Do you know if your playdate’s house is a safe place to play?

Do you know if your playdate’s house is a safe place to play?

Sending your kids over to play at a friend’s house to play is one of the best ways to make it through the summertime while school is out, child care is limited and the need to find activities to entertain our kids is endless. But, it can also be a scary decision for any parent to make to entrust the safety of your child with another adult. Do you know if it is a safe place to play at your playdate’s house? 

Parents and other primary caregivers have the right and responsibility to make decisions about how best to protect their children, even when someone else is caring for them. Whether child care is family, a friend, neighbor or licensed child care provider, parents need to communicate their safe-storage priorities to anyone who cares for their children. Making sure dangerous items are out of reach is one of the easiest ways to keep your kids safe. However, it always seems like conversations with those closest to us are the most uncomfortable, especially when they are doing you a favor, like hosting a playdate or helping out with child care when you are in desperate need of help.

Things to Think, and Talk, About Before a Playdate

As Benjamin Franklin said “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” reminding us all that it is easier to stop something from happening in the first place than to repair damage after a tragedy. This is certainly true when it comes to the storage of harmful substances and dangerous items. The list of things that can be harmful to children is long, and it can be difficult to wrap our minds around safely storing anything and everything that could be dangerous. 

There is wisdom in prioritizing those things that can be most harmful to children for safe-storage. By prioritizing a list of things to store safely away from children, we can prevent harm before it occurs.  Some things to prioritize talking about before sending your kids over to play include:


It’s now required by law to safely store your guns. Guns and ammunition should be stored separately from each other in lock boxes or gun safes. Trigger locks offer added protection and can be used in tandem with these safe storage options to increase security.


What to Say

“My child is always getting into things around our house.  I wanted to let you know so that you can put anything that could be harmful things away before he\she\they come over.”


Prescription medications should be kept in their original, labeled, childproof containers. But childproof containers offer only the minimum of protection, therefore, the containers themselves should be stored in such a way as to prevent children and others from accessing them.


What to Say

“Steve has proven that he can get into just about any kind of container.  We’ve talked to him about boundaries, but he is so curious!  I’d like to ask you to put any medications or other harmful substances away where he can’t get to them just in case.”


Substances can be found in a majority of homes across America. Alcohol, nicotine and marijuana are a few examples of substances that are commonly and legally used by adults.  Illicit substances can also be found in many homes where children may be present. Both legal and illicit substances can cause great harm or death, and therefore should be stored in such a way that children and youth cannot access them. Safe-storage bags and other locking containers can greatly increase safety when used appropriately and consistently. 


What to Say

“I’m sure this goes without saying, but please store any substances that might be around the house where my children can’t get to them.  Childproof containers are helpful, but they aren’t really enough to prevent children from opening them.  It is something that I have been really conscious of ever since I read a blog post about.” 

In every household where children are or might be present, parents, caregivers and others should think ahead, make decisions around what should be stored away from children and youth, and choose how to store it safely. That is easier to do in our own homes. There are a number of programs that can provide families with locking safe-storage bags, lock boxes, trigger locks, etc. Talk to a family support worker at a human services agency or family resource center near you to begin to identify resources that you can use to be protective and preventive, and to keep your family safe.


Share What Works for You

Once you’ve made smart choices at home to keep your kids safe, share your lessons learned and recommend the community resources that helped you strengthen your family with the people that care for your kids.   

About the Author

About the Author

Jason Read, M.Ed., is an education program manager with Illuminate Colorado and regular blog contributor sharing his professional guidance, as well as personal experiences as a father of three children. Jason leads Smart Choices Safe Kids conversation guide trainings for professionals working with children, parents and caregivers.

No Judgement Here, Just Three Simple Questions Every Parent Should Ask Themselves to Keep Their Kids Safe

No Judgement Here, Just Three Simple Questions Every Parent Should Ask Themselves to Keep Their Kids Safe


Stress is running high in many houses. We’re trying to anticipate what is happening with the new school year in the fall, while figuring out how to earn a living and take care of our families during this COVID-19 pandemic. For many folks that means accessing unemployment benefits and community support. The kids also don’t have many options this summer other than to stick close to home, and that means parents often don’t have a break from parenting. Then there is the added stress of trying to find child care, it is a lot of pressure.  

