The realities of preparing for Christmas with a toddler

Image: Getty
Image: Getty Photo: Getty Images

'Twas the weeks before Christmas and all through the land,
parents of small children knew they needed a plan;
to get through the holidays with sanity in tact
Required more than a thought - now that is a fact. 

It goes without saying that preparation for the holidays changes once our babies become toddlers and begin to understand the magic and possibility that the festive season holds.

Once the excitement of creating festive memories for our children takes hold, there are also some realities we must face in this very important lead up to December 25.

The decorations

There are two camps in the land of festive decoration. There are those who reluctantly drag the tinsel out of storage the week before Santa's visit, and those who determine the appropriate time to decorate based on when shopping centres start playing Bing Crosby on loop (the November 1).

Whenever you decide to muster the energy to decorate, there are some points to consider:

1. Your Christmas tree will mostly likely live in a cage until your children are at least five years of age. Failure to fence your tree will most definitely result in toddler consumption of ornaments and tinsel debris.

2. Well meaning relatives will want to bring token ornaments to excite your toddler or small child. Note to parents: if the bright lights and glittery tinsel aren't incentive enough to climb a tree, a Peppa Pig ornament will definitely get that job done.

The lesson? Licensed Christmas merchandise stays at Grandma's house. 

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3. Planning on buying those animated soft toys that play jingles and make noise? Ask yourself this. Are you happy to listen to them on repeat for 12 hours straight or until the batteries run out?

Good, because hearing Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer is exactly what you're about to hear all day, everyday (and in your dreams at night) for the foreseeable festive future.

Santa

One of the great mysteries of Christmas for children is the concept of Santa Claus. It's also one of the great joys for parents who subscribe to the narrative. All around the world in supermarkets and shopping centres, the familiar phrases can be heard, "Timmy, stop pulling your brother's hair, do you want me to call Santa and cancel Christmas? I swear I'll do it!" or "Now Stephanie, we're not buying you another princess outfit, put it on your list for Santa."

Parents can now download apps dedicated to simulate contact with the man in the big red suit at a moments notice, so if you're looking for a good behaviour bribery tool, you best get searching on the app store now.

Sometime between now and December 25, many parents will muster the courage to brave the crowds and take young children to meet Santa. Hoping to capture an annual 'moment in time' with precious toddlers is a wonderful notion, however prepare yourselves for these potential Santa photo outcomes:

1. One or multiple children will have a tantrum while waiting in line (for what feels like an eternity) to meet Santa, so head to the shops at an off-peak time.

2. The Santa you visit may more closely resemble Billy Bob-Thornton from the 2003 movie Bad Santa than the Miracle on 34th Street Santa you're hoping for, so keep character expectations low.

3. One or multiple children will cry on Santa's lap, which will require you to join them for the photo. This will most likely coincide with the day you decided it would be fine to wear your spaghetti stained t-shirt and unwashed hair, hidden under a cap, to the shops.

The presents 

It's tempting to get caught up in the gift buying frenzy at Christmas. Most likely because we do our gift buying sans children, which is basically a mini vacation for parents of toddlers.

When you're standing in the toy section at Myer, cooing over the miniature piano, take it from this mum: you're not going to be hearing chopsticks or Beethoven on that thing once you let it into your house. Unless you're prepared to explain the mystery disappearance of a noisy gift come February, it's best to stick to the toys which you're happy to hear, see and step on around the house in the coming months.

When you're exhausted, sitting on your couch on the 24th December, admiring your tree, glistening in its cage, presents wrapped with care underneath; remember that the smiles and excitement on Christmas day make all the effort worth it.

At least that's what we tell ourselves for another year, right?