Yes, you read that right. While it may seem counterintuitive, toddlers actually love to pick up and put things away. Toy companies have made a mint out of this simple concept. So when you need a dedicated 15-20 minutes to dust the living room or sort through the tinsel, dump out the toy box, and excitedly tell your toddler it's time to play "Pick Me Up"! They will be occupied and very proud when they are all done -- just be sure to make a huge deal when they have completed the game.
If a manger is included in your holiday decorating, embrace the fact that you have a small child. Put away the porcelain figurines until they are older, and give them the job of outfitting the scene with their own play figures. I employed this every year my daughters were toddlers and quite frankly, I miss our manger decked out with play farm animals and a Weeble Jesus.
Nah, but what about the candles that make the fire? It may be one of the quicker tasks on your list, but why not let your toddler help with the Menorah? Toddlers love the satisfaction of fitting a round block into a round hole, so allow them to fit the round candles into the round holders! A few reminders of "gently" and before you can say Mazel Tov! your child has played an important part in preparing for Hanukkah.
We all know that the kitchen is the epicenter of holiday festivities. Not only for cooking, but for the conversation pit it inevitably becomes as the party goes on. While you are busily cleaning the crystal or rolling out the cookie dough, occupy your toddler with a damp dishrag (no sponges as they may chew off a piece) and set them to work wiping away at your bottom cabinets.
Trees are a beautiful part of many homes this time of year and nothing sets a toddler's eyes to twinkling quicker that a thousand tree lights reflected in those shiny glass balls. Of course they want to be involved, so for decorating, invest in a box of unbreakable ornaments and eschew those old-timey wire hooks in favor of the newer plastic ones. Allow your child to decorate the bottom of the tree with his ornaments. Once it is decorated, add small clusters of jingle bells to the portion of the tree your toddler can reach. Even when your back is turned you will hear if those same helping hands begin to reach out and touch.
Sending out all those holiday cards is a huge time investment. This season, let your toddler help! While you take care of the "Love From The Jones Family" portion, set your child up with some crayons and instructions to "sign" the back of the cards. She will be occupied, you will complete your task, and Aunt Josephine will be thrilled at the work of art on her card.
This may seem like an obvious one, but many people compound their stress by trying to do power cleaning while their child is awake. The smarter choice is to invest that time in tuckering out your toddler. If your day's To Do list includes some "must-do", high maintenance items, use the morning for a walk in the chill air, attend a playdate, or bundle up and play "chase" in the backyard. Then while your child is taking a longer than usual afternoon snooze, get to work!
Finally, if you are really in a crunch and need every waking moment to finish preparing for a party at your home, hire in some helping hands. My own 12 year old jumps at the chance to dip her toe into the babysitting waters this time of year and neighbors line up to have her in their homes playing with their child/ren. For about the cost of an Egg Nog Latte, you can buy both time to prepare and some sanity, all the while knowing your toddler is both happily occupied and still safely under your roof.
Enjoy every second because these fleeting moments with your toddler are going to end up being some of your most precious memories... Well, that and if your spouse ever comes through with those five golden rings.
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