“How do people do Christmas trees with busy toddlers?” That’s what one of my friends recently asked her Facebook friends. Though I’m Jewish and have never had a Christmas tree (or Hannukah bush), I decided to do some investigating to help my friend out. (Plus, I figured that whatever tips I learned might apply to safeguarding toddlers from Hannukah flames as well.)
I turned to Colleen Driscoll, executive director of the International Association for Child Safety Inc., a trade association for professional childproofers. Her four tips for childproofing Christmas decorating make up today’s hint.
1.) Block your child’s access to the tree. “For most children, the tree is a new and fascinating item to check out,” Ms. Driscoll says, so blocking the tree “is the best plan” as many holiday decorations are not safe for children (think sharp pine needles and ornament hooks; dangerous plugs and lights; choking hazards like tinsel; breakable ornaments, etc.). She suggests doing the access denying via a baby gate that blocks off access to the room where the tree is; via a play yard (think baby jail) structure that surrounds the tree itself; or via doors that block access to the room (door locks may be needed).
Ms. Driscoll blocked off her family’s tree when her kids were younger by placing it in a basement family room that wasn’t used for playtime and that had a door with a lock. This made daily playtime upstairs easier “because the tree was not a distraction,” she says. And when it came time to open the presents on Christmas, she and her husband “sat in front of the tree,” guarding it.
2.) Use a secure stand appropriate for the size of the tree to prevent a tip over, and place ornaments up high on the tree to keep them out of a toddler’s reach (though non-breakable, more child-friendly ornaments can go lower on the tree). Making sure the tree won’t fall is key as glass ornaments or ornaments with small pieces can break easily, posing choking hazards or increasing the risk of injury, according to Ms. Driscoll.
In addition, she says she prefers “non-breakable” ornaments with no small parts attached (think felt ornaments, as the blog The Mama’s Girls suggests), and at her home (like at the home of blogger Amy Romano of Lily & Bliss and as the blog Crunchy Moms recently suggested), these non-breakable ornaments were installed low. You also could do what one person suggested in response to my friend’s query: “Get a small, two-foot tree and decorate it with non-breakable ornaments.” Or Apartment Therapy has a fun idea: put a mini tree on a table out of a child’s reach.
3.) Don’t decorate early; decorate closer to the holiday, lessening your family’s chance of Christmas decoration-related accidents.
4.) Consider skipping the tree for other Christmas decorations. Ms. Driscoll says wreaths “can be a great decoration because they are out of a toddler’s reach.” Though, she notes, wreaths shouldn’t have berries (real or fake) or other small pieces that could be choking hazards if they fall on the floor. And she recommends using wreaths with artificial greens so you don’t have pine needles all over the floor ready for curious toddlers. Finally, Ms. Driscoll says to consider decorating by placing decorations on mantels, high up on bookcases and on other out-of-reach places, but she says, “keep climbers in mind” and be extra careful with decoration placement if you have a little climber. “We don’t want to create incentives for climbing,” she says.
What are your tips for mixing toddlers and Christmas trees?