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The Pros Weigh In: Child-safe Christmas Decorating

I’ve gotten a few questions via email about how we decorate for Christmas when we have two tiny little terrorists – I mean kiddos – running around our house.

First of all, I was shocked that anyone would assume my sweet angels do anything except sit quietly all day with their hands to themselves, reciting Bible verses.

Isn’t that what your two-year-old little boys do too? 🙂

Since sending the kiddos off to the grandparents until the new year is not a viable option… and okay, we kinda love having them around…

I thought I’d check in with some of my fave bloggers who also have small kids, and ask for their best tips on the subject.
How to decorate a christmas tree when you have a baby

Sound good? Let’s get started!

“I love decorating surfaces that kiddos can’t reach (like tall built-ins and a fireplace mantel) with breakable things like vases full of pistachios or green limes. Then you can keep kid-friendly holiday stuff down at their level (like a wooden reindeer, a feather tree, or a bunch of knitted ornaments).”
-Sherry @ Young House Love

“I use museum putty to secure my fragile Christmas items to my shelves and tables. It keeps my porcelain nativity set from getting knocked down when my toddler is going crazy. It works great!”
-Kirsten at 6th Street Design School

“When I first had kids, we worried about how to keep them away from the tree and planned elaborate schemes to put up gates so the kids didn’t pull it down. We soon realized that if they wanted to get to the tree they’d find a way regardless, and gates and electric fences (just kidding) detracted from the beauty. So we gave up and made the tree as ‘kid-proof’ as possible.

Sure, our tree was less than pin-worthy with no lights or ornaments on the lower third but our kids loved it and we didn’t have to barricade the tree behind a gate. That being said, you better believe we used an eye hook to tie that sucker to the wall to prevent any unintended tree-toppling just in case!”
-Carrie at Making Lemonade

(Carrie’s half-decorated tree. Still gorgeous, right? See more details on it – and that amazing burlap banner – here.)

My #1 tip is to be aware that little kids LOVE to pull on anything hanging. They can tug on a stocking and pull those metal hangers from the mantel right onto their head. If you use stocking holders, be sure to attach them firmly to your mantel, or use 3M Command hooks to hold the stocking. Try to get down on your child’s level and think about what they will try to do with the decor you are putting out!
-Melissa @ Happier Homemaker

Hang garland (aka strangulation devices, if your kids are crazy like mine) out of reach. Obviously the same goes for fragile ornaments which will inevitably be smashed or used as a weapon (or both), and therefore should be hung toward the top of the Christmas tree. (Can you tell I have boys?).
-Erin @ DIY on the Cheap

Ooh ooh! That’s me! I do have one super important tip. Most artificial Christmas trees contain the toxic chemical PVC and even lead. Some of them are known to shed lead dust into your home. It is outrageous to me that this is allowed, but I think most people don’t stop to check the warning labels on the box when they buy an artificial tree. I have a friend whose child got lead poisoning and the only culprit they could find was the Christmas tree or the light strands, which yeah… are also toxic.

Go with a live tree, or check out this resource for avoiding toxins in artificial trees. (We only buy real trees now because of this!)

Our tree from last year

Any tips on child-safe holiday decorating? Do you have little ones who do not believe in decorated trees, and must promptly remove any and all ornaments within reach?

Let's connect


  1. Yikes! I had no idea about the toxins in artificial trees, but it makes sense. I’ll have to get my husband to stop licking our artificial tree. 🙂

  2. Do What? They put lead in our Christmas Trees? OH MY WORD! I”M OUTRAGED…

    So.. allergies or lead poisoning… not a great choice, huh?

    Guess I’d best start looking through that source you posted up there! Wal-mart’s not on it, I bet…

  3. Museum Putty….Kirsten is a genius!

  4. Great tips but also a super fun post to read! I’ve never had an artificial tree just because I love going out and getting a real tree, but now I feel extra confident in my decision! Thanks for sharing!

  5. When my girls were babies,we decorated my grandma’s old aluminum Christmas tree because it was short and fit on a tabletop away from little hands. I also gave my girls a small tree in their room with soft fabric ornaments so they can trim till their heart’s content without injuring themselves on fragile ornaments.

