Safety for children

child sitting on a tree branch

Climbing a tree is an acceptable and healthy risk, but not everything children want is safe enough

Whether it is from advertising or simple interest, kids will ask for all sorts of things for Christmas (and birthday) gifts.

There may be many reasons to decide against a particular item for you child (price, values, practicality, appropriateness, and so on) but one I have been reminded of this week is safety.

Considering safety of a gift request

This week, a mother contacted us about not wanting mention of a mermaid tail in her daughters’ Love Santa letter as she had decided it was not appropriate for her daughters.

I know very little about mermaid tails so I am not saying they are or are not dangerous.

But the point is valid.

If you don’t think your child’s gift request is safe or appropriate, then that is your decision and the child should not get that gift.

Choosing what is safe

At one level, safety depends on the specific child. That is, the child’s age, personality and physical abilities will impact on what is suitable for that child, and that takes someone who knows the child to make that decision.

Certain things are clearly not safe and thus easy to decide against – like small Lego pieces for a baby or guns for any child, for example.

Whereas other things may be less clear. So to decide if something is safe enough to give to your child (or the child in your life), here are some suggestions:

  1.  do some research online – if you know little about the item, it is hard to judge it so find out what it is, what’s it made of and so on.
  2. look at the age group it is suggested for
  3. find out what other people think of the item and what experiences they have had with it – ask parents you know but also look for some online reviews. Even if you disagree with a review, it may give you some questions to ask or information about the item’s features.
  4. think about whether you would have used and enjoyed it when you were that age – this can help you view your child as a person rather than as your ‘baby’ who needs to be protected
  5. If you can, go and touch and try the item. Does it feel sturdy or likely to fall apart? Will it put the child high above the ground or travelling fast? Does the packaging and instructions promote dangerous activities?

Saying no to the child

If you decide a gift is not safe, what do you tell the child?

I think it helps if you don’t promise anything so you don’t have to back track 🙂

Beyond that, I tell my children that I don’t like a potential gift and give them a reason. I may simplify it to suit their knowledge, but I let them know to maintain their trust and get them thinking . It also means that I have already set the expectation that I won’t get it later nor allow them to buy it themselves a few months later.

How do you tell your children you have decided against them having something they would like?

Love Santa letters

Just to compete the above story about mermaid tails…

Santa understands safety and works hard to never give children toys or gifts that are not safe. And when Santa writes to children he never promises any particular gift will be given because he knows things may change between writing the letter and Christmas Eve.

As each Love Santa letter is individually adjusted, it was not difficult to remove any mention of the mermaid tails for the girls mentioned above, keeping everyone happy and safe.

33 Responses to Safety for children

  • sorrowscall says:

    Normally, when I have to explain to a child why I can’t get them a certain toy, I find the best thing to do is be honest about why. The kids in my life are usually very understanding and know I’ll make it up to them with a toy or present that’s just as good.

    • I strongly believe in giving kids honest answers to anything – possibly tailored to their age and development, but honest. And if I explain that a certain toy isn’t safe, I hope they learn from that and build skills is deciding on danger for themselves as they grow.

      I don’t doubt that kids trust you’ll give them something good for Christmas, sorrowscal!

      • sorrowscall says:

        It’s especially important when you do this to tailor the answer to the child’s age. I’ve noticed over the years that some older children won’t respond quite the same as younger children. I also noticed it’s a lot easier to explain to younger children than it is to the older ones.

    • Dasjdas2 says:

      I believe you have hit the nail on the head with this one. As a child I was always told lies about why I could not get this or that. I vowed to always be honest with my kids even if they get upset. For insist, my son wants one of those sag way boards, even though I ensured him it was not the price, he still thinks I am being mean about it.

      • Being told lies can initiate a real value of the truth – sorry you had to learn that way Dasjdas2. I think telling kids the truth is not only honest (and teaching honesty) but it also shows them respect and teaches them about your thinking – if you know you can’t have something because it’s dangerous may stop you grabbing it yourself later on, whereas if you just think it’s about the price, you may grab it later if you got the money.

  • ramir says:

    don’t give them a harmful gifts. Because there is a possibility to be accident yuor children by giving them a gifts that is not suitable to them. If you want to give them a gift, you shuold buy a good gifts which are safe and have no possibility of accident.

  • Brady2121 says:

    When I was younger, my parents would always tell me Santa was “out of stock” for a particular gift if they felt it could harm me. In response, I just asked for a different gift! Haha

    On a serious note, I do think it is very important to ensure your kids are always safe, even if that means you not buying them a certain gift.

    • I like the ‘out of stock’ idea, Brady 🙂

      And saying ‘no’ to kids for their own safety is just one of the requirements of parenting I think.

    • Cutter710 says:

      I like the out of stock idea a lot! I might use that with my own kids whenever they start asking about dangerous toys. I’ll include that Santa doesn’t keep a toy in stock because of how many kids write letter about how a certain toy leaves ouchies.

      Thank for the idea Brady 🙂

    • Dasjdas2 says:

      Saying that the harmful toy was out of stock could work. However, I prefer to be honest with my kids by just saying they are not getting something that can cause them harm. I am the parent and do not think I should have to lie to get my point across to my kids.