If you’re on social media, you can see it’s pretty common to turn to substances to take the edge off, or at least joke about it. Whether it’s a glass of wine or beer, an edible or practicing mindfulness, the choices you make now in how you are present with the children in your life are more important than ever. 

Colorado is a substance friendly state, and many legal substances have remained available during the COVID-19 pandemic. No judgement here, it may be a part of how you manage your stress, but there are three things everyone should ask themselves when considering using a substance while taking care of a child/children to keep them safe. 

Who would take the kids to the hospital if you were incapacitated in any way?

It’s a good rule of thumb and it is the worst case scenario. Driving under the influence of any mind or body altering substance can be dangerous for everyone in and around the vehicle. Make sure there is an adult in the home who has the capacity to get behind the wheel and care for the kids to help prevent something awful from happening.  

That special someone should understand the developmental and physical needs of your kids based on age, ability and need. This may look like having the reaction time needed to keep a toddler off the stairs. Or ensure a baby is being fed and changed consistently, and when needed. Perhaps meeting the emotional needs of an older child. Oftentimes, the very escape that is desired from substance use (including alcohol), is what makes taking care of the kids safely so difficult. Substance use alone does not equal unfit or unsafe parenting. Remember, this is a judgement-free zone. 

If the answer to this question isn’t you, it’s time to make a plan to have a responsible caregiver present during and after use. Edible THC products remain active a lot longer than many people suspect, so plan for several hours after use. 

Is everything stored where the kids can’t get it? 

Substance use may have increased in your home over these last couple of months or become a new normal. This likely means it is around the house more. Again no judgement, we all need to make sure substances are properly stored all the time, just like dangerous household cleaning items. This may include locking alcohol in a cupboard or pantry, or locking medications or THC products in a locking bag or box.

Keeping substances out of reach of children and young people is important, and is an easy step in creating a safe environment for your family.

What are you doing to take care of yourself right now?  

Parenting is stressful under regular circumstances and this new normal may be here for awhile. There are a variety of ways to take care of yourself that doesn’t include “checking out.” Find a place you can retreat to when you start to feel stressed. Even if it is locking yourself in the bathroom or going for a short walk, give yourself permission to take at least 5 minutes alone, assuming children are in a safe place, like a baby in a crib, alone on their back.  Finding ways to take care of yourself can make all the difference in reclaiming some balance and help you be the parent you want to be for your kids. 

Adulting is hard, especially with kids around. Much has changed in this new normal, but the questions to ponder at any point when substances are used, including alcohol, have remained the same. It is up to all of us to make smart choices to keep kids safe. 

Whether you are a single parent who can’t remember the last time you had a moment to yourself or a neighbor helping out watching the kids, anytime you’re considering using a substance while taking care of a child/children, it’s important to ask yourself these three simple questions to keep kids safe. 

Visit to get more information to guide us all through the choices we have to make at every age and stage of life to keep kids safe.

And, if after asking yourself these three simple questions, you are starting to think that you need to talk. Call the Colorado Crisis Services 1-844-493-TALK (8255),a support line for anyone affected by a mental health, substance use or emotional crisis. It’s ok to admit that you are struggling. Crisis counselors are standing by.

If you or a loved one needs support, just text, call, or walk-in 24/7/365.

Anne Auld is the director of education for Illuminate Colorado. Auld has worked with children and families for more than 20 years, training parents, professionals and community members on subjects including strengthening families, safe storage, child sexual abuse prevention and much more.

What You Need to Know About Marijuana & Child Safety in 2018

What You Need to Know About Marijuana & Child Safety in 2018

Marijuana legalization in Colorado has provided an additional layer of complexity to the issue of child safety and substance use. As more state governments consider marijuana legalization, figuring out how to address this intersection is becoming a priority nationwide.

Illuminate Colorado strives to support family wellbeing as it intersects with substances, both illegal and legal. It’s important to stay informed on the marijuana landscape, and how it affects the work of agencies who serve children and families. With ever-changing laws and regulations regarding marijuana legalization, we wanted to provide you with some recent updates to marijuana resources in Colorado.

