8 Tips for a Safe & Non-toxic Christmas
Keeping little ones safe from candles and glass ornaments may be on your mind, but have you considered what toxins could be lurking in your wreath and tree? In this article, Health Writer Lindsay Haskell shares 8 tips to keep your family extra safe this Christmas without compromising holiday cheer.
While the holidays may feel slightly different this year due to Covid, it’s still an exciting time for memory making with your family.
From decorating your tree to patiently tracking the days until Christmas on an advent calendar, holiday traditions and decorations can instil the type of childhood memories in kids that make them pass on the same traditions to their own kids.
Even though it’s easy to get lost in personalized stockings and matching pajamas for the whole family, it’s important to remember the hazards that come with having babies and toddlers near glimmering strands of lights, mood-lighting candles and towering Christmas trees.
In an effort to help you ensure safety without compromising holiday cheer, we’ll go over:
- Chemicals to avoid in home decor and Christmas decorations
- Tips for keeping your Christmas festivities safe and non-toxic
- The best non-toxic Christmas decorations and accessories
Scroll down to learn more!
Chemicals to avoid in home decor and Christmas decorations
A study found that over 12% of all Christmas decor items tested contained harmful levels of lead and the flame retardant, bromine. Since home decor items are unregulated, legally they can contain lead, cadmium, phthalates and other chemicals without restriction, even at concentrations that are off-limits in children’s products. Research has linked these three chemicals to birth defects, reproductive problems and cancer.
At The Tot, we never use or recommend anything that hasn’t passed The Tot Test. This means we’ve looked deep into third-party testing, examined ingredients lists and asked in depth questions about a product’s composition to ensure it doesn’t contain any of the chemicals we avoid.
When it comes to toxin safety in decor items, here are the main chemicals we like to steer clear of:
- Bisphenols BPA + BPS
- Harmful phthalates
- Flame retardants
- Lead and other heavy metals
- PFAS chemicals
Tips for keeping your Christmas festivities safe & non-toxic
#1 Use Decorations Free of Toxic Chemicals and Fumes
Unfortunately, the chemicals mentioned above are often present in artificial garlands, wreaths, trees, lights and other Christmas decor sold in mainstream retail stores. Many of these larger retailers pay ongoing legal fees to keep them free of liabilities associated with toxins they release into the environment.
To ensure you’re not exposing your family to toxins, here’s how you can find safer options:
- Buy a natural wreath made with fragrant dried leaves and herbs or other materials, such as wood. While it’s not the same as fresh greenery, it’s a modern decorative take on traditional Christmas decor, and you can maintain it year after year.
- Make your own DIY Christmas decorations from materials like paper rolls, colorful card paper, felt, yarn, or items from nature like pine cones, interesting twigs and leaves.
- Make sure any artificial greenery you buy, such as artificial wreaths, garlands or Christmas trees, are free of PVC and phthalates. These are shown to disrupt hormone levels and harm your health. Find an artificial tree made with trees made from polyethylene—a stronger plastic that doesn’t leach toxins.
#2 Choose a Tree You Can Maintain
While artificial Christmas trees require little maintenance, they often contain potentially harmful ingredients like PVC, flame retardants and lead. If you choose to go with an artificial tree or already have one, it’s important to follow these precautions:
- Wear gloves when setting it up or wash hands thoroughly after handling it
- Do not let kids touch it
- Vacuum around it regularly using a HEPA filter vacuum
If you’re up for the task of maintaining a real tree, then buy a real tree. When choosing a real Christmas tree, make sure it’s organically grown and free of pesticides and herbicides.
What makes a real Christmas tree safer is hydration and safe electrical wiring for the tree lighting.
Water and frayed wires don’t mix well, so check your Christmas lights, especially at the bottom, before plugging them in. It matters that the tree you buy is healthy to begin with and that you keep watering it consistently. If you live in an excessively dry region, you’re probably better off with a fire-resistant artificial tree around children and the elderly.
#3 Safety-Proof Your Fireplace
There’s no better time to make use of a beautiful fireplace than during the holidays. Since fire’s involved, safety rules are paramount. The main ones are:
- Keep gear like tools, gas and other hazardous objects out of children’s reach. For example, leave them in the garage with a child-proof door knob in place, or in an outdoor shed that is padlocked when they’re not in use.
- Don’t leave your fireplace burning when you’re asleep or not home.
- Never insert objects like newspapers or wrapping paper into the fireplace, because they burn unpredictably and can burn intensely with excessive smoke and toxic fumes.
- Have a strong fence with a grill in front of your fireplace to keep children clear from the fire’s reach. If this isn’t preferable, opt for an electric fireplace with a child-proof glass covering that allows you to fully see the fire while keeping children from touching it.
#4 Choose Safer Decorative Lighting & Hazard Proof it
Christmas lights are must-have elements for parties and family celebrations alike. However, because many mainstream Christmas lights contain harmful chemicals like lead, antimony and even arsenic, it’s important to choose RoHS (Restriction of Hazardous Substances) compliant Christmas lights. Use them on your Christmas tree, around on your wreaths and garlands and to light the outside of your home. All this electricity pulsing takes a toll not just on your electric bill, but also on the electrical wiring of your home. Take these steps to hazard-proof any string lights and other decorative lights you put up:
- Check all your extension cords before you use them for anything to ensure their ratings match your intended use for them. Never use extension cords to power outdoor lighting units.