    I hang the stockings from a curtain rod (we have no mantel and they do look cute hanging in front of the window) that keeps them up and out of reach. Seriously, is there ANYBODY who can get their stockings to stay on those metal hangers? They just don’t perform once the stockings are stuffed. You are right- they are an accident waiting to happen. I can see the snowflake imprint causing blunt force trauma to my 3 year-old’s forehead now.

    My friend with no mantel brings out a plaque to hang on the wall every Christmas. It has a hook for each family members’ stocking and reads “And the stockings were hung.” I love it, and hope to do something similar one day.

    This year, I picked up an extension cord with several outlets a foot pedal to turn it on and off. My kids feel like they get to “help” turn the lights on and off by pressing the button and they are nowhere near the light socket. That has been a huge relief considering it seems like every outlet is taken this time of year (and now I’m thinking of the scene in “A Christmas Story” where there are 15 plugs in one electrical socket, haha).

  6. I had no idea that artificial trees had lead and other toxic chemicals in them! That’s outrageous! It’s like the Play Sand they make FOR KIDS that can cause cancer when played in. Why do they sell these things that way?!

    We have an artificial tree and I wanted to go to real when we have kids – I guess this confirms that choice!!

  7. Oh no, they have lead?? Are my kitties getting lead poisoning as we speak?? I’ll definitly remember that after this year! (I almost wanna take it down now!)

  8. I love these tips, totally pinned it … and who knew about the lead?!?!

  9. What a great post, Kelly!! Sadly we are allergic to real trees (for real) so had to go the artificial route a few years ago. I did check my label though, thanks to you, and we’re good to go. Whew! When my kids were little, I decorated the family room for them. We had a wooden nativity that they’d play with, and a smaller tree that had all their little crafted ornaments from school and Sunday school and they decorated it (and undecorated it) however they wanted. 🙂 We’re way past that stage now, but it worked like a charm for us and we have great memories of how our Christmas decor looked back then!
    xo Heidi

  10. Great tips (and an awesomely list of fabulously talented bloggers you’ve got there) – thanks!

  11. My kids are 14, 12 and 10 and my method for dealing with little hands and Christmas decor is to embrace the fact that your kids are small. Put your breakables up high or keep them safe in their boxes until your kids can understand what breakable means. And then, decorate with things that can be touched. Buy plastic ornaments for your tree. The best thing I ever bought was the Fisher Price nativity set. It lived on the coffee table and the kids could play with it all the time. My son used to sleep with that little plastic Baby Jesus every night 🙂 Make the decorating ALL about your kids because they are only going to be little for such a short while and then you will have plenty of years to decorate however you want.

  12. Too funny! I love it…we have a few littles around here so this is great! I did get a Playmobil nativity set this year for them and made it into an advent calendar…so far they really love what they have found in each little box!

  13. Great line up of suggestions from some great bloggers! And love your tree :), so happy it’s finally time to decorate for Christmas!!

  14. Ryan Perkins says:

    I have two little guys, and I too only put non breakables within reach. We also put our tree up on a table, in the corner, which is MUCH harder for them to reach. The museum putty is GENIUS! I’d never thought about that. 😀 We are allergic to pine around our house, so, as much as I would love a live tree because I’m the only one without the allergy, we are stuck with the fake one. (Which I just dug out of our garage to check for lead and PVC… we’re in the clear!) Thanks for the great ideas!

  15. So what about making your own Christmas trees then. these should be safer no? 🙂

  16. What a great topic. Our place is completely not-kid-safe at the best of times and even worse at Christmas, which is when we end up with the most kiddos over visiting!

  17. I put lights low because we tuck them in to the tree but on the bottom I put ornaments hat are felt or wooden and have a small looped string instead of a hook and my kids rearrange the tree the entire time its up, its one of their favorite things about our tree

  18. When I was an aide in a preschool classroom, our housekeeping center had a 4 foot tree with kid friendly ornaments. They were free to decorate and undecorated the tree in their play time. The kids loved it – as most of them were not allowed to touch the tree at home.
    Of course, we got a few strange looks from the staff. One even asked , ” Is that tree supposed to look like that?”
    Of course it was!

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