Who doesn’t love the holidays, especially with a baby or young toddler? Experiencing the wonders of the season through a child’s eyes for the first time is pure magic. But when it comes to merry-making, in all the hustle and bustle of the season, parents sometimes overlook potential hazards during family celebrations, parties at friends’ and neighbors’ homes or even when playing outdoors. To keep young families safe and healthy this season, experts divulge a myriad of tips for a happy, healthy holiday season and into the New Year.

Decorating Do’s and Don’ts

The sparkle of twinkling lights and the luminous glow of candles may look beautiful, but to curious little minds, they may also invite unwelcome exploration. If your family celebrates Christmas, place your live evergreen tree away from fireplaces, radiators and other heat sources, says Jill Goetz, preschool and early educator safety specialist (www.savvyparentsafekids.com). “If you decorate with an artificial tree, choose one that is labeled ‘fire-resistant,’ and if your tree comes pre-lit, check for the Underwriters Laboratory (UL) label,” she adds.

When stringing up the Christmas tree lights, use lights featuring safety marks such as BSI Kitemark, and consider updating your current strands with those that meet higher safety standards. “New lights are transformed down to 24-volt for added safety, and many are double-insulated,” says Goetz. Don’t run extension cords in high-traffic areas to prevent tripping, and place breakable ornaments on higher branches.

If your family celebrates Hanukkah, where you display your menorah is especially important. “Make sure it’s not near a table edge or placed close enough for a curious child to reach it,” she cautions. Also keep candles, matches and lighters out of sight.

The same goes for using your fireplace during the holidays and winter months. It also pays to install safety screen and baby gates, so prying hands can’t burn themselves on hot glass windows. And be sure to never leave small children alone in a room with a lit fire in the fireplace—even for a minute.

Cooking up a Safe Celebration

The kitchen tends to be a natural gathering spot when entertaining during the holidays, but without taking the right precautions to ensure children’s safety, it can also be a recipe for disaster. “Give your kitchen a pass to make sure that potentially dangerous objects, like knives and bottle openers, are well out of reach,” says Jordan Reid, author of Ramshackle Glam: The New Mom’s Haphazard Guide to (Almost) Having It All (www.ramshackleglam.com). “During the festivities, commit to taking a few minutes every once in a while to look around for new hazards that may have arisen, such as unattended drinks, moved candles, knives and hot burners.”

When cooking, your attention may be more focused on what’s happening on the stove vs. underfoot. To make things less complicated, Goetz suggests using the back burners when possible and if you have to use the front ones, turn pot handles toward the back of the stove to discourage prying hands. She also recommends outfitting your kitchen with child safety locks and storing sharp tools, appliances and all toxic household chemicals inside high cabinets.

Baby, It’s Cold Outside

Building a snowman, making snow angels or simply strolling through the snow are all great ways for families to partake of the simple joys of the season. But before embarking into a winter wonderland, experts say you should exercise caution when heading outside with babies and toddlers. Goetz recommends giving kids a small snack before they go out to play. “The calories will give their bodies much needed energy in cold weather,” she says.

Dressing in layers is also essential to helping kids stay warmer, longer, as is sturdy footwear. “Remember that toddlers who are just learning to walk are especially prone to falls in unfamiliar places, so good shoes are a must,” says Reid.

And just because it’s winter doesn’t mean you should skimp on sunscreen. “Be diligent about sunscreen application if you will be out in the snow where ultraviolet rays are reflected,” notes Goetz. “Snow play is fun, but be sure to apply and re-apply sunscreen to noses, cheeks and foreheads.”

Savoring the Season Safely

In general, it’s easy to get caught up in the all the excitement this season has to offer. But with a little extra care, everyone can have a good time. Before invited guests with young kids come to call, Reid suggests doing a once-over of any rooms in which they’ll be playing and eating. “Re-baby proof by taking a pass around your home from a baby’s eye level, a toddler’s eye level and then a curious older child’s eye level, fixing or removing whatever enticing and/or dangerous things you discover,” she advises.

Then, sit back, relax and wait for the doorbell to ring. Happy Holidays!