Keeping Children Safe at Christmas

Christmas is a time of great excitement for everyone and we want the children to enjoy their holiday and be safe at this time of year. Fairy lights, festive candles and new toys can all present dangers to excited children. Whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah or a different festival you will probably be introducing children to festivals of light, trees and lots of glitter this month.

December might be seen as one of the most dangerous months of the year for childcare. It is important that we keep children safe and involve them in planning for their own safety. There-fore, we should involve children in doing risk assessments.

Ask the children to help you write a Christmas risk assessment, considering issues such as…

• The tree - pretty as the Christmas tree looks when the fairy lights are twinkling they can present a lot of dangers. The little ones might try to climb the tree to get to the fairy on top and electrical wires must be hidden well away from little fingers. It is recommended that providers check their smoke alarms monthly – and always in December. A fireguard can be used to stop children from getting too close to the tree and needles should be vacuumed daily before children arrive. Tinsel is a choking hazard if wrapped around necks and some children might be allergic to sap or needles if you have a real tree.

• Lights and electrocution – you need to consider possible ingestion of small decorative lights and general electrical safety eg if bulbs blow, replace them immediately; do not let bulbs touch anything that can burn easily, like paper or fabrics; check lights conform to latest British Standards; always use an RCD on electrical equipment; never overload electrical sockets and ensure the correctly rated fuse is used in all appliances. If you display Hanuk-kah lights keep wires out of view; similarly, if candles are lit during working hours children must be fully supervised at all times.

• New toys present a choking risk especially if they contain button or larger batteries or have sharp corners etc. Packaging can also be dangerous. Check new toys before allowing children to play with them and check labels and inserts for age suitability.

• When card making, take care to ensure children to not ingest glitter or glue; talk to children about using scissors and other craft materials safely and ensure activities are age appropriate.

• The kitchen is usually a busy place at Christmas with family members wandering in and out, heavy platters of food, hot ovens and (sometimes) adults who have had a tot of alcohol they are generally unused to drinking. Remind parents that accident statistics show 1 in 10 childhood accidents happen in the kitchen and little ones can go unnoticed in the general hubbub. In the childminding setting, alcohol must be treated with care and bottles (maybe received as gifts or bought for family) must be stored out of sight and reach of inquisitive little ones.

• Rospa advises that medicines are one of the main causes of poisoning in the young and visitors who leave handbags on the floor may be to blame if they carry medication with them. Similarly, children might find small coins, cigarettes, lighters and all sorts of other dangerous items inside coat pockets, handbags and purses.

• Falls are common early childhood accidents, often caused when children are left to their own devices while adults are busy! Make sure stairs and floors are uncluttered, fire escapes remain accessible, older children understand the importance of closing stair gates and doors and young children are supervised.

• Christmas displays might contain small parts and many cribs are old and might not be made from child-friendly materials. Keep anything that might choke or hurt children out of their sight and reach and supervise their access to small decorations.

• Stockings hanging over the open fireplace look pretty but they are often decorated with bits of felt and buttons and contain little toys made with small parts. It is important to think about how small children view these new decorations – they want to explore and investigate and grab them to see how they work and what’s inside. It only takes a few minutes for a toddler to push a dining chair over to a fireplace and grab a hanging stocking…

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