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Winter and Holiday Safety for Families With Small Children

What you need to do to know about maximizing the joy


winter safety

Dress warmly, heed safety advice, and enjoy the season!

M. RyanDrs
The winter holidays are a glorious and joyful time, especially when you have very young children who are in awe of the decorations, the snowfall, the glow from the fireplace, and other trimmings and trappings of the season.

Unfortunately, though, every year there are tragic stories of children who are injured by dangers and mishaps that are common during this time of year. You can avoid most of these issues by paying close attention to safety guidelines and by using the tips and resources below.

Dress Your Little One for the Season

If you're like me, you are always caught a little off guard by those first few really cold days. I can never really figure out what 40 degrees or 20 degrees requires as far as dress for my little ones -- full on snowsuit? extra sweatshirt under the fall vest? As a general rule, you can think what you would be comfortable in and add one additional layer (an extra long-sleeved shirt for instance).

Two other points to consider when dressing children safely for winter:

  1. Don't impede her mobility. If that snow suit prevents her from getting back up when she falls down, pack it away. Your toddler is better off with a cozy layer of thermals and an easy-to-move in winter coat or pullover suit.
  2. Forget fashionable. Many of those cute outfits you see hanging in the store are not really warm. It's worth it to invest in clothes that can keep out the snow and wind when you take your tot for his first sled ride. Consider buying your child a winter parka one size up. A good coat will often still provide comfort and good mobility when it's a bit roomy. Some high-end styles also come with growth panels, so you can at least get the start of next season out of it by letting down the panel.

Check Toy Recalls and Safety Ratings

It would be nice if we could assume that any product made for children was safe and reliable. That's just not reality, unfortunately. When you're shopping for gifts for the holidays, be sure to check lists of the most recently recalled toys to be sure you haven't already purchased one of the "bad" gifts. You can also sign up for email updates from the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

Beyond avoiding recalled toys, be sure you are familiar with what to look for in an age-appropriate toy and how to know if a plaything is safe for your child.

Be Aware of Fire Safety

If you're lucky enough to have a wood burning fireplace in your home, then you should use it -- especially during the holidays when it warms the house and your soul with good old-fashioned comfort. Just be sure everyone in the house is aware of fire safety. That means knowing not just that you shouldn't touch the fire (of course) but also knowing that fireplace ashes should be disposed of in a proper bucket and placed outside the home.

Another fire safety risk comes when you have a real tree that is not properly cared for. If you choose to have a real tree be sure to follow our Guide to First Aid's rules for Christmas Tree Safety. Better, yet, consider using an artificial tree for a few years at least, since you already have a lot on your hands caring for a young child and juggling a million everyday things in addition to holiday preparations

Prepare for Storms and Power Outages

Two years ago we were driving home from Christmas dinner when we heard the weather forecaster saying a blizzard was going to hit our city in the next 24 hours. My husband and I laughed that the news had nothing to report after the holiday and was now dramatizing what would probably be a little snowfall. Ha! Not only did that snow come, but we were snowed in for four days with three children under 4 years of age. If my parents hadn't sent us home with all the leftovers we would have had to eat the baby's puree!

It was a quick lesson in being prepared that we haven't forgotten. We wouldn't have been able to shop for emergency supplies Christmas night even if we had taken the news seriously. That means you need to have all your emergency supplies on hand well before a a winter storm or other unforeseen disaster strikes.

Stave Off Winter Colds and Flu

Seeing distant relatives and celebrating the season with play date parties are the things of memory making. The down side is that you and your child are more likely to be exposed to a host of germs. That doesn't mean you should turn down the next invitation or say no to hugs and kisses at the family gathering. Instead, be smart about avoiding winter illnesses and keeping your family healthy. To start, be sure that everyone who can receive a flu shot has gotten one for this year.

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