How Tos & Expert Tips

Holiday Safety: How to Child- and Pet-Proof Your Christmas Tree & Décor

Christmas trees are often filled with ornaments and other decorations—things that are likely to catch the attention of playful pets and curious children. But playing with the Christmas tree and décor can pose some danger since small parts are potential choking hazards, while broken ornaments and exposed wires may cause injuries.

child beside christmas tree

Photo by Mysha of Remington Avenue

To enjoy the season worry-free, make sure to have a child- and pet-friendly Christmas tree setup. Here’s a guide on how to keep your tiny tots and furry friends safe while you have your decorations up for the holidays.

Choose Child- and Pet-Friendly Christmas Trees and Decorations

Child- and pet-proofing your holiday home starts with buying the right tree and choosing safer options for decorations. Here are some things parents with young children and pet owners should keep in mind when shopping for a Christmas tree.

How to Pick a Christmas Tree That’s Child- and Pet-Friendly

dog on tree skirt beside christmas tree

Photo by Caroline of C.B. Designs

1. Consider an Artificial Christmas Tree

Most real Christmas trees have sharp needles that can scratch and poke children and pets. Natural pine needles are also mildly toxic to animals so they can be dangerous if eaten by pets. Toddlers might pick up fallen needles and put them in their mouths as well.

Felines also tend to treat the tree trunk as a natural scratching post. When they feel playful, pets are often tempted to climb up the tree, which may damage branches and ornaments and even cause the tree to topple over. An artificial version of your favorite tree will be a good alternative for a pet-friendly Christmas tree.

2. Choose a Traditional-looking Tree

When selecting an artificial tree, avoid one with a lot of glitter and sparkle. These may be dazzling to look at but can attract unwanted attention from curious pets and toddlers. Tinsel, while a fun addition to any tree, can be dangerous when swallowed. Opt for a simpler green Christmas tree instead.

3. Pick a Medium-sized Tree

The taller the tree is, the greater the chance it has of getting knocked over. Medium-sized trees approximately 5 feet tall are considerably safer than those 7 feet or higher. Meanwhile, bigger pets can easily snatch small-sized tabletop trees and decorations and turn them into a chew toy.

How to Choose Kid- and Pet-Friendly Christmas Tree Ornaments and Decorations

hanging christmas tree ornaments

Photo by Christine of Simply Bloom

1. Keep Your Ornaments Simple

Sparkly ornaments that dangle from your tree can quickly catch unwanted attention. Avoid using glass ornaments that may break when dropped as the broken shards can cause injury.

Here are a few easy and safe ornament alternatives for your tree:

  • Twig or paper decorations that can be dyed with food-safe coloring and made into ornaments.
  • Shatterproof ornaments and soft decorations made with fabric or thread such as garlands, stockings, or balls that won’t be damaged even if they accidentally fall off the tree.
  • Silk Christmas tree ornaments can be used as a safer alternative to glass ones.
  • Decorations that don’t have small buttons or removable parts.

2. Stay Away from Candles

Avoid using real candles as lit ones pose a fire risk when they’re left unattended. You can still enjoy the warm glow of candlelight with flameless LED candles.

3. Avoid Using Food as Decorations

Food decorations such as candy canes, popcorn, and gumdrops should be avoided. Toddlers and pets could start nibbling away on your decorations and accidentally gnaw on the other inedible ornaments.

4. Choose Natural Plants Carefully

Real plants can provide an authentic holiday feel but certain foliage such as mistletoe, holly berries and ivy, poinsettia, Jerusalem cherry, lilies, and daffodils should be avoided when you have children and pets at home. These plants can cause harm when ingested.

For a fresh holiday display that won’t put your kids and pets at risk, you can opt for red roses, white orchids, and Christmas cacti.

How to Protect and Secure Your Christmas Tree When Decorating

decorated christmas tree with lights

Photo by Courtney of French Country Cottage

Simple adjustments are all you need to child- and pet-proof your holiday setup this season. Here’s a list of tips to remember when setting up your Christmas display:

1. Take Your Pets Out of the Room

Keep your pets are out of sight while installing holiday decorations. Pets may think you’re playing a game with the decorations as you’re moving them and might playfully swat or pick at them later. If you’re decorating with young kids, make sure they’re supervised at all times.

2. Select the Right Location for Your Trees & Décor

Choose a location that is not cramped or beside other furniture that can be used as a jump-off point to get to your tree. Wreaths, swags, or other décor that can easily be swiped off a tabletop are best placed high on a wall or door.

3. Keep Your Tree Stable

Have a strong and stable base for your tree so it doesn’t topple easily if brushed by or climbed on by a frisky child or pet. It’s also a good idea to anchor your tree against a wall, if possible.

4. Wrap Tin Foil Around the Tree’s Trunk

The texture and sheen of tin foil may be an effective way to prevent your cats and dogs from gnawing or playing with the tree trunk.

5. Cover Your Tree’s Water Container

Stagnant tree water can become a breeding ground for bacteria. Prevent kids and pets from playing or drinking the water with a proper cover. If your container doesn’t have a cover, simply hide it underneath the tree skirt.

6. Check Your Christmas Lights

Make sure your Christmas light strings don’t have any loose bulbs or exposed wires prior to decorating. Check up on your lights from time to time to see that bulbs are securely fastened and wires are properly covered to avoid accidents.

7. Use a Short Extension Cord

Choose an extension cord with little slack when assembling your Christmas décor. Another tip is to tape wires down to the floor or against the wall to prevent kids and pets from playing with loose and moveable sections. As much as possible, keep all cord ends and sockets out of sight.

Consider using electrical cords that automatically shut off once they are damaged. This feature will help keep your children and pets safe from electric shock, should they start playing with exposed wires.

8. Don’t Leave Lights and Electrical Devices Unattended

As an extra precaution, switch off your lighted decorations before you go to bed and unplug them when you leave your home.

How to Protect and Secure Christmas Ornaments from Children and Pets

pet-friendly christmas tree with lights

Photo by Courtney of French Country Cottage

1. Keep Expensive Ornaments Towards the Top of the Tree

Hang delicate and breakable ornaments in the upper two-thirds section of the tree. Use the lower one-third section for shatterproof pieces or those made with soft materials that won’t break when dropped.

2. Secure Your Ornaments

Make sure your ornaments are attached securely to the tree branches. Use wire, ties, or hooks to attach decorations and ensure they don’t easily fall.

3. Think Twice Before Flocking Your Tree

Homemade flock often requires the use of materials that can be harmful when swallowed. If you want the look of snow without putting your little kids and pets at risk, try decorating with cotton balls, fleece, or desiccated coconut. Or, consider a high-quality frosted Christmas tree that has a light snow-dusted effect.

4. Keep Pets Away Safely

When your pets go near your tree or decorations, spritz them lightly with water as a reminder not to get too close. Another technique is to spray the branches and trunk with a bitter apple solution. This safe and non-toxic chemical produces a smell that offends pets but is odorless to humans. You can also use citrus spray to keep your pets at bay and leave your Christmas décor smelling fresh. Or, try hiding orange peels underneath the tree.

pre-lit Christmas tree in barn

Photo by Kindred Vintage

We hope our guide helps you enjoy your holiday décor while keeping them safe for little children and pets. Now that you know how to have a child- and pet-friendly Christmas tree, find more helpful decorating ideas and tips here.

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