Hints on having a safe and enjoyable holiday from the Paranoid Sisters

As a child, we remember the holidays being a time of joy, excitement, family and chaos. We still recall our Uncle Jim holding all of us kids upside down so we could "walk" on the ceiling beams of his rustic mountain home. Everyone was shuffling around busily preparing food in the kitchen while it seemed like hundreds of children darted through legs playing chase or trying to get back a favorite toy a cousin had taken.

Holidays are always such an exciting time for kids and adults alike. In our large family of five adult children, getting together with our kids can be a bit overwhelming. Especially for grandparents. It seems that Grandma spends the entire day darting here and there trying to head off a grandchild who has headed straight for the china hutch. It's fascinating to the little ones you see, they don't have all this fun, sparkly stuff at home to play with. Their toys don't make the same fun, crashing noise a glass vase does when it goes tumbling to the floor.

We parents get a false sense of security when we take our kids to family get-togethers. We're relieved to be in the presence of grandparents, aunts, uncles and older cousins who can give us a break from our parenting duties for a while. Some of us even tune our kids out (yes, really!). We might have a glass of wine or a beer, sit back relax and then BAM! Johnny has just pulled over Grandpa's bowling trophy display. Not to mention when you go join in the cooking, little Mary slips up behind you to take a sip from Daddy's glass.

Among all the chaos there are steps you can take to be sure that you and your loved ones all have a relaxing, accident free, holiday:

1. If you're traveling to a relative's home, check the area your children will be playing in to be sure there is nothing dangerous or valuable that they'll get into. Many times we just arrive and start the festivities before doing a quick survey of the rooms.

2. Close doors to any unused rooms or block off areas that you don't want your children playing in. A play yard is great for this. Homes these days have wider hallways and are much more open, a traditional safety gate may not fit these openings.

3. If your child still sleeps in a crib, bring a portable one along with you. Trying to put a little one down on a bed for nap time doesn't usually work for us. We can't relax because we worry that our child will roll off the bed or wake up without our knowing and get into other things in the room. Never lay your infant on a waterbed for nap time. They can roll over and suffocate when the bedding conforms to their face or roll into the sides and suffocate.

4. Bring toys from home so little ones won't be tempted to play with Aunt Margie's antique doll collection.

5. Always be sure that you "pass the baton" of supervision when you need to take care of something or help with cooking. Don't assume that other adults in the room are supervising (especially if the television is on).

6. If the guests are coming to your home, try to plan ahead for the ages of children who are coming. Remove any breakable objects from the room they'll be playing in (this assumes that your children are older and you actually have breakable objects on display in your home!). If your kids are preteen, ask if they'll help entertain younger children. You may even want to plan a couple of games to occupy time when the natives get restless waiting for the big feast.

In the Kitchen

Preparing the holiday meal is a big job. Even bigger when you've got a toddler hanging off your leg. Safety in the kitchen during preparation and clean up is essential. Here's some help:

1. Don't try to be a superstar. Get help. It takes many hands to prepare a feast, even if it's a feast for four. Preparing the holiday meal is a group effort with us. That includes assigning an adult to watch over little ones in another room. With hot baking dishes swishing by, pots of boiling water being carried to the sink, every burner on the stove working double time and a scalding hot oven opening and closing, you don't want children running through the kitchen.

2. Uh hmm. Not to say that you'll be burning anything, but, have you checked your fire extinguisher lately? Is it in proper working condition, full, and do you know how to use it?

3. Put any sharp objects into the sink immediately after use. You don't want a wandering child to come in and pull a knife off the counter.

4. Use the back burners on your stove first, then use the front ones when the back ones are full. Be sure to turn those pot handles in.

5. Use the same supervising system during kitchen clean up as during cooking. Empty all glasses with alcoholic beverages into the sink so your little ones don't accidentally take a sip.

6. After clean up, flop on the couch and give thanks for having an accident free holiday.

With a little preplanning and some additional helping hands you can enjoy a safe (and a little less chaotic) holiday.

Lori Marques and Lisa Carter live in the San Francisco Bay Area, and have six children between them. They are the authors of Paranoid Sisters' Child Safety Made Easy (Screamin' Mimi Publications, $6.95). Visit them on their web site at Respond to [email protected] with interview requests and questions.

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