Christmas can be an overwhelming time for all of us, but just imagine what it is like for your toddler. We have put together some of our best tips for how to help your toddler not get overwhelmed at Christmas.
Imagine this holiday from a toddler perspective…
Noise and lights, a stream of random strangers roaming through the house wanting hugs, food at odd times and full of sugar, late nights, long days, lots of travelling, some weird bearded guy in a red suit and don’t even get me started on all the presents! From the view of your toddler, it could very easily all be a bit much.
Christmas is meant to be a family time and should ideally be happy for everyone. It should also be a lovely experience for your children, especially in their early years. It is completely understandable for little kids to get wiped out by Christmas, but there are some great ways you can help minimise this.
Here are some tips that have really helped me, and that I hope will be useful for you too. Read on below to see how to help your toddler not get overwhelmed at Christmas
Start some traditions
Traditions have been shown to be incredible for family bonding and for your child’s development, giving your little ones a sense of stability and identity. Christmas is the perfect time to start some family traditions that they can look forward to every year, especially when you might be spending Christmas with relatives and waking up in strange beds.
Here are some ideas for Christmas traditions that I love:
- Spending Christmas Eve taking a walk around your local neighbourhood seeing the lights
- Spending Christmas Eve having a family movie night with pyjamas and popcorn
- Reading The Night Before Christmas to the kids as you tuck them up in bed or on the couch as a whole family
- Making cookies or other treats to give to family members as gifts – toddlers LOVE helping with baking and decorating
- Starting a tradition of giving a new book or a puzzle to your children and then enjoying this as a family – this can be great to wind down on Christmas Night.
Give them fewer presents
Studies show that children are happier with fewer presents, and it is also much kinder on Santa’s budget. Once they unwrap more than a few they have forgotten what the first one was, and don’t really appreciate any of them individually.
Having more toys reduces the quality of playtime with each toy, with experts believing that children are better off with fewer toys in the long-term. Too many toys are a distraction and can be easily overwhelming for toddlers.
And while you are probably just focusing on getting through this one day without a meltdown, you can also feel good in the long-term effects of giving your child fewer presents. Children with fewer gifts and toys tend to be more social, more creative and less likely to develop problem behaviours like addiction and overspending as adults (yes, really!)
Another option to fewer presents is to stagger your present opening across the day or even over several days. We find this really helps especially with extended family gifts. Open just one at a time, and give him a chance to play with it and truly enjoy it.
It can also be worthwhile asking relatives/guest to hold onto any gifts when they first come in instead of handing them over right away which can quickly develop onto a pattern of expecting presents from every person who walks through the door, imagine your guests being greeted with ‘What did you bring me?’
It can also be a fantastic idea to get family members to chip in together for bigger, more expensive presents rather than lots and lots of smaller ones. Experiences are excellent as well, from swimming or kindy dance lessons to tickets to the movies or kids’ theatre shows or theme parks. Enjoyment of the experiences creates ongoing bonding times and mean that the effects of the lovely gift-giving buzz can be appreciated by everyone well into the new year.
Stick to your routines as much as possible
Make sure that your child eats when he usually would and gets a chance to still sleep or have quiet chill out time when he normally would as well.
Carry easy snacks with you as well as water in his drink bottle so that his basic needs can be met wherever you are. Take his stuffed toy and blanket wherever you are so he can go for a nap with some familiar snuggly items.
At family functions and Christmas parties your toddler can easily go under the radar by not eating anything all day except half a bowl of xmas snacks, so pay extra attention to what he has eaten. Try getting a sandwich and some fruit and yoghurt into him either before or after to make up for it.
Fresh air and exercise
We are all guilty of being a bit sedentary during the Christmas break, with lots of sitting down eating and drinking. While you are happy hanging out with friends, your kids might be going a bit stir-crazy!
Make sure that you fit in some chances for fresh air and gentle exercise every day over this period, to give your toddler a chance to clear his mind and let off steam. Have a run around outside with a sprinkler or water balloons if it’s hot or play a family game of cricket or take a walk to the park.
An extra prompt is to give them something to use outdoors as a gift – it doesn’t have to be big or expensive. Think about something as simple as some little plants and a spade to make their own garden, a skittles set or some bubble wands.
Schedule some quieter family time
The ultimate trick is to plan in some time for just your immediate family to enjoy Christmas together, and keep this relatively low key.
Tell your extended family that you are having Christmas morning just you and the kids, and then stay in pyjamas and chill out in preparation for facing the hectic day ahead.