Should You Baby-Proof Your Christmas Tree or teach baby to not touch the ornaments on the tree? Which is the best way to teach your kiddo?
I have a very simple philosophy on baby-proofing my house.
I don’t do it.
Yes, I stick those outlet socket covers in most of the open sockets…though not all. And most of our bookcases are mounted to the wall.
My cleaners are all stored so high that I can barely reach them (back when I had little ones). That is about as far as I go.
No gates. No cupboard locks.
I focus on house-proofing my child rather than child-proofing my house.
I Don’t Rearrange My House
I don’t rearrange my house to keep things out of reach. I remember being pregnant with Brayden and people laughing about how our stuff would slowly move up over time.
I have literally seen homes where nothing is available on the last two feet of available space. The shelves are bare. The tables are bare. Drawers are empty…
While this is very practical, I wanted my children to have the opportunity to learn to listen to me when I tell them no.
That means I leave stuff out they aren’t allowed to touch so they learn that things are off limit at times and they learn they need to listen.
Does that make life harder for a while? Yes. But it makes life easier in the long-run.
Please take note, I don’t leave things out that can be dangerous to the child. I also don’t leave things out that are irreplaceable to me in any way.
But what about when the Christmas tree comes out? And those decorations? Do I only decorate the top half of the tree?
My tree is fully decorated.
It is touching the floor.
There is nothing baracading the tree from the family.
We had a mobile, young child for many, many years (well over a solid decade) and had no tree incidents.
How to Decorate a Christmas Tree with Little Ones
So how do you decorate a Christmas tree as usual with young little ones around?
Just like you live your every day life. Just like you house-proof your child year round.
But I do have some extra tree tips. Trees are not just average, run-of-the-mill decorations.
Trees are fascinating.
I remember a playgroup we had one year with Kaitlyn’s little friends. I had four 3 and 4 year olds standing around the tree in awe. They literally looked at it for 20 minutes and I had to prod them away to do an activity. I think they would have looked at the tree the entire two hours!
Christmas trees are like magnets for children, so it is wise to have a plan.
Keep Breakables Out of Reach
First, don’t put anything breakable within the child’s reach. Put the breakable stuff up high.
I think that is pretty standard practice anyway–smaller and lighter stuff up higher right?
Just make sure the breakable things are out of the child’s reach. That way if she succumbs to temptation, she won’t be injured and you won’t be lamenting the loss of that heirloom.
Have Some “Yes” Ornaments
Second, consider allowing her to play with something on the tree. We usually have a few “yes” ornaments on our tree. This can take the novelty away and also provides substitution to take place.
Your child will want to touch the tree and the ornaments so very much! If you have a few ornaments that she is allowed to touch, it can meet that desire. Read more about the principle of substution in this post:
Now, not all children can handle this freedom of being able to touch a few ornaments, so consider it carefully before you allow it. Some might touch everything rather than just the allowed ornaments.
If you find your child can’t handle the freedom, you might consider having a small tree that is okay for your child to decorate to her heart’s content. I had a tree like that growing up and I really enjoyed it. Then you could make the big main tree completely off-limits.
Use Ask and Tell
Third, remember the principle of Ask and Tell. Give instructions on what is okay and what is not okay with the Christmas tree.
When you are done, ask your child about the instructions as appropriate (see linked post below for more on this principle).
My favorite companion parenting principle to go along with ask and tell is training in times of non-conflict. Don’t wait until your child tries to grab everything off the tree before you try to teach her that she can’t touch things.
Don’t Leave Your Kiddo Alone with the Tree
Fourth, be sure to be present with your child for the first week after a tree is put up. Supervise tree interaction.
You can gently remind her what is okay and what isn’t okay. If your child is accustomed to having rules on what is okay to touch and what isn’t, this should be enough to teach her what is and isn’t okay.
Finally, be patient. The tree is new, it is shiny, and it is full of interesting toy-looking things. It is also a constant reminder of the joy of Christmas, so it incites feelings of great excitement.
You might have to do a lot of reminding. Remain patient and calm while you have to do so.
You can still have a fully decorated Christmas tree even while you have little ones living in your home. This is a great chance to reinforce listening and obeying and allows you to decorate as you would like.
- Christmas Gifts for Children: The Ultimate Guide
- The Symbolism Behind Your Christmas Decorations
- Child-Proofing vs. House-Proofing
This post originally appeared on this blog December 2010