Christmas Trees and Toddlers... & Real Tree vs Fake?

Updated on November 03, 2011
R.D. asks from Richmond, VA
20 answers

Don't hate me, I know it's early to be asking, but I'm in a pickle ;)

My son is SO not like my daughters were. When the girls were young, I put the 'good' ornaments high, the unbreakable ones down below, and they left the whole thing alone for the most part.

My son will climb a tree if I blink.

We have a small living area, so it's unavoidable, he's going to mess with it.

First of all, do you have a real tree or a fake one? We've done real in the past, but I'm wondering if we should get a fake one this year (and probably next) so the baby doesn't have sap and pine needles everywhere.

Second, how did YOU teach your tots to stay off the tree? Obviously, I'm huge on the word 'no', and I know he'll eventually get it, I was just looking for additional suggestions :)

Have any funny kid/Christmas tree stories? (I don't have any about the kids, not really, but one year when we had a cat, he single handedly manage to knock the tree over not once, but a few times, to the point it broke the stand and I had to prop the tree up in a corner, LOL!!!)

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answers from Redding on

Creatively speaking so as not to deal with a tree at all, one year I cleared a wall and used garland to make a tree on the wall and hung the ornaments and lights from it, it was really pretty and took up virtually no space. I just put the presents below it. I used thumbtacks back then, but now they have all those new little things that stick to the wall and promise not to leave a mark when you remove them.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

My kids STILL mess with the darn tree.We went to a fake one a few years ago because I don't have time for the mess. Next year I'll be done with school and have a LOT more time on my hands. So hopefully we can do it then. I love the smell. But the ornaments are like gold to my kids. They always want to take it off and tell me the store of it. I try to be patient with it and remind them if they break one that it's gone. They get new ornaments every year from us (one per kid) so they like to look back at their ornaments :).

2 moms found this helpful

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answers from Chicago on

Our last child was a boy, what a change from raising a girl. We used a fake tree, left our breakable ornaments in their boxes the last few years. Had the older kids and him make ornaments for the tree and do the complete decorating after the lights were on from the ornaments to the tinsel, letting it just be their creation. We took fishing line and placed the tree in front of a window and put cup hooks on either side of the molding around the window and tethered the tree to the wall. I was done picking up the tree at the 6th time in 2008, so this is when all of this started. We love our tree every year as it says we are a family(this is also where we put all of our christmas cards as they come in and keep all pictures sent to us in cards or as cards through the years and they get put on the tree too as this is our family and friends and cherishing them. When they come over they are delighted to see that their pictures even from 7 years ago are on the tree. We also were able to replace alot of pictures to one of our friends who lost everything in a fire by doing this, we just copied them all and restored at least part of her memories.

We are not a formal family but love each other and everyone especially the kids can tell.

My funny story is that before kids my cat named Havoc would work his way up in the tree every morning and fly out at the first person to walk by the tree, taking out the tree and causing a mild heart event for the person going by the tree(it was great when we had overnight guests).

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Columbus on

When my daughter was a toddler, we kept the good ornaments in storage for her most grabby year and went out and bought a huge box of totally plastic ornaments. Plastic hooks too. She helped putting them on our real tree (and continually took them off to 'redesign') But that was okay. As long as the ornaments were there, she didn't have any desire to pull the tree down or climb. I think if you allow your boy to play with the ones down below, the mystery of the tree might wan for him. Just resign yourself to re-trimming the bottom half of the tree here and there.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Spokane on

We have a fake tree b/c I am allergic to the real ones.
I have 2 boys, now 7 and 3, and I have always put up a tree and never had any issues (other than the candy canes!).
Last year I did refrain from putting presents under the tree early b/c I knew my youngest would have them unwrapped in a heart beat.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Medford on

I really never had trouble with my kids messing with the tree, and all the daycare kids were showen how pretty it was but no touching, and it was never a problem. I guess I was just lucky. Ive heard the horror stories of relentless toddlers and the damage they can do. Im glad I avoided it. But with my grand daughter it was different. She didnt try to get to the tree so much as just showed a great interest in decorating and undecorating, over and over. So I bought her a small 2 ft fake tree and set it on an end table just for her. I gave her a couple dozen cardboard or plastic ornaments and let her do her own thing as often as she wanted. That was the best thing we did for her last Christmas and she loved it. You might try letting him have his own little tree in a spot to play and he might leave your big tree alone. And its NEVER too early for Christmas....(o:

