Regardless of your nostalgic, Christmas-morning-frenzy memories, you'll quickly learn that a no-holds-barred approach doesn't go over well with your toddler -- especially on the most anticipated morning of the year. Don't wing it Christmas morning. Get a game plan together now so that your entire family can enjoy the holidays without going into meltdown mode.
1. Decide on a number of sweet treats allowed.
With the font of sucrose flowing throughout the holidays, be a sugar-monitor fiend and make sure other house visitors know your rules. If you have a struggle with, ahem, I-want-to-be-the-favorite grandmothers, get it out in the open first, rather than commencing a power struggle on Christmas. According to the American Heart Association, children should limit their intake to about 4 teaspoons of added sugar each day.
2. Get to bed early the night before.
While establishing family traditions for Christmas takes precedence over toddler routine, make your plans reasonable for the younger crowd. Try to wrap up Christmas Eve activities early and give plenty of down time before going to sleep. Junior needs good rest to enjoy the following morning. He won't get it if he stays up until 10:00 pm with out-of-town visitors.
3. Limit gift opening to a small number.
Three is good. This will be the hardest part of your holiday experience. Regardless of your convictions, the gift-giving fever kicks in at Toys 'R Us and you go crazy buying, wrapping--and still more buying--several days ahead of Christmas. Even this late in the season you can nab holiday coupons from sites like CouponSherpa.com for one or two special gifts -- open them earlier in the week rather than all at once on Christmas morning.
4. Wrap up the morning with quiet time and a nap.
After opening a few presents and enjoying time with visiting family, give your toddler plenty of time to decompress alone in a quiet space. Review the fun times of the morning with her and read a special book to help calm her down. Be on the lookout for overstimulation -- nasty meltdowns, hyperactivity, and avoiding eye contact should be a red flag to flee the scene and recover.
5. Plan a Christmas morning activity.
In the throngs of gift-wrap thrashing, laughing and emotion, kids with a typically predictable routine can become stressed out by the absence of normal. If your toddler is particularly sensitive to big events, make sure you have a small, soothing activity planned -- like watercolor Christmas trees or lacing boards of holiday characters -- to keep your little one anchored.
6. Space out opening gifts throughout the morning.
You'll probably feel enormous pressure for your kid to open every gift, respond with enthusiasm and then give a huge, grateful "thank you" to the recipient. It just won't happen if you rush through the gift opening. Some moms, like Mae at What To Expect, prefer to open one gift every other day for the week leading up to Christmas--a godsend when winter storms hit and the family is stuck indoors. Bare in mind that your preschooler will enjoy his offerings much more if he has time in between opening to play with the goodies.
7. Construct all disassembled toys the night before.
Most parents learn this the hard way after their first Christmas with kids. Kids don't want to open up a box, especially the preschool crowd. They will either get frustrated while you sweat over a screwdriver and instructions written in Mandarin or lose complete interest. Skip the $5.99 for wrapping paper and tie a simple bow on your ready-to-play toys. Start putting them together now so you aren't up past midnight, bleary eyed with a wrench, on Christmas Eve.
8. Don't barrage your kids with posed pictures.
Get candid with these fantastic tips from Photography Blog! A surefire way to send your toddler into defiance is demanding he smile in a picture with his hand-knitted sweater. Even though Aunt Jean may get a little ticked off that she can't see Junior with her woven creation Christmas morning, it's not worth the struggle. Opt instead for unposed, spontaneous smiles.
Ashley Grimaldo comes from a long line of penny pinchers and enjoys blogging on money-saving tips and advice for frugal-minded parents. She lives with her husband and three children in Bryan, Texas. Ashley has been featured among such media outlets as Redbook, The Chicago Tribune, Time.com, and CBS News-Houston.
I'm a former 7th grade Science teacher turned stay-at-home mom that lives in Houston, Texas. I am married to my college sweetheart and have a beautiful daughter named Riley, who definitely keeps me on my toes! I am also involved in starting a small business which would both manufacture and sell an invention that I've patented, called Toothpaste 2 Go. I love interacting with my readers and hope to learn as much about you as you learn about me!