To keep presents in perspective, choose holiday traditions that convey your family’s values.

Holiday Traditions: Setting Up for Success, Not Stress

For children aged 3 to 5, the holidays offer many delights—the lights, the singing, the cookies and, yes, the presents. To keep the presents and “getting” in perspective, choose holiday traditions that convey your family’s values.

Choosing Your Traditions:

  • Bring the traditions from your own childhood that you truly cherish.
  • Discuss as a family, including your toddler, what your family would most like to do for the holidays.
  • Setting realistic goals, in terms of time and money, can set you up for success. Trying to do too much only invites more stress.

Choose Child-Sized Portions of Holiday Fun

Not only is your time limited, but so is your toddler’s attention span and stamina. Plan child-size portions of holiday activities. It is far better to have an hour of holiday fun then 4 hours of agony and regrets.

  • Baking cookies together can be a great family tradition, but you don’t have to bake ALL the cookies together. Let your children help you with the first few batches, the ones that are easiest for little hands. Save the mega-baking for after the children go to sleep.
  • Schedule shopping in manageable chunks. A few hours shopping allows time for toddlers to take in the holiday decorations and music before becoming cranky and hungry. Shopping also offers an opportunity to discuss what your children plan to give—whether store-brought or not—and not just what they want to get.
  • Make setting up the tree and trimming it a 2-day event, so decorating will be the main event, rather than just an ending to a long day.
  • Designate as “adult only” the breakable ornaments that would break your heart to see broken. Make sure there are plenty of ornaments for children to hang and that ornaments that they made themselves get highly visible positions on the tree.
  • If there is a story behind a decoration, share that with your children. If one of your holiday treasures is the music box your grandmother brought from Poland, tell your children how far it traveled and how long ago, and perhaps share a story about your grandmother. If dad got those trains when he was 6, he can reminisce about the first time he set them up.
  • Monitor TV use. Some holiday televisions specials are truly that; others can just be another vehicle for a cartoon character or action figure; and most are inundated with ads. Choose wisely. Television can be a true guzzler of time, which is probably the most valuable thing families have.

Last updated May 24, 2016