Ask Dr. Dina: How can I keep my toddler safe during the holidays?

Sidestep any potential holiday hazards with these safety tips.

By Dr. Dina Kulik

Toddler and mom with Christmas tree Photo: iStock

My 14-month-old is a speed demon and can get into a lot of mischief—very quickly. What safety precautions should I put in place this Christmas?

Ideally, accidents and illness would be completely banned during the holidays—only happy times and good cheer allowed. But the season does present many risks—from choking to poisoning. Here’s how to sidestep any potential hazards.

Unexpected poisoning • Holly, mistletoe and poinsettias, though beautiful, can cause stomach upset, rashes and eye irritation if ingested or rubbed on the skin, so keep them out of reach. What if you find your kid nibbling on a poinsettia leaf? Clear and rinse his mouth out with water. Keep the number for poison control handy, as some people can have an allergic reaction,

Alcohol may be flowing for the adults, but ensure alcoholic drinks stay far from your little one’s reach. Remember even a small amount of alcohol can be dangerous.

Choking risks Tree ornaments, light bulbs, tinsel and small toys are potential choking hazards. Keep all small items high above the ground and out of reach.

Peanuts, popcorn and grapes are also choking hazards and shouldn’t be offered to young kids. Also, don’t leave trays of food out where curious fingers can reach.   

Fire Keep your holiday tree far away from heat sources, outlets, radiators and space heaters.

Turn off the holiday lights and blow out all candles before you go to bed.

Don’t overload circuits.

Inspect your chimney before using it each year.

Create a fire action plan for your family and review it every few months. Map it out and do a trial run.

Dina Kulik is a paediatrician and emergency room doctor in Toronto and mom to three boys, who are five, three and 17 months. Send her your kids’ health questions at