Decorating for Christmas with Kids

November 5, 2019

When I was a child we would head to the Christmas tree farm the Saturday after Thanksgiving and spend hours locating the perfect tree.  At least it seemed like hours when I was a child.  My mom would bring hot chocolate and we would listen to Christmas songs in the car.  It was the official beginning of the Christmas season in our house. 

Once we got home I was always so eager to decorate.  And it drove me crazy that it took forever to get the tree off the car roof, trim the bottom and branches and lug it into the house.  And once it was inside I still had to wait for my parent to string the lights and garland before we could get to the REAL decorating.  I could see all those boxes of ornaments and stockings and trains just waiting to be unpacked.  The anticipation killed me.  And my parents also probably wanted to kill me! There was so much boring stuff that had to be done before the fun – and typically we didn’t even get to the fun part until the next day. 

Make Decorating Fun for Everyone

Decorating for Christmas has always been an event for me.  Even when it was just my husband and I – I made it in to a special day.  I’d make a fancy charcuterie platter and open a bottle of wine.  My husband would feast and I would decorate.  Making an event out of decorating makes it special.  Something to look forward to.  Now that we have three kids we typically put up our tree the Saturday after Thanksgiving.  After several years and many tantrums and meltdowns I have come up with a system that allows the kids to have a fun day and the decorating to get done.

Get the Boring Stuff Done Ahead of Time

Young kids don’t do well when they are bored and excited.  It is a really bad combination.  They want to dig right into the real decorating – and I understand.  I felt that same way as a child.  I really didn’t care how perfectly the garland was hung – I just wanted to put all the shiny balls on the tree!  So, my husband and I pre-decorate on Friday night.  Once the kids go to bed we bring all the decorations up from the basement and put the tree on the platform.  I have time to arrange and fluff the branches. My husband will replace any burnt out light bulbs and hang the garland while I organize the decorations for the next day.

Everyone loves decorating! HA HA HA

Separate the Kid Friendly Ornaments and Divide Among Kids

A couple years ago my kids were going nuts because it seemed like every ornament box I opened contained a glass ornament or a “special” one and I wouldn’t let them put them on the tree.  They were excited and bored and frustrated.  I believe my oldest spent a fair amount of time in time out that day.  The next year I opened all the ornament boxes the night before and separated them out into Mom and kid piles.  I took it one step further and filled a caddy with ornaments for each kid.  I counted and evenly divided the kid ornaments.  That way they were fairly distributed and the kids could carry their caddies and decorate the tree with their ornaments.  This cut down on the bickering tremendously.

Provide Distractions

We have a few Christmas toys from when the kids were younger – a Little People Nativity Set and North Pole with train, as well as some Christmas Puzzles and games.  Along with our Christmas books I bring these up from the basement the night before and set them up in a distant corner of the room.  These “new” toys are so exciting that the kids will often stop decorating and play with the little people toys or sit and read the Christmas books.  When they were younger I would buy one of those cardboard gingerbread houses to color and play in. Keeping the kids busy with “new” toys allows me to continue decorating for most of the day.

Give the Kids their own Space to Decorate

This is something my mother did.  Each of us had a small Christmas tree in our bedrooms that we could decorate however we chose.  Our ornaments we received from our parents and grandparents all went on those little trees.  Once we got bored with the main decorating we could go upstairs and work on our own rooms.  I am still looking for the perfect trees for my kids bedrooms.  Now that they are older I want to start this beautiful tradition. In the meantime they decorate my basement with all the old decorations and lights. They have so much fun making this space their own.

Make Decorating an Event

The kids know that it is “Decorating Day”.  They get so excited – we play Christmas music and eat appetizers and cookies for lunch.  We have hot cocoa and typically end the day with a Christmas movie.  It normally coincides with the day our elf returns from the North Pole so there are all sorts of shenanigans and surprises in our house this day!

I want everyone to have fun decorating and spending time together as a family

Use Nap Time Wisely

If you are lucky enough to have children who nap – use that time wisely.  Do the “boring” decorations or spend some special time decorating with an older child.

