child with passover candles
Image by Mahava

Light candles and leave them burning only when an adult is present in the room.

Keeping the Holidays Safe for Your Family

December is the season to be safe, not sorry. As we deck the halls for the holidays, let's remember that safety comes first. Here are some tips that will keep your holidays jolly and safe.


  • Buy lights that are UL-approved. Check for frayed wires, loose connections, cracked sockets and spots where bare wire is exposed.
  • Do not overload extension cords, outlets and electrical circuits. Follow manufacturer's instructions when stringing light sets together. In general, there should be no more than three sets of lights to each outlet or cord.
  • Use only light sets labeled "outdoor," "weatherproof" or "all-weather" on the outside of your home.
  • Never run an extension under a carpet, through a door or in any other area where there is the potential for wear and tear.
  • Turn off lights when you go to bed or leave the home.


  • Use only non-combustible or flame-resistant decorations and trimmings.
  • Avoid placing breakable decorations and ornaments within reach of small children.


  • Select only fresh, natural trees. The best way to ensure your tree is fresh is to cut it yourself. Otherwise, look for a tree with branches that are supple and needles that bend without breaking. If you tap the tree on the ground and many needles fall off, the tree is too dry.
  • Keep your tree as fresh as possible. Store it outside in water until you are ready to decorate it. When the tree is brought inside, cut off the butt end diagonally, one or two inches from the end. Place in a sturdy base and keep end covered in water.
  • Make sure your tree is stable and secure. Keep away from any sources of heat. Dispose of your tree when lots of needles start to fall off.
  • If you have infants or toddlers, cut back the lower branches to prevent eye injuries.
  • Avoid decorating the tree with breakable ornaments, ornaments with small parts or ornaments that resemble food -- these are potential choking hazards for young children.
  • If you buy an artificial tree, choose one that is flame-resistant and keep it away from heat sources.


  • Candles are an important part of many holiday traditions. Never use candles on or near trees. Always keep candles in safe bases, away from flammable materials and out of reach of small children.
  • Light candles and leave them burning only when an adult is present in the room.


  • Many people like to set a holiday mood by having a fire in the fireplace. Make sure your damper works and the chimney flue is clean. Always keep the damper open while the fire is burning. Never have a fire without a fireplace screen.
  • Never use gasoline or other flammable liquids to start a fire. Remove all decorations from the fireplace.
  • Never use the fireplace as an incinerator. Burning packaging can produce carbon monoxide and other toxic fumes.
  • Install UL-approved smoke alarms on every level of your home and UL-approved carbon monoxide detectors in or near bedrooms.

Toys and Gifts

  • Buy toys suited to the age and abilities of the child. Use manufacturers' age recommendations to guide your purchases.
  • Examine toys for sharp edges, small parts or sharp points. Avoid toys that produce extremely loud noises that damage hearing or propel objects that can injure eyes.
  • Do not buy toys with small, detachable parts for young children. Manufacturers warn consumers when toys are not recommended for children under three. Choose non-toxic toys for young children, who will probably stick them in their mouths.
  • Teach children how to use toys properly and safely. Examine toys periodically and repair or discard broken ones.
  • Dispose of all plastic bags and other packaging that could be choking or suffocation hazards.
  • Keep round, hard foods like candy cane pieces, mints, nuts and popcorn out of reach of young children.


  • Vent all fuel-burning appliances like fireplaces and space heaters. The risk of carbon monoxide poisoning dramatically increases during the winter.
  • Keep alcoholic drinks out of reach of children.
  • Some holiday plants like holly, mistletoe, amaryllis, Christmas rose, crown of thorns, English ivy and Jerusalem cherry are poisonous if eaten. Poinsettias are not, but can cause skin irritation and stomachache.
  • Artificial snow spray can cause lung irritation if inhaled. Use only non-toxic snow spray.

Shopping with kids

  • Keep children under the age of four in a stroller or on a harness.
  • For children four and up, designate a safe meeting place in the event you get separated. However, the best way to keep kids safe in public places is by vigilant supervision.
  • Don't get overloaded with packages. Make frequent trips to the car to leave packages.
  • Teach a child older than three to yell, "Help! This isn't my mommy (or daddy) if someone tries to grab her.
  • Drive defensively, especially during the holidays when drivers are stressed and rushed.

Source: Consumer Product Safety Commission and National SAFE KIDS Campaign. Parent Pages was developed by Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County. HD 78


Michelle Leveski
Nutrition Educator II
518-234-4303 x115

Last updated July 10, 2020