
- Consider not using the fireplace if you have young children or only using it when the children have gone to sleep. Turn off the unit completely, including the pilot flame, whenever it is not in use.
- Use proper materials to light and maintain your fire. Never throw wrapping, packaging or other garbage on the flames, as they can release dangerous gases.
- Consider not using candles, as they are one of the most common causes of household fires. Use battery-operated flameless candles instead.
- If you do use candles, keep them well beyond the reach of children and blow them out before leaving the room. Place candles in very sturdy holders that aren’t likely to tip and place them away from any flammable materials, such as curtains or tablecloths.
- Read more about preventing burns.
Making holiday meals and beverages
- Cold weather calls for warm beverages such as tea, coffee or hot chocolate. If spilled, these liquids can cause scalds, particularly on children’s sensitive skin. Take extra care not to spill hot liquids while drinking or carrying them around children.
- When preparing family dinner this holiday season, keep your children safe by buckling your baby or toddler in a high chair to keep them away from the stove and the rest of the food preparation area.
- When cooking a hot meal, cook on the back burners and turn pot handles towards the back of the stovetop to prevent children from reaching the pots and getting burnt or scalded.
- Keep a fire extinguisher in an easy-to-reach location in case of fire. Place it away from the stove area, so smoke and flames don’t block your access to it.
Decorating for the holiday season
- Be sure to keep tripping hazards such as lights, cords, furniture and other objects out of the way to prevent trips and falls.
- Decorations can look like new toys to kids. Choose soft, unbreakable decorations and ornaments, such as ones made of felt, and place them out of children’s reach.
- If you’re putting up a Christmas tree, your toddler may want to explore the tree and decorations by touching, grabbing and trying to put ornaments in their mouths. Consider a small tabletop tree, or putting your tree up in a room with a safety gate so your children can see, but not touch, the tree.
- Older relatives staying with you over the holidays may not be used to moving around your home, especially if you’ve redecorated for the season. Be sure to have proper lighting in hallways, stairs and walkways, as well as in bedrooms and bathrooms, to help prevent falls.
- Keep holiday plants out of reach, as well. Mistletoe and holly are poisonous and can cause stomach upset.
- Arts and crafts are a great way to spend time with family. Keep craft time safe by using age-appropriate and non-toxic supplies, supervising children while they create, keeping snacks away from the craft area, and washing hands when done.
Brightening up with holiday lights
- Take extra care when hanging lights and other decorations. Use the proper ladder for the job, place the ladder on steady, level ground away from doorways, and always have someone there to assist you. Unsafe ladders, slippery roofs, exposed electrical outlets and power lines around trees can all potentially cause injuries.
- Avoid overloading outlets by plugging in too many cords for holiday lights and decorations. Consider using an approved power bar with surge protection.
- Check all cords and replace any frayed or damaged ones to protect all family members from shocks and other electrical injuries.
- Keep your children safe by installing child-safety electrical plugs or covers, or have child-safety electrical outlets installed.
- Children can suffer electrical burns from touching hot lights or chewing on electrical cords. Holiday lights and electrical cords should be in good repair and out of children’s reach.
- Use furniture to physically distance children from electrical components such as cords and outlets when you decorate trees, mantles or stair railings with holiday lights.
- Always unplug lights before going out or going to bed.
- Read more about electrical safety.
Entertaining with young children
- Supervision is key: Whether you are the host or a guest, at the start of get-togethers, talk about who is going to watch the children. Take turns so everyone gets time to relax. Otherwise, family and friends may assume that someone else is watching the young ones when no one really is.
- Keep purses and bags out of toddlers’ reach. They may hold dangerous items, such as medication or lighters.
Using unsafe toys – or using toys in unsafe ways – can put a child at risk for illness or injury.