Making the Most of the Holidays with a Young Toddler

Making the Most of the Holidays with a Young Toddler

- in Ages & Stages

I’m the type of person who believes this time of year can be magical. I’m currently sipping my hot coffee out of my holiday mug and will listen to Christmas music as much as possible between now and Christmas Day.

Even if you’re not as entirely into Christmas, this time of year is definitely more special with a kid around, don’t you think? I want to start all sorts of Christmas traditions with my little family but must remind myself to slow down. You see, my toddler is still pretty young – not quite 18 months – and certain things just won’t register with her (like driving around to look at Christmas lights…hard to see when you’re still rear facing!) and/or will overwhelm her.

So here are a few ideas for celebrating the holidays with a young toddler/older infant:

  • Cool it on the gifts. I know, Santa is excited — but remember they will be more into the wrapping paper than the presents, so you really don’t need to go crazy. They will also get tired and overwhelmed if they have too many to open and you know what that means— meltdown! Also, keep things simple— things like stickers, socks, and headbands all make my kid REALLY happy. That light up, loud (expensive) toy? Most likely in the bin, never to be played with.
  • Make a big deal about decorating the tree but give your kid the non-breakable ornaments for playing. We have a felt doggie ornament that is perfect for my dog-obsessed kiddo. I have no idea why we have this one anyway, but talk about something to be grateful for! We narrated what we were doing every step of the way while decorating the tree, but were cool when she took the doggie ornament and ran off to her room. But then when we turned on the lights, we oohed and ahhed like crazy, and she was giddily excited. Did she get it? Maybe not, but now anytime the tree lights are on, she shouts “tree!” and runs over. So…I’ll call it a Christmas win.
  • Get matching Christmas pajamas that mean something to THEM. I found matching pajamas that are red flannel with MICKEY MOUSE EARS. Vera loves Mickey and Minnie. She probably doesn’t really understand that we all match, but it does make her ridiculously happy when mom and dad are wearing their Mickey and Minnie outfits.
  • Introduce Santa gently but don’t push. We are trying to read books and talk about Santa Claus now to make him a little more familiar, but I fully expect a Santa meltdown when we go visit him. If she doesn’t want to sit on his lap? Don’t force her. It is pretty scary when you think about it, so just roll with whatever happens and respect your toddler’s boundaries.
  • Focus on the joy, not the stress. This time of year can be busy— with shopping, Christmas parties, cooking, baking and more to do. But remember…almost all of that is a choice, and you can choose to stress, or you can choose to be joyful. Order something online and then play with your little kiddo. They will remind you what it’s like to truly be excited over something dumb like socks. And they can make you laugh the hardest, too.

What other ideas for celebrating the holiday season with very young kids do you have?

About the author

Stephanie Prause is a 30-something living in a suburb of Cleveland, Ohio. She is a corporate communications professional, juggling a career she thrives at with being a mom and wife. Stephanie is passionate about healthy living (which really just means eating nutritious foods and staying active)...but she also loves craft beer, chips and salsa, and naps. On her blog, Good Health & Great Cheer, she explores all of those things that make life worth living. Stephanie is a frequent blogger at and serves as the Marketing Committee Chair on the Board of Directors for the Hanna Perkins Center for Childhood Development. Other interests include cooking from scratch and reading voraciously (at least for about 20 minutes before she passes out mid-sentence).

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