I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but toddlers are a bit like kittens. Shiny, dangly, bright things are the stuff dreams are made of. This poses a bit of a problem at Christmas, since a Christmas tree is basically just a large collection of the shiniest of dangly things.
You’d better believe that when your toddler sees it in its full, dazzling-bauble glory, her thought process will go something like: Oooh, shiny. Must smash!
But don’t despair — there’s no need to kill the spirit of the season. You just need to make a few modifications. Here’s how to toddler-proof your Christmas tree:
1. Fence it off
A good way to stop your toddler from crashing her way through your bauble collection is by constructing a barrier between her and the tree. MacGyver your playpen into a Christmas tree fence or if that doesn’t produce the desired ambiance, pack large boxes with heavy things, wrap them in Christmas paper and construct a merry, toddler-proof wall.
2. Skip the lights
Would Sir like a shining string of temptation? It can be yanked to make the tree dance and there’s the thrilling option of burns or electrocution should Sir care to try Sir’s new molars on it. Lights are not a good idea. If you can’t let them go entirely, use them in some other creative way — like to decorate a window or vase.
3. Nonbreakable ornaments
To you, the delicate crystal snowman that was passed down from your great-great-grandmother is perfection. To your toddler, it’s a chance to see what happens when she puts it in her mouth or smacks it with a shoe. Save it for another year and instead fill your tree with the beauty of plastic. While not quite as magical as the real deal, faux crystal and fabric ornaments will ensure nothing gets broken — including your heart.
4. String vs. wire
Wire is an amazing chew toy and also a superb choking hazard. If given half a chance, your toddler will give it a good home between his tonsils. So if you’d like to avoid emergency visits, replace your wire hangers with string or ribbon.
5. Ornament placement
A tree only decorated from the waist up looks ridiculous, so don’t do that. Still, be aware that with enough determination, your toddler will get her hands on the ornaments within her range, so ensure that those potentially within her grasp are safe for her to play with.
6. Throw vs. wrap tinsel
Fluffy, metallic wrap tinsel can give a tree the je ne sais quoi it really needs. Unfortunately, it can also provide your toddler with the perfect handle to bring the tree crashing to the floor. Skip the wraparound stuff for the year and sprinkle a bit of throw tinsel instead — don’t go too crazy, though. Cough. Choking hazard. Cough, cough.
You know the way a cat has a bell on its collar so it can’t get up to mischief? Well it would be silly to put a bell on your toddler… wouldn’t it? Yes. Yes, it would. But you can put bells all over the tree. That way, if your toddler should get past your barriers and somehow latch onto a branch, you’ll hear a merry jingle of warning.
8. Toddler tree
The best way to keep your toddler from getting busy with your Christmas tree is to give her one of her own. Not a duplicate — ain’t nobody got room for that — but rather a toddler-friendly version. For instance, a felt tree with Velcro felt ornaments.
A strategically placed chest of toys — particularly if it’s Christmas-themed — can go a long way to preventing a curious tot from raining terror down on an unsuspecting tree.
10. Constant supervision
Although it’s a bit of a killjoy, the best way to toddler-proof anything is to be there in person to stop your toddler from doing too much toddler damage. Don’t leave your little one to her own devices with the tree and everything will end happily ever after.