Advice From Our Experts

Holiday Decorating: The Balance between Safety and Fun

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! Growing up, my mom, sister and I would decorate the house for Christmas. And when I say decorate, I mean DECORATE! The day after Thanksgiving, we would dig into two wooden chests full of Christmas decorations and ask my dad to drag the rest of the boxes out of the garage. There was plenty of holiday decorating happening. My Mom, sister and I would spend hours hemming and hawing over what went where, and where the Christmas tree would go that year. My dad would generally escape the mayhem and go string lights on the outside of the house (smart man). Those were different times and every holiday decorating detail was our priority.

Now that I have kids of my own, I want them to enjoy the excitement of decorating the house for Christmas. Safety comes first and when I get the kids involved I find a balance between safe and fun. I hope this blog post helps you find that balance too.I’ll be sharing safety tips for holiday candle use, Christmas trees, decorations, holiday lights and fireplace use.

Decorating Christmas Tree

Christmas Tree Safety

  • Nothing says Christmas to me like the smell of a Christmas tree in the house.If you purchase or cut down a fresh tree, I recommend keeping the tree watered daily to keep it from drying out. A dry tree is just asking to catch on fire from a light bulb or nearby candle. If you have an artificial tree, look for one that says fire resistant on the packaging.
  • Water your tree and keep it away from heat sources. Roughly 300 Christmas trees every year catch on fire. Don’t fall into that statistic.
  • Your Christmas tree should not be in the way of foot traffic. Large trees might need to be secured to the walls by guide wires. This is especially important in homes with kids or pets.
  • Christmas lights are so beautiful and a holiday staple! When purchasing your holiday lights, make sure to choose ones that have been “safety-tested”. This is usually identified on the package.
  • Whether the lights are new or used, check the cord for frayed or bare wires, broken or cracked sockets and loose connections. Use only three strands of lights per extension cord, and don’t plug multiple extension cords into the same outlet. Doing so could start an electrical fire.Kids love looking and playing with the ornaments. Having kids helped me develop a two-tiered approach to ornaments!
  • I place my ornaments in two categories:
  1. Pretties: Three to four feet up the tree is where I place the family heirloom, glass and other festive fragile ornaments. The kids can’t reach those!
  2. Kid-friendly: The kid-friendly ornaments are hung below the “pretties” and I don’t need to worry about the kids stepping on a broken ornament or pulling it off the tree.

My husband and I have taught our son to look, not touch. For a toddler, he does pretty well at this.

Candle Safety

Keep candles away from decorations, wrapping paper, the Christmas tree and other houseplants. Candles should be placed high enough so they don’t get knocked over. This is especially important when you have little kids in the house! Keep matches and lighters out of the reach of kids too.Holiday Decoration SafetyHoliday decorations are very colorful and festive. For example, fake snow may seem real for a child, which he may try to eat. Here are some safety tips to keep in mind while decorating your home:

  • If your decoration looks like candy, snow or anything edible, keep it out of reach.
  • Tinsel and fake icicles used to contain lead, which is very harmful. Keep these out of reach, whether they contain small traces of lead or not.

Holiday Light Safety

I love seeing the houses dressed in holiday lights! As pretty and rewarding as the outcome is, safety should always be a priority. Here are some tips to help.

  • Make sure outdoor lights are securely fastened to the wall or roof in case of strong winds or bad weather.
  • Turn off the lights when you go to bed. If a string of lights shorts out and starts a fire while you are asleep, the results could be devastating.
  • Never use electric lights on a metallic tree. If the lights short out the tree could become charged and electrocute anyone who touches it.

Fireplace Safety

A mug of hot chocolate in front of a crackling fire sounds like the holidays to me! Just be sure there is a screen in front of the fireplace at all times to protect your kids (and yourself) from burns. Wrapping paper and evergreen boughs should not be burned in a fireplace because it can result in a fire getting out of control and jumping out of the fireplace. Don’t forget to remove all decorations from the mantle before lighting the fire, so that the fire stays contained inside the fireplace!

Create an Emergency Plan

Create an emergency plan in case of fire or other disaster. It helps to practice the plan. This is good advice for any time of year, not just the holidays. Children’s Hospital Los Angeles’ Injury Prevention Program has helpful tips for the holidays and emergency preparedness. The holidays are a special time of year. It is when everyone focuses on family, friends and what matters most to us. We get our kids involved and teach them about generosity, gratitude, what it means to be a family and we reflect on the past year as well as the year to come. So, roll up your sleeves, get creative with your kids and decorate to your heart’s content!

Whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah or Kwanzaa, I want to wish you a Happy Holidays from my family to yours!