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Makin' a list and checkin' it twice
Be sure your holiday checklist includes a safety review

by the Paranoid Sisters
Only days ago, we were at the mall desperately seeking Halloween costumes when what to our astounded eyes appeared? No, not Santa and eight tiny reindeer, but it could have been. Actually, it was several department stores already garnished in their holiday wares! Yikes, we hadnít even chosen an outfit for two nights away much less begun thinking about the holidays.

So quick, take down the witch and the goblins and pull out your tinsel and mistletoe! But first, let's take a few moments before the hustle and bustle begins and turn our attention to toys, Santa and yummy treats. Often parents and caregivers give little thought to the dangers that lurk around the Christmas tree, in candy dishes and luggage of visiting family and friends.

This year when preparing your home for the holidays, or when welcoming traveling visitors, be sure to:

  • Decorate your Christmas tree appropriately for your child's age. Children who are still "mouthing" items may put ornaments in their mouths. Put glass bulbs, lights, tinsel and ornaments that are delicate or have removable parts out of reach. Remember that popcorn is a choking hazard for children under age 5. You could place the tree on top of a table (no table cloth) or put a safety fence around it. Designate a responsible adult to unplug all lights before bed time or leaving the house (blow out all candles (menorah) also). Last year the day after Christmas we read about at least six fires believed to be related to the Christmas tree or other flammable/electrical decorations. The homes were destroyed, but, more tragically, many lives were lost. Resolve that some decorations may have to wait until next year. Depending on your childís age you may have to keep your favorite decorations boxed this year or up high where they canít reach them. Lori has one of those Santaís that holds a light and plays various holiday tunes. Her son, who last year was one year old, could not keep his chubby little fingers off it, so rather than constantly harp about it, she opted to put it away. Weíll see how it goes this year.

  • Have visitors put luggage and purses up high where they can't be reached. Often, grandparents carry medication in luggage; ask them to store it with your other medications (locked and out of reach).

  • Hard candies and nuts which are often set out for visitors are also choking hazards for children under age 5.

  • Holiday meal preparation needs special attention too. Designate one adult to keep all children out of the kitchen. With heavy dishes and hot pots of water, knives and turkeys being moved around, this is not the place for a little one to be visiting. Many children suffer permanent scars from being burned with scalding water.

  • Empty alcohol from abandoned glasses so little ones won't be tempted to drink from them.

  • Nobody knows how advanced our children are as we do. They are by far the most intelligent creatures ever birthed. Regardless of your feelings about your childís intelligence and abilities, itís best to stick with toys that are age appropriate for your child or any child youíre buying for. Check out the age recommendations on the packaging to be sure your child falls in that range. That number is determined based on several factors, one of which is safety. Many times we are tempted to buy things that are beyond our childís age, because those toys appear to be more fun (letís face it -- the kid will have more fun playing with the box and wrapping than the actual gift), however, a majority of toys for children over three come with lots of little pieces that are a danger to infants and toddlers.

  • Now is a good time to check your batteries in your smoke detectors and to also check the status of your fire extinguisher (do you actually know what to do with it if a fire occurs?)

A little forethought, mixed with a dash of paranoia will keep you in good stead this holiday season. Now ask yourself, in regards to preparing a safe home for your children during the holidays, have you been naughty or nice?

About the authors: Lisa Carter and Lori Marques are real sisters and California natives. Together, they have five children. Their book, Child Safety Made Easy, is a compilation of three years of research on death and injury to children and is available in English and Spanish. Also known as The Paranoid Sisters, Carter and Marques frequently speak at parent conferences, on radio programs and are resources for newspaper and magazine articles.

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