- Get rid of lights with damaged wiring or bulbs. This can occur when you store your Christmas lights away for a year.
- Never use electric lighting on metal Christmas trees. Some artificial trees are made with heavy-duty metal wiring, so make sure that it has been safety-proofed with coating over the metal if you’re adding lighting.
- Use third-party tested by a lab like UL. With a UL certification or other third-party certification of testing, you know that your lighting product meets safety requirements and is safe for home use around kids.
#5 Consider Candle Safety
Candles spell holiday warmth and they look great in any holiday decor theme. The bright, dancing flames add light and coziness to a gathering, but fire and fumes can always be dangerous. Here are the precautions to take with candles:
- Choose non-toxic 100% beeswax or soy candles that are free of synthetic fragrances. See more on how to choose safe candles and home fragrances.
- Place any burning candles up high and out of reach. Candles can be on table surfaces children can’t reach or pull down by grabbing a table cloth.
- Use only candles that have a tall glass encasing around them and the flame so that any flammable material like a curtain that comes near can’t touch the flame so easily.
#6 Swap Out Dangerous Objects or Place Them Out of Reach
Remove any sharp, weighted or fragile items from your holiday decor. Avoid small things children can grab that are sharp or are a choking hazard. Take away delicate vases that could get knocked over and decorative items on your floor that are in their path. If you’re planning to put out hors d’ oeuvres around your home, make sure nothing that’s a choking hazard is within reach of small children.
Here are some ideas for baby- and toddler-proof holiday home decor:
- Choose kid-made ornaments over breakable ones. Have your little ones make craft ornaments throughout December for the Christmas tree using materials like paper tubes, yarn, feathers, felt and other safe craft items. This way, they aren’t breaking glass ornaments and other breakable types of tree ornaments.
- Place a barrier of “gifts” around your tree. Wrap boxes filled with newspaper or nothing at all, and use them to fence off the trunk of your Christmas tree. This way, there’s a barrier between children and the water feeding the tree.
- Use a kitchen counter or other high surface to place food and hors d’ oeuvres so that children aren’t putting their hands in them or putting themselves at risk of choking.
#7 Baby-Proof Your Doorknobs
Baby proofing your doorknobs are probably the best investment in safety for your party, but very affordable nonetheless. These genius inventions will keep children out of rooms they shouldn’t be in to avoid trouble they’d (surely) get into. You can find baby proofing devices that go on different types of doorknobs, depending on what you need for your home. Use them to keep loose toddlers out of bathrooms, bedrooms and other off-limits rooms so that the kids can otherwise roam free.
#8 Prepare Age-Appropriate Areas for Kids
Based on the age of your kids and the kids you’re expecting to have at your home, create a designated baby-safe area and a toddler-safe area so that younger children can always have a place to go that is safe with age-appropriate toys and activities for them.
Having kids together in these areas makes it easier to watch them instead of having them spread around the house, and that gives adults more time to mingle with each other as the kids play together with plenty of oversight. If you’re hosting a holiday party, prepare an area in one bathroom or bedroom where parents can change their children’s diapers in private.
The Best Non-toxic Holiday Decorations
All Tot Tested and approved, here are our picks for fun, safe and interactive holiday decorations.
Made in the USA from 100% linen, these adorable and heirloom-quality stockings from Storybook Goods will make Christmas morning extra special! Available in multiple colors and fonts, they’re a great gift for baby’s first Christmas!
Available in more colors
Available in more colors
Made from materials like felt and organic cotton, these adorable stockings from Meri Meri are the understated stockings you’ve been looking for!
Counting down the days until Christmas will be extra fun and adorable with these themed advent calendars from Meri Meri!
For lovers of monochrome decor, you’re going to want to know about the black and white Wee Gallery advent calendar! While it’s fun to follow along with, it also looks stylish in any home!
Made with recycled paper and printed with non-toxic vegetable inks, the Petit Collage Advent Calendar features 24 pop-out characters that create a colorful winter scene!
While I’m going to argue that the cuteness of these ornaments is enough reason alone to add them to your collection, I’ll also point out they’re definitely not going to shatter on your floor thanks to a curious toddler!
Christmas lunch or dinner can be extra cheerful when you add Meri Meri’s cute reindeer crackers! Each cracker contains 1 x stick-on mustache, 1 x hat and 1 x joke!
Keep little hands busy, while letting their creativity run wild wherever you go with the Kid Made Modern Holiday Craft Kit. This handy all-in-one kit lets you create handmade crafts to use as gifts, home decor, or as a fun activity during a holiday party.
Hang a handcrafted beauty from your mantel this holiday season. The Kid Made Modern Design Your Own Felt Stocking Kit includes everything you need to create a one-of-a-kind felt Christmas stocking.
- These adorable Gingerbread people make perfect gift cards, cute decorations for your Christmas tree or can be strung together to make a festive garland.
- Much thought is given to making our homes non-toxic, but how about daycares and pre-schools? Green Living expert Aida Garcia-Toledo shares her non-toxic pre-school tips on how to advocate for change