Looking at holidays from child's perspective will keep kids safe



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Posted on December 11, 2010 at 11:00 AM

Updated Saturday, Dec 11 at 3:33 PM

Holidays gatherings build memories that families cherish forever. But while parents are busy visiting, young children are taking it all in from a different perspective. Seattle children's pediatrician Dr. Wendy Sue Swanson said parents should keep some things in mind during the holidays.

"Remember this is a time to be cautious, but a time to enjoy your children. Enjoy time away from work. Enjoy newcomers, families and guests. But be careful. I say to families, channel your inner baby. Get down on your hands and knees in your house when you've got all the decorations up and look around. What's at eye level. What can you change?" she said.

Start by childproofing the tree. Some dramatic video from the National Institutes of Standards and Technology shows how quickly fire spreads if a tree dries out. So water it daily. And provide a stand sturdy enough that a child can't pull the tree over.

To prevent choking, hang ornaments out of a toddlers reach. Dr. Swanson said there's another decorating danger.

"Any string longer than 12 inches can pose a choking risk for a young child or toddler. So make sure that anything in your house that's strung up is out of reach for kids," she said.

Some decorations, for instance heavy stocking holders, may have to go back in the closet until kids are older. They are too easy for toddlers to pull off the mantle and onto themselves. And while winter fires are cozy, you should add an extra layer of protection between your toddler and the superheated fireplace glass. You can do that by using a metal fireplace grate, or childproofing gate. 

Dr. Swanson says don't count on a party host to catch all the safety measures your child needs.

"A house that someone may believe is childproofed may not be childproofed at the holiday time," she said.

So parents need to be alert for things a child might be tempted to explore, from medications left in a purse, to hot drinks at a table's edge, to leftover alcohol in a partygoer's glass. They're all safety steps that will keep your child's holiday memories happy.

Some parents who are going to stay at the home of a relative who doesn't have young children even pack their portable cabinet locks from home. You'll find more holiday safety tips at the American Academy of Pediatrics website.