Monday, December 29, 2014

A Toddler Friendly Christmas Tree

Christmas trees are beautiful and magical when you're a kid (and even when you're a grown-up.) One day out of nowhere your mommy and daddy put this huge, shiny, lit up tower of awesome in your house and you.....aren't allowed to touch it?! I fought the don't-touch-the-tree fight with both the boys. Some years the little hands obeyed; other years it was miserable. This year with a mobile Lady Bug I'm done fighting against my baby's natural curiosity and wonderment and I made the whole bottom row toddler friendly. Or at least, that was the plan.

I was going to write this all up at the beginning of December, but we moved and then sickness struck and in this cursed December there has not been a single day where someone has NOT had a fever or some other sickness. So now you're getting this post from the perspective of how the plan actually turned out.

The plan was to leave just the bottom tier of branches for toddler fun, but it turns out my not quite 17 month old can reach much higher than I thought. I left the bottom two undecorated at first, but she still got to the ornaments on the third from the bottom tier. So if you're going to do this, keep that in mind.

Jingle Bell rings on the tree
On the bottom rows I first put jingle bells on pipe cleaners/fuzzy sticks. I got both the bells and a pack of gold, silver, red, and green sparkly pipe cleaners at the dollar store, so for $2 I had four rings of four jingle bells for shaking and making music with. One fuzzy stick made a wide enough circle that it was easy enough to take off and put back on without snagging on the tree and pulling it down.

Side note, I did this with a very stable, and not too tall or heavy artificial tree. I have no idea how this would work or how stable cut trees in stands are, so please be aware of that if you do this!

Lady Bug loved her jingle rings and they were only ever on the tree if someone else put them back. I thought it would be good practice putting on and off, as well as preposition vocabulary building, but she enjoyed them too much to put them back unless I was specifically doing it with her.

I also then made her her own ornaments. I printed out pictures of family members and a few of her favorite things, then glued them onto silver glitter paper I got at the dollar store. Knowing that the glitter would soon be everywhere if I just left it like that, I then laminated them. It kept the glitter contained, still shined prettily, and they actually survived as toddler's rough handling and tasting! I cut them out, punched a hole in the with a hole punch, and then strung a shiny pipe cleaner through the hole. I also tied a gold glitter ribbon around the pipe cleaner where it went through the hole. (My tree colors this year was silver and gold.)

Everyone liked how they looked, and Lady Bug enjoyed naming the ball, bear, and flower, though she wouldn't name the family members. I had hoped it would be a fun way to practice naming herself and her brothers, but as she was sick for the first three weeks of December (fever, viral rash, double ear infection, another viral rash) I didn't try to practice with her. I had had visions of making colors and shape ornaments as well, and Brown Bear, Brown Bear ones since it's her favorite book right now, but sickness got in the way. But if your child isn't sick, it seems like a great idea (if I may say so myself) to make cheap ornaments that your child can enjoy and learn with.

 I am going to warn you though, that the reality of a Christmas tree that is being explored and played with by a toddler is also a messy looking tree. So if you're a perfectionist, leave my work of art tree alone type person like I have been in previous years, this might not be the thing for you. But if you're willing to be flexible and choose to have a learning experience for your little learner, this can be a pretty cool thing. (You might want to skip the beaded garland, though....)

This is what it looks like at the end of the month.


  1. Sigh. My comment has vanished. It went something like this... Tower of awesome is such a perfect term for a Christmas tree seen through a toddler's eyes. I once knew a family that would get two trees. One tree was kept far away from toddlers and was for the artist mom. She'd decorate the tree in whatever theme she chose that year, and the five kids had their own tree. This became tradition and they continued it until the kids were grown. Anyway, I hope you are all feeling better. We've had a long stretch of ICK, too!

    1. Thanks. :) That is a good idea to have two trees. I might try that some time when Lady Bug is a bit older. I did get a bit less particular last year about putting ornaments up when I got everything out, went to the garage to find one last thing, and came back five minutes to find Builder Boy on a chair hanging ornaments. :) He was so pleased with his work, I wasn't about to change it-even if my OCD/perfectionism was thinking "but it's not balnaced!!"

    2. I used to be OCD about the Christmas tree but I've given it up. The chaos does look beautiful in a different sort of way. Now if I could get less OCD about all the crap the kids leave on my kitchen counter. Why not somewhere else? I swear they do it to taunt me :)


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