Remember that laws, regulation, resources, and research in this area are continually being updated, so please conduct your own research on a regular basis with a focus on state-sponsored, objective, and research-based information.

New Educational Resources

Several great resources regarding marijuana and child safety have been created or updated in the past year. Here are just a few for you to be aware of:

Legalized Marijuana: Considerations for Child SafetyIn this interactive learning experience, learners will explore to what extent marijuana use or cultivation may affect child safety. This web-based training provide an overview of Colorado’s marijuana laws, an introduction to marijuana and its effects on the body and behavior, and a summary of existing research on the impacts on infants, children, teens, and adults. This WBT is a prerequisite for the Marijuana, Children, and Families classroom course, which explores in more depth the child welfare considerations and best practices related to marijuana. Developed by Illuminate Colorado, open to everyone, and available online at:  

Colorado Retail Marijuana Education and Prevention Resource Guide – This guide will help you easily navigate state resources to find the best tool for your retail marijuana education and prevention efforts. It is an overview of education and prevention programs and research, links to fact sheets, talking points, campaign materials, webinars and trainings, activities, and case studies from Colorado organizations. The guide is recommended for community-based organizations, government agencies, youth-serving professionals, coalitions, schools and educators, healthcare professionals, marijuana industry professionals, and communications professionals within those organizations. Developed by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment and available online at:

2018 Proposed Legislation

As is the case every year, there are many legislative proposals related to the regulation of medical and retail marijuana in Colorado. Below are three of the many marijuana related bills being considered by the Colorado Legislature:

House Bill 18-1092: Marijuana Delivery Pilot Project – Concerning a pilot program for marijuana delivery. The bill creates a pilot program to allow marijuana delivery. The marijuana state licensing authority can enter into a memorandum of understanding with up to 3 municipalities to allow medical and retail marijuana delivery. The state licensing authority can adopt rules regarding marijuana delivery and can issue up to 15 marijuana delivery licenses.

House Bill 18-1286: School Nurse Give Medical Marijuana At School – Concerning allowing a school nurse to give medical marijuana to a student with a medical marijuana registry card while at school. Under current law, a primary caregiver may possess and administer medical marijuana in a non-smokable form to a student while the student is at school. The bill allows a school nurse or the school nurse’s designee, who may or may not be an employee of the school, to also possess and administer medical marijuana to a student at school. The bill provides a school nurse or the school nurse’s designee protection from criminal prosecution if he or she possesses and administers medical marijuana to a student at school.

House Bill 18-1263: Medical Marijuana Use For Autism And Acute Pain – Concerning adding certain conditions to the list of disabling medical conditions for medical marijuana use, and, in connection therewith, adding autism spectrum disorders and acute pain. The bill adds autism spectrum disorders and acute pain to the list of disabling medical conditions that authorize a person to use medical marijuana for his or her condition.

ICYMI – 2017 Changes in Colorado Law

In 2017, the Colorado Legislature passed several pieces of legislation related to marijuana. In case you missed it, here are two measures that may impact your work with families.

House Bill 17-1220: Prevent Marijuana to Illegal Market – Concerning measures to stop diversion of legal marijuana to the illegal market. Standardizes the allowable number of marijuana plants allowed per residence statewide. Beginning January 2018, the maximum number of plants allowed to be grown in a residence is 12 for recreational use and 24 for medical use for those participating in the State Registry (but only 12 if not). In short, one person in a residence is allowed up to 6 plants, and 2 or more are allowed up to 12 total plants.

Senate Bill 17-017: Allow Medical Marijuana Use for Stress Disorders – Concerning Adding Stress Disorders to the List of Debilitating Medical Conditions for the Purposes of the Use of Medical Marijuana. Creates a statutory right for a patient with post-traumatic stress disorder to use medical marijuana. It creates the same rights, limitations, affirmative defense, and exceptions from criminal laws for this condition as the constitutional right to use medical marijuana for other debilitating conditions. This legislation also specifies the conditions for the use of medical marijuana by a patient under 18 years of age who has been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.

Thank you for your concern, consideration, and hard work on behalf of Colorado’s children and families! To learn more about substance use and safety at various stages of life, go to

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