The holiday season is a beautiful time. Although I complain about the crowded malls and family obligations, in my heart I know… I love this time of year. I love the Christmas music. I love the sparkling lights and hot chocolate. But most of all, I love the look on my children’s faces when Santa magically puts candy canes on our Christmas tree when they’re not looking. But have you ever stopped to think about what your toddler’s perspective of Christmas might look like?
I’m blessed with four little kids ages 6 and under so I know that the magic of the season is all the sweeter when you’re a parent – especially if you’re a parent of toddlers or young children. There’s nothing more beautiful than the excitement in their eyes on Christmas morning.
But can we be honest for a minute and just agree that it gets really stressful at times? There are so much planning and shopping and cooking and hosting. It’s a busy time. And it’s also a time when our little ones often tend to be out of their normal routine. Perhaps there will be later bedtimes, more screen time, and more visits with the grandma that fills their tummies with sweets. I’m not saying any of this is bad. It’s just different. So it would be unfair for us to expect our kids to adapt to our needs while we turn a blind eye to theirs.
So, what are their needs anyway?
What do our toddlers and little ones experience during Christmas and how can we make this time as memorable and enjoyable as possible for them and everyone else?
THE EXCITEMENT IS OVERWHELMING
I think about it like this… every year for my birthday, my husband plans an awesome day for the two of us to spend together. He keeps most of the details as a surprise but I always get hints that he’s up to something in the weeks before my birthday. Now, I’m a grown woman you guys, but I lose sleep thinking about what he might be planning for this year. I play out the possibilities in my mind and live out how fun it’ll probably be. That’s kinda what Christmas is like for little children – except multiplied by like a thousand.
All December long, our kids are watching us prepare for some grand event.
They know there will be gifts and gatherings and a ton of fun. Their
excitement will get the better of them sometimes. They will want to
decorate with us, even if it’ll be so much prettier if we do it without them.
They will want to bake and contribute and be part of everything. And you
know what they are wishing for in return? They really want us to
reciprocate their excitement. They want us to look at the twentieth
Christmas craft they made and tell them how truly amazing it is. It would
be unrealistic for us to expect them to maintain composure without a lot of
gentle guidance and patient leadership. So take a deep breath, smile and
allow them to get involved as much as possible.
THEY HOPE FOR AS MANY GIFTS AS POSSIBLE
When our little ones receive new toys, it’s kinda equivalent to us cashing
out at Sephora or receiving that awesome Amazon package we’ve been
waiting for. Let’s face it. We do this too. We stand in front of several items
that we can’t choose between and wrestle with the thoughts in our head. Many
times, we make an illogical exchange in our minds and decide that we’ll
buy all the items and be more careful in our spending in other areas. And
this happens using our developed adult brains that are supposedly well-
equipped to deal with the desire for the happy feelings we get from
receiving new cool things.
When your preschooler has a fit because he only got two toys and his
cousin got three, or because he wanted the green Transformer, not the red
one, just remember that this is not an act of selfishness. He is seeking
more of those happy feelings that come from receiving and needs some
gentle reminders of how to regain control and feel safe. Christmas just
presents a lot more opportunity for learning in this respect, so instead of
getting mad at them, let’s get down to their level and speak some words of
comfort to them.
To read about some great ideas on how to handle the insane amount of
gifts that come during this season, check out this awesome post at
THEY ARE SEEKING MAGIC AND CONNECTION
Our children are ultimately seeking two things from the Christmas season:
Magic and Connection. Sometimes, the magic doesn’t come in the form of
presents – though, of course, it can. The magic can be the stories you tell
at the dinner table. It can be putting the star at the top of the Christmas
tree. It can be extra marshmallows in their hot chocolate.
Then there’s this beautiful warm feeling you get from spending time
together – extra time, more deliberate time. That’s the connection that
comes during this special season. It’s seeing family members you haven’t
seen in a long while. It’s the random acts of kindness you do together as a
family. It’s the warm hugs and tight cuddles. It’s the extra “I love you”s. (If
you won’t need some inspiration for cool ideas of family traditions to start
this Christmas, check out this post- https://lifefullofsunshine.com/christmas-traditions-for-families-of-little-kids/
Our little ones will get tired. They will get overstimulated. They will get
cranky and whiny. And although you’ll remember how stressful the days
were, March will roll around and they’ll say to you, “Remember when it was
Christmas time and I fell asleep in your arms at Grandma’s house? You
had to carry me to my bed that night and you snuggled with me a bit. I
really liked that.” They’ll say, “I can’t wait till next year when we can read
Christmas stories in front of the fireplace again. That was my favorite.”
And then you’ll feel a tug on your heart as if to remind you that THIS is
what Christmas is really about.
Hi there. I’m Gigi, mom of 4 little one’s ages 6 and under. I love sharing what life teaches me, through motherhood and family travel, in a way that is relatable and practical. You are not doing this life alone. We’re all on this crazy, beautiful journey together.
I love this so much. It’s so easy to get caught up in the busy with young children and forget the magic.
Everything in this article is so true! As a mom of a 4 and 1 year old I see all of the actions described. It’s an amazing and magical yet overwhelming time for them!
Wow I’ve never really thought of Christmas from a toddlers perspective. This is great, so much food for thought. Thanks xdd
This is wonderful! They crave the connection not just the piles of gifts!
Thank for posting this! My son thinks he is getting all the gifts and I have no idea how to explain to him that he’s not lol.
My son is two, so we’re going through some of these things right now. It’s exhausting, but you got it absolutely right, he just needs some extra comfort and patience as he learns about this exciting season!