In Part 1, I gave some ideas about how to plan for a smooth and less stressful Christmas. Now, here we go with 5 more tips for a happy Christmas with toddlers or babies and it’s down to the nitty gritty of trees, stockings and pressies!
A toddler friendly Christmas Tree
6. Try a table tree
If it’s at all possible, a 3- or 4-foot tree on a table can look really pretty and keep it safe from little people. They can enjoy the lights without the risk of pulling it over, falling into it or destroying the decorations. And that makes for more relaxed parents! We don’t actually have space for such a table so have followed the next tip!
7. Replace those baubles
I hadn’t really thought about the fact that baubles were made of glass until my 1 year old took one in her hand and immediately crushed it, cutting her hand (painlessly, thankfully) and creating an intriguingly sparkly mess. I swiftly replaced our baubles with these beautiful crystal ornaments which are solidly chunky but look gorgeous (think chandelier droplets – very Downton-style glam!) and I’ve still not got out the baubles, despite the kids being old enough to handle them safely.
Christmas Eve and Day
6. Think through Santa
Some kids are genuinely nervous of the idea of Santa. A stranger? Coming into my house in the night? And into my room? Just check in to see if your child is worried about anything. We’ve always let our kids leave their stockings on the landing and that’s where they find them. One friend’s daughter was so freaked out about Santa they agreed that Daddy would meet Santa at a nearby roundabout for a stocking handover! Or you could leave out a note together asking Santa to put all the stockings in Mum and Dad’s room, ready to open together the next morning.
If you’d like some great ideas for stopping stocking fillers breaking the piggy bank, you might find this post gives you some inspiring ideas.
7. Stick to your child’s normal routine
As far as is possible, that is. We’ve found having Christmas lunch about 5 pm, just like normal kids’ tea, works really well and means little ones who nap can be included in the main meal with a light. easy lunch at midday for everyone. This is when we discovered our two really like smoked salmon! The classic 2 pm lunch is about the worst time possible for most small children. If you’re at someone else’s house, at least take snacks for about midday and see if your child can snooze somewhere while the parsnips refuse to cook, as they will and the 2 pm lunch turns into 3.
8. Limit sugar
We all have happy memories of eating nothing but chocolate coins and a satsuma for Christmas Day breakfast when we were 7. But a 3 year old on a sugar high is no fun for anyone, least of all themselves. Go easy on the treats or keep them for the end of meals.
I love giving my children things more than anything. It’s natural, isn’t it? But it’s actually very easy to overwhelm a small child with presents and to completely take all of the joy out of the day as you urge them to open everything.
I remember one Christmas we were very broke but I had found 3 toys in the local Salvation Army shop in perfect condition and I knew my 2 year old daughter would love them. She loved the first two, then stalled at 3 because she wanted to play with the first two toys and then we felt obliged to make her open all the presents from the relatives who would speak to us later and ask what she’d thought of her gifts. I remember feeling physically a bit sick as I watched her joy in the first two gifts disappear as she ploughed through the chore of opening so many gifts. Never again.
9. Limit presents
We now limit presents to two things from us plus a couple of books. The kids have a much less stressy Christmas and it’s less likely to leave us with a post-Christmas budget stress.
10. Open the gifts over several days
Like many families we know, we now open presents over 3-4 days, explaining to the relatives that we want to give our children the chance to focus properly on each gift. They then play much more with each gift rather than crashing on to the next one each time. It’s made for a much more peaceful time.
Of course, this means a change of course if you grew up in a family where kids raced downstairs on Christmas morning to start ripping paper off presents but we’ve always given gifts individually, letting each person hand their gift from under the tree to the person it was intended for. We’ve taught our children over the years to look at the person giving them the gift and say thank you. It’s less frantic and extends the present-giving part of the day, plus the kids take huge joy in giving their own presents and seeing them appreciated.
If we see a friend or relative before Christmas (or birthdays!), we let the kids open their present from them straight away. It lets the gift-giver see their reaction, the kids love getting a sneaky present in early and it takes the pressure off Christmas Day.
So, there you have it – 10 ideas for an easier and more joy-filled Christmas with your tiny people. May it be a wonderful and peaceful time for you and yours.