I love all that comes with the Christmas season – the delicious food, colourful lights and decorations, random acts of kindness from strangers, extra time with family and friends… Navigating all the extra social events with little ones can be a challenge though! There’s a lot of missed naps, late nights, and so much sugar!
I’m still pretty new to this whole parenting thing (my oldest isn’t even three yet), but in my small experience of holidays with babies and toddlers, I’ve learned a few things that have been very helpful. The following are my top three tips to make all the holiday hustle and bustle fun for everyone!
Don’t be afraid to ask for what your kids need…
This was a hard one for me at first – we had a lot of very established family traditions from a family of all adults, and then suddenly my husband and I started having kids and what had worked for years didn’t work as well for us anymore! I had to realize that Christmas wouldn’t be ruined just because we didn’t do exactly what we always used to do – in fact, tweaking things to work better with my kids would make it even better (with less tired meltdowns!).
This could look very different depending on your own family structure and routines. For us, it meant limiting events to one per day – if we go out for a brunch or a lunch, we make sure our evening is free for an early bedtime for the kids to help balance the missed or shortened nap. If it’s a dinner or evening party, we plan a quiet day at home beforehand, and nothing the morning after so the kids can sleep in a bit if they want or need to. We’ve also on occasion planned to arrive late to an event in order to fit in a good nap beforehand or left a bit earlier than intended in the evening if the kids are getting visibly tired and fussy.
It also could mean checking in with the hostess to see if there’s a dark, quiet room in her home you could set up a pack-and-play for your baby to sleep while the party carries on. Maybe it means bringing along some favourite, familiar toys, books, and music/white noise and asking your host for a quiet location you can take your little one to unwind if they’re overwhelmed by all the noise and excitement. Perhaps it means that you host, and then you can tuck your little people into their own beds and carry on with the party.
Whatever it is that you know your kiddos need, don’t be afraid to ask for it!
Pack kid-friendly snacks…
This was also something I learned from experience! Be sure to stock your diaper bag with a variety of familiar snacks (and healthy options too!) as well as whatever sippy cup or bottle your kiddos are used to drinking from. Not all party food is toddler-friendly, or served on a schedule that suits the appetites of little ones, so be sure to have a buffer supply of things you know they’ll eat to stave off any hungry meltdowns.
I keep an assortment of freeze-dried delights in my diaper bag at all times, and it’s such a great way to make sure my kids are getting their fruits and veggies when we’re out, not just eating Christmas cookies and candy! My kids also absolutely love RUVI, so I will keep a couple of packages of that in my diaper bag with a shaker bottle and straws, and they can drink that instead of sugary juices or punches (they love it, and again, it helps to dilute all the holiday treats with more fruits and veggies!).
As a side note, if you’re a pregnant or breastfeeding mama, keep a stock of healthy snacks for yourself too! I’ve found myself much less tempted to over-indulge at a holiday buffet if I’ve already enjoyed a RUVI in the car on the way there! It’s also really helpful to have a personal snack stash if pregnancy aversions are driving you away from everything that is being served, or your host surprises everyone by serving authentic sushi or dishes containing alcohol, and you can’t eat it with a baby on board!
Set realistic expectations…
My third and final tip for happy holidays with kids under three years old is to manage your own expectations – realize before the event or function starts that you will likely miss some part of it due to changing a diaper or nursing a baby or taking your toddler to the potty. Be aware that you will probably spend more of your time supervising your kids (to make sure they aren’t gleefully and innocently touching and/or smashing fragile heirloom decorations) than you will in deep, meaningful conversations with other adults. Realize that buffet lines when you have multiple children under three are no small logistical feat. I’ve found that if I settle it in my own heart and mind that I am going to devote myself to making sure my husband and kids have a good time while we are out, rather than focus on my own agenda, I’m much more happy and grateful for all that my husband does and appreciative of the little things that my kids notice and get excited about.
Have you had to adjust your holiday routine since welcoming little ones into your home? Share your tips and tricks in the comments below!