When you have a baby—whether a newborn or a busy toddler—the holiday season just feels extra sparkly. But it can also feel extra stressful, with all that stimulation, the disrupted routines, and more responsibilities for moms and dads. So rethink the holiday season with your baby’s needs in mind. You’ll find it’s sweeter for the whole family when you do.
1. Deck out your baby’s bedtime.
Love holiday music? Skip the big caroling party and the “Hallelujah Chorus” sing-along, and instead croon carols and other seasonal tunes to your baby at bedtime. You’ll introduce him to some of your favorites without upsetting his evening routine in the slightest.
You can also bring the spirit of the season into your bedtime reading. There are dozens of holiday books to choose from, spotlighting all the winter holidays and the ways they’re celebrated around the world. Pick some up from the library, and put the word out that your child would love to receive some as gifts, too. Build your collection so you can create a holiday countdown with wrapped books; your toddler can choose one to unwrap and listen to each night.
2. Easy does it on the decorating.
If you absolutely love transforming your house into a holiday wonderland every year, by all means continue—just keep breakables and dangerous plants safely out of baby’s reach. But if you’re dreading the thought of dragging out a ton of decorations, chasing your toddler away from them for a month, and then packing them all away again, simplify! Display just the most meaningful items, such as a family menorah or the stocking you’ve had since you were a little tot yourself. Hang a string of lights somewhere your baby can enjoy them, and move on. You can always visit fancy displays at relatives’ homes or the mall (and take some pictures there while you’re at it).
3. Kid-ify entertaining.
Instead of a swanky, adults-only cocktail party, host a laid-back baby playdate. Little ones can wear their holiday-themed jammies and adults can sport ugly seasonal sweaters. Serve cookies, cocoa, milk, and fruit and just enjoy each other’s company. And feel free to turn down invitations, guiltlessly; you have a great excuse.
When you visit relatives’ homes for holiday events, remember that you can always bring your own food for baby, ask others to wash hands before holding her, and bug out early if it’s her bedtime or she’s just feeling maxed out. These magic words will help: “Our pediatrician says…” You might also want to bring along a stroller, and pop outside for a (bundled-up) walk if your baby needs a break. Take along your partner, or a family member you don’t get to see too often, and you’ll add your own quality time to the walk around the block.
4. Don’t go gaga for gifts.
Instead of plopping your little one in front of a huge stack and letting him shred wrapping paper for half an hour, spread things out. Open gifts at a leisurely pace, and set some new toys and books aside to enjoy in the months to come. Some families use this handy four-gift guideline: something he wants, something he needs, something to wear, something to read.
5. Celebrate in a new way.
You have a new family member, so now is the perfect time to create new traditions you can all enjoy! Simple ideas include buying new holiday pj’s for the whole family; decorating cookies together; picking out gifts to donate to a needy child; making birdseed ornaments for your outdoor trees; taking a photo in the same place each year; video chatting with faraway family; or visiting a neighborhood known for its light displays, on foot or by car.