Welcome to this special edition Guest Post Edition of Mommy Takes 5 and I am so excited to share some great tips on not only surviving, but thriving during the Holidays with a Toddler!
A quick introduction:
My name is Cassie Kitzmiller and I am a momma of 3 boys (7, 2, and 5 months). I love all things Christmas, decorating my home seasonally, and attempting to keep my sanity with 3 young boys bouncing off the walls! Some quick background info…My eldest son was one of those “people-pleasing” toddlers with which all we had to do was countdown from 3 and he would immediately clean up his act. We thought we were great parents. Look at our amazing disciplining skills!
Enter son number 2… After battling second time infertility for 4 years, we were thrilled to become pregnant with our “wild-man” son #2. That little booger was born to be a middle-child, we just didn’t know it yet! He is pure-boy and fiercely independent. He always has, and always will, do things his way and in his time! It’s just a good thing he’s so darn cute is all I have to say! With the holidays fast approaching and the strong-willed, wild-child smack dab in the middle of the “terrible-two’s” I have compiled a list of survival techniques to make it through the holidays with my sanity, and my children’s safety intact (at least we’re going to give it our best shot!) Here are some techniques to try with your own little one this Holiday season:
Toddler Survival Technique #1)
Plan Ahead: Oh, how I wish that every toddler melt-down could be prevented with a little bit of foresight, but we all know that is not the case. Sometimes the tears and fits come no matter what we do. Often times though, I’ve learned that if I take a little time in the planning and prepping stages I can keep the breakdowns to a minimum, or at least to semi-controlled sobbing…
Now, I am not naturally one of those amazing moms that plans everything three days ahead of time and that never leaves the house without coordinating, monogrammed backpacks for each child. I’m more like the mom that heads to Atlanta for a 3 day work trip and leaves the baby bag full of all of the clothes and diapers for the entire trip behind. (True story, don’t ask…) With that said, I have learned that a little pre-planning goes a long way. Here are some things I try to consider during the holidays:
-Snacks, lots of snacks: I have a tendency to get Hangry when my blood sugar drops, and my Wild-Child toddler seems to have inherited that lovely trait as well. That is why I seldom leave the house without some form of sustenance in my bag: peanut butter crackers, goldfish, boxes of raisins, cups of water. Nothing interrupts a near-meltdown than the promise of a snack if he’ll be good for just a few more minutes!!!
-Always pack play clothes: There is nothing like dressing your little bundle of cuteness up in the seasons finery only to get to your destination and find that there is an hour to kill before the festivities and the other kids are playing outside. Now maybe your little angel can’t ruin an entire outfit in under an hour, but I know mine can! I have learned to always pack an extra outfit that my little one can run around and get messy in before I change them back into their “nice” clothes.
Toddler Survival Technique #2)
Decorate Accordingly: The stockings were hung by the chimney with care, because a destructive toddler soon will be there. While that may not be the actual words in the favorite Christmas song, it sure does fit at my house! With my first son we never had to worry about our tree because we told him no and he miraculously never touched it. That was so not the case with wild man. We had to get creative with our decorations and fast if we wanted any to survive the year! Here are the tips that worked for us last year and we will be using this year in a few short days:
-Hang non-breakable ornaments down low: Don’t get me wrong, I love a beautiful Christmas tree, so much so that I wrote a book on the subject, but even I make sacrifices when there is a toddler in the house. The bottom portion of the tree is dedicated to all of the metal, plastic, fabric, and foam ornaments. Luckily there are a ton of great-looking styles on the market today and if you let your kiddo help decorate (A feat in and of itself), you can always spread them around so the tree looks more balanced. If that isn’t enough protection for your little one, keep reading.
-Gate off your tree: If your kiddo thinks ornaments are made for throwing, not hanging then you will want to install some kind of armed wall. Well, that may be a little drastic, but I do recommend gating off the tree if at all possible. Last year we utilized our folding baby gate and stretched that thing around the entire tree! It worked with a 1 1/2 year old, but only time will tell if it will hold back the 2 year old this year. He is smarter, and he is taller, that is why I’m implementing another round of protection this year….
