By Christina VanGinkel
The two, kids and Christmas trees, bring forth many pleasant memories, especially when thought of together, including helping hang the ornaments, putting out milk and cookies for Santa beneath the tree, and all their wide-eyed wonder when they first see what Santa has left for them beneath it come Christmas morning. Common sense also tells us though, that kids and trees do not necessarily go together well. Caution and common sense can go a long way towards keeping all the little ones safe when around an object like an evergreen that is not normally part of their living arrangements.
You will of course want to follow all the typical safety cautions. These include never leaving a lighted tree unattended, do not burn candles, even decorative ones, anywhere in the vicinity of your Christmas tree, check all the lights you use for wear and tear, do not place your live tree near your heat registers, or an artificial one even, near any high heat source. Be sure to keep small children (and pets) away from the water that the tree is setting in. as the water may contain contaminants from additives, or become contaminated via transfer from a stand itself. This is a concern especially if it is an older tree stand manufactured before many of the current guidelines on paint and lead were instituted. While also rare, but can be a concern, is if you have inherited any vintage Christmas decorations, including tinsel. Some vintage tinsel from before the 1960's was actually made with lead.
If you put up a live tree, be sure to take into consideration any allergies your child might have. If they are bothered by grasses and such, not only might a live tree bother them, but also might some of the potpourris so common during the holidays that include fresh pinecones, and cinnamon sticks. If you insist on having a live tree, set up the tree in a protected outdoor area first, such as a garage or covered porch. If the tree has any ice or snow on it, let it melt off, then wipe the tree down with a few old rags. This might sound odd, but if there are, allergens just setting on the branches, a brushing can help knock some of these off. This will in no way make the tree allergy free, but it can sometimes help control the issue.
Be sure a live tree fits its stand. A tree that has a too thin or too thick base might not fit properly into the stand, meaning it will carry with it an increased risk of toppling over. Besides securing it in its stand, you should also tether it to the wall. This can also be a good idea if you have a curious cat or dog who might attempt to climb or jump at the tree.
Artificial trees have similar issues and you will want to make sure that they are assembled correctly. An artificial tree may be tipsy if each section is not secured the way the directions call for it to be. The last thing you want to happen is for your over anxious toddler to pull down a tree, live or artificial, unto themselves. Serious injuries can and do happen this way.
Glass and other breakable ornaments, or ornaments with small pieces that might be pulled off and become a choking hazard or have sharp edges or corners, should only be hung well out of a toddler's reach. If hanging them high will only entice them to climb, then forgo such ornaments until they are older and can understand to leave them alone.
Using a toddler gate to keep a young child away from the tree completely can be a great idea, but do not rely on one completely. While watching what your young children are up to should always be on top of your list of things to do, there are those times, such as a quick bathroom break, when you might need to leave them alone for a minute or two. With a tree in the house, you might want to consider shutting them out of the room the tree is in for those few quick moments. Being a little extra vigilant is called for when something so out of the normal routine is inside your home. If you have just put away the playpen, or are considering doing so, wait until after the tree has been unassembled or tossed out.