Toddlers and Christmas decorations don’t always go together like candy canes and hot cocoa.
For a lot of moms, the holidays mean that you have even more to do and less time to do it.
As if parenting a toddler wasn’t challenging enough, this time of year brings extra concerns like keeping them from strangling themselves in lights or destroying grandma’s glass heirloom ornaments.
This begs the question, is decorating for the holidays even worth it?
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Rachel says, “Decorating is worth it!”
I am admittedly a Christmas freak so I say go overboard on decorations.
I always loved how my mom decorated the entire house and how special it made the holidays feel. Many of my holiday traditions involve decorating as a family like trimming the tree and putting the lights on the house.
That said, toddlers can require some decorating adjustments.
DON’T skip the Christmas tree
If you are going to put up any Christmas decorations at all, make it the tree.
They’re beautiful, kids love them, and it can be central to family traditions like sharing the stories behind old ornaments and making memories decorating together.
Yes, it can be kind of a hassle and is a major toddler target, but don’t let that turn you into a Grinch.
Consider putting a smaller tree on a table out of reach or using a barricade. A coffee table and some end tables or even large presents may work.
For a more intrepid climber, a gate is helpful. If you don’t already have one, I like this playard because it’s relatively high and sturdy so my toddler couldn’t climb it (we’ve also used it to block off our tv and fireplace).
Even though the tree should be out of reach, I still opt to avoid glass and other fragile ornaments. You can find shatterproof ornaments like these everywhere. I get the larger ones that won’t fit in a mouth.
And I know it’s pretty, but skip the tinsel altogether.
Anything breakable goes out of reach
Any decoration at toddler height should be toddler-friendly.
You can still put out all of your favorite Christmas decorations, just be smart about where you place them. Put the blown glass snowman and porcelain Santa on the mantel, above a cabinet, or on a high shelf.
The holidays should be fun, and chasing your toddler around yelling at them to not touch this or not put that in their mouth is definitely not fun. So for your sanity, if they can reach it, they can have it.
Let Your Kids “Help”
Pick some Christmas decorations that they can play with so they can be part of the fun.
My toddler had his own felt Christmas tree with soft ornaments that he decorated over and over. It seemed to help curb his interest in the big tree.
He also loved playing with Christmas stuffed animals, an advent calendar, and a relatively sturdy nativity set.
Of course, check for small pieces that could be choking hazards and it goes without saying, but no amount of baby-proofing can take the place of close supervision.
Also, there are tons of seasonal crafts and activities that allow your toddler to help with the decorating. Get your pinterest on and make some salt dough ornaments, cotton ball snowmen, or paper chains together.
My oldest loved “helping” make gingerbread houses. All season he would point to his and excitedly say “I did it”.
I know, decorating is more work for mom and the season is already super busy. But the look in those sweet toddler eyes when they see the tree lit up is worth it to me.
It doesn’t have to be fancy or perfect, your kid won’t care that your decorating is not “Pottery Barn level”. It’s a way to begin family traditions that you all can cherish for years to come.
Jo asks, “The holidays can be so
demanding on your time, how
do you balance your schedule to
do it all?”
I like to start early on most of my holiday prep since December is such a crazy busy month. Admittedly, I do try to hold off on the Christmas decorations until after Thanksgiving (but I have been known to break a few out early).
Get as much of the other holiday stuff done as early as possible, like shopping, wrapping, cards, and even freezing cookie dough in November leaving me more time for decorations later.
I really enjoy Christmas decorating so I find ways to make time for it. If I pull out a couple things a day, it goes surprisingly quickly.
Involving my son in the decorating whenever possible helps because I don’t always have to wait until after he’s asleep and stay up later to do it.
Jo says, “Skip the Christmas decorations this year!”
I know it might make me sound like a Scrooge, but I say definitely SKIP the holiday decorations when you have a toddler in the house. Honestly, I’ve been known to even skip the tree…
Let’s be serious, years from now your toddler won’t remember the garland and lights you spent hours hanging anyway.
And to top it all off, your toddler will destroy your stuff and you’ll be following him around all day yelling to stop touching things. Save the money, save your time, save your sanity – skip the Christmas decorations this year!
Decorating Takes Time
We have so many demands that suck up our time during the holiday season: buying gifts, wrapping gifts, mailing cards, attending parties, baking cookies, and the list goes on and on.
Accomplishing all these things is next to impossible when you’re taking care of a toddler, which means that your nights are long preparing for the holidays.
Decorating takes HOURS. Skipping the Christmas decorations will allow you to go to bed a little earlier on some nights, both before and after the holidays (when it comes time to take down and pack up the decorations).
Sleep vs. a Christmas tree my toddler will destroy in less than 5 minutes…. Hmmmm tough decision.
Holiday Decor = Toddler Safety Hazard
Toddlers are expert climbers, so no matter how high you put that nativity scene, chances are your toddler can get up there and put the small baby Jesus in their mouth and start choking (*cough* speaking from personal experience *cough*).
From broken ornament glass shards to hanging garland strangling hazards to electric shocking opportunities from Christmas lights, you’ll find yourself chasing after your child constantly yelling, “no!” and “don’t touch that!” and “Christmas lights don’t belong in your diaper!”.
To protect my sanity, I find it easier to just abstain from the holiday decorations and find another way to celebrate the holidays.
Find Other Ways to Celebrate the Holidays
It may sound like I don’t enjoy the Christmas season, but that’s far from true!
I promise, your kids will love and adore the holiday season regardless of how many reindeer you’ve put up in your yard.
In lieu of decorations, to get everyone in the holiday spirit we do fun Christmas activities like putting sticker ornaments on a Christmas tree activity book.
We go to holiday parties, make snowmen, visit santa at the mall, and talk about Christmas constantly.
My son was so excited when it was finally “Chwismus day”, and kept asking for the holiday to come back for months afterwards – and it had nothing to do with how many decorations we put up.
Do I have fond memories of putting up holiday decorations with my family as a child? Of course, and I can’t wait to start those traditions with my own children.
My advice is to be patient, you’ll have many years to establish those traditions in the future when they’ll actually remember and you can worry less about them choking on a tiny baby in a manger.
For now, enjoy your time after you put the kids to bed by adding extra rum to your eggnog and watching Love Actually for the hundredth time.
“Do you miss the
I do, but not enough to go through the trouble.
Setting it up isn’t so bad… but the maintenance and disassembly seem like nightmares to me.
Luckily since my kids don’t remember ever having a tree (they’re both under 4), they don’t ask for one.
We see trees beautifully decorated at stores when we’re out shopping and at our parents houses, so we still get the “experience” of a tree. Furthermore, we have been spending Christmas morning at Grandma’s house, so we put presents under their tree for that part of the tradition.
Eventually, we’ll put up a tree and do more Christmas decorations – but not until the kids are a little older (ie. out of the toddler years) so they can help and manage to not destroy them.
So to all the stressed-out holiday mamas out there – remember that ultimately it doesn’t matter how you celebrate, your children will be enthralled by whatever your family decides!
Be sure to check out our other holiday-themed debates about Toddler Presents and Christmas Treats!