24 December 2008

Toddler-proof the Christmas tree by decorating it with her old toys

Mark's practical tree trimming tip:

Our darling little girl just turned 18 months before Christmas. Last year she was pretty indifferent to the tree but this year she is all about it. At first we just gave up and the bottom 3 feet of the tree were just bare. Then I realized that I could fill out the bottom with her existing toys. I grabbed some little ones that were out of circulation for a little while and wedged them in the branches. Now we have a tree decorated from bottom to top and everything that she can reach is colorful and safe. It also makes the day end cleanup a little easier since we can just toss a lot of the loose toys into the branches.

Just double-check the tree stand to be sure it won't topple.

Related: Toddler-enable your Christmas tree with a few unbreakable ornaments

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One of the toddler tactics we use for our tree is "Christmas fingers". The kids can touch the ornaments but ONLY with ONE finger. It satisfies their natural urges and the technique can be used all year long for a variety of situations.

I did this 20+ years ago with my first son! Right from the begining, I used rattles, teethers, any toy I could loop a short bit of ribbon through and decorated the bottom half of the tree with them. They were my son's 'ornaments' that he could touch, take off, and put back on to his heart's delight. I did this until he was 4-5 years old. It worked wonderfully and I NEVER had an issue with him touching the more delicate ornaments.

We also made ring garland from multicolored construction paper for the first few years as well. If it accidently got pulled on, it would rip (therefore tipping the tree was not a concern) and was easy to repair. He enjoyed being part of the decorating process and we got to spend fun time together making decorations for the tree. When he was older, we strung popcorn together.

By the time he entered school though, I started longing for a more 'adult' tree again. My solution was to buy my son his own small little tree (3-4ft) that sat on a nightstand and that he could decorate however he wanted with whatever he wanted.

I did not do the toys on the tree with my 2yr old this year (or last) though because I was warned last year that some artificial trees have lead in them so putting toys that your child might want to handle and/or put in their mouths isn't a good idea. I haven't been able to actually verify this yet but I haven't had the time to really do much research so I'm not sure if this only applies to old trees or more recent ones too. I do think toys on the tree are a great way to make trees more child-friendly during the holidays! I just needed to mention a possible concern with it that I had been informed of.

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