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Philadelphia on

Always have a real tree, family outing to pick it out is a tradition...and always put less delicate ornaments on the bottom but mainly because of the dog! You will just have to keep reminding your son not to touch it and that there's a chance it will fall on him if he plays around near it. That could happen with a real or fake tree.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

We've done real trees because they smell so nice. (And we don't have to store the fake one all year long.) I am pregnant right now and I plan on getting an Elf on the Shelf. It worked for my cousins daughter when she was small and could understand the concept. (about 2) It worked for A LOT of things in the behavior department for her. It stays up all year long. I think if you start it early it could work very well.
Best of luck!!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Louisville on

My daughter is the same way. Save yourself the hassle and get a fake, small tree that you can put up on a table. Don't deprive your other children of having a tree at all, just get one out of reach. Maybe next year, you can go back to the regular tree. :)

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Norfolk on

When our son was a toddler, we had the Christmas tree set up down stairs and he was only near it when we were right there with him.
We did most of our living upstairs.
Once he was 4 we didn't have to worry about it anymore and we could have the tree upstairs.
I've heard of some families putting up a portable gate around the tree to keep the kids/pets off it.
We never had a problem, but my husband remembers having a Christmas tree falling on top of him once when he was growing up.
We do real trees - Frasier firs - the needles don't stick you.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Victoria on

our son would not mess with our neighbors tree but was all about taking ornaments off of ours! they had a small six inch high fence around theres one year and a train the following. some reason he would not touch it. we have a fake tree. we also have had small fake trees we can put up high on a bar or table so the kids cannot reach it. we have also done this for our puppies!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Phoenix on

We do real trees every year and have since I was a baby. I had a fake tree one year and it was depressing. I think I spent more money on candles and air fresheners to mimic the real tree smell than I did on the fake tree. When our daughter had her first Christmas, we bought a Super Gate for the tree. Ours sits in a corner of the living room, right by all of her toys, so we just opened the Super Gate, removed a few panels, and walled off the tree. I put only non-breakable ornaments at gate level and she was able to pull herself up, check our the ornaments and the tree, but not be in danger of pulling it over. Last year, she could reach more ornaments (20 months) and physically could move the gate, but didn't. The gate is big enough that it can go totally around a good sized tree. I recommend the Super Gate and a good, wide-based tree stand to any parent. Good luck!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

We've always done real. In addition to liking the experience of going to a farm and cutting it, and the great smell... I also like teaching the whole cycle of nature part to the kids.

My kids never tried ot climb, and my basic answer is, of course, teach him not to climb, teach gentle touching, remove him for not living, etc. But if you are worried about his safety, maybe you could gate the room or tie the trunck to something stable?

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Lansing on

I think you should stick with the real tree. If anything the poking of the needles might keep him away from it.

I would just not put on your most precious ornaments this year, just in case.
I think I might have to do the same this year, we have a new cat. Not sure what she'll do to our tree this year.

We had a tree lose almost all of its needles one year...what a mess!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

We inherited my Mom's artificial tree years ago. One year,my husband,bless his soul, put our fake tree together one year with the genius idea of putting all the large and full branches on one side...the full side that would show out to the street from our large front window.(I questioned this move but he had his "vision" and so I let it go.) He has degree in Economics..not Engineering..and sometimes not even common sense! Well,we put up the ornaments and it looked great from the outside. ooooh..ahhhh from the street! In the morning we woke up to a tree that was soooo loaded on one side it fell over and many of our beautiful,glass and porcelain ornaments were broken.(they were gifts..I don't buy breakable ornaments) Sooo, needless to say he has learned there is a reason for following the directions on the tree.(and listening to wifey)
Now, my favorite story!!
Last year we put up the same fake tree as stated in the directions...because we learned from past mistake. I came home one day and it had fallen over so I picked it up and "SNAP" my super woman strength caused the tree to snap in half!(or maybe it was due to it being 30 years old...but I am sticking to the former!) I called my husband to tell him the story. We decided to get a new fake tree. The kids revolted and begged to keep the tree. Soooo, we saved the $300 buckaroos and kept the 1/2 tree and put the star on top! I can't even call it a didn't we called it our "Christmas Bush". This year we have to vote on either keeping the bush...or getting a new tree.

These stories were crazy in the moment..but make for good memories.