Protect Your Tree with a Baby Gate

Put a baby gate around your tree – it has saved us from many near disasters.  Little kids are so tempted to touch all those sparkling babbles and tree branches.  It is so easy for a tree to come crashing down.  I clearly remember the year my brother knocked down our tree and how my mother cried for all the broken ornaments.  I didn’t get it then but I sure do now.  That leads to my next point

Don’t hang Special Ornaments on the Tree

If you have young kids, or a cat or crazy dog don’t put your special breakable ornaments on the tree.  I only have a few ornaments in this category – vintage ornaments from my grandparents trees, ceramic ornaments my mother made etc.  These ornaments are displayed on high shelves or behind closed glass doors in the dining room.  I assume that any ornament I put on the tree could be broken.

Take a Break

If the kids get bored – Stop! I am a very driven person – if it is decorating day I fully intend to complete all the decorating that day.  But at what price? If the kids are bored and I’m yelling at them, it isn’t fun anymore.  Take a break.  They may come back to decorating or they may be done.  Maybe it’s time for a Christmas movie for the kids, or a family walk.  Sometimes bundling the kids up and sending them outside to “help” my husband with the outdoor lights is all we need.  By “helping” they will follow him for a bit and then end up on the swing set or in the neighbor’s yard!  If all else fails finish up once they have gone to bed.  It is more important to have a fun day together as a family than finish decorating the tree in one day.

A little fresh air helps everyone!

Don’t Undo Your Kids Work

Remember it’s beautiful.  Regardless of how your kids have placed the ornaments your tree is beautiful.  The kids will know if you move all their ornaments – don’t let your OCD take over.  They intentionally placed the ornaments on specific branches.  If there are three ornaments on one branch – they wanted three on one branch.  Just let it be.  This is not a stage of life where you are aiming for a perfectly decorated tree.  This is your family tree that you all love because you decorated it together. 

In your child’s eyes – the tree they decorated is the most beautiful tree there could ever be.

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  • Reply tamara November 15, 2019 at 4:46 pm

    lol every year I have to resist re-doing my kid’s handy work. Last year our tree was so heavily laden with ornaments on one side I thought it was going to topple over.

    • Reply Liz November 15, 2019 at 5:15 pm

      LOL. I always love how there is always that one branch that has about 10 ornaments hanging on it!

  • Reply Kimberley November 15, 2019 at 2:16 pm

    Decorating is the perfect activity to promote bonding with your kids during the holiday season. Thanks for sharing your tips on making it safe and fun for all parties involved.

  • Reply Laura Jafarkhani November 15, 2019 at 12:37 pm

    These are excellent tips. Every year is different as my kids are at different ages. I try to learn from mistakes. I used to be quite the control freak when it came to getting the tree to look a certain way but I still wanted the kids to join in. It was stressful. I will be planning ahead this year.

    • Reply Liz November 15, 2019 at 1:13 pm

      It is so hard to find that balance between the vision we have for our tree and the one our kids have! Good luck with your decorating!!

  • Reply Megan November 15, 2019 at 10:37 am

    I absolutely love these ideas. Decorating for Christmas is my favorite thing to do. I’m totally using your ideas this year to make it extra special for everyone. Great post!

    • Reply Liz November 15, 2019 at 1:14 pm

      Thanks. One of the reasons I try to make it fun for the kids is I want them to love decorating as much as I do!

  • Reply Nadia Malik November 15, 2019 at 10:36 am

    What great ideas! Separating kids decorations by bins is a life saver when you have 3 or more. Baby gate is also such a no-brainer. It is a great read and I am sure around the holiday time, people need all this advice to have a stress free Christmas.

    • Reply Liz November 15, 2019 at 1:17 pm

      Thanks – With three kids I’ll do just about anything to avoid conflict! Have fun decorating

  • Reply Ivana Mearns November 15, 2019 at 10:29 am

    what a great blog post – the photos really made me laugh.

    • Reply Liz November 15, 2019 at 1:15 pm

      Thanks – I live with a pretty silly group of people!

  • Reply Tabatha Hull November 8, 2019 at 9:12 am

    It’s so hard to believe that it’s almost that time of year again already! My kiddos are looking forward to decorating as well. I like your idea to give the kids something of their own to be responsible for, like a little tree in their room. Thank you for the helpful tips!

    • Reply Whitney November 15, 2019 at 12:23 pm

      I needed to read this! I have a 2.5 year old and I’m hoping he will be able to help me decorate rather than destroy. Last year we cut my tree in half and out it on a table so he wouldn’t reach it. 😆

      • Reply Liz November 15, 2019 at 1:17 pm

        That is too funny – the things we do to survive as moms!

    • Reply Liz November 15, 2019 at 1:15 pm

      Thanks. Anything to keep the kids occupied! LOL

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