  • C. Lenell says:

    It’s hard to say no to a child. Personally, I have not said no to much of their requests. I have been blessed with three very exceptional children; yeah, I know I’m prejudiced! lol. But seriously, my oldest was an only child until he was 14, so all money was spent on him alone. My second and middle child is the only girl, so you know what that means AND she was technically the only child for four years until my youngest came along. So my youngest is my second chance to train a boy right – hah! And he of course got a lot more than my oldest because there was so much more out then. All three children did well in school and have no behavior problems, my girl has straight A’s, my youngest has had straight A’s also.
    But I think I would be as truthful as possible without hurting them regarding saying no if I had to. Most parents will hopefully raise their children to know that everything is not a free for all to demand and that life requires work to earn things.

    • It sounds like you are rightly proud of your three children, C. And some of that has to come from you and the attention you gave them – and I believe, from your honesty and an expectation of having to work for what you get.

  • DatGiz says:

    When it comes to gift request here in Denmark, I think we dance around this quite easily: You don’t ever write a wishlist or a letter to Santa with only 1 thing on it. It’s not so much a request as it is a suggestion, and it’s a quite common practice not to give anything from the list at all, but instead something else entirely.
    I really think this is the “best” model, at least for my family, because there’s always that one gift you’d rather your child didn’t recieve, be it for safety reasons, or just that you find it inappropriate.
    I find it humerous to read comments and articles here, you just do christmas so differently in Australia and The States. It’s really a culture shock for me, since christmas is so traditional here, I could never think to do it any differently.

    • I’d love to hear more about your Christmas celebrations in Denmark, DatGiz. We have a mix of cultures in Australia – we follow a certain amount of English and British tradition but being summer, we also have our own celebrations.

      I like your idea of having more than one thing on letters to Santa, without the expectation of getting them all (I know Santa doesn’t make any gift promises in his letters either!) although I don’t know how the kids would like knowing they’d get nothing of that list! I would have said Aussie kids usually give more than one idea in a Santa letter, too – I know my kids always do! However, yesterday I helped write a number of letters and a number of kids only had one suggestion! Others, of course, thought of many, many things!

      • sorrowscall says:

        What are some of the summer type celebrations you do relating to celebrating where you’re from? I know you make those yummy chocolates but I’m ashamed to admit I don’t know much more about how Australia celebrates the holidays.

        • That’s sweet sorrowscal but you needn’t be embarrassed about a lack of knowledge for a Down Under Christmas!

          Many of us having Christmas lunch outdoors – for instance, at my uncle or mother’s houses, we eat outside on the veranda and some of the Christmas lunches with my mother have been picnics. After lunch, some people may have a nap, lol, but many of us get outdoors – whether that is for a hit of cricket (or other games given for Christmas!), a walk or a play on the beach. As a child, we spent every Christmas at the beach – we ate inside but then played on the sand all afternoon with the occasional swim.

          A huge tradition if here is carols by candlelight. Lots of people come together in a park, hold candles and sing carols together. There is usually a stage with a compere and choir, and some are large with guest performers, etc. Santa visits many of these carol evenings and they are great community events. Carols by Candlelight at the Sidney Myer Music Bowl in Melbourne on Christmas Eve is a massive event that also fund raises for the blind association.

          I shall have to post more about our Christmas celebrations, obviously!

  • ducklord says:

    Hehe… I’m not a parent – yet – but I’m using a trick with my nephew and niece that works each and every time.

    “What, you want THIS? But… But this SUCKS compared to what you’re getting!”

    …and then you start to praise everything better on what you’re getting them compared to what they want. Example (real case):

    “I want a PSP!”

    “A PSP? A Little, tiny PlayStation Portable? Why?”

    “’cause I can play with my friends, anywhere, wherever and whenever”

    “‘Why not a PS Vita? It’s the newer model!”

    “…I know, but it doesn’t have that many games, and…

    “Well, they suck both, anyways”.


    “Yeah, they do. I know. I had them both. Tiny-tiny screens, buttons that are harder to press… And you said `you wanted to play with your friends`, right?”

    “YEAH, we’ll play this game were you throw those cards and you get monsters and FIFA and…”

    “…but most of those DON’T support multiplayer! How are you going to `play with your friends` if they only allow ONE person to play each time?”


    “You’ve already got a TV. Why not get a PlayStation 2?”

    “Maaaaan, that’s OOOlld! As old as YOU! Why would I want a…”

    “Bigger Screen. That’s why!”

    “Bigger… Screen?”

    “On what you want, you’ll play on this tiny screen with tiny buttons. You think you`ll be playing anywhere but, actually, WHEN are you going to be playing? At school? At school you’re almost always studying. Then you’re walking, and if you play while you’re walking, you may hit your head on a tree! Ouch!”

    “Haha, yeah… Yeah but…”

    “You’ll play in the car? How often are you in the car, and for how much? Great, you’ll be playing during AAAALL those fifteen minutes it takes to go to school! Man, awesome! Fifteen minutes of gaming!”


