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Safety-wise, holidays with an adventurous child can be an unnerving experience. Small toy parts, hard candy, breakable ornaments, candles, and poisonous plants such as mistletoe can make the season seem like a minefield.
How to get through it safely? You'll have to be particularly vigilant, especially if you're spending the holidays with friends or family who aren't up on the latest childproofing techniques. Here are some holiday hazards to avoid:
Make sure that lighted menorahs and other candles are out of reach. (If you're celebrating at home, you might even decide to forgo candles this year.) If you're planning to spend time in front of a roaring fire, use a fireplace screen and keep matches and hot pokers out of reach, too.
Toddlers and older children find previously out-of-reach spots like tabletops, shelves, and drawers enticing – particularly when they know that's where you keep the holiday goodies. (Remember to look up now – as well as getting down on all fours – when you're childproofing.)
So be careful not to leave knives, scissors, or other potentially hazardous items, drinks, or foods where your child can grab them.
At home, hide electrical cords behind furniture or buy a hide-a-cord device. Keep your floors clear of decorations that your child could choke on. And put everything potentially breakable or dangerous out of his reach. At other people's houses, pay even closer attention.
Display out of reach (and in a spot your child can't climb to) any poinsettias or other holiday plants wrapped in foil and decorative ribbons – these are potential choking hazards.
Contrary to popular belief, the poinsettia plant itself isn't poisonous (though the sap can cause skin irritation), but mistletoe and some varieties of holly are toxic. Be sure to keep them well out of reach, too, or opt for other decorations instead.
The kitchen is a popular place to be during the holiday season. Aside from the burners and oven themselves, a child darting by can easily trip adults cooking or carrying food and get burned when it spills. Keep your child away from the hazards by setting him up with his own cookie-making equipment (Play-Doh or leftover cookie dough) at a separate table, or invest in a set of child-size pots and pans for more pretend kitchen play – away from the action.
There are plenty of "real" cooking tasks for your child to help with, too, like "kneading" bread dough or mixing cookie dough with a wooden spoon. Just make sure you work together away from any kitchen hazards.
Remember that visitors' handbags and shopping bags are tempting and have not been childproofed. Tell the adults you need to stow them in a safe place to keep your child away from medicines, lipstick, ribbons, gift tags, and other forbidden items commonly found in them.
Read more ideas on childproofing and child safety.