Recently on a local radio station a pediatrician was on the air discussing holiday safety. For the 5 minutes my ear was attentive to the talk show they discussed mostly fire safety with leaving lights on and so forth, but right before I got out of my car, a young mom called in and asked, “Is it o.k. if I swat my 2yr old on hand when she touches the tree?” My ears perked up and I decided to sit this question through before getting out of my car. The pediatrician boldly without hesitation responded, “No! If you swat her you are modeling she, too, may swat. She will keep coming to the tree and you will keep swatting her. This is no solution and doesn’t help her or you. I would recommend in a home with a child of this age to place a gate around the tree to prevent accidents.”
I was quite impressed with her response, and as always, family safety takes precedence. Although, Montessori Tides would like to build off this topic and provide you with a few more options.
Ms. Johanna, Toddler Directress, suggested toddler families could always keep this question in mind. “What can I do so my children can be a part of this and safely partake in the event?” Below are a few guidelines Ms. Johanna follows in her classroom and feels you, too, might find them helpful when organizing and preparing to decorate your Christmas tree.
- Independence: The child’s message to us at any age is “Help me to do it myself”
- Exploration: Children want to be free to touch and explore
- Belonging: Children want to be a part of the process
Supporting the child’s need for independence shows respect for and faith in the child. Before bringing out all decorations think carefully about this process, and arrange each space to support independence.
Remove all obstacles from the path. Any breakable ornaments should be placed toward the top of the tree. High valued objects can be spared by simple placing them on high shelves completely out of toddler reach. For those ornaments the child will hang, its best to provide ones they can safely handle, such as: plastic, ribbon, cloth, and beads. For those toddlers capable of pushing the tree over, instead of a separation gate, one method I have heard works well is to securely tie the tree to a wall hook with fishing line.
Sensorial exploration is a big need of the toddler. Understanding this developmental process during this season will help you avoid unnecessary interventions. This is done by preparing the environment with all acceptable objects for the toddler to freely explore.
Understand Sensorial Exploration. Providing a child with their own natural child size Christmas tree is a great way to give a space for the child to move ornaments, touch, smell, and care for their environment. The Fresh Market and Publix are two places I have seen this season where you can purchase a live child size Christmas trees. By providing a child with their very own tree, you are respecting their need and inviting them to partake in all tree ceremonial preparations. In the words of Ms. Kathy, “the family tree becomes the watchful tree and the child’s tree becomes the touching tree.” In addition to meeting child independence and sensorial exploration, practical life work can be found in caring and watering the tree.
Allowing your child to be independent, and explore with freedom within a prepared environment, as listed above, you are establishing a strong sense of belonging and value to their presence in your home and throughout all holiday celebrations.
Child participation. Decorating the tree is an exciting time. Allowing the child to participate in the life he sees going on around him is the single most important way we share our way of life and deposit in the child, they are important.
Christmas is a great time to invite your child into family tradition. Remember, any ceremonial activities you do; the child will want to do as well.