Toddlers and pets are both small, cuddly, and devious (at times) and they could (intentionally or not) destroy your tree, ornaments, or decorations. A time for family bonding and fun-themed events, the holidays bring bright colors, glittering lights, and shiny decor everywhere; but centralized in one spot, your Christmas tree just might be the target for your toddler or pet’s curiosity this year. A temptation like no other, consider toddler- or pet-proofing your tree to keep your decor from shattering, your tree from falling, and your little loved ones safe. Here are some tips to ensure a cherished holiday season without unnecessary added danger.
Tips to Toddler-Proof Your Tree
#1 Organize Your Ornaments Accordingly
As you decorate your tree, split it into sections: “in reach of toddler” and “out of toddler reach.” Anything breakable or especially sentimental should be hung up on the higher portion of the tree for a lesser chance of breaking. It might be a good idea to forego some ornament keepsakes for a couple seasons to ensure their safety down the line. They'll be safe tucked away for future celebrations.
Think of lights when wrapping the tree as well. Wrap them higher to avoid toddlers pulling at the string only to have the whole tree come crashing down. And, consider taping them to the wall or floor to ensure curious hands don’t pull or play with loose wiring. This will also, hopefully, keep them uninterested in the electrical socket that makes everything glow. If you have the extra materials, cover up any unused or exposed sockets that your toddler could get at for added safety.
Place fabric, felt, wool, plastic, or wooden ornaments confidently near the bottom of the tree as they won’t easily break when knocked over or prodded at. Shatterproof ornaments are a great alternative to get a classic style of glass without worrying about millions of glitzing, broken shards. Keeping your decor looking great and long-lasting has never been easier!
#2 Create A Barrier
You’ll want to get a little creative with this one. Easily place baby gates or other fencing around your tree for a quick way to keep toddlers at bay, or use some crafting skills for a fun barrier. Decorate large boxes to look like huge presents surrounding the tree, or repurpose old decor to add bows, garlands, or other festive features on any fence. Use the opportunity to make a crafting project out of it as well, adding homemade snowflakes, snowmen, or other holiday fun to the barrier.
#3 Anchor It All Down
The fastest way to wreak havoc on the holidays is to find your toddler smashed under the fallen Christmas tree with all your ornaments in pieces. To avoid this, use a hook in the wall to tie a fishing wire around the tree to ensure it stays upright. For larger trees, make sure to get multiple angles so it doesn't’ wobble over with some force at the bottom. This keeps the tree steady if pushed or bumped into.
Another great tip is to put bricks or boxes of rocks in the tree stand to keep it in place. Wrap them up in wrapping paper to keep up with the holiday spirit while adding an element of safety.
#4 Don’t Fight the Unfightable
‘Tis the season for holiday crafts! It might be easiest to forego the glass completely and keep it tucked away to instead opt for a tree filled with handmade ornaments. Make ornaments out of felt, fabric, and paper for a fun and easy way to make sure your tree still holds some sentimental meaning and is safe throughout the season. Easily make soft and handmade hanging bells, snowflakes, pom-poms, and more!
#5 Add Some Distractions
Keeping your tree safe from a terrorizing toddler might be as easy as getting them their own tree. Distracting from the larger holiday feature at hand, their own tree can replicate a real one to decorate themselves or designed specifically as a toy to keep play time in the right setting. Keep it in their bedroom, playroom, or next to the big tree to play with while you decorate yours. Giving them complete control will help remove the need to curiously wander towards the big tree.
#6 Go Small
An easy way to keep little hands away from delicate decor is to place it out of reach entirely. Going for a smaller tree or a tabletop tree allows you to place it on a table completely out of reach. Add all the glamor and shining features your heart desires while your little one can admire from a distance.
Tips to Pet-Proof Your Tree
Toddler- and pet-proofing often consider the same things. You’ll want to keep delicate ornaments and stringed lights higher up, it’s definitely a good idea to anchor your tree in place, and you’ll want to have plenty of pet toys around for distractions. However, there are some other tricks to specifically target the agile babies of the wild who love to climb, sniff, scratch, or just clumsily barrel through anything in their path.
#1 Go Fake
Consider investing in a fake tree. While not always the most festive, a fake holiday tree comes with many benefits. For starters, the lack of an outdoor, woodsy scent might help keep curious critters away, the needles aren’t as sharp and won’t fall off to potentially puncture any paws, and it’s not as heavy or damaging if it falls. Plus, you can use it for years and, with the right decor, it will look festive and right at home in no-time.
Also, consider a range of tabletop trees or smaller trees to place on counters and tables to easily keep pets out of reach of valuables. And, make sure there aren’t any easily accessible ledges around for your pet to jump directly onto the tree! Make sure to avoid any and all food-ingredient decorations as well. Those ornaments will only “egg-on” an itch to get closer to the tree.
When decorating, use ties or yarn to hang ornaments so that if your pet does climb around, hooks and other methods of hanging don’t hurt them on the way out.
#2 Try Some Natural Scents
Using an orange peel or spraying citrus scent in or around the tree are natural scents that act as deterrents for pets (especially cats). Dogs usually avoid bitter scents. Getting an essential oil diffuser for near the tree as well can help keep mischievous felines and other pets at bay. Another sure way to keep pets away is to use hot sauce near the base of the tree.
One thing to not do is place out wrapped presents of other foods under the tree where your pet can easily get to. If they can smell it, they’ll rip it open and cause a mess! Bring out those gifts the night before Christmas Day to avoid any unnecessary emergency trips to the grocery store.
#3 Shiny Deterrents and Things
While decorating for the holidays, you’ll want to avoid any tinsel or other shiny things. Cats are especially prone to playing with and eating it, making tinsel a huge choking hazard (or a bigger issue down the line if they swallow it). Other Christmas-y decoration materials like wood or felt are less tempting and dangerous.
Talking about things that shine, cats hate the feel and sound of tinfoil on their paws. To keep them from climbing the tree from the base (and to keep them from climbing other things as well), place tinfoil around the base of the tree and within the tree stand. That way, once they pounce on the inside, they’ll be repelled by the sound of the foil crushing against their paws. This will work for dogs as well, but make sure they don’t eat the tinfoil (it can cause digestive issues).
#4 Preventative Measures
Just like with toddler-proofing, a baby gate can go a long way to steer away unwanted, curious critters from your tree. However, with pets, you’ll want to get one that is tall enough that animals can’t jump over, and one that is not easy to climb over as well. It could be smart to wrap your tree in a puppy play pen or with kitten play tubes around the whole thing for a distraction (however, this is also an eye-sore).
Other preventative measures include taping down the strings of the electrical cords to avoid chewing, playing, and an unlucky zap!
#5 Add An Extra Layer of Sound
While seemingly inviting to some pets, if you want to know when your furry friends are getting into trouble, hang bells around the bottom branches of the tree that jingle and alert you when something is near. This makes it easy to run in to prevent a disaster from happening, or to quickly get your pet away from the tree.
#6 Educate Yourself
Different holiday plants are toxic to little furry friends. Avoid putting any mistletoe, lilies, cyclamen, poinsettias, amaryllises, Christmas cherry, and more on any reachable or climbable surface. Look into which plants can be deadly or cause serious digestive issues if ingested for your pet before investing too far into any specific Christmas theme!
If none of these tips help for either your toddler or pet and they keep toying with breakable things, try giving them a treat away from the tree when they’re being mischievous. For both kinds of little wonders, hopefully they’ll get the idea that they won’t get anything good out of bustling with the Christmas tree and instead choose to stay away for a bite of something sweet.