The holidays are a wonderful opportunity to spend quality time with your little ones, from enjoying brunch at home to going outside and taking in nature. As fun as it all is, the season can also pose quite a few challenges for parents. Suddenly, routines become less regular, traveling with your toddler can be a challenge and hazards seem to be everywhere, from candles to glass ornaments to freezing-cold temperatures outside. Our survival tips cover how to keep your toddler safe, healthy and happy over the holidays so your family can make the most of the season.
1. Stick to the Sleep Schedule
During a holiday break, your little one might not have preschool or attend their regular activities. Even so, try not to let their schedule go out the window. Wake them up at the same time they’d get up any other day, try not to skip naps and start the evening routine whenever you normally do. Most toddlers thrive under a predictable, steady schedule that allows them enough rest, so fight the temptation to let it slide.
2. Try Not to Plan More Than One Event Per Day
If you’re visiting grandparents in the afternoon, avoid making a morning playdate. Toddlers need downtime to relax. Make sure you prepare your little one in advance by carving out special alone time, whether it’s reading, crafting or just cuddling. If they don’t get downtime, meltdowns are more likely to occur.
3. Hold the Sugar
Cookies, pies, candy—holiday sweets are everywhere this time of year. A treat every now and then is OK, but try not to let your toddler’s sugar consumption go wild just because it’s the holidays. To satisfy their sweet tooth, stick to fresh fruits and healthier versions of tasty desserts. (You can substitute our Golden Delicious Apple Puree for butter, oil or shortening in your dessert recipes for a healthier spin.) Wait to enjoy dessert at the end of the meal so your toddler can fill up on a nutritious, well-rounded dinner. You can also add a glass of milk to the dessert course, as it’ll fill them up and give them an extra dose of calcium.
4. Avoid Overeating
From big holiday dinners to treats from friends and family, food is a central part of the holiday season—and it’s all too easy to overeat. Help your toddler resist the temptation to fill up too often with a few of these strategies. Bring healthy sides to a big dinner, for example, and get some exercise as a family between engagements. Combat portion control by using a six-inch plate, which is the age-appropriate size for your toddler. When building your little one’s plate, start with fruits and veggies and stick to lean proteins.
5. Shatterproof the Tree
Everyone loves beautiful tree decor, but ornaments made of glass can easily break if little hands accidentally cause them to fall. Deck your tree with shatterproof ornaments that can handle your toddler’s shaking, dropping and throwing.
6. Create a Barrier
To prevent small kids from reaching up and grabbing lights, ornaments or other things from the tree, stack a few heavy boxes in front of it. Make sure they’re high enough so your toddler won’t be tempted to climb, and encourage them to enjoy the beauty of the tree from a safe distance.
7. Display Fragile Things Up High
Whether it’s a ceramic village on the mantel or a glass angel that tops the tree, keep breakable decor up high where little hands can’t reach.
8. Go for the Faux Glow
Flickering candles help make the season bright, but for safety’s sake, set out LED candles instead. You can even buy pillar candles made of real wax with LED lights inside, so you won’t miss the beauty of the real thing.
9. Bundle Up
If you live in a region where temperatures plummet during the winter months, you can still go outside and have fun building a snowman, sledding and doing other activities—just make sure you dress your toddler for warmth. Most of their skin should be covered; hats and gloves are a must! Take frequent breaks in a heated car if you need to. Remember to unbundle when indoors so your little one doesn’t get overheated.
10. Take Your Time When Shopping During the Holidays
Little legs and curious eyes need extra time. Make holiday shopping with your little one manageable by slowing down, even if it takes a little longer. Give breaks from being in a stroller so that your toddler can stretch their legs. Take the time to look at things that interest them, and try to plan shopping trips during less busy times so it’s not so crowded.
If you’re shopping all day, make sure to take a lunch break to avoid meltdowns. You can also stop in a bookstore for a little downtime reading. Make sure to plan for a nap in the car on your way home too, which may mean driving around for awhile to let them sleep before returning home.
11. Be a Rule Breaker
All year long we set rules around everything from screen time to sugar intake, but the holidays are for giving your kids and yourself a break. While in moderation, giving in a little can save you some sanity and provide your toddler with an extra treat. The new year means a fresh start, even for your little ones!
12. Call for Backup
Sometimes, we just need a break. You’re entitled to “me time,” especially during the holidays. Don’t feel guilty asking for a family member, friend or babysitter to watch your little one for a few hours. Sometimes we need to get things done that can feel impossible with your little one (like wrapping gifts!), and that time away will hopefully make you feel refreshed.
Though it might seem like a challenge, surviving the holidays with your toddler can definitely be done. Keep in mind a few safety tips while decorating your house, plan for extra time out-and-about with your little one and definitely stick to a schedule your toddler is used to. The season is a special time to share with your family, and a few simple steps and precautions can help make it safe, healthy and fun.