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Holiday Survival Guide: Conquer the Holidays with a Toddler in Tow

The holidays aren’t always easy with a toddler. While this is a fabulously festive time that’s filled with twinkling lights, a constant stream of Christmas music and all kinds of holiday happiness, it’s also stressful.

Whether you’re hosting the family gathering, traveling over the river and through the woods to grandma’s or just trying to wade through the mountain of gifts that you’re expected to give, calm and relaxation isn’t exactly synonymous with the holiday spirit — at least not when you’re also trying to wrangle a toddler.

Your little one’s schedule is suddenly thrown into chaos and daycare is closed for “winter vacation.” Hmm. Vacation? Maybe not for you. But wait. There’s no need to stress-out right now. You can get through this. More than that, you can prevail. Check out how you can survive the holidays, even with a toddler in tow!

Sleep-In Sneak-In

Your tot isn’t going to daycare today. Or for the rest of the week. That means there’s no reason to wake them up early. Even though sleep is a precious commodity to any parent, so is alone/non-kid time. Before the littles wake up and start a hot cocoa-fueled day, sneak in some time for yourself. Get up an hour early and relax with some in-the-living-room yoga, read a book that doesn’t have pictures in it or just cuddle up in your comforter and catch up on your Netflix que.

Greeting Guests

There’s a slew of aunts, uncles, cousins and all kinds of other people who your toddler never or rarely sees coming over. Even the most out-going tot may suddenly seem shy around all of these strangers. What can you do to make your toddler feel more comfortable? Don’t force an instant connection. Yes, your great-aunt might want a big hug, and even bigger kiss, from your adorable 2-year-old. But that doesn’t mean you need to force your kiddo into physical contact with someone who they don’t really know. It’s okay for your tot to take a stop back and wait to warm up. A polite, “Hello” or, “Happy Holidays” will due.

Playtime at Grandma’s

Playtime at home isn’t an issue. Your family room kind of looks like your very own personal Toys R’ Us store. But now you’re traveling to the in-laws. And your MIL is not thrilled with the thought of toys littering her living room. Go easy on the toys that you bring along. Ask your toddler to pick a few faves to pack for the trip. You can also include several smaller games or open-ended options such as crayons and construction paper or play dough.

Busy Bag Delight

The name says it all. These are bags that keep your kiddo busy. Whether you’re traveling or just need some last-minute keep-the-kids busy activities. DIY a few of these go-to’s, filling freezer-sized plastic zipper bags with press and peel felt projects, plastic pretend play animals, popsicle sticks to build log cabins with, threading cards and yarn or anything else your tot will be totally into.

Sweets Standoff

Those icing-covered Santa cookies are calling your toddler’s name. And they’re grabbing the sweet treats by the handful. Whoa! As if your toddler didn’t already have enough energy, adding a mega-dose of sugar to the mix will only make them that much rowdier. Set limits, firm limits, when it comes to sugary holiday treats. Give your toddler a clear number of cookies, cupcakes or candy canes that they’re allowed to have. Don’t bend to your toddler’s tyranny or let them sneak in extras.

Night-Time Solutions

Sleeping in a strange house isn’t always easy for a young child. Your toddler doesn’t have their regular bed, blankets or fluffy pillows. And that may mean the night before Christmas is less than peaceful. Help your child to feel more comfortable with the sleeping arrangement by bringing a favorite blanket or a lovie from home. You can also bring their sheets, pillow or anything else that will make it seem more like home.

Perfect Pictures

Ah, the holiday picture. Your kiddo is dressed in their holiday best and everyone wants to take pics of it. Instead of forcing your toddler to stand statue-still, let the perfectly posed family photos go for the year — or for the next few. Instead, swap them for cute candids. Snap pictures as your child helps to wrap presents, unwraps presents, greets guests and helps you prep the holiday meal. After the holidays are over, put the candid shots into order and create a family photo book!