‘Tis the season, people! Time to get that tree out and decorate it all just so. Ah, Christmas joy!
Until… here comes the toddler! Yep, having a little person around (or three, in my case) means those wonderfully placed decorations are unlikely to stay “just so” for very long, are they.
However you choose navigate this is totally up to you and your family. I know for some, having the huge tree is what “makes” Christmas, and fair enough too. I do love a good sparkly Christmas tree. And decorating the tree while the Christmas carols are playing is a cherished tradition in my house.
However, there have been years recently when I’ve forgone having the big Christmas tree in order to keep my sanity. To keep little fingers away and to give them a place where they can claim as their “own”. And to be able to relax in the knowledge that you won’t have to be saying “no touching, only looking please” all of December (been there)!
For some families, the answer is to have the tree in behind a play pen. I distinctly remember my parents doing this one year! I’m not organised enough for that though… and in reality I’m far too stingy to pay for a play pen that gets used just once a year #truth
I guess there’s always this option that I saw on the internet…. haha!
But in reality, I’m an immensely practical person and have tried a few things over the last few years whilst having littles around.
One year I set it up on a little stool, with an army of soft toys around it’s base to keep guard (i.e. serve as distraction for an 11 month old crawling baby).
This didn’t really work, at least not for long. But because I only had one child back then it was easy enough to monitor the situation!
The most precarious thing about that year was hoping he wouldn’t pull it over on himself. I remedied that by using fishing line to tie it to the curtain rail.
The next year (we had another child by then) I set it up and let the them take charge over the bottom half. And they totally owned it, it was great! As long as I wasn’t too particular about where their decorations ended up, that is.
And as much as I said “no touching, only looking please” we did lose a few of our cheaper decos that year to the rubbish bin. Luckily I’d put the precious ones up high.
But my most successful, stress-free year of decorating with kids was when I made this felt Christmas tree.
They absolutely LOVED it. And I didn’t have to repeat myself saying “no touching, only looking” all.day.long.
They could go to town with it; it was their own to play with! The kids were 3 years old and 15 months old. It was perfect.
I’m a relatively crafty person so I made my own with green felt from Spotlight (about $12/m off the roll from memory) and a pack of felt sheets from Kmart ($5?). Creating is something I enjoy – I feel I must stress that point, as it’s fun for me to make things.
There are plenty of tutorials on the internet, but this is basically what I did:
1. Cut 1m of felt.
2. Fold in half.
3. Mark with chalk some zig zags in a tree shape.
4. Cut one layer only (using your sharpest scissors).
5. Draw around your cut edges onto the underneath piece.
6. Cut underneath piece. Trim both sides to even it up.
7. Use command strips to stick it to the wall.
8. Cut some circles and shapes for decorations. Your hot glue gun is your friend when it comes to making your decorations, if you want to fancy them up!
OK, OK, I know I did go a bit OTT and sew a fancy pattern around the edge, but this is totally NOT necessary of course. And the ribbon twist is just an idea to add a bit of interest, again not necessary (it’s hot glued to the back, incase you’re wondering).
Here’s another felt tree that a friend of mine Shelley from In My Kitchen made for her kiddos; you can see it’s same/same but different. Having a straight edge to the tree is a good way to get it looking nice and even!
There’s a bunch of awesome developmental benefits for kids using these trees too;
- crossing the midline – reaching over to place decorations on the opposite side of the tree is great for co-ordination development and getting both sides of the brain working together.
- eye scanning – looking in all directions for clear spots to put decorations on, developing eye muscles in the full range of vision
- sequencing – especially if you make up a little santa decoration, or cut out the letters of their names. Figuring out which piece goes on first helps kids figure out the order that things go in.
- upper limb muscle development – working on a vertical surface is good for kids as it gets their arm and shoulder muscles firing in a different way to on a horizontal surface.
- sense of autonomy – to have a tree that they have control over and are allowed to make their own increases their sense of self and allows them to be in charge of their own area of the house.
PLUS, it’ll help keep YOU sane as a parent too, which is VERY important!
Sure, it doesn’t look *quite* the same with all the presents under it on Christmas Day, but at the end of the day, it’s just a few short years and you’ll have the big tree up again in no time.
In the meantime, you might find you need another area to have your pretty Christmas lights glowing in… I missed having the lights up so I made this driftwood tree wall hanging for our entranceway (thanks again, pinterest!). Out of the way of the kids and I get my fix of “Christmas Pretty”, which is just perfect.
Go well, whether you craft up a storm, or embrace the “no touch” phrase, put your tree on the table, put a playpen around it, or even stick your Christmas Tree upside down to the ceiling! I’d love to hear what you’re doing in your house this year, join the convo over Facebook or Instagram –
Meri Kirihimete (Merry Christmas),