Q&A: Tips to keep children safe this holiday season

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LEXINGTON, Ky. (Nov. 30, 2022) — The holidays are a time when families come together to bond and create memories. Holidays can also be especially important to children to create a sense of security and belonging, and parents should keep their safety in mind.

The University of Kentucky has a range of experts who specialize in early childhood education. Child Care Aware of Kentucky (CCA), housed in the Human Development Institute (HDI), is the statewide regional network for Child Care Resource and Referral services supporting access to safe, affordable, quality child care for families and professional development for child care providers and trainers.

UKNow talked to Mary Howard, the division director for early childhood at HDI and the director of CCA, about ways to keep children safe this holiday season.

UKNow: What advice do you have for parents or grandparents who may be watching children during the holidays or weighing child care options?

Howard: Many child care centers are open during the holidays because they need to meet the needs of families. Child care itself is definitely not a profession that gets a lot of time off because parents are still working and they need that support. If centers are closed, then families should know that upfront in their policies.

If centers are closed, parents may need to make some other arrangements with family members or friends over the holidays. Think about the environment the child's going into and make sure it’s appropriate for young children. Are there activities and toys for the child to keep them interested and engaged?

You also want to think about safety, so make sure family members have contact numbers for doctors and poison control, in case a child gets into something. If there are needs for transportation make sure you have a car seat or a booster, whichever is appropriate for the child.

Also, try to keep a child on the same schedule, especially younger children. It will really benefit the child (and those who are caring for them) if their sleeping and eating schedules stay the same.

UKNow: What safety tips should adults keep in mind for holiday gatherings at home?

Howard: Some of the things you may not think about a lot during the holidays are different decorations and things that you might have up that are going to be inviting to young children. Some of those may have small parts that could be choking hazards, and you need to look out for that.

Also, be mindful of foods that may be easy for little ones to reach.  Holiday parties may include adult beverages that we would not want little ones to help themselves to if they are left sitting around. Be vigilant and pick drinks like that up quickly. Also, small foods, like nuts, may be out during parties and can be choking hazards.

As I said before, even thinking about the schedule of children during the holidays is important. Some children are okay flexing their schedules, but sometimes it’s not fun if you move a naptime around. So, you may want to plan things at times when your child will be more receptive to interacting with friends and family — so that all can enjoy.

UKNow: What should parents keep in mind if they’re traveling to see family this season?

Howard: If you're taking your child someplace you want to make sure that you have things that will keep them happy and engaged. So bring favorite toys or things that can keep their interest while you're interacting with the family.

With COVID-19, flu and RSV all going around now, parents need to be thinking about the health of their children and other family members that they are visiting. Make sure your child isn’t sick or that you’re not going into a home where a child or others are sick. RSV has been really bad for young children this year, especially for children under two and older adults. You need to consider the health of all when you are interacting with family.

Of course, you want to be around people during the holidays. That’s important for young children and you want them to enjoy friends and family time. You are not going to able to avoid everything but do use your best judgment if a child's been sick and consider changing plans if needed.

UKNow: As people do their holiday shopping, what kinds of gifts should they look for, for children?

Howard: One of the most important things to consider when buying gifts is the child’s age. Some things with small parts are not appropriate for younger children. Some gifts may not be developmentally appropriate and may even be frustrating to children if they are designed for an older child.

When looking at gifts, think about what your child is learning to do. For instance, if you have a young one that's starting to crawl, things that are soft for them to pull up on or toys that they can start learning to walk with are nice gifts to suggest to people. Books are always a great gift. I don't think there's any age limit for a book.

Parents can find more tips on finding gifts for children from Safe Kids Worldwide or learn about age-appropriate items from the National Association for the Education of Young Children.

About Child Care Aware of Kentucky
Child Care Aware of Kentucky (CCA) focuses on enhancing high-quality services for children and families through active engagement in collaborative research, technical assistance to child care centers and professional development for those employed in child care.

CCA has eight regional teams across the Commonwealth to focus on providing technical assistance and support to child care centers and their staff. Those teams are made up of early care and education coaches who help centers meet health and safety regulations as well as share best practices and support to create high-quality environments for all young children.

Kentucky families can find more resources from CCA online here.

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