Children's Hospital Colorado

Decorating Mistakes To Avoid

A girl with curly brown hair and wearing and pink sweater hangs a red glittery ornament on a Christmas tree.

Top Decorating Mistakes to Avoid this Holiday Season

In addition to food, family and gifts, decorations are one of the highlights of the holiday season. While candles, Christmas trees, and other decorations are part of the holiday spirit, they can pose fire and poisoning hazards, especially to curious children.

"The holiday season should be a time of celebration for families," says Britney Lombard, Safe Kids Colorado coordinator. "Being mindful of safety while decorating can prevent an unwanted trip to the emergency room."

Candles are a common cause of home fires in the United States. According to the National Fire Protection Association, the top four days for candle fires are around Christmas and New Year’s. Using battery-operated flameless candles is an alternative that does not pose a fire risk.

"If you are using candles, they should have at least 12 inches of clearance from flammables and should only be lit when monitored," says Lombard. "Candles should never be placed on a tree or wreath."

If you decorate a tree, avoid these top decorating mistakes:

  • Decorate with children in mind. Do not put ornaments that have small parts or metal hooks, or look like food or candy, on the lower branches where small children can reach them. Trim protruding branches at or below a child’s eye level, and keep lights out of reach.
  • Natural Christmas trees always involve some risk of fire. To minimize the risk, get a fresh tree and keep it watered at all times. Do not put the tree within three feet of a fireplace, space heater, radiator or heat vent.
  • Never leave a lit Christmas tree or other decorative lighting display unattended. Inspect lights for exposed or frayed wires, loose connections and broken sockets.
  • Do not overload extension cords or outlets and do not run an electrical cord under a rug.
  • Do not burn Christmas tree branches, treated wood or wrapping paper in a home fireplace.

Top tips to prevent poisoning this holiday season:

  • Keep alcohol, including baking extracts, out of reach and do not leave alcoholic drinks unattended.
  • Color additives used in fireplace fires are a toxic product and should be stored out of reach. Artificial snow can be harmful if inhaled, so use it in a well-vented space.
  • Mistletoe berries, Holly Berry and Jerusalem Cherry can be poisonous. If they are used in decorating, make sure children and pets cannot reach it.
  • In a poison emergency, call the national Poison Control Center at 800-222-1222.

For more information about holiday safety, call 720-777-3185 or visit

Safe Kids Colorado works to prevent unintentional childhood injury, the leading cause of death and disability to children ages 1 to 14. Safe Kids Colorado is a member of Safe Kids Worldwide, a global network of organizations dedicated to preventing unintentional injury. Safe Kids Colorado was founded in 2010 and is led by Children’s Colorado.

Answers in your inbox

Expert advice delivered directly to you. Get weekly tips