It’s chaos and joy and sometimes tears and…did I mention chaos?
There are presents and candies and treats and breakfast and it’s just all so wonderful. But sometimes that can be completely overwhelming to our toddlers – I know in the past years, Harrison has had moments during the holidays where he just needed to be alone. That the sugar rush crashed and all the strange family members overwhelmed him, so he and I sneak off upstairs and play cars or read quietly for 20 minutes. Then he’s ready to party again. Biggest tip is really just to gauge your kiddo – is he feeling overwhelmed? Or is he totally eating it up?
Playing to the needs of your kid can really, really help make Christmas morning enjoyable. But it means you may have to drop some expectations and just go with the flow!
Here’s some other tips that work for our family:
Decide on the number of sweet treats allowed. 1 of 6With the font of sucrose flowing throughout the holidays, be a sugar-monitor fiend and make sure other house visitors know your rules. If you have a struggle with, ahem, I-want-to-be-the-favorite grandmothers, get it out in the open first rather than commencing a power struggle on Christmas. According to the American Heart Association, children should limit their intake to about 4 teaspoons of added sugar each day.
Construct all disassembled toys the night before. 2 of 6Most parents learn this the hard way after their first Christmas with kids. Kids don't want to open up a box, especially the preschool crowd. They will either get frustrated while you sweat over a screwdriver and instructions written in Mandarin or lose complete interest. Skip the $5.99 for wrapping paper and tie a simple bow on your ready-to-play toys. Start putting them together now so you aren't up past midnight, bleary eyed with a wrench, on Christmas Eve.
Get to bed early the night before. 3 of 6While establishing family traditions for Christmas takes precedence over toddler routine, make your plans reasonable for the younger crowd. Try to wrap up Christmas Eve activities early and give plenty of down time before going to sleep. Junior needs good rest to enjoy the following morning. He won't get it if he stays up until 10:00 with out-of-town visitors.
Space out opening gifts throughout the morning. 4 of 6You'll probably feel enormous pressure for your kid to open every gift, respond with enthusiasm and then give a huge, grateful "thank you" to the recipient. It just won't happen if you rush through the gift opening. Some moms, like Mae at What To Expect, prefer to open one gift every other day for the week leading up to Christmas--a godsend when winter storms hit and the family is stuck indoors. Bare in mind that your preschooler will enjoy his offerings much more if he has time in between opening to play with the goodies.
Limit gift opening to a small number 5 of 6Three is good. This will be the hardest part of your holiday experience. Regardless of your convictions, the gift-giving fever kicks in at Toys 'R Us and you go crazy buying, wrapping--and still more buying--several days ahead of Christmas. Even this late in the season you can nab holiday coupons from sites like CouponSherpa.com for one or two special gifts -- open them earlier in the week rather than all at once on Christmas morning.
Wrap up the morning with quiet time and a nap. 6 of 6After opening a few presents and enjoying time with visiting family, give your toddler plenty of time to decompress alone in a quiet space. Review the fun times of the morning with her and read a special book to help calm her down. Be on the lookout for overstimulation -- nasty meltdowns, hyperactivity, and avoiding eye contact should be a red flag to flee the scene and recover.
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