    “With the PS2, you’d be able to play at home – where you’re usually playing, and where you’d play with your PSP, if you had one. It has the same games, just different versions, and you’re playing on a 40” TV, not a 4” one. With stereo sound. And an awesome joypad with TWO sticks!”

    “But… It’s old…”

    “Old doesn’t matter when you have a collection of TWO-THOUSAND-GAMES!”

    “Two…THOUSAND… Games?!?!”

    “Yep! PS2 had the largest collection of games, ever, anywhere. You can find hundreds of games for it, and since it is, as you say, old-ish, there’s another bonus.”


    “You can find them cheap. So, where you’d pay 10 to 15 bucks for a game – well, not you, your parents – with a PS2 you’d pay just 5. Do you know what that means?”


    “Either more games, or getting new games more often!”

    “I hadn’t thought about it this way..!”

    “Plus, it has lots of games with local multiplayer, so you can bring your friends over and play with them on your 40” TV! Or let them play on their tiny 4” screens games for only one person at a time while you and other friends laugh at them!”

    “!!! Yes! You are right! I _WANT_ a PS2!”

    “So, a fifty-buck PS2 I can even buy for 10 bucks at a yard sale is REALLY the gift you’d like for this Christmas?”

    “YES! You are the best!”

    “…I know…”


    It’s just a matter of how you approach the problem and how you present the merits of each option to a kid. I didn’t actually fool them, as you may notice: those ARE great points for buying a consol – huge collection of games you can get cheap, easy to play with friends… Things a kid (and not only) likes and can understand why are considered “pluses” in this option. I just downplayed the graphics of the newer PS3s and PS4s (that cost from four to ten times that amount and each of their games about ten times the amount of PS2 games, today). I _could_ get him a PSP, since I have one and, he’s right, it IS a great console and the games aren’t bad, but I meant what I’ve told him: the screen IS small and the buttons not that great, and he’d be bored with it after just a month. I know. I’m also a gamer. I was, too.

    So, just be truthful to the kiddos and try to provide them with your point of view with why you’d prefer something to something else. They’re kids. “Small adults”. Not some kind of tiny idiots you’re trying to fool. They CAN understand, you just have to provide them with all the “information” you’re “privileged to” as an adult.
    ducklord recently posted…Αν σας προσβάλει το Grand Theft Auto V, μην το αγοράζετε!

    • Thanks for such a detailed response, ducklord:) I got a giggle out of that conversation – but I agree that being honest and showing different perspectives is a good approach with kids (I do it all the time with my kids, not just to convince them of my view but in other situations to help them think through a decision).

      I often think of children as small adults without the knowledge of adults (ie they are not without the intelligence of adults, they just don’t know as much yet) so I like you comment.

    • jcc481 says:

      Loved that conversation. I think that it is best if you just give a coy smile every time they “request” for something, so they don’t get their hopes up. I find that buying some junk and wrapping it up (when they are watching you), and putting under the tree ruins their hopes suitably enough so that late on Christmas Eve, you can swap the presents for something better- a present can only be “relatively” good.

  • sorrowscall says:

    You play cricket and eat outside for Christmas? The temperature here is different so we don’t really do a whole lot of outdoor related things for the holidays unless it’s snowing or involves caroling. We don’t carol to the extent that Australia seems to, but it does happen on occasion.

    • This is the major difference between our Christmas and the Christmas depicted in movies and cards – we are in the middle of summer! So yes we enjoy the outdoors a lot on most Christmases (summer doesn’t mean it never rains on the 25th though!)

      Carols by candlelight is big here – again, because it is summer, we can sit in parks and enjoy the evenings – but we don’t walk around singing carols like we read in books.

  • karmaskeeper says:

    When I buy gifts for little ones. I always make sure that I check to see if the age is right for that child. Doesn’t take, but a second to look on toy package for appropriate

    That being said it only takes a second for a child to be seriously injured by a toy not suitable for their age range. It’s really simple better safe then sorry.

    • Cutter710 says:

      The recommended age stated on a box is there for a reason. Small parts can be easily choked on and end a holiday season early if you’re not careful, and put the entire family into a scare. Make sure to think reasonably whenever considering Christmas presents for your kids. If I end up buying a present for my child and then realizing that the parts are still small for my younger Timmy then I return the gift and find something of equal “cool” factor.

      • Yes, little pieces can be a hazard – the hard part is little things for an older child when there is a baby/toddler in the house. When my eldest was young, we were lucky enough to have a toy room which we barricaded off so her baby sister couldn’t get in – that way, one was protected and the other didn’t miss out on age appropriate toys.

    • Going on what the manufacturers recommend is a good starting point, but not everything has an age listed as appropriate – that’s when you have to take some educated guesses.

  • Marieb says:

    We loved our letter from Santa such a lovely look of surprise on Bella’s face when we said it’s a letter from Santa.thankyou santa xXoO see you next year.

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  • celinejulietdcosta says:

    I loved the letter from santa when I was a kid and the history repeats:) My kids find christmas the most exciting season of the year and just wait for their gifts from santa:)

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