How to Decorate a house and a Christmas tree with Toddlers and Not Lose your Sh!@
We often dream of a perfectly decorated house for the holidays, just like in the movies where everyone comes over and oohs and ahhhs at our decorations and all the hard work we put into transforming our house for Christmas. But, if we’re being perfectly honest (which we are), it’s a lot of work on a good day. Throw toddlers and preschoolers into the mix, add in some dogs with big powerful tails and we have a recipe for lots of broken stuff and crushed hopes of the picture perfect Christmas we envisioned.
But, little ones and/or pets don’t need to put the holidays on hold and mean that you can’t have anything nice until they’re older. It simply means we need to plan ahead a bit so that things go smoothly for us (or as smoothly as they can with little ones). Check out these tried and true mom hacks for a stress-free decorating session with little ones and tips for keeping the Christmas tree safe all season long.
Tip 1. Pack your boxes strategically.
We pack our boxes by what we’ll need first (lights and non-breakable ornaments that go on the bottom of the tree). We label and number our boxes this way too, that way, we know which boxes to start with. This saves us time looking for lights, the tree topper, sorting through non-breakable ornaments that the kids can help with, etc. MUCH less stress to do it this way.
Since you might not have already packed your boxes this way, I recommend having one adult occupy the kids and have the other adult get the lights on the tree and sort out some non-breakable ornaments for the kids to put on the tree, at their height. If you’re by yourself, do popcorn and a holiday movie for the kids while you get the tree ready for them (affiliate links).
Tip 2. Use non-breakable ornaments at the bottom of the tree.
Let the kids hang these. Yes, they’re likely to put them all in one spot, but isn’t it cute to see them put stuff on the tree and be proud of their decorating. They won’t remember exactly what they did, so after they go to bed, spread out the ornaments if you must. Keep in mind that most adults will look at the top of the tree or where their eye level is, so place the breakable or precious ornaments up there for adults to see. Plus, letting the kids decorate the bottom portion of the tree gives them the chance to show off their work to Grandma or whoever comes over to check out the tree. Using non-breakable ornaments at the bottom of the tree also makes it safer when other kids come over and naturally want to grab ornaments, or for those of you who have dogs with big tails.
Tip 3. Block off the tree if need-be.
There are 4 easy and not too tacky and out there ways to do this…
- Placing the tree in the corner makes it easiest to block off the Christmas tree because you have “natural” barriers on two of the sides.
- Wrap empty boxes (or big gifts) and stick those presents/boxes in front of the tree to form a natural barrier to the tree. This works great when you have toddlers and crawling babies in the house to keep them from grabbing stuff off the tree. And, it looks better than a baby gate in front of the tree.
- If you put a baby gate (those portable plastic ones that can fence Baby in) in front of the tree, consider making it decorative by putting garland on it, lights and hanging stockings from it. Then, it just blends in with the decor while blocking little hands from touching the tree.
4. Consider a smaller tree. Instead of getting a large tree, why not get a table top tree that will naturally be out of reach of your little one? You can decorate it as normal, but display it on a table.
Lastly (bonus tip!), is there a room that makes sense to put the tree in, but that you can also close the door to, so that your little one can’t get to the tree unless you open the door?
Decorating the house…
Planning ahead helps a lot! If you have everything ready (ie, get out the Christmas boxes during nap time or after they go to bed so you can decorate first thing in the morning), things go a LOT smoother. With little ones, there’s no such thing as over-planning or being over-prepared.
- IF you don’t want your littles handling the breakables or truly deciding where the decorations go, give them structured choices. Let the little ones point to where you should put decorations or ask them, “Should I put this decoration right here or right here?” (choose two acceptable locations to yourself and let them make the final decision).
- If possible, put out some stuff the kids can play with, like a felt Christmas tree or stuffed animals. Is there a stocking that they can use to fill and empty back out?
- I’ve found that if we start decorating the house later in the day, it’s easier to let the littles help for a bit and then finish the decorating after they go to bed. It gives the perfect mix of family decorating time, photo ops of the kids helping to decorate the house, and enough adult time to set up decorations and pack it all up to start the day with a nicely decorated house.
- Remember, less is more. Sometimes, it’s better to not put everything out and keep it simple, but only you can make that call. What’s going to be the easiest this year? What will make you the happiest? Give yourself permission not to do everything or put everything out this year.
Remember, Christmas is meant to be a fun time of year, a time to make memories by spending time with family and friends, not for stressing out about every last detail and making everything picture perfect. Don’t forget to cut yourself some slack and give yourself a break. You deserve to have fun too! Read more of my tips for making the holidays memorable instead of stressful here- How to Make this Holiday Season Memorable Without Getting Your Tinsel in a Tangle.
And, finally, my biggest tip is talking about expectations with your little ones. They understand more than we give them credit for (especially before they can talk and ask questions). Tell them what’s okay to touch and what’s not. Tell them what they can play with and when. Tell them what is “pretty” or “breakable” and needs to be left alone… anything that changes during the Christmas season should be talked about beforehand and reminders should be given to help them meet your expectations. After all, it’s all new and shiny and exciting for them, so it’s natural for littles to want to touch and explore all the new stuff that’s out. 🙂