Mommy SOS: Toddlers and Christmas Trees

Last Christmas..

Last Christmas - it was all so easy!

Ever since reading Jill’s hilarious post about her Christmas tree + toddler experiences, I’ve been dreading the tree.

The hazards are almost too numerous to enumerate, from lead coated chrismas tree lights to strangulation by tinsel and even a warning I read recently about toddlers pulling the whole tree down on themselves – it’s enough to make any sane person say¬† bah humbug, no tree this year!

I mean yes, you can always decorate just the top half, or surround the tree with a baby gate, but I keep thinking is it worth having a tree if it’s going to just look like some sort of hybrid baby jail?

So that’s where you come in, I KNOW some of you have figured this one out, so please enlighten me and anyone else torn befuddled by this holiday conundrum!

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vtjill says:

Any chance you can put up a big tree in a room you don’t use as often? I know this may not be an option but we put our tree up in our more formal living room that we rarely use which has dramatically minized our DD’s interest. We also put jingle bells on the bottom that she helped hang which she loved (and put the nicer ornaments up top). So far it’s been working but I have to say reading some of these comments make me wonder if we are nuts or should be tying down the tree!

Jules says:

My tree is full of expensive Radko ornaments. Everyone thought I was crazy when I started collecting them over 10 years ago, thinking what would happen when I had kids. I’ve been lucky–aside from a Kermit the Frog ornament breaking as Mikey tried to carry it to me when he was 3, nothing has been damaged (knock on wood).

Both boys were fascinated at around Jasper’s age, but I just stayed close to them the first day or so and let them touch the ornaments while I was holding them in my arms. But, I was clear that they couldn’t touch when I wasn’t around. I just kept praising them when they would look and point. I don’t know if I’ve been lucky or the positive reinforcement worked. I would like to think it’s a combination of both.

Nicholas gasped this year when he saw the tree and went running to it like a maniac, but we told him to look but not touch. “Not touch, Mama? Just look at the Christmas?” That’s right. Just look at the Christmas. :)

nanette says:

I was going to get a tree decal from Etsy, which are cute but a little spendy, but decided to just use our fake tree instead, with a baby gate around it.

Catharine says:

We have a pre-lit tree with no ornaments this year. Still pretty but less exciting to a toddler and a new kitten.

katie says:

I had to put all my beautiful antique glass ornaments on the top and have plastic ornaments on the bottom. C loves to pull the bottom ones off so instead of the hooks I just put extra ribbon around them so they are east to get off.

I do like the idea of the one finger rule… going to try that tonight!

Susan says:

Like Maggie, we have a superyard around our tree. We already had the superyard, so at least it wasn’t an extra cost for us. All the ornaments are shatterproof (just in case) and I have to say I kind of love our set-up. We can enjoy our tree, the cat knows where she can escape to, and I have a place to keep gifts that otherwise would take up room on the kitchen counter. I guess it helps that our gate has small vertical slats, so it’s not much of a visual interruption.

Here is a link to the photo:

Peytie's nanny says:

Just a quick comment…the bells on the lower ornaments…I think isn’t a good idea at all because kids love things that make noise so obviously they are going to WANT to mess with those ones….

Anyway, Peyt’s mom was just mentioning this morning that she is greatful that we have a kiddo that listens well. She loves the tree and was very interested in it while it was being decorated and a few of the more exciting ornaments had to be moved BUT all we have to do is tell her to “leave it” or “don’t touch” and she will. And we have a HUGE tree, got the biggest one on the lot and it’s right in the main room, I love Christmas :-)

kennedy says:

“One finger” works in our house! Although, like Stephanie, we have had a few occasions where she gets so excited she can’t take it anymore and grabs whatever she can until we pull her away… but that’s why our nicer ornaments are up top. :)

My mom said we always had a Christmas tree when we were kids and I can’t imagine NOT putting ours up… so I’m willing to be extra vigilant for a month if it means I get to look at that pretty tree all day long!

I LOVE the “one finger” idea, but I’ll have to test it on something else first. I’d hate to go through all the work of putting up a tree only to have “one finger” result in tears and frustration!

Sarah says:

We’re considering 3 options: putting a smaller tree up higher as many have already discussed, putting a regular-sized tree in a section of the house Finn can see but we can still “gate off,” or putting up a regular-sized tree and then following Finn around — as we already do in areas of the house that haven’t been completely baby-proofed yet (gasp!). Option 1 is currently most appealing, but I’ll miss the bigger tree…

We simply just don’t have the room to place a gate around the tree, and now that Wes is practically crawling and always toward the last thing I want him to crawl toward, we just went with the easiest solution: we put up a Charlie Brown tiny tree high up on a table where he can’t reach it! We’ll put our large tree back up in a couple of years.

Belle says:

Ditto with the small tree on a table. Here in merry old England we operate with limited space so the Christmas tree (usually no larger than 3 ft) goes on a tabletop in the front window with presents underneath the table. Still pretty to look at but far away from curious little hands.

Lynn says:

My mom also had a good idea–buy little jingle bells and tie them the lower ornaments so that you can hear if the wee one is getting into the tree.

ariana says:

I am loving reading all of the different approaches to this issue!

Maggie, I have to say you did a great job of decorating your safety gates!

Sarah, great idea about anchoring the tree to the wall!

I have such cute images of all of your toddlers doing the “one finger” game with the ornaments.. now I’m really torn – tree on a table or try to teach Jasper to be “gentle” with the tree!

