This Christmas Annabelle will actually be old enough to know that something special is happening. Last year she was only 6 months old at the time, and I think she enjoyed playing with crumpled wrapping paper more than anything else. We decorated our tree last night — all of us — so I wanted to share our experience decorating a Christmas tree with a toddler and helpful tips to make the experience easy, safe, and FUN!
Hang the lights at naptime — I had visions of Annabelle pulling on the lights as I’m trying to string them in graceful arcs around our tree, sooo I decided it might be easiest to do this part while she was sleeping. It might have been no problem at all, and who knows, she might have sat patiently on the rug and watched (ha!) As it was, I was able to get the lights up in 20 minutes and she woke up to a lovely surprise so I think my strategy could definitely be considered a success.
Take a few minutes to do some minor childproofing — I knew that Annabelle would want to be right around the tree pretty much all day every day, so I took a couple steps to make sure she wouldn’t accidentally injure herself or pull down the tree. I rounded up a short extension cord to give me enough slack to run the cord along the wall from the tree to the outlet. I used duct tape (USA duct tape no less!) to secure the cord to the wall and the floor so there would be no loops to get caught up on. I ran the cord under the tree skirt before stringing along the branches.
I also used outlet covers to block all extra open plugs on the Christmas lights and extension cords. Perhaps these are things that most people do anyways, but I never worried too much about the cords before I had a toddler running around the tree!
Hang only non-breakable ornaments near the bottom of the tree — This probably goes without saying! All these “new” ornaments are just too fascinating not to touch, and to take off the tree to play with! I did put some ornaments in the lower third of our tree, but they are ones that don’t break and I wouldn’t worry about her playing with.
Let them help! — This is actually the most important one in my book. When we were decorating the tree, I opened a big box of plastic ornaments and showed Annabelle what we were doing. I demonstrated how we took the ornaments over to the tree one at a time and found a branch on which to hang them. She got the hang of the routine and would run back and forth sticking her ornaments in the tree (she didn’t quite master looping the ribbons over branches) or handing them over to one of us to finish the job.
I think that by including Annabelle and not making it this big mysterious activity that she wasn’t allowed to do (which as we all know makes it only about 100x more interesting to a toddler), she got the idea that ornaments were meant to be on the tree— she helped put them there after all!
This might have been one of the most enjoyable nights decorating a tree for me too! It was incredible to see the girls working together and filled with so much joy. Decorating a Christmas tree with a toddler was so much easier than I expected! Our tree looks like kids decorated it, but I love it this way. My parents let us decorate our tree growing up, and those memories are some of my most memorable (well, that and the times our cats knocked down the tree!)
Our tree is a reflection of our family, all of us — our memories, or favorite things, even our favorite colors. It might have a lot of empty space on the bottom, 85% of the ornaments might be clustered in the middle, and it might never look like it belongs in a magazine, but to me it is perfect.
What does your Christmas tree say about your family?