Toddlers And Christmas Trees: Helping Them Get Along?

Random elegant Christmas tree photo.
Image from here.

Last year on the weekend after Thanksgiving, we went and picked out our first real live Christmas tree, with the hopes of making it a family tradition at the start of the holiday season each year. Thanksgiving weekend is here now — but unlike last time around, when Lillian was a sleepy helpless little infant with pretty much zero interest in Christmas trees, we now have an inquisitive and increasingly mobile one-year-old on our hands. Which naturally leads one to wonder — might this combination be a recipe for disaster? Is a Christmas tree even a good idea this year?

To shed some light on this question, I thought I’d search around the internet for any tips, advice, and strategies people may have found useful for ensuring the healthy coexistence of their babies or toddlers and Christmas trees. There’s quite a lot out there, and much of the advice seems to go something like this:

  • Get a smaller tree and put it up on a shelf or table
  • Block the tree off using furniture or a child gate
  • Keep the tree in another room closed off from the baby / toddler

But these kinds of tips, while being probably the most fool-proof, don’t seem to be quite what we’re looking for — ideally we would like to have a standard-size Christmas tree in the living room by the fireplace like we did last year, and having to block it off with gates or furniture seems like it would dampen the atmosphere and eat up a lot of the remaining space in the already modestly-sized room.

Upon searching further, I came upon this article which has a number of discussion replies on this subject — some a bit off-the-wall, like this little gem:

“My husband made my daughter terrified to touch the tree! She thought it would eat her. He would stick his hand in the tree and then scream like it was hurting him! It worked, she never touched it!”

I’ll admit, I laughed out loud when I first read that — but as amusing as the strategy sounds, I think I’d be worried about giving our child some kind of long-lasting irrational fear of Christmas trees.

For some more serious and possibly helpful suggestions, the AAP has an article here with holiday safety tips, some tree-related. And there’s a good article on WikiHow about cat-proofing your Christmas tree which has a lot of tips that could just as easily apply to babies and toddlers.

One more interesting suggestion comes from this post by a blogger with three kids under age three, and it seems like a really simple and clever idea:

“My favorite and best trick of all is to line the whole bottom of your tree with jingle bells!!! On every branch around the bottom of my tree I have put small silver bells that jingle every time someone touches the tree. They are baby safe and when the tree moves or someone is touching it I hear it immediately!”

So after going through all of these tips and ideas, here is our current plan for this year’s Christmas tree:

  • Weigh down the stand to reduce the risk of the tree tipping over
  • Use only non-breakable ornaments, and nothing small enough to be a choking hazard
  • Securely fasten ornaments to branches using strings or ribbons instead of hooks
  • Select a fresh tree, keep it watered, and sweep / vacuum regularly to minimize stray needles
  • Try the jingle bell trick to create a built-in baby alarm

These measures seem like they should be pretty effective for preventing most of the problems that could potentially arise — and worst case scenario, we can always have the backup plan of moving the tree down to the basement, or getting rid of it entirely, if things don’t seem to be working out.

What do you think? Have you ever had a Christmas tree with a mobile baby or young toddler in the house? How did things turn out? I’d love to hear any stories or advice on this matter!

4 Comments

  1. All of the Lyle babies have coexisted with a full to the floor Christmas Tree. Dave was born in November, and he was crawling when he was a year old. Like you, we had unbreakable ornaments, and we were always in the room whenever any of the little ones were about. I’ll make sure that any breakable ornaments are higher up on my tree! I’m just a kid about the tree, though I had to begin using an artificial one when I got to where I couldn’t manage a live tree. Before that, I had a living (balled and burlaped) tree, which we later planted outside. Several of them are still living, now 40 ft tall cedars. I know you will all enjoy yours!

  2. We had a tree when the kids were small, and just didn’t leave the kids around unsupervised. We even had some breakable ornaments, though they were secured with ties, as you mentioned. Honestly, cats are a far bigger problem than toddlers when it comes to destructive forces! The bells sound like a good idea for Lillian, though my cats would probably view those as an enticement to climb in the tree, rather than a deterrent.

  3. Thanks for the comments! I’d wondered if maybe I was over-thinking things, and it’s great to hear from folks who’ve had babies / small children and Christmas trees with no problems. Looking forward to posting about what we came up with for the tree this year and how it seems to be working out! :)

  4. When you were little, we’d have a tree with the breakable ornaments higher up the tree to be safely out of little children’s reach. Your dad and I would take turns being in the room with you so you never had the tree to yourself. When you were about two and into the “let me do it” phase, we would let you help decorate the tree. I did the lights and you and your dad did the ornaments. Remember that little trumpet ornament we had from when I was a child that really worked and how we’d each give it a ceremonial toot when it went on the tree and when it was put away? That was a fun tradition until the poor thing broke. For an ornament to last 40 some odd years is pretty good in my book!

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