The holiday season is upon us, and that means we are all decking halls, trimming trees, and trying desperately to keep our kids from destroying it all.

Wait? Is that just me?

Christmas is one of my favorite seasons to decorate my home (check out this year’s playfully modern holiday home tour here). But sometimes, I get asked how I can do so much decorating with kids in the house. 

The truth is that having a beautiful home and raising children are not mutually exclusive.

I’ve found that my son loves the holiday decorations as much (or more) than I do. As he gets older, he helps more and more. That makes it even more special and fun for our family. Instead of just being something mom does, it’s something we can all do – making memories together.

So if you are wondering how to merge a beautiful holiday home with your kiddos around, here are a few of my best tips:

Be realistic.

It’s easy to get caught up in the beautiful images you see on Pinterest and in magazines. Perhaps you want your home to look like that. I know that I do.

But sometimes, I also have to be realistic.

For example, I love glass ornaments, but we aren’t really in a “glass ornament season of life” right now. With two kids and two dogs, fragile items can be dangerous. So our main tree is mostly made up of plastic ornaments. And the glass ornaments aren’t so precious that I’ll be upset if one gets broken. 

Life is far too short (and goes by too fast) to worry about broken ornaments.

I do have breakable items other places in the house, but I try to place them in areas that are not prone to get broken. The most precious items get put up high out of reach of my son, dogs and me. (I’m pretty clumsy, too.) That means my antique Christmas trees and Department 56 village aren’t going to be placed where anyone can reach them. 

But we can all admire them from afar. 

Get kids involved.

I’ve found that if I try to do all the decorating myself, I end up burned out and resentful. That’s not the best way to start the holiday season. And it’s not the type of momma I want to be, either. 

Instead, I get my son involved from the start – and how this looks will vary based on the age of your kids. (My 8-week-old daughter is obviously way too little to be involved, but someday she’ll be part of this, too.)

My five-year-old even helped me bring all the decorations upstairs this year. (He’s way stronger than he looks.) Then, he helped me choose where to put the tree and other special decorations. And he loved decorating the tree. He did a lot of it himself this year. (He did have to rely on me to hang ornaments in high places.)

We even take our decorating on the road – helping to decorate his 92-year-old great grandpa’s house.

But getting your kids involved also means that you have to be willing to really let your child help and also be willing to compromise. Because there will likely be a hundred ornaments on one branch on the tree. And your children may have ideas that are different than yours.

And it’s almost always going to take a lot longer when kids are involved. Just block out double the time you anticipate. And then add another week.  

Set boundaries.

I think this will depend on your child and his/her age, but I think that setting boundaries is key to decorating with kids at any time of the year. 

For example, my son has always known what he can and cannot touch. Does he stretch the limits? Yes. But knowing that he’s not supposed to use the ornaments as basketballs helps a lot. And knowing that everything he does touch has to be put back sets clear expectations. 

With that said, I don’t want everything in our home to be off-limits – and it’s not.

  • I don’t tell him that he cannot touch the tree. I just teach him how to do it gently and ask him to put everything back when he’s done.
  • I don’t tell him not to play with the nativity, because I love to see him acting it out.
  • I don’t tell him that he can’t use the Christmas blankets as a fort, because everyone loves a good fort.

You see where I’m going with this. It’s just like anything in parenting. We set guidelines and boundaries and then work with our kids along the way. 

Use photos.

You love your kids – so think about ways to showcase those cuties in your holiday decor. 

My favorite way to do this is to have at least one holiday image printed each year to be displayed. (Sometimes I can’t choose and print more than one picture.) These get displayed every single year and are stored away with the holiday decorations. It’s a great way to relive memories and see how much your kids have grown.

I also got a picture from my son’s first Christmas printed as a huge canvas – it looks like a piece of art but is much more personal. 

Finally, don’t throw away those holiday cards. At the end of the holiday season, we punch them with a hole and use a ring to keep the whole year’s worth of cards together. Each year, we pull them out and display them again. It’s a blast to see our friends and family throughout the years. My son loves to point out his friends and family members.

Give kids their own space to make decisions.

Finally, I think it’s really important for kids to have areas in the home where they are totally in-charge of holiday decor.

In our house, that is in the bedrooms. My son gets to have his own tree and decorations in his room – and he is the boss. Mom helps him come up with ideas and execute, but he is in charge of the final decision. 

This is a really fun way to let kids express their creativity. Last year, my son wanted a dinosaur tree. So, we searched Pinterest together and he came up with a plan. Then we made and painted dino fossil clay dough ornaments together. And then he got out his stool and put all the ornaments on the tree himself. (Check out the finished dinosaur tree here.)

This was such a fun experience for both of us. And when guests arrived at our house, my son dragged them up to see his tree right away. He still talks about it and has already started planning this year. 

If you don’t want to deal with a tree in your kids’ rooms, think about other areas of the home where they can be in charge. It doesn’t have to cost a fortune – in fact, I think this is a great time to go with homemade decor. Kids can string popcorn, paint pictures, or make ornaments at home. 

You’ll be amazed at how proud they’ll be of their space when it’s all done. 

At the end of the holiday season, I probably won’t remember every single decoration we put up in the house or how perfect everything looked. But I will remember the memories we made together. And I’ll remember how it made me feel. Even if it wasn’t perfect at every moment.

And mostly, I hope my kids remember it, too.

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