-Give them their own tree to decorate: If your tree is simply too irresistible, how about giving your little elf-in-training a tree of their own to decorate, tear apart, and then redecorate. There are several different ways to do this including DIY foam trees wrapped in felt with felt stick-on ornaments (look on Pinterest for how-to’s), but my choice this year is going to be a mini-tree and plastic ball ornaments. Our local tree farm allows each kiddo to pick out a “Charlie Brown” reject tree to take home for free and that will be my little one’s very own tree. A quick run to the dollar store, and he can decorate his little heart out while leaving the big tree (hopefully) alone!
Toddler Survival Technique #3)
Plan Toddler Appropriate Activities: Toddlers have a wonderfully challenging blend of a desperate desire for independence, held in check with, a physical inability to do everything they desire. This conflict often results in some very undesired reactions from my wild-child two year old. I’ve learned that planning activities that he can participate in along with the “big kids” keeps his independence flourishing and his temper in check. Here are some activities that I recommend for little hands that want to feel big:
-Cookie icing and decorating: Notice I did not say cooking baking. I made this mistake last year and what started as a fun family activity soon ended with a toddler covered head-to-toe in flour, sugar all over the floor, and a broken egg on the counter. This year I will be prepping the cookie dough after the little ones are safely tucked in their beds, and we will make memories decorating the cookies together. Bags of squeezable icing, loads of sprinkles, and wipe-able oil-cloth tablecloths are all you need to keep a toddler happy and occupied for at least 5 minutes. (I can’t help you with the inevitable sugar crash afterwards….)
-Make homemade seasonal play-dough: I love to decorate and my wild-child loves to help. Sometimes the help isn’t as “helpful” as it is destructive. In times like these I distract my kiddos with the task of making their own decorations out of homemade, seasonal play dough. I like to prepare a big batch early in the season and keep it in an airtight container in the fridge so we can use it all season long. In years past I’ve always made the cinnamon dough recipe that has been around for ages, but this year a fellow-blogger posted a recipe for “Hot Cocoa Dough” that I know my boys will love! Since I’ve accumulated a large basket of hot cocoa packets through the years, this will definitely be on my to-make list this year! To get the recipe click here: Hot Chocolate Play Dough
Toddler Survival Technique #4)
Make the Season Magical: Childhood is such a fleeting time and it is so important to take the time to enjoy the magic of the season with our little ones. It is so very easy to get caught up in the To-Do Lists and the cleaning, and the wrapping, and the cooking, and the thousand other things that we have to get done during the season, but the memories we make with our kiddos will create a lasting love in their heart for the traditions and magic of Christmas. Here are some extra-special things that we are adding to our family Christmas traditions this year to maximize the magic of the season:
-Make yourself a Magical Christmas Fairy: Yes that’s right, you can be transformed into a magical Christmas fairy with the simple wave of a wand. But not just any wand, the Magic Light Wand is what you need to “magically” turn your Christmas tree on and off with a simple wave of the wrist. Simply plug your tree (or any other lights) into the included adapter, wave your Magic Light Wand, and Viola! The lights come on and your little ones know for sure that you are truly magical! (It also saves you from having to climb under the tree to turn on your lights, so it’s a Win for everyone!) www.MagicLightWand.com
-Focus on the Meaning for the Season: All too often we give lip-service to the real reason for the season without backing that talk up with action. This year my family was given the gift of The Giving Manger and I love the message that it encourages. Every time your child does something thoughtful or nice for someone, they get to put a piece of straw into the manger for baby Jesus’ bed. The goal is to have a completely full manger by the time Jesus arrives on Christmas. I love the idea of encouraging thoughtful behavior so much more than “threatening” kids with little elves that will report to Santa. This way the magic and the meaning of Christmas unite!
Putting it all Together:
Hopefully I’ve been able to give you some helpful tips you can implement to not only survive, but to thrive during the holidays with your toddler! If all of above ideas fail, remember, there is always nap time! A tired toddler always equals a grouchy toddler in my house! With that said, Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays from our house to yours!
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About the Author:
Cassie is an undercover Christmas elf, mother to 3 boys, small business owner, and author. In her free time she hangs tinsel, bakes cookies, wipes jelly off of the walls constantly…To read more about her tips on Holiday decorating and Family Antics, visit her at www.findingbeautyintheeveryday.com
You can also download her new book: The Art of the Tree: Designer Tips and Techniques for Your Best Looking Tree Ever on Amazon. Click HERE to download a free Preview!