This is our third Christmas with Harrison (or should I say Harrison’s third Christmas?), but the first one he will REALLY participate. The first year at only 8 weeks old, he slept through presents and received a little set of blocks from Santa plus a few new bottles in his stocking. Last year, he was super-stoked over his Little People school bus, but went down for a nap the moment we got to Gram and Grandaddy’s house. He stayed tuckered-out for most of the afternoon and had baby food while the rest of us ate prime rib.
But this year? Oh, this year there will be Santa. And if his birthday in October was any inclination, there will be many squeals of delight over presents.
Ashley Grimaldo has some great tips for keeping these crazy holidays toddler-friendly and manageable.
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.
Ashley Grimaldo comes from a long line of penny pinchers and enjoys blogging on money-saving tips and advice for frugal-minded parents. She lives with her husband and three children in Bryan, Texas. Ashley has been featured among such media outlets as Redbook, The Chicago Tribune, Time.com, and CBS News-Houston.
For all media inquiries, please contact Ashley Grimaldo at firstname.lastname@example.org.