By Sarah Deveau

Each year I look forward to decorating for the holidays with my three daughters. Invariably though, exactly 45 seconds into this delightful family bonding experience I’m dreaming of forgoing Christmas altogether in favour of a December getaway to warmer climes. If the hell that is decorating for Christmas in our house is only the start of the holidays, how am I supposed to survive 25 more days?

Holiday decorating with three young children underfoot means smashed bulbs, ripped garland, injuries from misplaced metal ornament hooks, fighting over the prettiest (and always, of course, the most fragile) ornament and an endless chorus of “Where does this go?” when you’re knee deep in tangled strings of lights. For two hours I need to be part octopus, hands reaching up, down and behind to snatch breakables from toddlers and preschoolers. Ornaments not dropped from hands are instead hung five deep on one branch until they drop, or placed on the table edge which is jostled until they, you know, drop.

I have learned a few lessons over the eight years of holiday decorating with children that have made the experience if not 100% enjoyable, at least tolerable. After all, I don’t really want their memories of heralding in Christmas to be only how my voice would increase in shrillness and volume during the course of the evening.

If you’re looking to make holiday decorating with kids more enjoyable for everyone, here are a few tips:
• Be willing to stifle your inner Martha. Try not to be hell bent on ensuring every single room in your house is magazine spread ready. Your kids will be crushed if you don’t want to display the four foot tall tissue paper snowman they made in preschool (thanks for that Teach).
• Pack your ornaments and other decorative items according to breakability, not type. Don’t pack all the tree ornaments together – pack all the breakables together, and the items that can survive a toddler together. Let the little ones help unpack the safe items, and hold off on the breakable until they’re in bed.
Set out a simple craft, like Christmas printables and stickers, nearby for children that bore quickly, or if they just need a change of focus from something you would prefer them not be involved in.
Challenge older kids to undesirable tasks, like untangling strings of LED lights, and younger ones to busy work such as sorting plastic bulbs by colour.
• If you have an abundance of ornaments made by little hands you’d prefer not to display on your main tree, let the children set up a tree of their own in their bedroom or a den or rec room.

I’m sure this Christmas will be the year our decorating adventures will be the picture of Norman Rockwell bliss. And if not? Well, no sense being a grinch about it. Christmas decorating comes by once a year!

decorating for christmas