Holiday Safety

Mother and daughter decorating a christmas tree

The holiday season is a great time for children. But unfamiliar items, distractions and changes in routine can lead to injuries. Here are some simple steps to keep children safe during the holidays.

Safe ​celebrations

Keep an eye on the kids

If you are planning on having, or attending, a party with your children this holiday season, make sure that a designated adult is supervising the children during the festivities. Different adults that you trust might want to take turns supervising the children over the course of the evening.

If you are hosting a party at your home, consider hiring a trained babysitter or designating a family member to look after the children. This will allow everyone time to enjoy the party. Remember, if you assume that everyone at the party is watching your children, you might end up with no one watching them.

Clean as you​ go

Some holiday party items might pose a risk or choking hazard to small children. Show guests where to safely dispose of items such as beer cans, cigarette butts and toothpicks used for hors d’oeuvres. This will avoid the possibility of children putting these items in their mouths.

Keep visitors' purses and coats in a designated area, out of reach of young children. Visitors' coats may contain items such as medicines and lighters that could harm a child. ​

Fireside s​afety

To avoid chimney fires, it is important to have your fireplace and chimney cleaned and inspected every year by a certified professional.

Safe decorat​ing

When decorating the house and the Christmas tree, use these tips to prevent fire and injury.

Tree safety

When purchasing an artificial tree, look for one that is fire resistant. When purchasing a cut tree, look for one that is freshly cut. To tell if a tree is freshly cut, follow this simple checklist.

  • Needles do not break when you bend them between your fingers.
  • Needles do not fall off the tree easily.
  • The tree stump is sticky with resin.

If you decide to buy a cut Christmas tree, make sure to maintain it properly over the holidays.

  • Keep the tree away from heat sources such as radiators, televisions, fireplaces, heating ducts and sunny windows. This will reduce the risk of the tree catching fire.
  • Dry Christmas trees pose a fire hazard – make sure to keep the tree stump in water at all times to reduce the risk.
  • Even with frequent watering, trees dry out over time. When the holidays are over, remove the Christmas tree as soon as possible.

Always choose a sturdy base for your Christmas tree. A weighted, wide-spread base will provide better support and prevent the tree from being tipped over by a small child.

Light and electrical safety

  • Use Canadian Standards Association (CSA) approved light sets only. It may be tempting to buy cheaper lights, but these may pose a greater fire risk.
  • Use the right lights in the right place. Indoor lights are not weatherproofed for the outdoors. Outdoor lights may burn too hot for the indoors. LED lights generate almost no heat, and are the safest option.
  • Check all lights, bulbs, sockets and extension cords every year. Make sure nothing is frayed, cracked or broken.
  • Never hang electric lights on metallic trees. Build-up of electricity could shock people who touch them, or short out the lights and cause an electrical fire.
  • Be careful not to overload electrical cords and outlets; never have more than 1,400 watts on one circuit.
  • Do not coil or bunch electrical cords; this can cause them to heat up and pose a fire hazard. Running cords under carpets or rugs may also pose a fire hazard.
  • Turn off tree lights when you go to bed or leave the house.

Decoration safety

Young children are naturally curious, and the draw of a decorated Christmas tree might be too much for them to resist. This is why it is important to choose your holiday decorations wisely.

If you choose to use decorations that are small, breakable or sharp, make sure to hang these near the top of the tree, out of reach of children. Use only soft, unbreakable ornaments near the base of the tree.

Plant safety

Holly and mistletoe are poisonous; it is important to keep these items out of reach of children. If your child has eaten berries from these plants, call your local poison information centre.

Poinsettia plants are not poisonous, but they can still cause skin irritation and stomach upset.

Candle safety

If you have small children, use battery-operated candles where possible. This will help to avoid the potential for burns.

If you decide to use flame-burning candles, make sure that they are out of reach of children, and that candle holders have a sturdy base. Never leave burning candles unattended, and be sure to keep them away from curtains and other flammable objects. Do not use lit candles on Christmas trees.

Toy sa​​fety

Keep these tips in mind when buying toys for your children. Make sure that gifts from friends and family are also safe.

  • Always buy toys that are labelled for the correct age range, even if your child is advanced for their age. Age recommendations on toys are about safety, not the ability of a child to master the toy or game. Toys for children under three should be bigger than the child's fist to avoid the risk of choking.
  • Inspect toys before giving them to your child. Make sure they are in good condition and that they do not have parts that could break off and be swallowed.
  • Avoid toys with long strings or cords for babies and toddlers, as they may pose a risk of strangulation.
  • Old batteries can leak and cause corrosive burns, and if swallowed, batteries can cause internal chemical burns or poisoning. If you give your child battery-operated toys, make sure that the batteries are in good condition, and secure inside the toy.
  • Magnets can cause serious injury or death if children swallow them. Do not give toyswith magnets to small children.

Travel saf​​ety

Over the holidays, many drivers spend more time than​ usual on the road, running errands, and going to holiday events. This can lead to extra frustration and exhaustion while driving. It is important to drive with caution during the holiday season. Give yourself extra time when heading to holiday events, to avoid the desire to rush while on the roads.

If your holiday plans include a flight out of town, remember to pack appropriate car seats or booster seats for younger children.

Altaira Northe

Medical Writer/Editor



Elly Berger, BA, MD, FRCPC, FAAP, MHPE 



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Holiday Light Safety Tips from Hydro One. HydroOne. Retrieved Oct 21, 2014. 

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It’s holiday time and active supervision is key. (2011, November 17). Safe Kids Canada. Retrieved Oct 21, 2014. 

Home Fire Safety Checklist. United States Fire Administration. Retrieved Oct 21, 2014.

Holiday, candle and Christmas tree fire safety outreach materials​​. United States Fire Administration. Retrieved Oct 21, 2014.​