Managing the Holidays with Toddlers



By Ann Douglas

‘Tis the season to be merry.

Or stressed out. Yes, mom, you’re the one who gets to decide how the holidays play out for you and your toddler.

If you take a relaxed, let’s-go-with-the-flow approach to merry-making (taking each day as it comes, not over-committing yourself or your toddler to too many seasonal obligations), your toddler will be more inclined to embrace (or at least tolerate) the changes to his usual routine. If, on the other hand, you get so caught up in the holiday hoopla that your toddler slips to the bottom of your holiday priorities list, you shouldn’t be surprised if he morphs into a pint-sized version of The Grinch. Moderation is the name of the game when you’re in toddler parenting mode.

Here are some other tips to keep in mind as you head into the holiday season.

Keep your toddler’s needs in mind when you’re setting your holiday travel itinerary.

Not only does your toddler need regular rest-stop breaks—he needs to be fed and changed on a regular basis—he needs time for cuddling and play, too. Trying to cram too much travel into a single day may get you to Grandma and Grandpa’s house a day sooner, but the entire family is likely to arrive in a less than festive mood.

Don’t be afraid to break with tradition

—or to put some holiday traditions on hold while you have a young family. Instead of travelling out-of-province with a toddler, invite out-of-town relatives to visit you. Or shift your annual family get-together to a day during the holiday season when it’s easier for everyone to get together. (It doesn’t have to be The Big Day, like it’s always been.) Dream up some new ways of celebrating the holiday season that are uniquely meaningful to you. Part of the fun of starting a family of your own is creating holiday traditions of your own.

Consider your toddler’s interests and abilities when planning holiday activities.

Aim for a variety of activities: activities that allow him to exercise and blow off steam (playing in the snow) and activities that allow him to enjoy some quiet one-on-one time with you after a busy day of visiting with friends and relatives (reading stories, baking together).

Keep your toddler’s basic routine in place as much as possible.

While there will be some nights when you’ll want to allow him to stay up late, he’ll be happier (and you’ll be happier!) if he is well rested. You’ll also want to encourage him to eat healthy meals and snacks at their regular times. Doing so will help to keep his body clock on track, despite all the exciting things going on around him.

Take good care of yourself, too.

Try to stay on top of your own needs for sleep, healthy food, exercise, and relaxation. Your toddler picks up on your mood. One of the best gifts you can give him this holiday season is the gift of a happy, healthy, less-stressed-out you.

This article originally published in our 2012 Modern Holiday Guide
Photo Credit:  Stephanie Pasutto

Ann Douglas is the author of numerous books about pregnancy and parenting, including The Mother of All Toddler Books. Find her online:


  1. 1

    We have made some changes as this is our son’s first Christmas that he’s mobile. I put the tree in a room he can’t get to downstairs. I know we need to make these adjustments but darn it I miss my tree! 🙂

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