How can you make sure to keep your kids and pets safe this Hanukkah?

Hanukkah comes with a plethora of other dangers like toxins and choking hazards, here's what you need to know.

 AS AN American Jew in the ‘50s, at  home we lit hanukkiot, played dreidel...  (photo credit: Congregation Beth Israel/Flickr)
AS AN American Jew in the ‘50s, at home we lit hanukkiot, played dreidel...
(photo credit: Congregation Beth Israel/Flickr)

Hanukkah is rapidly approaching, and Jewish people worldwide will be gathering together with family for eight nights to light the Hanukkah candles.

However, some of the more anxious members of the tribe do dread this time of year out of concern for the more vulnerable family members - children and pets- who will be spending time around an indoor open flame. Hanukkah also comes with a plethora of other dangers like toxins and choking hazards. 

The Standards Institution of Israel (SII) recently published a list of safety tips specifically geared toward child safety: 

Spin the dreidle safely 

  • Dreidels made of lead can be very toxic, as can dreidels made of painted wood. Check the packaging carefully for toxicity information and the recommended age limit for playing. Most dreidels are not intended for toddlers to play with. 
HANUKKA DREIDELS display the letters of the Hebrew acronym for ‘A great miracle happened here.’ (credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)HANUKKA DREIDELS display the letters of the Hebrew acronym for ‘A great miracle happened here.’ (credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
  • If a dreidel is battery-operated, take care that children do not put the batteries in their mouths. Furthermore, new batteries should not be mixed with old ones, and different types of batteries should also not be mixed.
  • A broken dreidel should be gotten rid of immediately. Cracks or sharp corners could cause injury. 
  • Do not buy unlabeled dreidels; only purchase products with health and safety data on the packaging. 
  • Pets who are prone to chewing on household objects should be kept away from dreidels as the same choking and toxin hazards apply. 

Hanukkah arts and crafts 

  • Like any toy, craft kit packaging must be read carefully before children are allowed to open and play with it. If a kit is aimed at a specific age, take care not to give younger children access to it. This could be for any number of reasons including components that are toxic if ingested or small parts that could be choking hazards. 
  • Kit instructions must be followed correctly, and usage warnings must be properly heeded.
  • Adult supervision is required for any craft, such as pottery, that requires baking in an oven. 
  • Children should wash their hands well after using a craft kit, to remove any lingering paint or toxic material. Most kits are not for use for children under the age of 8. 
  • Pets are also susceptible to toxins found in craft kits if they ingest paint or other toxic components. 
  • The Israel National Fire and Rescue Authority (INFRA) also explains that most arts-and-crafts Hanukkah lamps (Hannukiyot) made by children are not safe for lighting and may start a large fire if used. 

Common sense with candles 

  • Do not leave candles unattended near children, pets or flammable materials. If you must leave the home while the candles are still lit, the American Red Cross suggests that you secure your pet in an area where they cannot reach the candles such as a crate or behind a baby gate. 
  • Olive oil used for Hanukkah flame is not intended for human or animal consumption. 
  • The INFRA recommends that any matches and lit objects be kept away from children, and that Hannukiyot be kept in a place inaccessible to pets.

The INFRA is a handy resource for any further fire safety questions. By being as diligent as we can around electricity and heating, we can have a safe and warm holiday season.