I vote a fake tree for you because it is more economical in the long run. But..a real tree might keep your darling boy from climbing..eating..grabbing. I never had a problem with the kids messing with the the cat...that is another story! We told our kids , once we all decorated it,"No touch".."Look with your eyes". But I think it helped that they each have had their "own" little artificial tree with ornaments and they can touch theirs and move ornaments around. Every year they each get new ornaments for "their" trees.(small ornaments) And we make ornaments for "their" trees. I think this is a distraction from the big family tree and gives them ownership and fair game to "play" with a tree.

Good luck and best wishes!



answers from New York on

We own a fake one and every year we say - let's get a real one - then we look at the prices and say - ugh... nope. In NY, trees are a fortune. And I hate to spend $200 on a real tree that is just going to die. I can think of better things to spend my money on. Starting with gifts for ME!! :)

But when my hubby and I lived in Manhattan before we were married - we had a real tree. Well, 1/2 a tree since the apartment was so small and we had to put it up on our cocktail table. But we loved those little trees and have some great pics of Christmas morning, just the two of us and our top 1/2 of a tree with the NYC skyline in the background. There is something so special about Christmas morning with the one(s) you love. Now we're a threesome and it's different, way way nosier, starts too early, but is just as great.



answers from Los Angeles on

We have a fake tree.
So I say fake tree & those unbreakable, plastic bulb ornaments (they
have them everywhere now).

When my baby was a just getting around, we put it up on a high on a sturdy end table. Hubby tied it down then put a hexagon baby gate around it.

The next year I put up a real tree (I missed the smell) up on a big storage
cube w/all my fave ornaments up high.

I bought those plastic bulb ornaments at Wal-mart so if they dropped they didn't break.

Well this year we are going back to the fake tree (the pine needle clean up was a pain & the pine smell I wanted seemed to go away quickly. Plus I had to put it in one of those water bases & keep filling it up.

Child will be an older toddler this year so I will try not to put it up high
(it will be the fake tree). I will either put my fave breakable ornaments
up high or put my 2nd tiny fake tree up in the other room.


answers from St. Louis on

As I remember there was one year with Andy I put up the tree and lights only. Even with watching him and teaching him no, he pulled a sucker down a couple dozen times. :(



answers from Washington DC on

Besides a nice smell, I think real trees are a hassle and suck up land that could be more productively used. As the parent of a young one, too, you have to think about whether he not only will climb the tree but also will touch it, get sap on his hand and in his mouth, drag needles through the house (and needles get sharper and more painful once they're dried out and buried in carpet for feet to find months later!). There are beautiful and realistic artificial trees out there.

One thing to remember -- anchor your tree if you have a climber! Our daughter wasn't even a climber but for her safety, when she was small, I tied a thin rope around the tree trunk in the center and ran it out the "back" of the tree (side nearest the wall) and tied the other end to the leg of a very low, sturdy and heavy table. If she had messed with the tree, it at least would not have fallen all the way over on top of her, and the table was one I knew could not turn over because it was so low. I made sure the rope was as taut as possible. I am suprised that no one makes some kind of product designed to anchor Christmas trees for household with small children or active pets! It makes sense to me.

Another option: Think through whether you really will spend much of the holidays saying "No, no, no" and watching your son like a hawk and fearing that if you're out of the room he might slip in and climb or pull on the tree. That would not make a happy or relaxing holiday, would it? There is no law saying you have to have a tree at all. I adore trees and ornaments but if my child had been a climber/toucher/tugger, I would have done without one for a year or two and displayed fragile, beloved ornaments by stringing them on heavy, wired ribbon and then stringing that like a garland high up on the wall. Like I said -- I love trees but is it worth having a tree if you're constantly worried about your child's safety? No tradition is worth that, and besides, you'd get to have a tree back in a year or two when he is perhaps past the climbing/touching stage. I'd rather get creative and display ornaments another way, than have a tree because I've always had one -- but not enjoy the tree because I was worried about a child getting hurt.



answers from Washington DC on

i like fake trees and every since i was little my mother only got a real tree one time because i swallowed a pine needle and choked for a little while and when my mother picked me up i would stop and when she put me down i would start choking again. she took me to the er and the test and everything came back nothing was wrong with me she said she was hysterical in the er. than she realized i was faking and doing it for attention. even when i was 2 i was a drama queen lol!

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