Tips for holiday safety

Holidays can be busy and joyous times but holiday decorations and new toys can bring risks along with festive cheer. Stay safe by knowing how to manage the health or safety hazards of holiday items you bring into your home. Minimize your risks by following the safety tips on this page.

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Holiday trees

  • When buying a real tree, make sure it's fresh (you can tell if the needles are hard to pull off). Water the tree daily once you bring it indoors for decorating.
  • Place the tree away from high traffic areas and doorways. Make sure the tree is well-secured in a sturdy stand.
  • Place the tree away from heating vents, radiators, stoves, fireplaces and burning candles.
  • Keep metal, sharp or breakable tree ornaments with small removable parts away from young children.
  • Dispose of the tree as soon as the holidays are over, or as soon as the needles start to fall. Dispose of it according to local regulations--most municipalities have tree recycling programs.

Holiday lights and decorations

  • Use lights that have the mark of an accredited certification agency such as CSA, cUL or cETL. Check the Healthy Canadians Recalls and Safety Alerts Database before buying or using lights to find out about the latest recalls.
  • Choose the right light for the job: light strings and other decorations are rated for indoor or outdoor use. Ensure that indoor lights and decorations are only used inside. Read the package instructions and do not exceed the recommended wattage.
  • Check all light bulbs before you put them up. Replace broken or burned-out bulbs with those recommended by the manufacturer.
  • Check the light strings and extension cords you use, discarding any that are frayed or have exposed wires, loose connections or broken light sockets.
  • Never run electrical cords and extension cords through or across doorways where they may be pinched or trip someone, or under carpets where they can be damaged or overheat.
  • Avoid plugging too many lights and decorations into an outlet. Overloaded circuits can overheat and start a fire.
  • Use Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters (GFCI) outlets when plugging in outdoors.
  • Turn off all holiday lights before you go to bed or leave your home.
  • Keep 'bubble lights' away from children -- they contain a hazardous chemical that may cause irritation or burns if the bulb breaks.
  • Choose tinsel, artificial icicles and other trimmings made of plastic or non-leaded metals. Don't let children put decorations in their mouths, as some may be harmful to their health.

Toys and gifts

New toys and gifts are holiday highlights for many children. Minimize potential hazards from new gifts by buying sturdy, well-made toys that are appropriate for your child's age. Toys for older children may contain small parts or other hazards that may make them unsafe for young children.

Toys can be recalled for health or safety reasons. Check the Healthy Canadians Recalls and Safety Alerts Database for more information about the latest recalls.

Toy safety tips

  • Read and follow the age labels, warnings, safety messages and other instructions that come with a toy. Check for contact information of the manufacturer or importer if you have any concerns.
  • Dispose immediately all toy packaging like plastic bags, plastic wrap, foam, staples, ties and protective film. A child can suffocate or choke on these items.
  • Ensure batteries are not accessible to children and are properly installed by an adult.
  • Supervise children at play and teach them to use their new toys safely.

For more information, Health Canada has published Is Your Child Safe? Play Time. This guide provides information for parents and caregivers on how to create a safer play experience inside and outside the home. It also provides tips for making safer choices when selecting and using toys and other children's products.

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