Keeping The Holidays Merry For You and Your ToddlersThis time of year can be full of fun, and also a little hectic. In the craziness of the holidays, it always seems like a good idea to take a minute to remember how to keep this special time safe for our little ones. With extra family and friends around, glittery trees and packages, changes to the normal routines, and excitement in the air, here are some tips for keeping the holidays happy and safe and secure.
1. Christmas Trees are beautiful but can pose special dangers. With the shiny bulbs and tinsel, not to mention lights, they are a huge attraction for little fingers (and mouths).
a. It is best to not put your tree in the middle of a room where your toddler normally plays. If you can put the tree out of the normal main play area, it will be less of a temptation. You might also consider putting a flexible baby gate around the tree to keep it out of arms reach. Trees can easily be pulled down on top of a little one. Putting your tree up on a table that cannot be reached might be another option.
One of my favorite stories actually involves a tree placed in the entranceway that we tied to the stair rail so that it could not be pulled down. In tying the tree to the stair rail, my arm accidentally got tied to the tree (and stair rail) as well. In joking about how now I had to spend the entire holiday here tied to the tree, my little one shrieked to his daddy “You have ruined Christmas. I want my momma”.
b. Ornaments are always a choking hazard; they are breakable, may have small parts, might have poisonous glue, and potentially sharp parts. The same goes for lights. And of course, with lights, there is the added danger of electric shock, or even getting tangled in a light string. And be aware that icicles and tinsel may contain toxins as well like cadmium. You might try not hanging ornaments and lights low on the tree, or substituting homemade flour and water ornaments lower down.
c. Flocking is poisonous. Did you know this? I didn’t. Spray-on snow looks like powdered sugar or frosting and actually contains extremely harmful chemicals like acetone or methylene chloride. And it is always crumbling off. Even the fumes, if you yourself spray it on, can be toxic if breathed by a little one. My suggestion is to avoid flocking while you have little ones around.
2. Holiday Flowers and trees can be toxic. People think poinsettias are the problem; they actually are not poisonous, although they can cause stomach irritation and burning if eaten. However, Mistletoe, Holly, and Christmas Rose are prime examples of beautiful holiday plants that are poisonous. Even if the plant is not poisonous, they can cause allergic reactions if a leaf or needle is swallowed. Keep all holiday plants beyond the reach of little ones.
3. And yes, even the opening of presents is something to watch out for. Most wrapping papers and ribbons are non-toxic. However, some foils and colored gift wraps might contain lead, so if you are not sure, then don’t let your baby mouth wrapping and ribbon. A good solution is to buy paper and ribbon that is marked non-toxic and then you know at least that what you have used is safe and can keep other giftwraps away. And as you unwrap toys, removing plastic tabs and twist ties from the packaging, be sure you dispose of them. It is so easy for a small child to pick one up from the floor, and into the mouth it goes. Keeping a trash bag handy while unwrapping is a good way to prevent this disaster.
4. Watch other miscellaneous decorations and holiday items as well. Angel hair looks great, but is actually made from spun glass and can cause tiny lacerations in the throat, mouth and stomach if ingested. And keep your eye out for anything that might contain a small button lithium battery, like a moving holiday ornament, a musical holiday card, remote controls, flameless candles, to name a few. Batteries that are swallowed can get lodged in the throat. The child’s saliva triggers an electric current that causes a chemical reaction that can severely burn the esophagus in as little as two hours.
5. One final caution is around changing of routines – both diet and sleep. Some mothers go through accidental weaning during this time. Routines are changed, the baby gets passed from one relative to another, and there can be missed feedings. If you are nursing, make it a point to take regular nursing breaks in a quiet room with your little one. Not only does it give you both some alone time, but it gives you both a chance to de-stress. I always used nursing as an excuse to escape the hub-bub for a few minutes.
6. And while we are on the subject of people wanting to hold your baby or toddler, your little one does not know these people, and might be uncomfortable being held by many different people. And this includes Santa. We all want wonderful pictures of our little ones with Santa, but he is a stranger, and an odd looking one at that. Many little ones cry when being held on Santa’s lap. A good solution is for you to kneel next to Santa holding your baby while taking the picture. Or you can sit on Santa’s lap and then hold your baby on yours. These pictures can be great memories.
As a final word, have a great holiday season; relax and enjoy. You will be creating wonderful memories and traditions.