Kimberly says:

We also got a smallish tree (4′) and put it on our coffee table, which is about 4′ square. It looks pretty good, and is JUST outside James’ reach, and to be honest, he’s much less interested in the tree than I thought he would be. My parents have a huge decorated tree at their house where he goes when I’m at work, and they’re teaching him not to touch… so far, so good. I have to admit it was much easier than moving a bunch of furniture around to make room for a big tree on the floor! Good luck!

Michelle says:

Jack is 16 months today. He is a wild man… active for a toddler. SO I knew that a tree would be a problem. We went and bought a live tree (about 3-4 feet tall) and put it on top of a table. I have to tell you, I really like it. It was so easy to decorate and we can plant it out in our yard when the holidays are over. I may never do a big, big tree again. I went over the top on other decorations, because I still want it to be special for him… we have loads of paper snowflakes on the windows, strung into garlands and hanging too. And, if he gets ahold of a snowflake, it isn’t precious and it is only paper.

Can’t wait to see your tree or what ever you decide on!


Stephanie says:

Try the “one finger” rule. We have made this into a game with our 14 month old. When he goes to touch something fragile like Christmas bulbs, we say “one finger!” He then touches it with his little pointer finger and we clap and say “yay”!!! He thinks it is fun and it works pretty good for right now. There has been a a few times where he has freaked out and grabbed as many ornaments as he can – completely ignoring the one finger game!

Sarah says:

We anchored our tree to the wall to prevent DS (17 months old) pulling down a 9 foot fake pre-lit tree on himself. And we are only using the unbreakable ornaments (cloth, some plastic, metal, etc). So far we only have three on it and he seems fine. We are also skipping other decorations around the house that might be breakable. Everything I put out is okay to touch. So the nutcrackers, etc all had to be the ones I am okay with him playing with. We’ll see how it goes.

kennedy says:

DD is almost fifteen months old and our tree has been up for about a week and a half. We put most of the breakable ornaments on the top half of the tree and DH was somehow able to teach her to “just touch” the ornaments. At first she kept pulling them off, but now she knows she can touch whatever she wants as long as she just touches it with her finger… it’s kind of cute. :)

Starting putting presents out yesterday… THAT is a whole other issue. Those bows are really teasing her!

Kristen says:

Jackson’s a disaster too, there’s no way he wouldn’t be interested, pulling, and destroying it. No way he wouldn’t, I was dreading the extra chasing it would entail.

Thankfully our problem was solved because we’re moving. We’re not adding to our packing work by throwing setting up a tree, decorating it, and taking it down to our list. So, we’ve decided to buy one of those tiny trees that you can plant. Decorate it with a string of lights, and then take it with us to plant at the new house. Problem solved and green to boot!

Maggie says:

We have a huge tree and a superyard around it. Ugly, yes. Not having a tree wasn’t a possiblity for us (i love christmas decorations!!) but having it open to my crazy toddler was not an option, either. I did pretty it up a bit by tying big bows to the superyard and have just tried to embrace the fact that my tree is a little different this year :)

If you want to see it in all of it’s ugly glory, you can see some pictures on my blog
(scroll down to the end of the post to see the superyard)

DS loves the tree and will rest his head on his arms while he leans on the gate to look at it. It is adorable and makes me so happy that I didn’t go tree-less this year!

Ava says:

Yeah, you heard Shane already say we’re leaning towards NO tree.

G is really into climbing right now — he’s even trying to climb up our safety gates. I REALLY, REALLY don’t want to deal with trying to keep him off the tree this year.

Shane’s mom will also be taking care of G for us over the holidays, and between a crazy cat, and a devilish child, I really don’t want to add the stress of keeping a tree upright.

We’ll bring the tree back next year.

jbhat says:

I too think he’ll be fine. Just tell him not to touch anything. He’ll listen to that, right? : )

Maria Naccarato says:

We’ve had ours up for about a week now and it’s been ok. The lower ornaments are not breakable and have no small pieces nor are attached by hooks, just the loop that’s part of the ornament. I have to steer him away from it a couple times a day but overall he’s not too intrigued by it. Hope it works out for you guys!

Sara says:

No tree? Thats just crazy! The way I see it is that we had a tree every year growing up. Only God knows what sort of dangerous items the decorations were made of in the 70’s and despite all of that we turned out just fine, safe and sound. I remember being so excited as a child to go and and get a tree and decorate it… so many wonderful memories.

We put our tree up the other day and so far so good. Just a lot of ohhs and ahhhs.

Sarah says:

I know I am cursing myself but typing this however, We put the tree up a week ago and Alex has NO interest in it. He walks right by it. Does not stop to look at the lights or touch anything. Its crazy! I was so worried. So, maybe just maybe Jasper may surprise you and not care about it! I thought for SURE Alex would be all over. But nope!
Anyway, I know it’s rare, but you never know!! He’ll be 16 months on the 16 by the way, so same age!

Shane says:

Oh so timely! So far we’re opting for No Tree this year too. It would either go in a room that we don’t frequent often (which means we don’t get to see it much) or we end up walling it off or saying NO for the next 4 weeks. I plan to setup a small ceramic tree my mother made when i was young. And that’s about it.

Lynn says:

We just did a small tree this year, and we placed it on top of our coffee table, pushed in a corner. So far, so good. Our 15mos old isn’t terribly interested in it! I also hung up lights around our windows in the living room, and she is much more interested in looking at those.